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9 unbelievable eating contests

By: Josh Lew on July 3, 2014, 2:21 p.m.
fat contestant in mince pie eating contest

Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

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Tough to stomach

Competitive eating: Is it a sport or a sideshow? No matter how you feel about eating contests, there’s no denying this growing phenomenon. Amateur eating events have been held at state and county fairs for decades. but the recent popularity of Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest — which is covered by ESPN — has led to a national competitive eating scene with “professionals” who travel to the events with the biggest prizes. Famed eaters like longtime Nathan's champ Joey “Jaws” Chestnut even earn appearance fees for simply showing up.

Here are nine of the top eating contests that draw national and international attention because of the impressive amount competitors eat or simply because of the bizarre nature (and messiness) of the foods involved. The tremendous gut shown at left is courtesy of the Wookey Hole Big Eat, a mince pie eating contest.