WEST DECATUR — West Decatur resident and Osceola Mills native Dan “Killer” Kennedy has been on a competitive eating journey the past few years that has taken him all over the country.
On Jan. 8, Kennedy was able to do some good with his voracious appetite, as he raised money to benefit a Philipsburg-Osceola teacher who is battling cancer. In just seven minutes, Kennedy down 179 whoopie pies.
You read that correctly. One hundred and seventy-nine pies. In seven minutes.
So how exactly did Kennedy find out he had this unique skill of downing absurd amounts of food? Well, the journey actually started out as a weight loss quest.
“Back in 2015, I went through a weight loss transformation,” Kennedy said.
He estimated that he was up to about 375-pounds at one point and got down to about 345 lbs.
“In one calendar year – from New Year’s to New Year’s – I lost 145 pounds,” Kennedy said. “I was clear down to 200 pounds ... That was through diet and exercise. I was walking like three miles a night while my daughter was at softball practice. And I was being very conscious of my calories. I stayed on a strict diet of 1,500 calories for 365 days straight.”
Kennedy said to celebrate the weight loss, his friend Joe Evilsizor suggested they do a food challenge to celebrate.
“We actually went to the DuBois Diner and we did their omelette challenge,” Kennedy said. “It was around four, four and a half pounds and I did that in 16 minutes.”
Kennedy said he still had a big appetite and thought maybe he could actually do some competitive eating. From there, he started watching contests and learned all of the training regimens.
“It’s a like a sport,” Kennedy said. “You train, you practice, you develop a skill and style ... Everybody figures out how their body works and how to train it to do what you need it to do. There’s definitely a lot of work into it.”
Kennedy said by increasing stomach elasticity through training, it allows him to eat large amounts in a short period of time. He said a normal person feels “full” whenever they fill up their stomach with food and drink to about a half gallon.
“Competitive eaters develop a regiment and train to the point where maybe your stomach is two, two and a half, or three or bigger ... gallons,” Kennedy said. “Everybody has different training techniques. A lot of eaters use low calorie. Lettuce, fruits and vegetables — something that digests (quickly). Some will use electrolyte beverages ... Some use water.”
Kennedy said much like going to the gym, you have to continually train in order to eat large amounts.
“The faster your stomach can expand, the faster you can eat,” Kennedy said. “As the contest progresses, you don’t get any faster. You progressively would slow down because you’re going to start feeling full. You have to kind of learn how to ignore that signal and just push through. The last two to three minutes are crucial to any contest. After about seven minutes for me, that’s where the mental struggle is because eating is very mental ... It’s kind of one of those things where a 10-minute contest is more like a marathon instead of a sprint.”
Kennedy is an independent eater and estimates that he takes part in about 12-18 contests each year. Some of his favorite challenges include pizza and tacos.
He says he enjoys being an independent because it allows him to do unsanctioned events, such as the whoopie pie challenge he just did.
The whoopie pie challenge benefitted P-O teacher Sara McCully – who was chosen by the P-O girls basketball team – and was sponsored by Mitchell Milling.
“I think it was meaningful for the kids to help a teacher within the school district that had battled cancer,” Kennedy said.
People watching the challenge at halftime could donate $5 and guess how many pies Kennedy could eat. You could also donate whatever you’d like. The person that guessed the exact amount then donated the other half back to McCully.
Kennedy said eating 179 of the whoopie pies – which he estimated were around half an ounce to an ounce – was a respectable effort but he did expect to do more than 200. His mother actually made the pies.
“I was joking with her and saying, ‘Oh they were so dry. If they weren’t so dry, I probably could’ve done 250,’” Kennedy said. “In all honesty, it was awesome that my mom volunteered to do it and I was thankful ... It was all for a good cause.”
When asked what goals he’d like to set on his journey of competitive eating, Kennedy said he hopes that what he accomplishes can be translated to others in regards that dreams are attainable.
“If I was to set any goal, it would be to impact somebody to chase their dream no matter what it is – even if it’s strange,” Kennedy said. “If you have a dream, go after it and try to be as prominent and the best you can be at it ... Strive to be the best that you can be and put forth the effort to not only prove to everybody else that you can do it but prove to yourself that you can do it.”