I was driving home from Bellport on the Fourth of July when NPR announced the winners of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut ate 69 hotdogs including buns in 10 minutes to take the men’s title. My immediate reaction was “that’s disgusting. How could someone do that to his body?” The female winner, Sonya Thomas, downed 36.75 franks. I was silently blech-ing in my head and wondering what is wrong with society.
Then the announcer said something that floored me: Sonya Thomas, aka the Black Widow, only weighs 100 pounds! This did not jibe with my preconceived notion of what someone who would enter an eating contest would look like. That evening, Missy Conn, who had seen the event on T.V., explained to me on Facebook that many competitive eaters “train like athletes” and “they have to be thin, so their stomachs can expand.”
Missy’s tidbit sufficiently blew my mind enough to check out the The Black Widow’s website. In her FAQ section, she explains that she stays thin because, “These competitions and eating events occur but once or twice a month. They are the exception–not the rule. “ She also mentions that she generally eats healthfully: “lots of fruits, vegetables, rice, seafood, and chicken–not too much fried food. I sometimes enjoy sweets, but only in moderation.” Thomas also does a two hour aerobic workout five days a week. That explains how she stays so thin but is it still safe and healthy to stuff so much food in your body in such a short time span?
Major League Eating, the governing body that oversees these competitive eating contests, does have safety standards (or eludes to them on their website anyway):
MLE will not sanction or promote any events that do not adhere to proper safety regulations and the league believes that speed eating is only suitable for those 18 years of age or older and only in a controlled environment with appropriate rules and with an emergency medical technician present.
To me this roughly translates into them doing everything they can to make sure no one dies during a competition but does nothing to address what this rapid and mass consumption of processed food does to the human body. After poking around a bit, I found a Huff Post article from last year in which Dr. David C. Metz, a professor of medicine in the division of gastroenterology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, explains that these over-eating competitors seem to have the ability to relax their stomachs, thus allowing them to expand well beyond the capacity of most humans. They can consume roughly double what I could before having the urge to vomit.
Since most people do not have this stomach-capacity-expanding ability, it’s important that they don’t try it. Metz is quoted in the article: “Not to mention, there are tremendous risks associated with stuffing the stomach to its capacity, even just one time — like rupturing the stomach, he says. “Make sure the public knows not to try this at home.”
While I am still disgusted that competitive eating contests exist, I have to stop short on saying that they shouldn’t. The reason is I admire the passion these competitors have for their …um, “craft.” The Black Widow states, “I want to be the # 1 competitive-eater in the world, period!” That’s commitment! I love to see people pursue their dreams. Everyone has to go with his or her own gut no pun intend- …well, okay maybe a little intended…
What are your thoughts on competitive eating? Good clean fun or the contemporary versions of the food orgies that created the ancient vomitoriums?
Love and blessings to all,