“Joey Jaws” Chestnut devoured a total of 61 hot dogs this past Fourth of July weekend at the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, allowing him to retain his 8th title as the reigning champ. Although this most famous of all eating competitions had a total prize purse of $40,000, many have been asking if it’s all worth it.
According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Roentgenology, competitive eaters have the ability to overcome the satiety reflex, which is what makes the stomach feel full. Overcoming this reflex can cause the stomach to become permanently overstretched, which would lead to chronic nausea, and vomiting. Patients may even need a partial gastrectomy, which is the removal of the stomach, just to reduce the symptoms. An overstretched stomach can also increase a person’s risk of choking, aspiration, or even asphyxiation, which may result in seizures or permanent brain damage.
“If I win, I feel great, and if I break a record, I’ll feel even better. My body is in shock; it’s similar to a marathon runner or a boxer who has pushed their body extremely hard and beaten it up a little bit,” said Joey Jaws Chestnut. “Going into the contest, I’m prepared to feel like garbage for a day in a half. I know I’m not going to feel good afterwards just because I’m pushing for an extreme limit and my body has to digest this massive amount of food.”
Many other eating competitions are about as difficult as the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, but only offer bragging rights and small tokens to their winners in lieu of magnificent prizes. For example, the 11-Pound Carnivore Pizza Challenge dares contests to eat a pizza that’s the size of a small dining table. Should they accomplish the challenge, they get $250.
Because there is always a winner in eating competitions, it is hard for these competitions to gain the potential prizes that ‘may win’ competitions such as hole-in-one outings can offer.
“There is no way to take out contest insurance when there is a sure winner, which would surely allow bigger better potential prizes,” says Aleda of Hole-In-One USA. “Insurance is based on the possibility of something happening. Eating competitions always have a winner, and because of this the prizes are not as extreme.”
With such serious, potential consequences, is competitive eating really worth the bragging rights?