A Competitive Eater Tells All

She downed 32 dozen clams in one sitting.

Photograph: Illustration by Jameson Simpson.

"I grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution, and my family was always hungry. Food became the most important thing to us. Four years ago, I heard about a competitive-eating contest at a local Italian restaurant and decided to register. I wanted some excitement. My husband and kids didn’t believe I could do it. I’m five foot four, and I weigh 105 pounds. Pizza is my least favorite food, but I ate 11 slices and won pizza for a year.

"As our two daughters got older, we started traveling to competitions as a family vacation. Now I compete 10 or 12 times a year. My husband is my agent, manager and coach. Contests usually last eight to 12 minutes. I’m not a fast chewer—I have to work on that. I’ve eaten 34 hot dogs, 55 mini hamburgers, 32 dozen oysters, 23 dozen clams (that’s a world record) and 48 tamales. On the eating circuit, I’m the nice one. They call me Lovely Juliet. But I can outeat 95 percent of the men. I’m ranked 11th in the world.

"So far I’ve never vomited. I came close after eating 13.2 pounds of cranberry sauce (also a world record). That was pretty hard—I’d never even had a cranberry before. My stomach felt as if it were carrying two babies."

Originally published in the July/August 2010 issue of More.

NEXT: What it’s like to swim around the island of Manhattan. Against the current. With asthma.

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