Competitive Eater Takeru Kobayashi Announces He’s Retiring, Hopes to ‘Live a Long and Healthy Life'

"Ever since I started this career, I've wondered what damage I've done to my body," says the six-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest winner

<p>John Lamparski/WireImage</p>  Takeru Kobayashi

John Lamparski/WireImage

Takeru Kobayashi

Takeru Kobayashi is officially retiring.

In Netflix’s Hack Your Health: The Secrets of Your Gut, the six-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest winner said he’s closing this chapter of his career in the name of his overall health.

“I hope to live a long and healthy life. I’ve decided to retire from competitive eating,” he revealed during a confessional interview.

The 46-year-old from Japan, who said he believes he’s eaten 10,000 hot dogs in his career, hopes to “fix” his brain and his gut. Since he “eats too much,” he’s lost the ability to fully taste, savor and smell food. He also said he’s ignored “the body’s signals like fullness.”

“I don’t feel that joy about eating anymore,” he said. “It’s scary to think that the brain and the gut are so closely related. It makes me want to be more careful with what I eat.”

Mychal Watts/WireImage Takeru Kobayashi
Mychal Watts/WireImage Takeru Kobayashi

Related: Joey Chestnut Eats 62 Hot Dogs to Claim 16th Title in Nathan's Fourth of July Contest

"Ever since I started this career, I've wondered what damage I've done to my body," he said. "I want to know how it is damaging my brain and my nervous system."

While his choice is to focus on the greater purpose of his health, Kobayashi is still unsure what his next move will be.

“It’s all I’ve done for the last 20 years. I am worried about what my next step will bring, but I’m also excited about my future,” he said, adding, “I have mixed feelings.”

In 2019, he spoke to the Associated Press about his preparation for matches like the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. The competition made him a household name in 2001 when he broke the record in his rookie year for eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes.

“I have to put something inside the stomach to make it expand, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be food. I train with water,” he said of his strategy. “So, I’m not training for long periods of time by hauling food. I’m training with water expanding my stomach.”

Related: Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th: See the Faces of Competition Through the Years

<p>Monica Schipper/Getty Images for 2019 Tribeca Film Festival</p> Takeru-Kobayashi-052424-2-194b87b1a1c341269bc3ae601cc5861b.jpg

Monica Schipper/Getty Images for 2019 Tribeca Film Festival


The task takes a serious toll on his frame.

“I feel so exhausted and so out of breath,” Kobayashi told the AP. “When my stomach becomes very full with that amount of food inside, the organs in my body begin to shift places. So, for example, my lungs get shifted up, and they can’t expand. They have no room to expand. So, when I breathe, I become very short of breath. That’s one of the main things that happens right after eating.”

Kobayashi famously dethroned Joey Chestnut from the Nathan’s winning title in 2001 and continued his streak until 2007. Chestnut went on to beat Kobayashi three years in a row before Kobayashi left the competition because of a contract dispute.

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