I recently just completed a three-week elimination diet that required me to, not only cut my consumption of the foods I love, but cut out a multitude of foods that I could possibly be sensitive to (wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, eggs, soy, etc). One thing that these diets do for me is making me tremendously more mindful about what, and how, I am eating. I am guilty of eating often and eating mindlessly, but not to excess. However, for a portion of the population eating excessive amounts of food is not only appealing, but also intensely sporting.
I am talking about competitive eating. Unlike competitive cooking (think Top Chef and the dwindling array of other reality-based cooking shows), competitive eating is about eating as much as humanly possible in the shortest time possible. This sort of eating consists of everything from hot dogs to bowls of mayonnaise, and many people (the world over) treat it as a serious sport, as well as a discipline. One of most notable competitions occurs annually every July 4th at Nathan’s Hot Dog in Coney Island (considered the Super Bowl of competitive eating), and contestants are goaded on by thousands of cheering fans to eat upwards of 50 hot dogs (including buns) in under ten minutes. Unlike the highly entertaining pie eating contests that have entertained state fair attendees over the last few decades, these contests (highly regulated by the International Federation of Competitive Eating) are serious, if not grossly entertaining, competitive events.
Even though the United States is now seen as the world’s most excessive and obese nation, it would be wrong to assume that these events are purely American folly. Events are held worldwide and contestants come from all over the world to sit and stuff their faces. It would also be wrong to assume that all of the most successful competitive eaters are large, stocky, men well versed in a gluttonous lifestyle. Some of the most successful competitive eaters (also known as “gurgitators”) hardly fit this bill. Takeru Kobayashi, a slight Japanese man, had been the longtime reigning champion of the Nathan’s hot dog eating competition, and is well regarded for his ability to consume massive amounts of nearly anything, including nearly 18 lbs of cow brains he consumed in roughly 15 minutes. Then there is the 100 lb Korean-American Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas who is also a top contender and known for eating 65 hard-boiled eggs in under 7 minutes.
Hong Kong competitive eating outfit, “The EatCredibles” doing what they do best.