The bizarre world of competitive eating

Competitive eating contests, where people try to force as much food as they can into their bodies in a short period of time, has always struck me as a revolting form of entertainment. Current champion Joey Chestnut holds the world record of eating 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Take a look at what what else Chestnut has done.

Since 2005, the 27-year-old construction engineer from San Jose, Calif., has won one eating contest after another, downing “meals” that included 241 wings in 30 minutes, 103 Krystal burgers in eight minutes, 42 bratwursts in 12 minutes and 37 slices of pizza in 10 minutes.

I was aware that it was an annual event at some Fourth of July celebrations but did not know that it is far more organized and that there is even a league Major League Eating (MLE) for it. In this article Nick Shager uses the story of the rise and fall of competitive eating champion Takeru Kobayashi to discuss this bizarre world. Kobayahsi claims that the MLE is like the wrestling body WWE where everything is scripted and he wants to change that and make it into a true sport.

“For something to become a sport, you have to have an organization that creates the competition, separate from the organization that the athletes belong to. There need to be different leagues. Each athlete needs to have the freedom to have his or her own agent, and managers, and people that they trust, supporting them solely. The people that create the competition can’t be the judges. The agents can’t be the judges. Everything has to be separated into a system so that it’s really respected and trusted as a sport, and so the athletes can take themselves seriously as well.”

Kobayashi’s rivalry with Chestnut is featured in a new documentary The Good, The Bad, The Hungry that was released by ESPN today. I guess that pretty much anything that has a competitive element to it can be labeled a sport but it can’t be good for people to force-feed themselves to excess.


  1. says

    There is also a fanbase for people eating incredibly hot foods, as well as gross or scary stuff like lightbulbs or old preserved food.

    So, you get things like the “La Beast” asking “can I inhale a pizza in 49 seconds or less if I use a woodchipper”
    or swallowing Syrup of Ipecac and spewing vomit.

    I’m waiting for youtube to start a channel for people that punch themselves in the face. It’s really abusive. I suppose this is all descended from the ‘jackass’ movement: pay people a pittance to do something crazy and dangerous for the camera, then monetize it for shock value.

  2. file thirteen says

    It’s not something I’d ever choose to watch. The only positive thing I can say for it is that the official contests still focus on the rate of consumption. A switch to the amount of consumption would bring deaths. And the sacred yak spare us from seeing people eating lightbulbs and other dangerous things.

  3. Marshall says

    I’m surprised that Wikipedia’s list of deaths from competitive eating isn’t longer:
    1. In October 2012, a 32-year-old man died while competitively eating live roaches and worms in a contest to win a ball python. An autopsy revealed he choked to death.[21]
    2. On July 4, 2014, a 47-year-old competitive eater similarly choked to death during a hot dog eating contest.[22]
    3. At a Sacred Heart University event on April 2, 2017, a 20-year-old female student died as a result of a pancake-eating contest.[23]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *