Women Challenge the Gluttony Ceiling at a July 4th Ritual

The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is an annual American hot dog competitive eating competition. It is held each year on Independence Day at Nathan’s Famous original, and best-known restaurant at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island, a neighborhood of BrooklynNew York City.

If you know the name Joey Chestnut (men’s hot dog eating champion with a record total of 70 dogs this July 4th), you should also know the names Sonya Thomas and Miki Sudo.  Ms. Sonya Thomas holds the female hot dog eating world record of 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes.  Ms. Sudo’s hot dog tally of 38 this year beat the fourth-place total in the men’s division.

Among the 15 female contestants were a hairdresser, a taxidermist, a truck driver, a marine mammal trainer and a fashion model from New Zealand.  “You have to be physically fit to stand up there for 10 minutes and go full force” said Nela Zisser, the 24-year old model.

Each contestant has his or her own eating method. Takeru Kobayashi pioneered the “Solomon Method” at his first competition in 2001. The Solomon method consists of breaking each hot dog in half, eating the two halves at once, and then eating the bun.  “Dunking” is the most prominent method used today. Because buns absorb water, many contestants dunk the buns in water and squeeze them to make them easier to swallow, and slide down the throat more efficiently.  Other methods used include the “Carlene Pop,” where the competitor jumps up and down while eating, to force the food down to the stomach.

The women trained throughout the year by exercising, eating healthy and practicing techniques at smaller competitions such as gobbling dozens of Twinkies in six minutes.

Ms. Mary Bowers of Beverly Hills, California said she hoped the women’s competition would eliminate a cultural stigma that often discourages eating among young girls.

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