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Friday, January 18, 2013

Man vs. Food Part II - He Ate The Whole Thing?!?

This is a continuation of yesterday's Thursday Diary entry. If you happened to miss it, you can click HERE to link back to it. You might be wondering how I plan to tie in my addiction story to a television program. Well, the answer lies within.

Okay, so welcome to Friday, and the day after I pretty much admitted to being a complete weakling when it comes to anything made out of chocolate. It's certainly not as bad as being addicted to alcohol, lethal drugs, or sniffing permanent markers, but if I don't get the addiction under control, it'll eventually kill me. Now that it's out in the open, I feel better for having confessed it, and now that it's out in the open, it'll serve as a permanent reminder of the promise I made to myself.

Still, I know that the road to absolute freedom from any confection with the names Hershey, Reese, Cadbury, or Mars is going to be a lifelong struggle. I don't think it's something that I can just go cold turkey on. Occasionally there are going to be instances in which I have to have peanut butter M&M's, and there might be instances where I will be at a party where there's cake...and it would be sort of rude to turn down cake at a party. For the most part though, I plan to keep my cravings under control, though it's going to be a challenge. I won't lie to you.

And, I'm already taking steps to try and kick my chocolate habit once and for all. Now that I have an iPod (yes, I have finally joined the 21st century a dozen years into it), I find that going on a brisk walk is a lot more fun. It's like I'm exercising with my favourite artists! I'm purposely only buying vanilla flavoured frozen yogurt whenever I do have a craving for a sweet treat. Not only is frozen yogurt healthier, but by buying vanilla, I won't trigger my chocolate cravings!

(Baby steps here, remember?)

You know, looking back on my love-hate relationship with food (sweets in particular), I have come to one conclusion. When I was binge eating on everything that had any sort of chocolate drizzle on it, I was doing it to feel some sort of happiness. And, why wouldn't I choose chocolate? Chocolate has magical healing powers that makes one feel better...for a little while. I used to laugh off the suggestion that more women would rather have chocolate than sex. But now that I'm a bit older and a lot wiser, I can understand why this is the case.

It really wasn't until I grew older that I started to feel disgusted over my insatiable appetite. In almost all the times I instinctively grabbed food, I wasn't even hungry. I ate out of boredom, I ate to relieve stress, and I ate to ease the emotional pain that I was going through. I still have memories of being a teenager and finishing off the leftovers from dinner that the rest of my family couldn't eat because I am the type of person who didn't like to see food go to waste. It was like I had become a human garbage disposal out of necessity, and I didn't like that feeling at all. It wasn't until I was 28 years old that I made the decision to try and change my habits so that I didn't rely on food so much to get me through the roughest of days...just four years ago. This year, I'm turning 32, and I still don't have everything perfectly balanced yet. But, all in time though.

You know what's funny though? With the amount of food that I ate as a teenager, it's a wonder that I didn't attempt any of those eating contests, or get in on the action to break a Guinness World Record for eating a set amount of food in the shortest time possible.

You know the contests I mean, right? A pie eating contest at the county fair, or a pizza eating contest at a local pizzeria, or the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Challenge held each year.

Well, there were at least three different reasons why I didn't enter those contests. Firstly, there weren't any contests like that readily available in my hometown at that time to my knowledge (and if there were, they were usually for foods that I despised). Secondly, when I was a teenager, I was the kid who wanted to blend into the background. The last thing I wanted was to have my name and photo plastered all over the newspaper indicating that I had eaten the most food. That would have just given people more ammo, as far as I was concerned!

The main reason why I never entered an eating contest was simple. I get grossed out by them.

Anyone who has ever seen one of those eating contests on television or in person knows what I mean. It's not like the contestants are casually sitting down at a table with a knife and fork, and are dabbing their faces with a napkin as they sip a glass of white wine. No, the carnage is absolutely insane. Those pies and hot dogs get gobbled up in less than a minute. Some of those contestants swallow them down so quickly, you wonder if they swallow them whole or if they at least chew it once or twice.

Forget the fact that I wouldn't even stand a chance against some of the more competitive participants in these eating contests. I wouldn't be able to last five minutes without feeling intense nausea over seeing the person next to me shovel an entire pizza into their mouths before I was even finished one slice.

I mean, hey, if you do competitive eating for a living, more power to you. I just can't do it.

Now, can you imagine a television show that put a spin on competitive eating contests? Imagine a guy going to every pizza place, steakhouse, ice cream stand, and greasy spoon diner in America, sampling the biggest and most insane food creations ever made. And, imagine at the end of every episode, you see this man attempting a variety of food eating challenges which include everything from sampling the hottest chicken wings possible to eating a TEN POUND hamburger in a ninety minute time period. Would you watch?

Well, for nearly four years, people who had The Travel Channel could have the opportunity to watch Adam Richman do exactly that. And, the title of this show was the direct inspiration of the last two blog entries.

Today we're going to be talking about the show Man vs. Food, which aired on The Travel Channel from December 3, 2008 until April 11, 2012.

We're going to talking about what the show is, how it came about, how the host prepared for every episode and eating challenge, as well as addressing the criticisms and rumours surrounding its host.

Oh, and at the end of this entry, I'll be sharing my own thoughts on Man vs. Food, as well as a little bit of a social commentary.

I had mentioned that the host of the show was a man named Adam Richman (b. May 16, 1974 in Brooklyn, New York). Richman is no stranger to food. He has often described himself as a food fanatic. Since 1995, Richman has kept a travel journal where he often goes into great detail over all of the restaurants he visited, what he ordered there, and any life lessons he learned along the way.

(Well...kind of like I'm doing with this blog. Only I haven't been doing this nearly as long as Adam Richman, and this blog is mostly on pop culture. But hey, we have the life lesson thing down pat!)

The format of Man vs. Food for the first three seasons was the same. Adam would travel to several large American cities in search of the most palatable, piquant, or decadent foods ever created. In many cases, the cities often have their own signature dishes, and Adam often did a themed special around this food item. For example, if he were in Philadelphia, he would do a feature on the Philly Cheesesteak. If he were in New York City, he may have done a show on New York Style Cheesecake. If he's hanging around Chicago, you know that a deep dish pizza will be in the spotlight at some point. And down in the southern states like Texas or Oklahoma, it's grill city for sure.

For the first segments of the show, Adam would visit several restaurants, interviewing people about the local cuisine and how it is made, and then he'd sit down and sample some of it. Now, I must admit that watching a few episodes of the show, the opening was really tough to get through. A lot of the foods that Adam sampled looked really delicious, and my mouth was watering as he tried them. At some point, I was actually relieved when they added onions or strawberries or some other food I dislike, because only then did my cravings end right there on the spot.

(Hmmm...dipping chocolate in onion powder. That would definitely make it less tempting. Must remember that for future reference.)

It was only really the last part of the show that kind of made me wince in pain and shock.

That was the part of the show in which Adam would take on a food eating challenge where he would do battle against foods that were either too spicy or incredibly gigantic to digest. And to add to the pressure, some of the challenges had a time limit to boot! Whatever was a guy to do?

Eat, of course. You see, that's where the title comes into play. Will man be able to triumph over food, or will food cause the man to collapse in pain and cry uncle?

Believe it or not, each one of these eating challenges came with a lot of preparation. Richman has explained in several interviews that when he is on the road, he finds time to exercise twice a day in order to keep in shape in between challenges. He'll also fast the day before an eating challenge, making sure to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of club soda or water. He also says that he works out on a treadmill for an hour immediately after taping an episode. Now, you might think that this would be incredibly uncomfortable after eating an obscene amount of food, but I'll admit that after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, I have to move around for a bit after eating because it's incredibly uncomfortable if I don't.

And, just what kind of challenges will Adam take on?

Well, how about eating a 12-inch cheeseburger with twelve beef patties and twelve slices of cheese? Basically, a heart attack on a plate. If you can stomach it, you can watch the clip below. But, I wouldn't recommend watching it on a full stomach. I know I found it hard!

Other challenges that Adam had to take on were...

  • eating a Southwestern Omelette made with an entire dozen of eggs
  • eating several chicken wings with each wing hotter than the last one
  • eating an ice cream sundae made with two gallons of ice cream
  • eating a four pound grilled cheese sandwich
  • attempting to break a record with 39 other people in eating a hamburger weighing 190 pounds!

Wow...after reading all that, I don't think that I want to eat ever again! My stomach feels full and I'm not even the one eating the food!

The show was praised by some critics, who loved Adam's passion for food, and the fun aspect of looking into the world of food eating contests. On the flipside, there are people who have panned the show, saying that Adam is setting a terrible example by promoting the sin of gluttony, and that it sent out the wrong message to people.

Believe it or not, there were actually rumours circulating around the Internet that Adam Richman's competitive eating lead to fatal heart attacks, prompting Adam to lash out at the people spreading the rumour, announcing that he was, in fact alive. And, as of January 18, 2013, Adam Richman is still alive.

Although one thing he doesn't do any more is competitive eating (which likely lead to the cancellation of Man vs. Food last year). He officially walked away from the contests effective January 27, 2012, stating that he wished to move ahead with future projects and bid farewell to his many followers.

As far as my own thoughts on Man vs. Food...they are admittedly mixed. On one hand, I can see where people are coming from about how the show is presented. Although Adam has stated that he worked hard to maintain his weight in between food challenges, I can't see how stuffing your face full of food in a half hour is considered to be healthy for the digestive system. If I tried to stuff a 12 patty burger in my mouth in twenty minutes, I would likely be dead...or at the very least in a hospital bed getting my stomach pumped. I honestly don't remember if they had a warning prefacing each episode explaining that not everyone should try these massive eating challenges, but it would have been an asset. And, I can probably also see people pointing out that it seems a bit wasteful to gorge on giant sized food items when there are people in the world who wish they could even have a small morsel of it.

Though, taking on the role of devil's advocate here, I see where Adam is coming from. He has a passion for food, and he loves talking about it, showcasing it, and eating it. And, as someone who has a passion for writing, I can't fault the guy for showing off his passion. It might not be the most brilliant way of doing it, but again, I can't fault him for it. It's not like he had to do the challenges because he was feeling poorly about himself and felt like he HAD to eat to feel happy. He was happy doing the challenges because it was his passion, and even when he failed at the various challenges, he still had a smile on his face knowing that he gave it all he had.

And, hey, on a positive, whenever I did watch an episode of Man vs. Food, it killed my maybe what I need to do whenever I get a craving for chocolate is watch a marathon of those eating challenges before I go out with my iPod around town.

It can't hurt, right?

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