Watching a hen hung upside down, eating a plate of plain rice and finishing his meal with a drop of buttermilk, little did Aha Na Pellanta’s Lakshmipathy predict that he’d be the biggest inspiration to millennials today who are endlessly watching two things – their weight, and also food challenge videos on YouTube.
Unlike vague Instagram challenges that create content with a certain hashtag and urge others to follow suit, these food challenges are limited to creators themselves.
YouTubers with massive appetites make videos of themselves bolting down an enormous amount of food and time their feat, much to the delight of viewers.
Most often than not, there is one person eating in the video, but channels such as Viwa Food World and Hang On Challenge rope in two or more people and pit them against each other to see who finishes first. Among these are Telugu channels that feature kids and even women, competing to be the fastest gorger.
Food challenges are competitive variants of Mukbang, a trend that was drawn from the Koreans. Eating alone is often considered sad; and the Korean trend monetised it by streaming strangers eating in front of a camera for lonely people in search of company, as they sit down for a late meal.
And even though trends like these satiate the human impulse to look at strangers while they eat, they are also visually-appealing, letting viewers learn about cuisines from different lands. And for those on a diet, such channels let them feed off of the digital platform, quite figuratively.
But, city-based lifestyle blogger and model Mihir Jariwala is more concerned about content creation at the expense of health. “In today’s digital world, people can go to any extent to boost their online popularity, make a quick buck, all at the expense of ruining their own health. I personally think it is a bizarre trend. Binge-eating can lead to serious health issues,” adds Mihir.
Dismissing food challenges as merely a fetish is an average millennial reaction. However, Hyderabadi food blogger Pruthvi Garlapati thinks of them as a bad idea. “They are a waste of food! Instead of eating more than one needs to, they can feed the needy. It might be just 4 or 5 burgers for some… but for the hungry, they are equivalent to a three-course meal.”
Blessed with an express metabolism and a humongous appetite, such competitive gourmands toe a fine line between normal appetites and gluttony. “Even if they have large appetites, why force themselves to eat more? If they are only concerned about becoming famous…there are other ways,” suggests Pruthvi.
Popular foodie Zubair Mohammed talks about the effort behind creating such content, but echoes the same opinion as others. “As they say, the grass is greener on the other side. It’s not easy to eat so much food sitting in front of camera and talk about it till it is finished. Keeping your audience engaged while eating is very difficult. And as a foodie, I would love indulging in such delicacies every day; but not at the cost of my well-being,” he concludes.