Competitive eating isn’t just a man’s game. Some of the sport’s top record holders are women, who weigh-in at half the size of their male counterparts. That, if anything, should debunk the myth that size matters in this sport.
Over the years, the eating competitions have separated the men from the women, crowning a winner for each gender; the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition did this back in 2011. However, so many women have achieved such success that the playing field is basically level these days. Sure, the top two eaters — Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi — are men. But beyond that, it’s wide open.
With that, let’s take a look at the top female competitive eaters in the world. We’ll start with arguably the greatest of all time.
Sonya Thomas aka “The Black Widow” (Photo Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Sonya ‘The Black Widow’ Thomas
There’s no denying that Thomas is the greatest female competitive eater living. But she is also among the top all-around competitive eaters of either sex. She routinely goes head-to-head against her male eating counterparts and has defeated the likes of Ed ‘Cookie’ Jarvis, Eric Booker and even Kobayashi, who she once bested in a fruitcake-eating contest.
Thomas holds the women’s record for the most hot dogs eaten — 45 in 10 minutes — and has amassed more than 25 world records, including eating 23 pulled pork sandwiches in 10 minutes, 250 tater tots in five minutes and 183 chicken wings in 12 minutes. And here’s the kicker: Thomas is 45 years old and weighs just 98 pounds. Where she puts the food after she eats it is a mystery to all, but she’s certainly one of the top athletes in this sport, male or female.
Juliet Lee (Photo Credit: Roslan RahmanAFP/Getty Images)
Lee has, shall I say, an interesting nickname. She’s called ‘The Gurgitator’ in eating circles and, in other circles, she’s known as the “sexiest competitive eater.” Lee, who is 45 years old and who weighs in at 105 pounds, finished second to Thomas in the 2011 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition, dropping 29.5 dogs in 10 minutes, and then 33 in the following year.
A former chemistry teacher, Lee is a force in the world of competitive eating, once downing 31.5 dozen raw oysters in a sitting and 13 slices of pizza in 10 minutes. When she’s not busy eating 13.5 pounds of cranberry sauce in eight minutes, she’s running a small hair salon and raising her two young daughters. You know, mom stuff.
Natsuko ‘Gal’ Sone
Sone is the top female competitive eater in Japan, and the third top qualifier among all eaters in Japan. In 2006 she won the title of “Gluttonous Queen” in Hawaii, but she’s probably best known for her successful attempt to eat 15,000 calories in one sitting, in honor of Elvis Presley.
Interestingly enough, Sone also happens to be a pop singer. She sometimes incorporates eating into her performances, downing sushi during the instrumentals.
Torres owns what might the coolest record held by any female competitive eater. In June of this year, she entered and won the first ever Coney Island Cupcake Eating Competition, downing 71 of those bad boys in eight minutes.
In 2011 she was third among women in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition, eating 28.5 dogs in 10 minutes. And then in 2012 she ate 31 dogs in the Crif Dog Classic, losing only to the great Kobayashi.
Tomoko Miyake started this thing called the “buffet club,” in which she and four other competitive eaters go to a buffet and see how much weight they can gain. In 2007 they topped the 50-pound mark in a single sitting.
In one of her more popular individual feats, she ate 11 pounds of ramen in under seven minutes. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that she’s got a major following (as much for her looks as her eating).
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Tom Lorenzo is a freelance sports, entertainment and pop culture writer from New York City. You can follow him on Twitter @TomLorenzo.