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Why Many Competitive Eaters Are Skinny


by Patricia L. Raymond, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.G.

Q. Why are so many competitive eating champions skinny?

A.Can you wolf down 9.75 pounds of fried okra, 26 large cannoli or 47 grilled cheese sandwiches—all in a matter of minutes? If so, you may have the right stuff to be a competitive eater.

In the world of competitive eating, the stomach stretches to accommodate huge quantities of food really fast. But don’t think being plump is a elavil. The skinny eaters are often the surprising winners. Why? They seem to be able to expand their stomachs faster—no doubt because of thinner fat and muscular layers constraining the abdomen.

If you decide to take up this gluttonous sport, not highly recommended by your author, be aware of the risks: Choking deaths have occurred (the International Federation of Competitive Eating events always have medical personnel on site), and violent retching (what the gurgitators politely term a “reversal of fortune”) may lead to Boerhaave’s syndrome, a life-threatening tear through the esophagus with leakage of gastric contents into the mediastinum (the area holding the heart—not where you ever want to find gastric juices, or 50 franks).

PATRICIA L. RAYMOND, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.G., is a board-certified gastroenterologist with Simply Screening in Chesapeake, Va.; author of Colonoscopy: It'll Crack U Up!; and assistant professor or clinical internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

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Last updated and/or approved: June 2010.
Original article appeared in spring 2007 former print magazine. Bio current as of spring 2007. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.
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