It may not be in the Olympics — yet — but competitive eating has become one of the world's fastest-growing sports. Last month, as many as 1.5 million people tuned in to ESPN to watch Joey Chestnut beat Takeru Kobayashi in Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest. According to the Major League Eating spokesman Ryan Nerz:
At the big eating events you have normal guys who get up and do this thing well, beat a bunch of people, and all of a sudden they have a camera shoved in their face. They get a whole new group of friends, a blog, a MySpace page, fans. It very quickly becomes their identity, and it transcends their former identity as a waiter at a pizza restaurant, an accountant, or whatever.
The profile of a typical competitive eater has also evolved in recent years. The demographic has changed from the overweight, blue-collar male champions to trimmer, younger, white-collar competitors that include men and women. Many competitors believe in the Belt of Fat theory — that a skinny build allows the stomach to expand with less difficulty than if it were surrounded by a constricting layer of fat tissue.
Have you or would you ever try competitive eating? For some recent records in the world of competitive eating,
Mince pies: 6 pies in 10 minutes — Sonya Thomas
Nigiri sushi: 141 pieces in six minutes — Timothy Janus
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches: 42 sandwiches in 10 minutes — Patrick Bertoletti
Jalapeños: 177 pickled jalapeño peppers in 15 minutes — Patrick Bertoletti
Waffles: 29 waffles in 10 minutes — Patrick Bertoletti
Lobster: 44 Maine lobsters from the shell in 12 minutes — Sonya Thomas