Mostly so they don't die.
In 2011, Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas won the first-ever Women’s Division of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest by downing 40 dogs in one sitting. That’s 12,360 calories consumed in 10 minutes … not to mention 800 grams of fat, 1400 milligrams of cholesterol, and 920 grams of carbohydrates! When you’re putting away a feast like that two or three times a month, watching your diet and getting plenty of exercise are keys to avoiding diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health problems.
To counter life on the eating circuit, Thomas’s everyday diet consists of lots of fruits, vegetables, seafood, and chicken. She also puts in 10 hours of cardio exercise each week. The combination works—since Thomas began eating competitively, doctors haven’t discovered any changes in her health. Oddly enough, staying trim actually gives the 105-pound Black Widow a competitive edge. That’s because the stomach expands as food gets shoveled into it, and skinny eaters have less fat in the abdomen for the expanding stomach to push against. The result—a skinny competitive eater will have a little more room to stuff in an extra hot dog or 10.
This article originally appeared in a 2012 issue of mental_floss magazine.