It’s been almost exactly a year since I’ve eaten a strawberry shortcake.
That’s not a knock on the food itself, which is delicious, but a psychological effect that’s held over since I tried my first eating competition at last year’s Florida Strawberry Festival. You guessed it — the eating contest I entered was a strawberry shortcake competition. I lived to tell about it in the following issue of the Plant City Times & Observer, but my sweet tooth hasn’t been quite the same since.
If I could go back in time, would I do it again? Absolutely. And I think I’d have even done a little better, knowing what I know now.
You may be thinking of clearing some space in your belly for one of the contests this year. Or, maybe you’re only doing it on a dare or because you lost a bet. If you want to be able to hold your own, to be able to walk out without having to meet the food again later in the day, then there’s hope for you — if you’re willing to learn from my mistakes.
Eat Before. Don’t starve yourself before the competition. Going in on a completely empty stomach seems like the logical way to prepare for housing a large amount of food in a short window of time. But you want to increase the amount of food that you can hold down, so you’ll need to expand your stomach capacity. The easy way to do this (which I should have Googled before I did the contest) is to load up on salads and water in the days leading up to the competition. This expands your stomach, is easy to digest and won’t leave you feeling bloated and miserable in the same way that gorging on nothing but, say, strawberry shortcake for three or four days would. I hadn’t eaten anything the day of the competition, and that affected me within a few minutes.
Drink Water. At the festival, everyone in these competitions is given a bottle of water to drink while they shovel the food into their gullets. If you are an eat-first-drink-later type of person, ditch that philosophy. Don’t drink it all in one or two tries, but don’t take just a few sips every so often like I did. As I mentioned earlier, water will help expand your stomach and also passes through your stomach easily and quickly.
Pace Yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Many amateurs, myself included, get arrogant after the first few bites and try to beat the clock. In reality, if you’re not Joey Chestnut, you shouldn’t consider the clock to be your enemy until late in the game. Putting too much of a burden too quickly on yourself will only come back (up) to haunt you.
Be Picky. Don’t pick something you enjoy too much. Do you love strawberry shortcake? While your undying love for the finest of all strawberry-based desserts makes you think you could eat a lot of it in one sitting, it’s going to hurt you. Full disclosure: I’m the biggest sweet tooth on our staff by leaps and bounds, and one of the thoughts I had early in last year’s contest was, “This tastes way too good for a competition.” I savored the meal when I shouldn’t have. Don’t eat food that you hate, though. Go for something that, in any other scenario, would make you say, “Meh,” and look for something else on a menu.
GET YOUR FILL
This year, you have six eating contests from which to choose, including one that will earn you a spot in the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July contest if you win. For whichever contest you enter, I wish you the best of luck.
Fried Corn on the Cob Eating Contest – begins at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26; sponsored by Bayshore Services.
Youth Strawberry Stemming Contest – begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.
Nathan’s Famous Regional Qualifier — begins at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 1; sponsored by Major League Eating. To register, and for more info, visit MajorLeagueEating.com.
Strawberry Spaghetti Eating Contest — begins at 5 p.m. Monday, March 2; sponsored by Spaghetti Eddie’s.
Adult Strawberry Stemming Contest — begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 3.
Super Dog Mega Corndog Eating Contest – begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 4; sponsored by Super Dog.
Strawberry Shortcake Eating Contest — begins at 2 p.m. Thursday, March 5; sponsored by St. Clement Catholic Church.
Strawberry Mashed Potato Pie Eating Contest — begins at 1 p.m. Friday, March 6; sponsored by Pickle Barrel Sirloin Tips.