Days after my attempt, I asked Takeru Kobayashi, the six-time Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest champion, what advice he would give someone trying to take down an unusually-large order of food. The famed competitive eater broke it down into two parts: preparation and eating strategy.
“First understand your own condition and any possible strengths you may have,” Kobayashi said. “And then safely begin stretching the capacity of your stomach with different techniques. I drink water. Lots of it, in different volumes over a certain period of time.”
I did none of this.
As for mid-meal strategy, he emphasized understanding your prey: the ingredients, the texture, and what would be the easiest way to eat it and advance it to your stomach. “I believe it is first important to be able to understand how to break down that particular food into a size where I can physically hold it in my hands,” Kobayashi added. “Not necessarily so small it fits easily into my mouth, but at least a size where I can hold and maneuver it.”
I also did minimal amounts of this, and none of what he suggested about being able to hold it.
In hindsight, it was clear I was doomed from the beginning. And Kobayashi certainly had words of warning for trying to eat something like this unprepared. “All the risks imaginable are there: any physical discomfort or dangers of the stomach, jaw, throat and certainly a lot of heartburn.”
I was undoubtedly unprepared. But such risks are the price to pay for journalistic integrity.