We Ask A Competitive Eater How To Fit In As Much Food As Possible Over The Festive Season
The Debrief: We asked real life competitive eater Nela Zisser her top tips for eating as much as possible over the festive period
Artwork by Alex Coll
If you’re anything like me, Christmas is mainly spent lying horizontal in the sitting room while various family members walk in and say things like, ‘Why did you eat 14 roast potatoes?’ and ‘What did you expect’ and ‘I wish you were a more mature member of the family’.
To stop this from happening, I have two options: eat less, or speak to a competitive eater about how to fit as much food in as possible. Obviously, the latter was the more attractive option.
If you’re really into eating shitloads over the festive period, but don’t think you can manage it without dying, then take heart: there are ways. And techniques. Nela Zisser once ate 22 Big Macs in one go and regularly does this sort of thing for fun. Which means not only is she immediately one of my favourite people on the planet, she’s also the perfect person to provide binge-eating tips.
But not too much. Drinking four pints of water before you start eating will take up valuable space in your stomach that could be filled with parsnips. Or something more interesting than parsnips.
‘Sipping on the water helps a lot – take a sip when your mouth starts to feel dry, or if you need extra help swallowing,’ Nela advises. ‘The technique depends on the food like, for example, with hot dogs I like to remove two dogs, eat them and then dip the bread in water and use it to help the meat go down.’
Try this if you’re struggling to swallow roast potatoes – soaking them in gravy or taking them with water will make them easier to swallow than if they’re dry. Have you ever tried eating dry crackers? Horrible.
Stretch your stomach on Christmas Eve
In order to fit more in, you’re going to need to stretch your tummy – don’t worry, it’s not as disgusting as it sounds, and doesn’t involve any weird exercises.
‘I normally try to eat healthily in the run-up to a competition – you need to eat large amounts to stretch the stomach but without lots of calories. I have a lot of Japanese food, and drink a lot of water to boost the volume,’ says Nera.
You don’t want to wake up on Christmas Day feeling full, so opting for easily digestible, high-value foods (rice, dried fruit, Pho, broths) and loads of water will make sure there’s enough room for the Big Roast.
It’s a well-known fact that there’s a delay of around 15 minutes in terms of your stomach realising it’s full, so make the most of it. Watch Nera in action, and you’ll see that she doesn’t take her time over the food.
‘Turning your head to one side helps you swallow if you’re struggling,’ she adds. ‘As does that water trick I mentioned.’
For further tips, check out this video of Nela eating an insane amount of burrito in an insane amount of time. Incredible.
Beware of the ‘wall’
Just like when you’re running, if you’re the sort of person who goes running, and you feel like you’ve hit a wall – keep going, and you’ll come out the other side.
‘Hitting a wall feels differently depending on the texture and temperature of the food you’re eating, but it becomes harder to eat quickly and you slow down a lot,’ Nela says. ‘If you’re in the right mind space, you can push through it. Remember that your stomach will feel full before it actually is at its capacity.’
If you’re in actual pain, and need to stop, then do stop. Nobody wants an exploded stomach.
If your body is screaming for you to stop, then take a rest, sometimes you’ll get a second wind (this isn’t scientific fact, but rather something I’ve experienced first hand, and the reason I can usually go for four helpings) and sometimes you won’t, but don’t push it too far.
‘Basically, if you feel like something’s wrong then you should stop,’ agrees Nela. ‘It depends on the person and their body, so I can only comment on my own experiences. But when I ate 22 Big Macs I knew I couldn}t physically fit any more in, so I made the choice to stop. You see people doing over 20 pounds of food at some contests, though, so the human stomach is a pretty strong organ.’
A strong organ that we’re going to put to the ultimate test come December 25. Happy eating and don’t forget the cool-down exercises – Nela always has a good sleep after a competition, followed by a relaxing next day and a lot of liquids.
So if you’re going to your nan’s for a second roast on Boxing Day, maybe don’t push yourself to the extreme. Otherwise, it could get seriously messy. Or just sleepy.
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