Thursday, July 3 at 10:30 a.m. ET

Sonya Thomas Talks About Hot Dog Eating Contest

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Sonya Thomas
Competitive Eater
Thursday, July 3, 2008; 10:30 AM

Competitive eater Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas was online Thursday, July 3 at 10:30 a.m. ET, to take your questions. Thomas, an Alexandria, Va. resident, will discuss the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, what it's like to eat almost 40 hot dogs in 12 minutes, how she trains and more.

A transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: Sonya is signed in and will begin answering questions shortly.

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Hungry in Va: What's the truth behind the change in time to 10 minutes? Is it because of secret documents found indicating the previous events were 10 minutes, or is it because Nathans didn't want to see any reversal of fortunes of their hot dogs?

Sonya Thomas: I dont know of any secret documents, and I dont think the whole "reversal of fortune" thing was behind Nathan's decision to change from 12 to 10 minutes. I just think that making it 10 minutes makes it a quicker and more exciting event. Besides, during the last two minutes of previous contests, I can tell you that all the eaters were pretty well spent, and not much eating occured. I thing 10 minutes spices up this year's event.

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Arlington, Va: How do you feel that the reduction in time from 12 minutes to 10 minutes will affect the competition?

Sonya Thomas: Like I said in me previous response, I like the 10 minutes change as a fan of the sport. Personally, for me as an eater since I'm so small, I like the longer events because the big guys get tired and I want to keep on going. If you'll notice over the last five years at Nathan's I keep pretty steady pace of eating, where the big guys tend to slow down. I consistently eat throughout the contest 4 to 5 dogs a minutes without slowing down. Sometimes steady the pace wins the race.

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WDC: In my office, we have a biannual hot dog eating contest and usually the best anyone can do is 12 hotdogs. We eat them with toppings and do not have a set time limit, but after doing this, your food records seem impossible. Is it better to eat quickly in a competitive eating contest?

Also, do you go into a food coma after a challenge?

Sonya Thomas: Your contest sounds like a lot of fun and 12 dogs is nothing to be ashamed of. When I won my first Nathan's qualifier in 2003 I ate only 18. Regarding eating quickly, it helps to be fast. But for me I am more of steady paced minute by minute eater. That's why should watch me start of at the bottom of the pack of eaters this year and work my way up the field as the contest goes on.

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Bethesda, MD: What is the most difficult food (either strategically or un-appetizing) you have tried to eat for competition?

Sonya Thomas: There are two types of foods in the eating competition world -- technique and shovel. Techniques requires some skill such as eating chicken wings, lobsters, oysters, etc. Shovel food is stuff you just cram down as fast as you can, like cheese cake, popcorn, baked beans, grits, etc. Obviously, technique foods are harded but I like that type of competition better because it gives me advantage over the big guys, with big mouths. Yet, I did once eat 18.5 lbs. of grits in 10 minutes.

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Washington D.C: How do you eat all those hot dogs and still stay so thin?

Sonya Thomas: A lot of running and I have a job as a Burger King manager that keeps me on my feet all day. Of course, I don't eat, like I eat at competitions every day and I try to keep by daily eating habits healthy.

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Washington, D.C.: Sonya -- you're the bomb. At what point in your life did you realize you had the "gift" for speed eating and food volume consumption? Second, do you consider competitive food eating a "sport" with "athletes" or more of a competitive hobby like kite-flying? Finally, I've heard that the top food competitors are simply anatomically different, true and if so, how different?

Sonya Thomas: Back in 2002 I saw Takeru eating at Nathan's and said to myself I think I can do that. Well, I guess I was right because one year later I was competiting at Nathan's. For me it's a sport, it definately requires physical skills, you have to stay fit, sometimes practice, and the competition is high. The Discovery Channel looked at me and found that there really are no differences in me physically than anyone else. Yet, throuh brain scans they did find that I had a greater ability to deal with pain than most.

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Concord, N.H.: What effect do you think sport-eating will have on your body in the long run? I can't help but think there will be unpleasant repercussions down the road.

Sonya Thomas: Like I said earlier, I don't eat like that everyday. My doctors tell me that I'm in great shape and have seen no physical changes in my stats -- cholesteral levels, etc.

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Wheaton, MD: Hi Sonya,

Good luck tomorrow! Are there any local annual eating events that we might be able to see you perform in person? I'm also an Asian female, and it's cool that you can beat the guys. I'll be rooting for you!

Sonya Thomas: I recently ate 17 slices of Three Brothers Pizza in 10 minutes at their Greenbelt, Md., location on May 31. Thanks for backing me. I'll be thinking of you too and all my fans while I'm eating tomorrow -- GIRL POWER!

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Has choking ever been a hazard at any of these contests? I presume there are people at the sides prepared to handle choking victims?

Sonya Thomas: It is an International Federation of Competitive Eating requirement that EMTs be on hand at any eating event. Believe me, they are very strict about. I was recently on a top news morning show and was just demonstrating how to eat hot dogs and they had an EMT standing by.

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Berkley, Mich.: Do you fast before competion, and if so, for how long?

Do you ever eat hot dogs for a meal (outside of a competition)?

Sonya Thomas: Sometimes, but they have to be Nathan's.

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Alexandria, Va.: I know that some athletes in your sport concentrate on pickled vegetables and avoid meats.

Are you equally talented in all types of foods?

Sonya Thomas: I love the veggies, often having a meal of raw vegetables. About eating pickled veggies, I've not heard that. But, I do love my Kimchi.

Records I am most proud of eating 624 oysters in in about 13 minutes, 8.4 pounds of baked beans in 2 minutes 47 seconds, and 65 hard boiled eggs in 6:40 seconds (they actually ran out of eggs and could have ate more).

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BC Canada: What is your -least- favorite food to eat in a contest?

Sonya Thomas: Being of Korean heritage I am not used to eating a lot of sweets. So for me, eating 11 lbs. of cheesecake in 9 minutes was the only time I felt a little sick after an event.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: You work for Burger King? I'm surprised they don't take advantage of your celebrity and have you making appearances at Burger Kings all around the world. (Hey, maybe they'll read this.)

Sonya Thomas: Hey, thanks for the plug. I'm up on the Burger King employee website as we speak. In fact, Jay Leno once said that he thought that maybe someday he might buy me a franchise. That would be fun!

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Indianapolis, IN: Where did your nickname, "the Black Widow," come from?

Sonya Thomas: It kind just popped up. Everybody was talking about how I was beating all the men in the competition and the analogy to Black Widow spider just seemed to follow me.

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Silver Spring: Ms. Thomas, the way I see it, the 40 hot dogs you alone gulp down could provide a meal for 5 hungry poor families of four (at two hot dogs each). In these tough economic times, is this the best use of food?

Sonya Thomas: That's your choice and I respect that. Let's all celebrate the freedoms to express ourselves that this country offers this July 4th.

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Toledo, Ohio: Sonya, Good luck tomorrow. I'd would be interested to know (don't get too graphic) what you go through and how you feel in the 24-48 hours following an event. How long until you feel normal again?

Sonya Thomas: Really I'm fine right after an event. Sometimes I like something cold after the event such as fruit or ice cream.

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Fort Washington, Md.: First of all, I love watching you compete, especially against the really big guys!! I would imagine that competitive eating involves at least some form of purging. What affects, if any, has competitive eating had on your overall digestive health?

Sonya Thomas: Nope no purging. It's not good for you. My doctors tell me all aspects of my health are good.

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Los Angeles: What do you eat in a typical day when not training?

Sonya Thomas: I love my Korean food -- rice, kimchi, Korean noodles, bulgoki, etc. And, on a typical day I love my vegetables, salads, and fruit.

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Omaha, Neb.: How did you get interested in competitive eating? How many other women compete in the event?

Sonya Thomas: I saw it on TV and said to myself I can do that. Follow your dreams everybody!

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South Riding, Va.: How easy or hard is it to become a contestant in the contest? Can anyone sign up or do you need to qualify first?

Sonya Thomas: Anyone can sign up for qualifiers. Just go to the website: www.IFOCE.com. Looking forward to seeing you out on circuit.

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Sonya Thomas: This was really a lot of fun! Don't forget to watch ESPN tomorrow at Noon Eastern time. I want to thank all my fans, particularly those in the Washington area who have supported me. You guys are the greatest. Happy 4th of July everyone!

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