In a sport centered around who can eat the most, the field isn’t necessarily dominated by big dudes. While Chestnut weighs 230 pounds, Kobayashi only clocks in at 160. And world champion Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, who has regularly placed in the top five at the Nathan’s contest and ranked the top eater in a wide range of categories from Vienna sausages (8.31 pounds in 10 minutes) and baked beans (8.4 pounds in under three minutes) to turducken (7.75 pounds in 12 minutes) and #cheesecake (11 pounds in 9 minutes), weighs a mere 105 pounds. In fact, thinner eaters may have an advantage, since their stomachs have more room to stretch.
There’s also scientific evidence of possible biological differences between competitive eaters and the rest of us. A 2007 study by four University of Pennsylvania researchers, “Competitive Speed Eating: Truth and Consequences,” examined eater Tim Janus’s stomach and found that it lacked peristalsis, the muscle contractions that move food down into the small intestine. Janus was able to eat 36 #hotdogs in 10 minutes without feeling full. The hot dogs remained in his stomach, which, the researchers wrote, “protruded enough to create the indistinct impression of a developing intrauterine pregnancy.”