NEW YORK, NY - JULY 04: Competitive eater Sonya Thomas competes in the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island on July 4, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Thomas won the women's division by successfully eating 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes, setting a new world record. Photo Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
For decades, many believed that competitive eating was a men’s-only sport. Participants packed on the girth to pack down the food. But size turned out not to be the best indicator of ability at the table. Doubters need only look to legends like Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut for proof.
Women have taken up the challenge (and basked in the glory) of competitive eating. She may be smaller and weigh less than her male counterpart, but she can more than stand her ground, or at least fill her seat at the table. Let’s look to some of the female stars of the competitive eating world to see how they do it.
Sonya ‘The Black Widow’ Thomas
Born Lee Sun-kyung on July 26, 1967, and known by the nickname “The Black Widow,” Sonya Thomas is the most impressive of female competitive eaters. She joined the International Federation of Competitive Eating in 2003 and holds records for at least 25 different foods. Her competitive eating win streak includes besting male eating competitors Ed “Cookie” Jarvis and Eric Booker.
The Black Widow strives to keep her weight between 98 and 135 pounds. Her secret to staying in shape includes walking on an inclined treadmill for two hours, five times each week. Between eating competitions, She eats one meal a day, which includes an abundance of green vegetables and fresh fruit. Thomas avoids all junk food when in training and fasts the night before any food eating competition to “put an edge” on her appetite.
Photo Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
The Black Widow won the 2013 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Championship in the female category by consuming 36 and 3/4 hot dogs in 10 minutes. The previous year, Thomas consumed a women’s record-breaking total of 45 hot dogs. Her male counterpart in the 2013 Nathan’s competition, Joey “The Jaws” Chestnut, ate 69 hot dogs to secure the title in the male category.
Thomas held the National Buffalo Wing Festival championship title for five consecutive years beginning in 2007. In the last year of her run, she consumed 183 chicken wings in 12 minutes. Chestnut won in 2012 by consuming 191 chicken wings. And Miki Sudo, another female competitive eater, ate 178 chicken wings this year to grab the title.
Miki Sudo, at 27 years old and 125 pounds, is poised to give Thomas and Chestnut a run for their money. Sudo signed her professional contract in April 2013 after consuming 40 Nathan’s hot dogs and buns at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in her Major League Eating debut. Miki currently is the #7 ranked competitive eater.
Sudo began eating competitively on a joke that turned into a dare, according to her official Facebook page profile. On December 4, 2011, she consumed a 10-pound “Phozilla,” which was made up of rice noodles, meat and broth, in 87 minutes. She became Pho 87’s first official winner, collecting the $1,510 progressive jackpot, and was featured on a billboard near the Las Vegas Strip.
Sudo went on to compete in, and win, a seven-pound ramen noodle challenge in June 2012. Her next food-eating challenge was the Village Pub Rib Championship in August 2012. At the competition, the 125-pound “nobody” faced off against Thomas Gilbert and “El Toro” Jimenez, consuming an impressive 35 pounds of ribs in five minutes in the final round. Sudo, and her “insatiable appetite” for competitive eating, took home the $1,299 prize.
Still in her rookie year, Sudo is already a force to be reckoned with. She doesn’t yet have a nickname, but according to the Major League Eating website, a “notable Madison Avenue branding consultancy firm” has been retained to advise MLE on an appropriate nickname that “best highlights Ms. Sudo’s considerable talents.”
Miki Sudo has not yet revealed her training, exercise and eating regimen that she uses to prepare for competitive eating challenges.
Rachael Monaco is a freelance writer covering not only all things about Buffalo and Western New York, but also around the country. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.