The Struggle Faces of Competitive Eating

'Merica, fuck yeah?

  • strugglefaces
  • When Major League Eating pro Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs, it sort of looks like he's sneezing them into the ether.
  • This dude took a pie-eating showdown way too far.
  • At least Sonya "the Black Widow" Thomas has a Hooters cheerleader.
  • This lady looks like she got attacked by the "ghost" of bhut jolokia.
  • America is... a bunch of people watching a dude in a tank top fisting pizza.
  • Kobayashi always looks mad calm, but if you look closely you can see the hard boiled egg-induced struggle.
  • Brief interlude for the hot dog-eating bear, who is totally chilling.
  • Kobayashi in the zone!
  • Man versus incredibly hot wings!
  • Must. Eat. Ice. Cream. Faster.
  • Hot wings are America's leading cause of crazy-ass faces.
  • The bear again!
  • Juliet Lee might not be at the top of the competitive eating rankings, but she sure as hell won the struggle face competition. (Photo:Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)
  • Eric "Badlands" Booker is in a bad way. (Photo: Chris Hondros/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Joey Chestnut, what is happening?! (Photo:
  • The Black Widow roars to the heavens. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

These days, even at the most esteemed restaurants, it can feel like eating is sport. The loosening of one’s belt at a steakhouse dinner is announced as a point of pride, and it’s not uncommon to hear celebrated chefs talking about trying to “kill” patrons—or one another—with onslaughts of duck fat, bacon, and foie gras. Meanwhile, the entertainment we consume takes this celebration of gluttony to the extreme: The stand-and-stir cooking shows of the Julia Child era have given way to programs like Man Versus Food, Epic Meal Time, and other dude food–fueled orgies of unbridled gluttony.

Legend has it that four immigrants competed in the first Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest in order to determine was was most patriotic.

But to suggest that this approach to eating is anything new would be disingenuous—America done been gluttonous, son, and the notorious Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest hosted by Nathan’s Famous dates all the way back to 1916. (Legend has it that four immigrants competed in order to determine was was most patriotic, and an Irishman took the crown.) Competitive eating has reared its head throughout modern American history, from fairground pie contests to Guinness World Record side-shows, like the time Eddie “Bozo” Miller ate 27 roast chickens in one sitting at Trader Vic’s in 1963. And who can forget that 2003 episode of FOX’s Man vs. Beast when competitive-eating legend Takeru Kobayashi went head to head with a Kodiak bear?

From attempts to eat the most hamburgers in three minutes (Kobayashi holds the current record with 10) to spicy-food hosted in bars and frat houses across the country, competitive eating is part of our national heritage, whether we like it or not. And while waste and gluttony are not really worthy of celebration, there’s no denying the visceral, car-crash joys of watching someone struggle through that 85th wing, or react to the first hit of capsaicin attacking his tongue like an electric shock. Here, we take a look at the struggle faces of competitive eating—whether you see them as a cautionary tale or a call-to-arms is up to you.

Newsletter

Feed your inbox.

Subscribe