What is a Food Challenge? Getting Cheesy at the Melt Bar & Grilled 

   An entire website decorated around the lucrative, gregarious hobby of Man Vs. Food restaurant challenges and competitive eating. To keep things authentic my grandma always said to, “cook with love.” So after I deconstruct each of my challenges I’m gonna stir-fry up about 16 ounces of motivation, 10 ounces of fitness, 2 cups of passion, a pinch of craziness, and garnish with with a leaf of The Avocado. Serves 1. 

   First the food. My second food challenge was The Melt Challenge at the Melt Bar and Grilled in Lakewood, Ohio. I’ve heard only raving reviews of this restaurant a couple years prior but have never had the chance to visit. This is an unique restaurant with creative offerings making it top of my all time favorite places to go out when I’m in the Cleveland Area (especially on Saturday’s with the Boys). This was the first “food challenge” I have ever heard about. For those of you out of the loop, a food challenge is a dish at a restaurant. But not just any dish. It’s for the courageous, the gluttonous, the ill-minded, the hungry, the competitive, and the beasts. These plates range loosely from 4-8 pounds depending on the challenge (Just for reference a Chipotle burrito is one pound). Anything higher than 8, it’s either a team challenge or you are an absolute monster. A food challenge is NOT the same as an eating contest. Down the road I’ll explain more in detail my experience with food contest, so remember this reference. 
   I know what a lot of you are thinking. Why? Why eat that much food? What pushes people to continue to do this? I can’t speak for all, but initially the prizes were pretty rad. Rewarded for eating food. That’s the dream right? Eat and get paid. That’s like getting paid to breath, we have to do it so why not make some fun out of it? I can postpone shopping for new t-shirts because I have two large duffle bags full of interesting fashion statements. When I found out there’s challenges that pay for the meal if you complete it the game changed. Discount Darron? Nah, Discount Daniel! I love great tasting food, but there’s something gratifying about getting that grub for free. And then there’s the Wall of Fame. An entire wall dedicated to the winners of the challenge. Their names, often their faces, are forever plastered into the foundations history. A recognition that only a select few acquire in a lifetime. It is always fun to hear a friend of yours say that they saw your name/face on the wall. Always a good conversation starter, especially for those people you don’t see in years and things get real awkward real quick. 
   Few places go above the “golden standard” of a free t-shirt and meal. I’ve been to places where they give cash, trophies, and other neat memorabilia. Now, the prizes are nice but not the reason I kept doing it. 

   Referenced in an Instagram post (where I post most my content @i_d_mendoza) I go for the three P’s. The pallet (bomb food), the places (in my travels), and the people (so many new connections). 
   The challenge atmosphere is always upbeat. Like taking your first bite of birthday cake or eating your broccoli as an adolescent, people stare in awe and encouragement. I enjoyed completing these challenges for the crowd and the staff. People get so excited. When you request the challenge the servers’ eyes light up, and hurry to the kitchen to place the order. The manager comes out and introduces himself. The entire restaurant is notified as you are sometimes placed front and center. People ask you questions. Everyone doubts you. But there’s a concept that I loved from a fellow eater Derek (check out his YouTube Page – https://www.youtube.com/user/wonderboy1300) , that I’m going to coin as the “Turning Point.” The Turning Point is the moment the crowd, servers, and staff actually realize you are going to do it. The moment the establishment realizes they are buying you lunch. Many surprised, a few disgusted, I recommend you staying for a food challenge if you have that opportunity. 
   Food challenges are great promotional tools for restaurants. I met some great people. Catching business cards like I catch feelings at midnight listening to Drake missing a girl that never even existed. For restaurant managers and owners reading this, I highly recommend checking out Randy Santel’s website http://www.foodchallenges.com for the resources, tips, and benefits for making food challenges available at your location. 
   Now that you have an idea of what a food challenge is, let’s get into the Melt. Being my second challenge, I really had no idea how to “train”. I ate a fair amount of food prior to the challenge and drank a lot of water. I went into the challenge with half of my stomach full. 

But I stay hungry. 

   As I ordered the Melt Challenge, the waiter said he hasn’t seen anyone finish it in the four years he’s been there. If you do beat the challenge, you receive $10 off your $35 meal, online wall of fame, t-shirt, and become a member of the Melt Club. The only rule is that you couldn’t get off your chair, but you had all until the restaurant closed. The waiter offered to pay for my meal if I beat it, because it was his last week working there. A college kid getting free food is like a puppy playing with its owner – there’s no stopping it from happening. 

  A 4lb grilled cheese sandwich. It takes 3-full size Texas toast to stabilize 13 different types of cheese. Gooey goodness. Next to it was a pound of fries and a pile of coleslaw. The actual sandwich was incredible. I really enjoy the taste of dairy personally. I am fortunate to have the lactase enzyme enabling me to enjoy dairy without the drawbacks. Ice cream, cheese, and milk-based treats are always my go-to’s when I choose to sway off my regular diet. Im the type of guy who is into fine cuisines, including aged cheeses and what have you. When the food arrived to the table I was nervous, but more so excited. I only felt this way before sports competitions. A feeling that I had to give it my all, push my mind and body to its limits. I missed that. I made a rookie mistake though, and until this very day I often forget… To let my food cool down. Sometimes people are so in the zone, that they forget the dangers of eating hot food. So as I took my first bite, first the cheese lathered my tastebuds like oil on a bikini model. Imagine tasting beauty. That’s the Melt sandwich. Then, I felt a burning sensation. I chose to ignore the pain novacane. I finished the 4lb in less than 10 minutes. Fast and furious. 

   I encountered a problem. I’ve been intaking food and fluids all day prior. My stomach reached its capacity. But there was still a pound of fries and zingy coleslaw. It took me 90 minutes to eat a challenge that should’ve been finished in 30. I absolutely hated the coleslaw. But the fact that the sandwich was so amazing, and that I would get the meal free motivated me to finish the sinus clearing, vinegar spiked side. The pickles were very strong. I’m pretty sure they could bench more than me. Melt’s fries were rated top 50 in the United States. They are tasty, but after a 4lb grilled cheese and a full stomach, nothing will taste like top 50. 

   I finished. I was full. I felt sick. I knew I’ve pushed my body in a complete different way than I was used to doing. But I’ve done something a select few people have ever done. And with a half-full stomach. I had a talent. And to finish this blog, as with every future blog post I will tie it in with my beliefs and outlook on life. Talents. When God gives you a talent, you have a duty to use it. Never be complacent. You have the ability to help others and change their lives. To make them smile, to teach them, and better yet to inspire them. 

  I was oddly given a talent to eat a lot of food. I will use my talent to promote a healthy lifestyle. I am human. I’m not perfect. No one can adhere to a calorie-restricted diet for year after year. It’s not very sustainable. We have party’s, celebrations, holidays, business dinners, work luncheons, and so many more opportunities where food bonds people. Food isn’t my life, but it’s certainly a part of it (as it is everyone’s). And it’s the most I am open to talking about and interested in. 

   What’s your hidden talent? Think about how it can help other people. 

   Did you enjoy this post? Share with friends or give it a like. Have any suggestions or would you like to read more or less about a subject? Comment below! 

   Remember, you have the power to change. Maybe not the entire world, but surely someone else’s world. 

Until next time, 

Ivan “The Avocado”


Competitive Eating – An Avocado Lense

Hello. This is a blog devoted to my adventure in the unique pastime/sport/lifestyle of competitive eating. I call myself “The Avocado,” but most people know me by my real name Ivan (Eee-Vauhn). We are gonna get real personal here, so get ready.
I officially began my journey in competitive eating January of 2017. Since then I have won 33 restaurant food challenges across the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. This opening introductory post will explain how I acquired this ludicrous hobby. If you guys think it’s a viral hit (which I’m confident you will because competitive eating gets as much credit as the NBA or NFL), I’ll break down each of my challenges as well as my thoughts, feelings, physical shape before, during, and after an incredible large consumption of food in a single sitting.

Healthy living, fitness, and nutrition have been passions of mine since I first joined sports at a young age. The problem was that I didn’t really understand the role of nutrition or fitness plays in daily living. So without knowing, I would constantly make choices adversely affecting my health. Playing 14 hours straight of Call of Duty MW2 was not uncommon day after day on hot summer days. Either was mindless snacking on pieces of cheese, hot pockets, saltine crackers, bologna and heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter for no apparent reason. I was constantly eating and never really being active outside of a two-hour window of football practice.

I remember in 8th grade I needed to get a sports physical and I didn’t pass. I was too overweight and my blood pressure was too high. I felt miserable. At the time, it didn’t really make sense. Too fat to play football? But I guess when you are a 5’9, 14 year- old weighing 267 with hypertension that health reigns supreme. I was to see a dietitian and needed to lower my blood pressure so that I could play a sport, that at the time, I loved. It was my first real wake up call. I was able to meet the standards by cutting out certain foods. But still I didn’t have a solid foundation of basic nutrition.

I just really loved eating. Always have and always will. My family use to joke that my first words were “McDonald’s” and “food.” I mean I remember my father cooking breakfast very early every morning (like 6AM) and I often try to wake up earlier to eat something so that I could have two breakfasts. I mean I’m sure we all have our stories about bad eating habits as a child. I’m not going to go too deep into mine, here at least. Let’s just say that, like every aspect in life, I go above and beyond.
I lost weight in high school from being much more active. Lifting before school and wrestling after. Wrestling was a life-changing experience but I’m not going to go too deep into that, here at least (so much content).
Only in college did I really take nutrition seriously. I had influences from the Arnold Classic seeing these shredded guys weighing 270 pounds with a 6 percent body fat. They resembled action figures. In part seeing those people motivated me to watch what I ate, but moreso it’s my family’s extensive history with diabetes.

I am 100% Mexican (but not fluent in Spanish, lo siento Abuelita). Both of my grandparents were diagnosed with Type II diabetes. I knew with the path I was going I would surely get diabetes. It’s a condition preventable with good exercise and nutrition. The problem was that my perception of healthy was so skewed due to popular magazines and the media – with fad diets pouring like water from a fountain. I sought out academic articles and peer reviews. I understood some of it, but not all. The main lesson I took away is the importance of staying active and the correlation of being overweight and premature death. I needed more information. I took it upon myself to learn about food and exercise as if it was my day job. I checked out every textbook on nutrition and weight management available at the library. I also checked out a few on fitness, but to be honest my main focus was on nutrition – why? I just really loved eating.

Balancing school and fitness isn’t so much a balance when the two coincide. That’s what college has been for me. And I enjoyed every second. My freshman year of college I changed my eating habits tremendously. Food was on my mind 24/7. That and excelling in my coursework because at the end of the day that’s why I was there. Call it intelligence or obedience, I strive for perfection in the classroom. I graduated valedictorian in high school, and currently have a 4.0 GPA in college. But I’m not going to go to deep into that, here at least.
In a matter of eight months I lost 50 pounds and maintained it. I was feeling great. More energy. Smarter. Just about everything was better. Just about. Here’s the deep stuff – so if you made it this far congrats. I share this in hope to help others overcome their personal struggles.
With exercising and body transformation, I looked into the mirror. A lot. Too much. I compared myself to other people. I over exercised and overtrained my body even though I knew from studying that rest does the body good. But there’s no rest stops in Grind-Village, right? I wouldn’t go a day without exercising twice. I wouldn’t go a day without flexing in the mirror only seeing my imperfections and not my progress. I felt as if my eating wasn’t “clean” enough. That summer I found a diet plan. As clean as a cucumber. Six meals a day. The same regime that the best body builders would follow. Although I never competed or went on stage, I essentially was a body builder. My day revolved around eating and working out. I became obsessed with what I ate. I had to eat every three hours. I couldn’t eat anything outside of my control. I would pack my food to family gatherings and to dinners with friends. I often skipped social events with people I could’ve build friendships with, but instead I chose to build my body. This became very vain and unhealthy.

The next few months I lost an additional 40 pounds. I was feeling good, and trust me I was eating enough. At around 2,500 calories a day, I was hitting the U.S.D.A guidelines perfectly. I didn’t have ice cream, pizza, or anything “dirty” for over half a year. In retrospect I believe I developed a eating disorder. Stemmed from disordered eating and the fear of eating certain foods. Often when I was “forced” to eat out and ate a larger portion of carbohydrates the next day I would exercise excessively. I never seen a psychiatrist or behavior specialist, but after receiving a certification as a Health Coach through the American Council of Exercise this summer, I would have definitely referred my old self to one. At the time I was in denial. I cared about one thing and one thing only. Body image. 

Eating was my vessel to a “perfect” body. This lifestyle was not healthy. This lifestyle was not sustainable. I wasn’t miserable. I wasn’t even tired of my diet because when you are cutting weight you become creative with your food choices. I mean you combine weird foods like peanut butter and cottage cheese and you swear it’s the greatest tasting thing this world has to offer.

I had 4% body fat and loss 110 pounds. And yes I ate plenty. At the same time I was constantly cold and my workouts were never at full potential.

I didn’t have a healthy relationship with food. At Thanksgiving I binged. An incredible amount. We are taking upward 20,000 calories. The next day I did my first food challenge, ten scoops of ice cream at my favorite ice cream shop. I felt as if I failed. Everything down the drain. But that wasn’t the case at all. Despite the excessive eating, I still had that six pack I obsessed over.
The truth is, healthy eating is NOT an all or nothing approach. A lot of Instagram fitness freaks will call it “flexible dieting” or “IIFYM”. Weight management comes down to calories in versus calories out – energy expenditure. With knowledge of a serving size, I’m confident anyone can reach their fitness goals.

Now I don’t classify foods as unhealthy or healthy. Clean or dirty. Food is food. We all got to eat. Enjoy it. As a health coach I focus on behavior and lifestyle change. Exercise is a lifestyle. Choosing to take the stairs and parking at the farthest spot will help you reach your goals. I am currently becoming a sports nutrition specialist, which will better help me understand how performance and nutrition interact.
My career goals stems out of this story. I want to help others live a healthier life and overcome triumphs. This is where I find meaning in life. But I’m not going to deep into that, here at least.
So long story short, I got into competitive eating to show everyone that one meal every now and then won’t destroy your fitness goals. And with a proper exercise regimen you can fit anything into your diet. Being flexible will allow you enjoy life to its fullest.
If you found this to be helpful, interesting, or a valuable use of time please leave feedback. Like, comment, or do whatever people do to promote blogs. Share! 
Until next time (Pending positive feedback),

Ivan “The Avocado”