The Big G and preparing for a food challenge

When I was writing about the Big G for this week’s issue of Sync, I knew I was going to try it the following week. I heard that it was nearly 10 pounds and I decided to get serious about preparation. I did what any millennial would do. I typed “How to prepare to eat a lot of food” into a search engine. I ran across a blogger’s in-depth post about his personal experiences in eating challenges. It was a bit anecdotal, and for more serious endeavors I might suggest you go to the library and find a more reputable source, but this looked right up my alley.

The Big G in all its glory. By Morgan Acuff (sorry for grain, it was really dim in there)

The Big G in all its glory.
By Morgan Acuff (sorry for grain, it was really dim in there)

Following the advice given, I ate a max-out meal 22 hours before my planned “food event,” as my blogger source, Satel, calls it. I started by eating some grapes on my way to my night job at the Capital Hotel. Once I arrived, I ate a few salads in the employee dining room. I then came back to eat another salad after I saw the lobby and mezzanine were empty (I am a lobby server). I was still not very full, and took to a bowl of tomatoes and cucumbers. The plan with the max-out meal is to eat foods that are easily digested to ensure your digestive tract is empty. I had two bowls of my cucumber and tomato mix before I left early from work due to lack of volume. Once I got home, I really maxed out with roughly two pounds of grapes (there were barely any grapes left in the three pound bag) and I drank three or four glasses of water. I felt bloated, to say the least. As I found out, grapes cause gas. So, maybe don’t use this specific method.

The next morning, I woke up and had a few glasses of water before blending protein powder, water, frozen strawberries and frozen mixed berries. I made another for lunch, with the addition of flaxseed ground in my coffee grinder (the only true way to get the benefits of flaxseed). I was still full most of the day and was stretching my stomach with water throughout the day.

Jordan Hickey, associate editor at Arkansas Life, is the man everyone said I should team up with. He is known to eat lots of food as well. He agreed to join me.

Jordan told me he had eaten a max-out meal the night before as well, and we decided on a 6:30 p.m. mealtime. I was still relatively full when I went home around 3:30 p.m. I changed clothes and ran up the hill from my house, and then across the street to the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I made a few laps of the stretch and then retired, as I don’t normally run and was wary of overdoing it. At about 5 p.m., I made it home and took a shower.

I arrived a few minutes before Jordan and told the hostess we planned to take on the Big G. I wasn’t sure what toppings Jordan would want, so I elected to wait for him before ordering. The waitress seemed to have some doubt in my eating skill as she explained the cook time for the Big G comes in at 40 minutes, and that’s if the restaurant stays steady in volume. I thought about my growing hunger and started to look around for Jordan as she grabbed us a couple of waters. Once Jordan arrived, I explained the pizza comes with three toppings. We strategized that our best bet was to go with vegetable toppings.

The waitress came back to get the order and she seemed more convinced by Jordan’s ability to eat, as he is taller. We ordered the pie with black olives, green peppers and mushrooms. She told us that it could be up to an hour before it would be done and we nodded, although my stomach was starting to lurch. I drank water sparingly and we made small talk, as we were pretty unacquainted leading up to this point. We work in different areas off the office and on different publications. Plus publishing types tend to have headphones in at work: I guess we’re trying to settle into flow states.

We talked about distractions, flavor fatigue and other strategies to take down this challenge. We even talked about Radiolab and a little bit about our backgrounds before the pizza arrived, and I was running on fumes by then. The manager announced the rules: We had to eat the pizza in one sitting without getting up. He told us that we had to finish the pizza and Gusano’s would comp the meal, or we’d have a $40 check coming our way. We agreed and he told us that time starts when we take the first bite. We agreed to let it cool for about 10 minutes before digging it.

We started out quickly, striking though the first few rows (there were seven) in about 30 minutes. So, four down and three to go. We felt good about our chances. Jordan had employed an inventive idea for his side of the pizza. He scraped the toppings off of the pizza and ate the cheesy toppings separately from the thin crust. It seemed that this might be the way to go, it was a good way to fight flavor fatigue, as it alternated the flavors.

We decided to let our stomachs have some time to work. We sort of relaxed and slowed our pace to a casual speed. We talked a bit, trying not to focus on what we were doing. The waitress came by and told us we had 15 minutes. We were still going, but our slowed pace had given our nervous system time to realize what we were up to and hit the big red abort button. As we stared at the greasy cheese on the silver pan, we could feel that our bodies might not take much more of it.

Jordan Hickey and what was left of the Big G. By Morgan Acuff (sorry again for grain)

Jordan Hickey and what was left of the Big G.
By Morgan Acuff (sorry again for grain)

We began to overthink it. That’s what happened. We let it come up in conversation. As it entered our consciousness we could feel it manifest physically. The will was sucked from us. We kept eating small bits and making it through dry, leftover crust with mouthfuls of water to ease peristalsis. Our stomachs filled and as I looked at Jordan, I could tell the mere sight of pizza might make him sick. Then, I noticed that I felt the same way. We didn’t exactly hit a wall, but we knew that if we ate any more, we would be incapacitated. So, we threw in the towel. After we told the manager, I saw him talking to our waitress and she turned to look at me, almost disappointed and feeling a bit sorry for us. You see, now we were responsible for a $40 check.

The wait staff had been walking by encouraging us after we had eaten the bulk of the pizza, brightly telling us that we were doing good. Our waitress told us that she had never seen anyone get “that close.” I paid the check and we went outside. I shook Jordan’s hand and the Kilwin’s we discussed during the earlier minutes of the challenge was now the last thing on our minds.

Once I got home, my girlfriend, Miranda, had me pose like a pregnant woman so she could Instagram it. Because what are girlfriends for, right? I tried to get comfortable in bed and keep my dog from running on my stomach, but it seemed I would have to endure some discomfort. Before I made it to sleep, Jordan sent me a text. He said he really wanted Kilwin’s now. I couldn’t help but agree, and Miranda said, “I want salted caramel ice cream …”

If only they delivered.