Why competitive eating challenges are so wrong

It’s been a while since I joined Amanda’s Thinking out loud Thursdays with a big old rant, getting some thoughts on a sad phenomenon in today’s society off my chest.


Sometimes I think I should start an entire series on here called “Why [insert topic] is making me sad.” That’s not to say I felt sad 24/7 but I do think there are quite a few unfortunate trends, topics and happenings in the world. The one I’m addressing today being a very popular YouTube phenomenon. Let’s face it: we all like to eat, right? And as bloggers we also don’t hide our curiosity about what others eat. All fine and well because everybody has to eat and food can be fun. Until it’s not anymore. Which is the case with the phenomenon gaining popularity all over social media, especially Youtube: Massive cheat days. 10k calorie food challenges. If you’re unfamiliar with those: they’re people – usually muscular athletes or tiny ‘fit girls’ shoveling massive amounts of [junk] food into themselves within a 24h time span.

And yes, it’s totally normal and part of intuitive eating to occasionally eat past the point of fullness. Just because we want to or the food is too delicious. Nothing to criticize here. But: 10,000 calories. Let that sink in. That’s a lot of food. More than just having seconds and thirds at Thanksgiving. 10,000 calories: A lot of food that could – depending on their needs – feed many people. People who actually need it.

It’s disrespectful behavior towards food and those in need of it

Food is meant to be enjoyable. Quickly skipping through a few of those challenge videos I didn’t get that impression it was for the people doing it. So you say you’re stuffing yourself to the point of near-vomiting [who knows what happens after the camera is turned off] only to say …What, really? That you did it? That you’re one particularly awesome person? Or: “Look how much I can eat and not gain”? It is not an accomplishment. It’s not worthy of praise or admiration. In my opinion it’s disgusting. A disgusting disrespect towards the value of food as nourishment. And while, yes, I find this particularly horrible when meat and as such disrespect for living beings is involved, I do not approve of vegans doing these eating competitions, either.

It is different if somebody struggles with bulimia or is experiencing extreme hunger in recovery from any kind of eating disorder. In a way, these people do need the calories. Making up for months or even years of restriction. Explaining the background on this would take too long here so if you haven’t heard about this find a good explanation. I just want to differentiate between needed versus wasted food. Speaking of eating disorders:

It’s triggering for people with eating disorders

Now you might think that gee, everybody’s responsible for the content they consume. However, if you’ve ever spent time on YouTube, you know that videos like these, especially considering they gather lots of views, appear on the front page and high up in the suggested videos. Add curiosity to the mix and people will watch these videos.

While I personally have no experiences with binge eating, I can see how ashamed somebody struggling with it might find these videos. Extremely toned people shoveling thousands of calories’ worth of food into their mouths and not gaining an ounce from it yet talking about how they’re going to ‘clean up’ their diet afterwards. Perfectly in control while you’re continuing to struggle. Those on the opposite end of the spectrum, having to eat past fullness to gain weight might feel gross for the amounts their eating; wrong even.

[Note: I personally am not triggered by these kind of videos but everybody has different triggers and this might just be one for some people]

It glorifies food waste

What I find concerning about food challenges is that they show on a small scale what is true in the world as a whole: when something becomes too cheap, we devalue it. Food is too cheap these days. Fact. Yet: just because a loaf of bread is available for next to nothing [obviously exaggerating here] doesn’t make it any less nutritious. We as a society need to regain appreciation for food. 10,000 calorie challenges and ‘mega cheat days’ encourage the opposite.

If it was just one person doing these challenges: still sad but oh well, there are some idiots in the world and it could be worse. However, this is a major trend that doesn’t seem to stop. If not 10,000 calories, then “major cheat days” or eating contests. It’s a disrespect of food. Glorification of it even. And I really cannot see anything worth celebrating about these challenges.

We won’t get into what competitive eating does to people’s intestines though if you’re interested, here’s a quick explanation on that.

If you agree but think that oh well, It’s just what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it, I beg to differ. We have more influence than we give ourselves credit for. We can choose to not watch and as such support these kind of videos. Supply and demand, friends.

This has gotten lenghty but if you read all of it: Tell me your thoughts!

Happiness-inducing today: An amazing summer day before the massive downpour that’s predicted to last all throughout today set in.

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5 thoughts on “Why competitive eating challenges are so wrong

  1. Ellie says:

    Oh girl I totally agree! I don’t have regular TV so sometimes I watch YouTube in the morning while I eat breakfast. I always see those videos and it honestly makes me sick thinking about it. As an athlete, I eat a lot and enjoy food, however, I think that glorifying being able to “eat without gaining weight” is very problematic. It is offensive to people who might gain weight easily and also encourages not listening to your body in regard to eating.
    People think it must be great to eat so much food, but honestly, especially in terms of racing long events and such, eating becomes a chore because nothing looks good.
    I also find it silly, don’t you have something better to do than eat in front of a camera?

  2. Evangeline Kennedy says:

    I absolutely agree. Food wasted by grocery stores and restaurants and factories is bad enough, but competitive food competitions are such a slap in the face to people making it day by day without enough food. Also, like Ellie pointed out, I can’t imagine eating that much food at once is pleasant in any way. It looks incredibly painful. Love your thoughts here.

  3. Claire B. says:

    I totally agree with this, especially when you say: “We as a society need to regain appreciation for food.” Food is nourishment, food is tasty, cooking makes us human, eating is a social activity–but eating 10,000 calories all at once just to show off or something? That’s not nourishing, social, or remotely enjoyable. I steer away from these videos in general, but I hate when they come up in my suggested posts feed on Instagram.

  4. GiGi Eats Celebrities says:

    I couldn’t agree more – these challenges are stupid and INSANELY unhealthy. INSANELY!!!!!! Those food shows on TV that capitalize off of their hosts eating COPIOUS amounts of food in a challenge also make me mad. I watch them sometimes, if there is nothing else on, and I just find myself judging the whole thing!

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