This week’s episode is called “A Better Way to Eat.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
Stephen Dubner and Takeru Kobayashi.
It features an interview with Takeru Kobayashi, who revolutionized the sport of competitive eating. So you’ll learn plenty about the tactics — physical, mental, and strategic — that Kobi employed while earning six straight victories in the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. (He has also set world records with many other foods.) But the episode isn’t really about competitive eating. It’s about seeing what the rest of us can learn from the breakthroughs that Kobi accomplished in his training and his thinking. If there’s ever someone who truly thinks like a Freak, it’s Takeru Kobayashi.
For instance, he came to the conclusion that most competitive eaters simply didn’t think about the problem properly:
KOBAYASHI: My honest opinion was that people were just eating as an extension of regular eating meals, and it looked like they were all like rushing to try eat more than they normally could. Just one more hot dog, just a little more. And I thought, “Well, if you just look at it as a way of trying to put something in instead of, how much more can I eat than normal,” then it really just takes a few questions and a little research on my part and experimentation to see how far I could actually go.
He went very, very far — much farther, in fact, than anyone might have thought possible. This leads to another element of the Kobi magic: an unwillingness to accept limits or barriers that may not be worth honoring:
KOBAYASHI: I think the thing about human beings is that they make a limit in their mind of what their potential is. They decide, “I’ve been told this,” or “this is what society tells me,” or they’ve been made to believe something. If every human being actually threw away those thoughts and they actually did use that method of thinking [about] everything — the potential of human beings is great, it’s huge, compared to what they actually think of themselves.
Since a 2010 dispute with the Coney Island contest organizers, Kobi has not competed in that contest. But he still eats a huge pile of hot dogs in New York on July 4 — this year at 230 Fifth in Manhattan. If you have any interest at all in competitive eating — or problem solving, or doing away with artificial limits — you owe it to yourself to watch Kobi in person.
Special thanks to Maggie James for translating.