I am a food lover. I often say that if I feel I have no reason to live, living to eat is reason enough. I generally value things that are rich and delicious, and eat more than I should because everything simply tastes SO good.
But this Sunday night was different; I went in with a mission to eat—whether I wanted to or not—until I was done. I tackled the Pinesburger challenge at the Glenwood Pines in Ithaca (a local dive up the Western side of Cayuga Lake). Four cheeseburgers in an hour, served on large slices of French bread.
I entered the challenge with my roommate and two 200-something-pound guys who didn’t give 4 burgers a second thought. As a petite female college student, I went in with no expectations, but a huge burger craving.
Maybe I’ll get through 3…
58 minutes and four burgers later, I left Glenwood pines with a photo-worthy food baby and a t-shirt saying “I am…I ate” with four cartoon burgers on it. When I woke up the next morning, by food baby had disappeared and my wanna-be abs were back. Since I had banked on the burgers keeping me full for a few days in hopes of avoiding a trip to the grocery store, I was kind of disappointed. Then I slowly became disturbed.
How on Earth was I able to fit 4 cheeseburgers into my stomach, and only be slightly uncomfortably full, and wake up the next morning like nothing had happened? With each patty weighing in at 6 oz. and each “bun” the equivalent of a quarter loaf of French bread, I’d essentially eaten 1.5 pounds of beef, an entire loaf of bread, a whole tomato, a quarter of a head of lettuce, and 4 slices of cheese.
I’m dying to know the biology behind this.
In her book Gulp, author Mary Roach explores the taboo topic of digestion and the science behind what happens to our food. The average stomach contains about one liter, or 4 cups, of food, but can handle about a gallon before you will throw up as a gag reflex, she told Business Insider.
In another interview with NPR, she discussed how competitive eaters are able to fit so much in their stomachs. They are what she called “compliant,” or able to stretch and accommodate more food. Add training to that, and they can fit an incredible amount inside their mouths and stomachs.
Perhaps my stomach is just extremely compliant, or perhaps I’ve unknowingly trained it during all those Thanksgiving dinners and compulsive peanut butter (on a spoon) binges. I don’t ever want to be a competitive eater, but knowing I can hold my own against guys (literally) twice my size is a strangely empowering thing.