Thanksgiving has arrived, and millions of families are sitting down to enjoy the main event: dinner.
As is custom, most will consume three days’ worth of calories in one sitting.
But how do our stomachs handle such a shock to the system?
According to Dr Marc Levine, a gastrointestinal radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, our stomachs can have extraordinary flexibility – if we train them.
‘Literally the entire abdomen … [becomes] this giant flaccid sack that can take phenomenal volumes of food,’ he explained to STAT.
Indeed, professional eating competitors do this regularly.
Dr Levine conducted a study that involved two competitive hot dog eaters.
One was 29 and had spent months stretching his stomach by gradually increasing his calorie intake.
The other, 35 years old, had not trained ahead of the study and had a normal appetite.
Dr Levine gave them both stacks of hot dogs – with a twist.
Each hot dog was doused beforehand in barium sulfate, a chemical typically used in x-rays to highlight certain organs.
Then, as the men ate, Dr Levine watched what was happening inside their stomachs via live x-ray.
After eating seven hot dogs, the 35-year-old man’s stomach was the same size as when he started.
However, the 29-year-old’s stomach stretched to fit 36 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
‘It looked like he was carrying a full-term pregnancy,’ Dr Levine told STAT.
Uniquely, his stomach had not broken down the food, merely expanded to allow room for it.
While the normal human stomach can hold about one liter of nourishment, competitive eaters stretch theirs to nearly 10 times that amount by binge eating and then starving.
Many competitive eaters say they do not eat in the run up to the event.
New York’s Miki Sudo, 30, says she only has one meal a day – a salad – when she is not competing, saving her appetite for a sitting of 192 chicken wings in ten minutes, for example.
However, New Zealand eating star Nela Zisser, 23, revealed this year that she eats as much as she can, in order to stretch her stomach.
‘Basically you just need to eat enough the day before to kind of get your stomach stretched, and then you just go into it with a good technique and hope you win,’ she said on The Morning Show.
‘[When you’re doing a competition] you just have to zone out a little bit and just try to eat it as quickly as possible so you just put yourself into a kind of zone where you’re trying to get it down as fast as you can.’