With so much negative news reported on a daily basis, stations work hard to incorporate human interest stories into their broadcasts. One of the more common topics covered – especially in the summertime season of fairs, carnivals and festivals – are food eating contests. Hot-dogs, pies, hot wings, pickles, steak or sushi – it’s not the food itself that matters in these contests, but the enormous amounts consumed by the fierce competitors. And more often than not, it’s not the 320-pound man who walks away in victory, but the 120-pound skinny guy who looks like a strong wind would blow him away.
This isn’t a physics experiment. Like anybody else, the skinny guy has a set amount of space in his stomach he can fill with food. There are no hollow legs involved, and unlike the hungry chipmunk preparing for winter, there’s no food stored in the competitors mouth. Theoretically, the 320-pound man should have a larger stomach in proportion to his total mass than the 120-pound guy, but that isn’t the case. Most people have stomachs that hold a quart of content, give or take. But the skinny guy can feasibly slay the giant by teaching his stomach to adapt to the amount of food being consumed. Like a pregnant woman’s body expanding to accommodate the size of a growing baby, a well-trained food competitor’s stomach can expand exponentially to accommodate the enormous quantity of food eaten.
Unlike the pregnant woman, the skinny guy has mere minutes for his stomach to expand, instead of 9 months. (Can you imagine a 9-month long eating contest?) To prepare, it isn’t enough to come with an empty stomach and a hearty appetite. Training for eating contests requires the perfect blend of mind-over-matter preparation and practice, practice, practice in expanding your stomach.
Most competitors say the hardest part of getting through an eating contest is convincing yourself that you aren’t full. Think about the largest quantity of food you’ve ever eaten in one sitting – at some point, while stuffing your face, your mind told you “stop. I’m full now.” Being successful in an eating contest means conquering this instinct. Matthew Alice, in his San Diego Reader Straight from the Hip column, explains that as long as a competitor “can keep his hands and jaw moving as fast as possible and can keep his throat from closing”, he can conquer the instinct that is “Nature’s way of telling us we’re making pigs of ourselves.”
Now that the competitor’s subconscious has been conquered, they must continue to prepare with a diet that includes “Lots of water and high-fiber veggies like celery. Anything that will stretch your stomach capacity for the day of the event,” says Alice. Ariana Green, a contributor to Popular Science magazine, tells that a continual champion at the annual Fourth of July Coney Island hot-dog eating competition prepares through “shrinking his gut by jogging for hours, then distending it by chugging gallons of water. He regularly feasts on giant meals of low-fat, high-fiber foods like cabbage, which stay in the stomach longer before breaking down.”
Matthew Alice, Ariana Green and other experts agree that the skinny man also has another advantage in eating contents – by minimizing the fat on their body, they also minimize the constriction fat places on the stomach when it wants to expand. A heavier person is bound by the layer of fat that surrounds the stomach – the skinny guy isn’t.
Become a part of your town’s human interest focus – prepare your mind, increase your stomach capacity, find a food that you can “stomach” eating mass quantities of, and begin your quest. Whether you’re trying to find room for more of Aunt Grace’s apple pie on Thanksgiving or want to show up your neighbors in the town’s pickle eating contest next summer, a competitive eating contest may be for you!