Many diets suggest having a cheat day once a week to keep the cravings under control. Mike Dolce, nutritionist of many elite UFC fighters, recommends that instead of having a cheat day, you have a cheat period of four hours no more than once every seven to ten days.
You can do a whole lot of damage to yourself in four hours.
A new restaurant opened up not far from where I work. One of the items on the menu is one of those “Challenge Burgers” – a monstrosity of ground beef that you get for free if you somehow manage to eat it all. This restaurant had the “Big Al Challenge”, which when I first heard about it sounded a bit stacked in the house’s favor. You have one hour to eat a twenty-five ounce hamburger, fries, coleslaw, and a can drink. Those who succeeded would get their picture up on the Wall of Fame, a t-shirt, and most importantly you’d eat for free. You’d think the burger would be enough of a challenge. The rest just seemed like overkill… as if a TWENTY-FIVE OUNCE BURGER wasn’t overkill to start with.
I have been known to put away some serious meals in my day. I tend to tear into triple-patty burgers with the hungry desperation of a man who thought that food was about to become illegal in five minutes. After a recent display of feeding savagery, my co-workers thought it would be entertaining to see how I would do against the mighty Big Al Challenge.
Sure, I told them. I mean, what did I have to lose?
I had no idea what I was getting into. All the information I had regarding the burger itself was second-hand information. The establishment was new and in a small town, so word of mouth was all I had to go on. There were the rumors, of course. A friend of a friend claimed that the buns were custom-made to fit the meaty monster. The kid at the gas station said the burger was actually six smaller burgers pieced together like some culinary Frankenstein’s monster.
All I knew for certain was that this burger was big, and it was most likely going to wreck me.
Like I said before, I’m no stranger to eating. But I wouldn’t call myself a power eater. In fact, during the two weeks prior to this fiasco, I had lost over ten pounds by cleaning up my diet. Not only was I about to undo a whole lot of progress, but after eating smaller portion sizes I literally didn’t know if I had the stomach to handle the Big Al burger.
I needed to prepare. The first thing I did was notify my girlfriend. She would be making dinner that evening, and I wanted to prepare her in advance for the reality that I may not want to eat when I got home. Or ever again.
“Why would you eat something like that?!” she wanted to know.
Being a Man, I had no good answer for this except “I dunno, to see if I can?” Realistically I wasn’t expecting to finish it. I told her my plan was to eat part of it, throw in the towel, and invite the co-workers who were coming with me to witness the event to share in the bounty. We’d all say we tried it and would have a fun little story to tell.
The second thing I did was fast. I stopped eating around 6pm the night before, and wouldn’t eat anything until burger time. If I was going to have a chance at putting a dent in this burger, I would have to attack it with a hunger. A very real hunger.
I called ahead to order the Big Al burger, wanting it to be ready by the time I got there. When I told the woman on the phone why I was calling, she said “uh oh” and put me on hold.
Not an inspiring start to the challenge.
Once we arrived at the restaurant, I got us a table closest to the kitchen. I didn’t want to waste a second before I tore Big Al a new one. I also didn’t want to make a bigger scene than this already was, so the fewer eyes that saw the burger, the better. I didn’t need a restaurant full of people watching me eat, and potentially fail like so many others had.
Some people might think I was sabotaging myself with a defeatist attitude. These people are what I like to call, insane. Until you see a giant hamburger in person, you really have no concept of how much food it is. Unless you are a goldfish, who will eat until they explode, there’s only so much food your body can take. Especially when you have a time limit to deal with on top of everything else.
We didn’t have to wait too long before Big Al made his presence known. When he came out of the kitchen, I was struck with the reality that I was punching way above my weight class.
There was no plate. At least, none that I could see. The bun was almost a foot in diameter. Poking out from beneath the top bun was the biggest slab of meat I’d ever seen. Steaks aren’t cut that big; the patty looked like something out of the Flintstones cartoon. Various sauces covered the lettuce and tomatoes. I think there were onions involved in the fiasco as well, but to be honest I was too shell-shocked to notice.
The waitress put down a separate plate of fries and a tiny dish of coleslaw. I barely acknowledged it. My brain was still trying to process the Burger Beast that was staring me down. I had co-workers taking pictures, followed by laughs of disbelief. More customers happened to walk in right at that moment, and someone commented about the “Big Al Challenge” written on the wall.
“This is it right here,” one of my co-workers announced and pointed at the mountain of ground beef and bread. “And this guy is going to crush it!”
My demise was going to be witnessed by strangers, I thought to myself.
The moment of shock passed, and it was time to get down to business. My strategy was simple – cut the burger into quarters, and attack. I looked at my woefully inadequate eating utensils, then at the burger. The waitress handed me a small machete. “I think you’ll need this,” she said with an understanding smile.
I looked at the burger. Should I cut it? Or stab it?
I took a deep breath, sliced up the burger, and exhaled sharply. Time to go to work.
First Quarter: The waitress was trying to get everyone else’s lunch orders, but the table wouldn’t stop quizzing me. How was it? How did it taste? Did I think I could do it? I heard none of their questions. I was hungry, and the piece I held in my hand was as hefty as a double patty burger. In a little over five minutes, the first quarter had disappeared. Everyone was shocked. I licked my fingers and took a sip of water. So far, so good.
Second Quarter: I was feeling confident; not so much about finishing the burger, but the fact that I was going to make a decent showing of myself. Halfway through the second quarter, everyone else received their food. We all ate in silence, but I kept feeling their eyes on me with every bite I took. I tried to pace myself, keeping stride while stopping occasionally to sip some water. Just as I was reaching the end of the second quarter, Big Al hit me with a sudden one-two combo. I became very aware that I was full, and I still had half of the burger to eat. Maybe it was the overdose of ground beef that was now quickly filling my stomach, but I thought Big Al was laughing at me. Elapsed time was about twenty minutes.
Third Quarter: Everyone had finished eating their meals and resumed cheering me on. At this point I would have stabbed a hobo for a salad. I actually took a fork full of coleslaw, just to have the taste of something other than hamburger. Just then, I heard a voice call my name. My grandmother had appeared at the restaurant for lunch, and once granny was informed about what I was doing, she smiled and said “He’ll do it. He’ll do the family proud.”
Do it for granny, I told myself. Two bites later, all I could think was that I hoped I didn’t throw up in front of my grandmother.
The human stomach is roughly the size of a fist. I had quickly eaten half of a hamburger that was well beyond those dimensions, and all that food was squeezing into that tight space like right now.
I took another bite. “I think I’m done,” I mumbled.
“No man you got this. You still have half an hour!”
I struggled with another bite. As soon as the meat touched my tongue, my mouth began filling with saliva. It was finally time to listen to my body. More importantly, my stomach, because it had a strongly worded message for me.
Me: Okay stomach, one more bite coming at ya.
Stomach: Mmph gfrgl.
Me: What’s that?
Stomach: Mmph gfrgl!
Me: I can’t quite understand –
Stomach: *gurgle* There’s no room in here! I don’t know what kind of party you think this is, but if you send one more bite down here, I’m kicking everybody out the way they came in! Capish?
I got nervous. I was going to spew Big Al all over my co-workers, my grandmother, and my pride. I drank the rest of my water, miraculously choked down the last few bites of the third quarter followed by prayers begging my stomach for forgiveness, and covered the remains with a funeral shroud napkin. “That’s it,” I announced. “I’m done.”
Everyone seemed a little disappointed, but very understanding. Prior to my attempt, six people had stepped up to take the Big Al challenge, and six had failed. I was lucky number seven who came up short. Just another notch on Big Al’s belt.
At that moment, I wasn’t really thinking about statistics, or any belt other than my own. I just needed air, air that didn’t smell like hamburger. I gathered the leftovers, or potential evidence of my “death by hamburger”, and left. I didn’t leave quickly, either.
- I tried to program my meal into the MyFitnessPal app that I had been using. Good luck with that. Where do you even start breaking it down to get any kind of nutritional information? I decided to simply go with using the information from Wendy’s 3/4lb Triple with Cheese, and a ½ lb Double with Cheese. It was close enough to what I’d actually eaten, which was about 1900 calories, over 100g of Fat, and over 3000mg of Sodium. The fact that people actually eat like this for real, every day, blows my mind.
- Kickboxing class that evening was interesting. I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch, and had no desire to even look at food. Muscular endurance seemed somewhat improved though, maybe due to the volleyball of food in my stomach forcing me to pace myself. Sweat is never pleasant, but that evening mine was foul. Guess my body, which still hadn’t forgiven me for the abuse I’d put it through, was purging the toxins any way it could.Better through the skin than through the entrance and exit doors I suppose.
- I had no desire to eat until lunch the following day, and that wasn’t based on any hunger pangs. I just wanted something in my system, and a nice salad with shredded chicken breast was a great alternative.
- When I weighed myself the next morning, I’d gone up about two pounds from the day before. In the 24 hours between weighing, all I had eaten was the Big Al burger. Between that, the sodium in the burger locking in all the water I was drinking and hadn’t managed to sweat out at kickboxing, my weight went up 1.8 pounds. Had it not been for the kickboxing class, that number would have been higher.
- I’m sure people are curious, so I’ll just say it – no poop for a long time. When it happened, it was just small poop pellets. It looked like a big rabbit had done his business, adding further insult to injury. Over a pound of ground beef shoved into your colon all at once will bung up the system, no matter how much water you drink with it.
I don’t really reget taking the Challenge. The burger was tasty, and one day when I can smell hamburger without feeling faint, I’d go back and try a normal sized one. But I don’t think my eyes will be bigger than my stomach ever again.