HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

Food As Sport

Posted on | July 8, 2008 | No Comments

The mixed message surrounding healthy eating habits

The emphasis on the obesity epidemic by health care experts has generated widespread media coverage.  Obesity across all age groups is rampant in America and has grave consequences for our health and longevity.  While this problem continues to be studied and multi disciplinary approaches towards interventions have been developed, a parallel microcosm within our culture has taken a separate approach towards the fostering of healthy eating habits and the appropriate use of food.

Competitive eating, an international phenomena but most prevalent in Japan and the United States, is a sport that is gaining in popularity and receiving expanded media coverage.   Gurgitators, event participants who compete to determine who can eat the most within a short predetermined time frame, are becoming stars with a cult following.  Television and newspapers describe the training methods of these gurgitators detailing techniques which allow for the expansion of their stomach to accommodate excessively large amounts of foods. 

The “sport” of eating has rules and regulations with corresponding federations and franchises to promote, control and protect the sport’s expansion and participants.  During the 1990’s when competitive eating shows were common in Japan a series of choking deaths resulted from the practice of overeating. Sport oversight has since strategized to prevent such fatal outcomes.
While schools, talk show hosts, parents, health care providers and others across the country are promoting healthy eating habits, one has to question if we are only talking the talk.  Over the 4th of July weekend a gurgitator won $10,000 for eating 59 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Many watched the broadcast and read the articles about this achievement.  The event even went into an overtime period to break a tie at the end of the 10 minute competition.  In sports vernacular, never has the term “sudden death” seemed more appropriate. Overeating will kill some of us.  According to the statistics far too many will die as a direct result of impaired eating habits. Due to childhood obesity, this generation of youth will be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Irony abounds around the issue of promoting healthy eating habits.  Do we eat to live or live to eat, or do we just develop a sport around the question and sell the answer to those who can consume as they please and live to tell the story.  Food for thought:  How do we bridge the gap between promoting what we know about healthy eating habits and what we glorify in action?

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