This article originally appeared on VICE US
You may have seen an article MUNCHIES published on Nela Zisser earlier this year. At that time the 23-year-old model had just eaten a two-pound burrito in under two minutes. That's pretty inspiring or disgusting, depending how you feel about competitive eating, and her feats haven't stopped there: Last week she devoured 22 Big Macs in under an hour, which was she followed up by scarfing 100 gyoza dumplings in nine minutes, 31 seconds.
Zisser is probably the most famous competitive eater in all of New Zealand, where the press follows her closely. She was also a contestant in the 2013 Miss Earth pageant, a contest that emphasizes environmental conservation. She sounded pretty interesting, so I gave her a call while she was studying at a university library.
VICE: Firstly, why do you do this?
Nela Zisser: It's just a good feeling to set a goal and achieve it. If you set a record it's an amazing adrenalin rush.
Do you think other people watch for the same reason?
Maybe. I think people are also interested to see a model who's also a competitive eater. If you look at the majority of competitive eaters they're tiny, but none are models.
Some of the comments under the burgers video also seem pretty sexual.
Yeah that happens. I had a guy send me a dick photo recently. He just went from zero to 100 really quickly, but that's just part of being a model as well. I'm kind of used to the creeps.
Something I was wondering about—a lot of models seem to preach healthy eating, but you seem to eat a lot of junk food.
Actually I just released a video of myself eating dumplings that are maybe better than McDonald's. And McDonald's is good because it's available all around the world so that when you're doing goals, breaking records, everyone has access to exactly the same thing. It's universal.
That makes sense, but then the Miss Earth competition is all about sustainability. That seems at odds with franchise food.
But the food has already been grown. If I eat it or not it doesn't make a whole lot of difference.
Can you foresee a quinoa competition down the line?
That's a good idea. I might look into that actually. It's just that most eating challenges are about universal foods—McDonald's, KFC, that sort of thing.
Do you have an eating hero?
Definitely Matt Stonie, who's number one. Just because he's small and he's funny. Seeing him win in America, that was the first time he'd ever won at Nathan's [hot dog eating contest] against [his rival] Joey Chestnut, that was the best feeling. He just eats as fast as possible without chewing and that's the best technique.
What was your technique with the 22 Big Macs?
I just tried to pace myself without taking on too much air. I didn't feel the best afterwards though.
Have you ever thrown up?
The second Sal's Pizza contest I actually didn't eat as much as in the first, but I got sick after that. That's the only time.
What's your advice to winning a competition?
Don't take in too much air. Sip water but don't drink a lot, you just need to sip enough so that it stops you from choking.
Do you eat because you like indulging?
I don't actually enjoy any of the food that I eat competitively. If you're competing you're not thinking about the taste. Like if I'm eating Japanese it's all about the taste. I love sashimi and sushi but I hate olives. I once did a pizza eating comp with olives and I was worried but you can't taste when you eat that fast. When you're in the zone it doesn't matter what you eat.
I've caught you at uni. What are you studying?
I'm studying science because I'm really interested in artificial intelligence. When you mix it with medical stuff, like robotic arms and robotic eyes it's pretty cool.
Modelling, overeating, AI—that a weird bunch of interests.
Maybe, but it's good to be a bit different.
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