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Competitive Eating is Sick and Wrong

Updated on May 15, 2011

This past Independence Day stirred the usual thoughts within me: " I'm glad I am an American, I like fireworks", and of course, the all-important question, "what do I intend to eat on this most glorious of occasions?" There is a tinge of sarcasm in that sentence though, as thoughts of food simply do not occupy much of my time. Don't get me wrong, I like to eat just as much as the next person, but it just doesn't excite me like it did when I was a child. I'm extremely grateful I live in a country of such abundance, but I never salivate over Burger King commercials, don't get very excited while waiting for dinner in a restaurant, and absolutely hate the feeling of being stuffed.

So to no surprise, I feel more than a tinge of disgust when viewing anything related to competitve eating. What I am so amazed by though, is the near total lack of moral questioning in regards to the aptly-named "sport" of gurgitation. So I hope this hub to be less of a rant against what I consider to be plain and simply gluttony, and more of an open forum on other's thoughts concerning this ever-growing cultural phenomenon. But, first, let me rant.

Warning: Not for the Squeamish!

Despite the supposed athleticism of its participants and the ever-increasing cultural acceptance of it, competitive eating is gluttony, plain and simple. There is something very disturbing about watching a man eat until he vomits or ruptures his stomache, and what is the grand purpose of this increasingly televised event? Where scantily-clad women and past "champions" cheer on such copious consumption? To simply say, "I can eat more food, and in a lesser amount of time, than you." This is entertainment? And why is there so little dialogue on the ethics of this practice?

I'm hesitant to use this argument, but I can't help recalling the oft-repeated remonstration used by parents to chide their children into finishing their vegetables; "There are starving people in Ethiopia who would love to eat those brussel sprouts!" Obviously, if an eating competition were cancelled we wouldn't be able to ship 2000 hot dogs to Somalia, but this old adage does bring up questions on the nature of abundance, consumption, and our relationship to the majority of the world, who are indeed, starving. The above images strike a chord deep within me, and lead me to question just how appropriate it is to celebrate the abundance of one's country in such a mannner. I've always believed that the human race should hold itself to a higher level, one that refelects our inherent nobility and dignity, and that stresses the importance of personal accountability. A dog, when given the opporuntiy, will eat until it vomits. What message is the video above speaking to regarding the divide between humans and animals?

Why does a clearly asinine event such as competitve-eating hold such attention in the developed world? Compare this to, for example, a show where people limit their calorie intake by 50% for one month, then use the money that would have been spent on food as a donation to food banks, the salvation army, red cross, etc.? Which would hold greater interest for the American people?

What are your thoughts?

Please bear in mind my intention is not to judge, not to hold myself in higher regard than anyone else on this issue. Lord knows, I could be doing a LOT more to contribute to impoverished countries throughout the world. But I sincerely feel this is an issue that needs to be more thoroughly scrutinized. We shouldn't just be watching these deplorable events and saying, "gross!" We should be taking it a step further and realizing that not only are these events disgusting, but immoral, gluttonous, and irresponsible.

So what are your thoughts? I invite anyone with an opinion on the matter to leave a comment, but please, as always, keep it civil.

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    • lovelypaper profile image

      Renee S 6 years ago from Virginia

      A very thought-provoking hub. I agree. Why are people stuffing their face for sport when there are starving people around the world? It makes me a little sick.

    • sschilke profile image

      sschilke 9 years ago

      jreuter,

      Your intention is not to judge, but I feel no such restraint? These folks, stuffing their faces for prize money, are part of freak show totally absorbed in their own excess. Now, I just need to remember that when I visit my local all you can eat buffet.

      Sschilke

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      This is a very thought provoking piece.  I always thought eating contests seemed like a waste of food.  Great juxtaposition of images.

    • jreuter profile image
      Author

      Jason Reuter 9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      as usual, cw, well said.

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 9 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Great piece, Jreuter. No, you are certainly not alone. Yes, it IS disgusting, and to call it a sport is like calling chess a sport... or worse. Chess builds brain cells, at least.

      But, as disgusted as I am by this display, I am not, unfortunately, surprised. This is a society where Jerry Springer had a big hit by televising red-necks hitting each other and calling each other filthy names. I think it was made into a movie! He's a big star!! Immoral and pathetic? Yes. And it got huge ratings.

      I can personally boycott Garbage TV, but I can't educate all the people who find it entertaining. I can only shake my head in sad remorse for the human race. I can turn on the History Channel and hang out in HubPages, where quality is still the standard.

    • jreuter profile image
      Author

      Jason Reuter 9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Thanks for reading Smith and Jewels, I appreciate your comments as well. it's good to know this world hasn't gone completely bonkers.

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 9 years ago from Australia

      Eating contests - I had forgotten they existed such is their interest in my world! But how asinine it is - you could not speak more truer words. Obesity is actually encouraged as a form of entertainment. Makes it difficult to be compassionate toward someone who needs a stomach stapling operation under these circumstances. Perhaps the organizers need to take a good hard look at ethics. It is very difficult not to judge the world as a twisted place to live sometimes.

    • 02SmithA profile image

      02SmithA 9 years ago from Ohio

      It is pretty sad that the television announcers consider the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest "some of the best tv ever." The pictures do a good job of making your point.

    • jreuter profile image
      Author

      Jason Reuter 9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      haha...I don't know. Some women are really into that chubby, face-stuffing teddy bear look.

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 9 years ago

      Funny, this last Independence Day made me think what a shame it was that Americans weren't still British. American men would be so much sexier, if that were the case -- don't you agree?

    • jreuter profile image
      Author

      Jason Reuter 9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Thanks christine, glad to see someone agrees with me, I've been feeling pretty lonely on this topic.

    • christinekv profile image

      christinekv 9 years ago from Washington

      A good topic to write on Jreuter....and I agree w/ you - these types of eating contests are exhibitions of gluttony and nothing to be admired or celebrated. If these contest particpants gave more thought to other parts of the world where people are going hungry, I'd be surprised if they in good conscience, could participate in such events.

      I think your pictures really do a great job of showing contrast.