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Dana Point resident Mary Bowers has made a name for herself in the world of competitive eating. Photo: Cory Stierley
Dana Point resident Mary Bowers has made a name for herself in the world of competitive eating. Photo: Cory Stierley

Q&A with professional competitive eater Mary Bowers

By Steve Breazeale

Architect, fashion model, entrepreneur—professional eater. All of these words can be used to describe Dana Point resident Mary Bowers.

As the self-employed operator of her own company, Eat! Be Mary! Inc., Bowers has made a name for herself in the world of competitive eating, where contestants attempt to chow down as much of one specific food as possible in a given timeframe.

Bowers, who was the first-ever women’s wild card participant in the renowned Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Championship in 2012, is now an established veteran on the competitive eating circuit. She competed at the fourth annual World Wing-Eating Championship at Hooters of Long Beach on June 27.

Bowers placed ninth out of 10 competitive eaters in the field, downing 49.6 hot wings in 10 minutes. The Dana Point Times spoke with Bowers about her 2015 season and what it takes to be a professional eater.

Dana Point Times: Were you satisfied with your effort at the Hooters contest in Long Beach?

Mary Bowers: I would have liked to eat more, but the fans were extremely supportive and the sponsor was a lot of fun. I walked away from the table with new friends, lots of encouragement for my fashion line and new possibilities for the future, so I am happy with the outcome.

DPT: How is a wing eating contest different from other contests you compete in? Are there different strategies involved in a wing competition than, say, a hot dog competition?

MB: Every type of food is different in terms of strategy and how the body reacts. Wings are known as a debris food, so the bowl is weighed before and after the contest to determine how much was eaten. Hot dogs are easier to count by unit, so the rules are different. It’s interesting to play with food to see what works, how my body responds and what can be improved. There’s a lot of experimentation.

Mary Bowers competed at the World Wing-Eating Championships at Hooters in Long Beach on June 27. Photo: Angela Eason
Mary Bowers competed at the World Wing-Eating Championships at Hooters in Long Beach on June 27. Photo: Angela Eason

DPT: How do you prepare yourself mentally and physically for competitive eating contests?

MB: The mental and physical are much more connected than we are taught to believe. If I think happy thoughts, I feel strong and healthy. If I focus on sadness or anger, my body feels tired and weak. Competitive eating is like a magnifying glass, so the physical and mental connections are more intense than what one would normally experience. But I think it’s generally the same for everyone. Thought creates reality, so it’s important to stay focused on the things one truly desires.

DPT: What is the one competitive eating category (hot dogs, wings etc…) that you do well in and why?

MB: Hot dogs are close to the heart for me because it’s where the magic began. My first contest was a hot dog eating contest and it’s a discipline in which I have consistently improved since then.

But my favorite category of food is burritos. My mom has been understandably sad since my dad’s passing last fall. She came to the World Burrito Eating Championship in May and watched me compete in person for the first time. It was a surprise. She had no idea I was going to be there.

Afterwards, she told me that the burrito eating contest gave her hope and made her believe there is a future. Sometimes even seemingly small things can make a huge difference. I count the burrito contest as my greatest achievement in competitive eating so far. I wouldn’t trade the healing that moment has brought to my family for all of the carnitas in the world.

DPT: How does a competitive eater get better at what they do? What kind of techniques or training is involved?

MB: Competitive eating is both an ability and a skill. Much like a talented musician or an award-winning scientist, improving the level of one’s success is a combination of factors. Practice and dedication are important for refining existing strengths.

A balanced diet with lots of fruits and veggies helps me to stay nourished. Sunshine and exercise keep me happy and physically strong. Friends and laughter keep me emotionally resilient. Adaptability is important. What works for me one day may not be the best for me the next. I’m always ready to adjust and keep moving toward my goals.

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