American sports journalist Howard Cosell once stated, “The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give.” This quote most definitely applies to the sport of competitive eating in regards to competing in both eating contests and food challenges. I will be the first to say that I get an extremely awesome and proud feeling after winning a gigantic food challenge which I trained very hard for, and especially if I have lost the challenge previously. It took me five attempts to finally win The 6.5 lb Ultimate Destroyer Sandwich Challenge at Papa Bob’s BBQ in Bonner Springs, Kansas, and the overwhelming mental sensation that I got after actually winning was definitely well-worth the over $200 that I spent paying for the four previous losses. I have been in and won some very tough eating contests as well against some strong competition, and I also got very proud feelings after those victories, similar to how I felt after all the intense wins against our rival teams back when I played organized sports in high school and college. As an amateur competitive eater, you will be able to soon experience this same feeling too, which sometimes is even more valuable than the actual contest prizes, but you won’t ever find success if you aren’t initially smart about which contests you compete in. You especially won’t enjoy competitive eating for very long if you don’t go into each competition with the correct mindset either.

All of the other sections in this TIPS category are basically dedicated to helping you train and strategize so that you can dominate food challenges, but this particular section will help you prepare for and win eating contests. With that said, be sure to especially check out the Stomach Capacity Training section because all those articles also pertain to helping you train for eating contests as well. There are some unique things you need to know before training for an actual eating contest though, and those will be further explained in How To Train For An Eating Contest. For the purpose of this first eating contest exclusive article, please be sure you’ve already read Selecting The Food Challenge Right For You, since you will be able to relate some of that information to selecting which eating contests you want to compete in as well. All of those tips will not be repeated down below. Selecting an eating contest to enter is very different from selecting which food challenge you want to attempt, since most food challenges are available at the particular restaurants basically all year round, and the restaurants and festivals sponsoring eating contests only host them once per year. On top of that, you are able to choose when you want to attempt a food challenge most of the time, but almost all eating contests have a set date and time, established by the restaurant, which you cannot change. Therefore, you have to make sure you are ready if and when that eating contest actually occurs. Food challenges are mostly on your own terms, but eating contests are more on the host’s terms. Now that I’ve explained that difference, let’s establish which steps you should initially take in order to figure out which eating contest you want to enter and compete in:

1. Find out what your options are – You can use either the Map Search or List Search applications to search for and find all of the food challenges available around you and where they are located, but unfortunately the same cannot be said about the ability to find out when and where eating contests are available. FoodChallenges.com currently does not have any staff available to make that happen and keep everything up-to-date. The best and most simple way to figure out which eating contests are available around you is to check out EatFeats.com. There you will be able to click on which city, state, or country you live in or will be traveling to, and there will be a list of known eating contests available in that particular region. There may or may not be future contests listed. The other thing you can do is just to perform a few simple Google searches. Take a few minutes to search for any competitions that may be coming up around you. When not hosted by restaurants, eating contests are most often held as entertainment at festivals and other major gatherings, and especially ones which celebrate a particular food item. For example, there may be a bacon eating contest at the upcoming BaconFest. It may help to search your local community’s website, since there is most likely a calendar of events showing local festivals coming up. There may be a contest at one of them!! You should also check for contests at festivals celebrating a particular culture, since you may for example find a bratwurst eating contest at an Oktoberfest gathering. There may also be contests nearby on certain holidays celebrating certain cultures. There may be a corned beef eating contest on St Patrick’s Day and there may be a taco eating contest on Cinco de Mayo. Again though, searches may get results and they also may not. You won’t know for sure unless you actually do your own research!!

2. What happens if there are no options available? – Especially if you live in a region that doesn’t often have many contests available throughout the year, your searches may end up with zero results. Traditionally in the United States, the regions with the most eating contests are Florida, Chicago, California, Texas, and there are many competitions all around the northeast states such as Pennsylvania and New York. Michigan hosts quite a few contests as well. If you live anywhere in the Midwest (like I do) or in areas other than those mentioned, seven times out of ten you may not find many options available. If you really want to find something to try soon, you may have to travel, and as a beginning amateur you probably won’t want to do that just yet. In that case, you may want to focus on training and improving your skills via attempting the food challenges around you. That is how many of the top competitive eaters first started out. They initially trained by winning all the major food challenges available around them, and then moved on to competing in eating contests once they felt they were more ready. Doing that will also help you be prepared for any spur-of-the-moment eating contests you find out about. As you continue and get more involved with the “eating community,” you will learn that many restaurants and contest hosts aren’t very good AT ALL when it comes to marketing their events, and you may only learn of a particular event a day or two before it’s actually happening, whether it be via word-of-mouth from a friend or somebody telling you about it via social media. If you keep yourself prepared and in “eating shape” via food challenges, there is a higher probability that you will perform well even without much training beforehand.

3. Analyze the eating contest details – Now let’s say there are some options available around you which are occurring within the next few weeks. I know I did not refer to other countries with quickly growing “eating communities” such as Great Britain and Australia in #2 so I will do that now. The number of eating contests available in those countries is definitely growing, and especially in the major cities such as Glasgow, London, Sydney, and Melbourne, but the numbers are still not as high as the major regions mentioned above. With that said, your next step is to analyze and critique the available list of options to see which contests you can and actually want to compete in. We delve into much more detail about this in our Analyze The Contest Details And Plan Ahead article, but when is the contest and where is it located at? How far away is that date and how long will it take to get there? Are you available and can you even travel there? What do you have to eat and how long is the competition? Do you have to eat a certain amount the fastest or do you have to eat as much as possible within a certain time period? What are the prizes awarded and is there an initial entrance fee you must pay in order to compete? Find out the the major contest details, and then make decisions based on that information.

4. Which competition(s) do you want to enter? – Now that you have your list of possible contests coming up and you know all the major details (some may be harder to find out than others), which ones do you feel comfortable entering? It really is that simple. Eating competitions are different than food challenges, as we’ve said before, since there usually isn’t a large “pre-established meal” that you must completely eat in order to win. Contests are more about beating all of the other competitors rather than just beating the meal sitting in front of you. The only time where that isn’t the case is during an eating challenge contest, and they are fairly rare these days. During those, you and other competitors all race to see who can eat a particular food challenge meal fastest. In most eating contests though, what you really need to eat in order to win depends on who else is in the contest. You may win a ten minute hot dog eating contest by eating sixteen hot dogs during one contest, but in another contest eating sixteen may only get you fourth place. It really just depends on who all is in the competition, and that mostly depends on the location and prizes. You just need to make sure you are competing and trying as hard as you physically can, which is all you can do (refer up to that first quote above). The only way you will improve and gain experience is by competing in all the contests you can which you feel comfortable competing in. If one contest involves extra spicy food, and you don’t like spicy food, then that event should not be on your list for now. Eventually, as you gain experience and confidence in your own abilities, you may one day look into trying a contest like that, and especially if there are great prizes involved. Right now though while still a beginner trying to figure everything out, only choose events you feel comfortable entering with foods you will actually enjoy.

Since there are only so many eating contests available around you held every so often, you can’t be as selective with the contests you want to enter and compete in as you can be with food challenges. As you gain experience and further improve, you may eventually start traveling further for various eating events. Then you will be able to be more selective with which competitions you actually enter. If you are too picky initially, you could find yourself never competing in any major contests. Please note that does not mean you should enter anything and everything, and it just means you shouldn’t be extremely selective while still early on in your career. Your initial goal should be to improve significantly and have fun, rather than just being focused on winning. Eating contest rules and details may be on the host’s terms and many things may be out of your own personal control, but there is one thing you do have full control over, and that is your individual mental mindset you have before, during, and after each competition. You’ll get the most personal satisfaction and enjoyment from eating competitions if you maintain a realistic view of your own abilities and especially if you are good at analyzing and judging your competitors and their individual eating capabilities. No matter who you are, you cannot expect to win every contest every single time. If you do win every event with ease, then you aren’t really challenging yourself!!

For more help on reading your opponents, be sure to check out Tips For Analyzing Your Competitors, which you can use right before the competition starts and sometimes before even arriving at the event. If you overestimate your own abilities and underestimate the skills of your opponents, it is highly likely that you will lose the event badly and go home very disappointed in yourself. That is a recipe for disaster, and a big reason that many people quit competitive eating very early on in their short-lived career. They go into their first few contests expecting to win and beat people who’ve been competing for many years, and they end up losing and feeling like a failure. Thanks to FC though and your desire to be the best you can be, this rookie mistake won’t happen to you!! With that said, and using your new list of contests to enter, let’s now Analyze The Contest Details And Plan Ahead.

NOTE: This article doesn’t really pertain to eating contests hosted by the “organizations” Major League Eating and All Pro Eating since there are many advanced, professional eaters that compete at those various contests. For that reason, it is not recommended that beginners try to compete at those events until gaining a little more experience. The other reason is that those organizations don’t allow “just anybody” to enter the competitions, like most other non-sanctioned contests do. For more about that, read Tips For Analyzing Your Competitors.

Thanks for reading about selecting the eating contest right for you and using FoodChallenges.com!!

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