She might be a svelte size eight, but competitive eater Molly Schuyler can scoff more food than a whole family combined – in a matter of minutes. The mum-of-four weighs just 55kg (8st 9lbs) and insists she’s suffered no ill-effects from the practice since entering the sport one year ago. “I got into competitive eating through a bet – I wanted to prove somebody wrong and had no real intention of taking it any further than that,” the 34-year-old says. “But after winning that challenge I got egged on to do some other things and discovered many competitions offer cash prizes for winning.”
Molly has smashed no fewer than 64 records, and in the first month of 2014 alone she scooped an incredible $30,000 (Dhs110,190) after polishing off a whopping 363 chicken wings in just half an hour, out-munching every other woman – and man – in the contest. “That was the biggest prize that I’ve ever won,” she reveals. “I got $22,000 (Dhs80,806) in cash, plus a ring and medal combination worth an extra $8,000 (Dhs29,384) for winning the Wing Bowl in Philadelphia in January.”
An All-consuming Occupation
Molly has wowed the competitive eating world since she began travelling across the US to take on increasingly outlandish meals. Ranked number one on the planet by an independent league for the sport, All Pro Eating, her greatest feats to date include devouring a 72oz (2.4kg) steak in three minutes, 90 dumplings in two minutes, a giant burger known as the ‘Stellanator’ in just over three minutes and a 9lb (4.8kg) burrito in less than five minutes. “I was introduced to Todd Greenwald, the chairman of All Pro Eating, by a friend,” she says. “He invited me out to an event in Connecticut and I ended up winning both contests while I was there. I don’t have any real rivalries – we have our friends – but in the heat of the moment you absolutely don’t want to lose to anyone. It’s like any sport where the competition completely takes over and brings out a real competitive streak.”
Molly has polished off meals that no other competitive eater can stomach, even succeeding in challenges Adam Richman, star of reality show Man vs. Food, has failed to complete. But despite gobbling so much grub, the slender champ says she hasn’t noticed any changes to her health since becoming a member of the league. “I’ve always been a big eater, since I was a child,” she says. “We were always allowed seconds and if we went out to eat it would be to a buffet – my dad would say ‘I’d better get my money’s worth’. My family accepts what I do. They might not like it all the time, but they support me. There are risks. I could choke, and if I did it too often I could put on too much weight or have a heart attack. At home we don’t eat huge meals. My kids are small and when we’re eating there is always fruit and vegetables – we don’t go overboard. There are no sweets or chocolate at home.”
Working Up an Appetite
Winning money for eating free food must sound like a glutton’s dream, but Molly, from small-town Nebraska, stresses that at the end of the day, gorging herself for cash – and others’ entertainment – is still a means to an end. “It’s not for everyone as it’s a lot of work,” she says. “You really don’t want to eat any more sometimes, but that’s your job – you have to be really committed to it and be prepared to work hard. I don’t train a lot, but if I do, I eat a lot of vegetables because they take a long time to digest and it boosts the speed at which the body breaks food down. Other people use a technique called ‘water training’, where you drink loads to stretch your stomach, but I don’t like that because it’s dangerous. In preparation for an event I don’t eat a whole lot to keep my stomach as empty as possible. I’ll drink liquids to stop it hurting because they move through the body much faster than food.
Talents that Make Molly The Fastest Muncher on Earth
Todd Greenwald, Chairman of sporting body All Pro Eating, describes Molly as one in seven billion where consumption’s concerned. Comparing her to the goddesses of Greek and Roman mythology, he says: “Molly excels in competitive eating for many reasons – she has the tenacity of Bellona, the wisdom of Athena and the speed of Nike. She simply has a quicker hand speed, a larger stomach capacity and superior food-swallowing skills than 99.9 per cent of the world’s population. She has the unique ability to continue to excel. I don’t recommend that anyone participate in the sport of competitive eating for more than five years, but I do believe she will continue to break records whenever and wherever she competes.”
He adds: “This may be the only sport in the entire world that emphatically breaks the preconceived gender barrier placed on organised competition. Competitive eating has always been a level playing field and Molly has proven women can do anything that men can do – and in Molly’s case, do it better. I know of maybe one other female who can put up similar numbers but Molly really is one in seven billion.”
WARNING: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!
Despite the big financial rewards competitive eating offers, experts warn it can seriously harm the body. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, says: “The keys to healthy diets are variety in food intake and moderation – the antitheses of competitive eating. Overeating stresses body metabolism. While young and healthy people can handle the stress and work off excess calories, in the long run overeating leads to obesity and the conditions for which obesity is a risk factor, such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.” But for Molly, the risks are just part of the job. “The most obvious risk is choking if I’m up against the clock,” she says, “but it’s possible to stretch your stomach so far to the point it won’t go back.”