Meet the worlds most unlikely competitive eater: a svelte 170cm model who weighs just 55kg.Nela Zisser, 26, from New Zealand, believes she may have scoffed her way through tonnes of food since she entering her first competition as a 21-year-old.
She revealed there weren’t any aspirations to become a competitive eater; it was her mum who pushed her to enter her first competition thinking she was a “natural”.
“My mum convinced me to enter a pizza-eating contest because she thought I would do really well.” she told
Initially, Nela, a medical student, said she rejected the idea because she didn’t want people watching her eat.
She entered anyway and to her surprise beat out “19 big dudes” – the win setting her on an unlikely path to fame.
RELATED: Inside the world of Britain’s competitive eaters
RELATED: Welcome to the life of a competitive eater
Since that first triumph, Nela has gone on to some impressive challenges – and beaten out top contenders.
“I’m probably the top competitive eater in New Zealand,” the 26-year-old said blithely, adding: “I’ve won almost every contest, except for one.”
Because of limited opportunities to compete in New Zealand, Nela has turned to YouTube to advance her career.
She records her challenges and then posts the videos to her channel; a practice understood to be common in the competitive-eating world.
To date, she has recorded 161 videos, an output that includes the viral “I kg Mad Mex Burrito Challenge”, which she completed in 2014 in under three minutes.
In 2016, Nela caught the attention of the media after she uploaded a video of herself devouring an impressive 10,000 calorie English breakfast.
The two platters of food included 20 eggs, a kilogram of bacon fried in butter, six sausages, four muffins and mushrooms cooked in cream – in 42 minutes.
Later that year, she stunned again, this time by eating 22 Big Macs in just under an hour.
It’s a feat she says still holds the top spot in her mind as being the most challenging.
In case you are wondering, that’s 12,386 calories and nearly one kilogram of meat.
Most recently, Nela scoffed an unbelievable 4.5 kilograms of tinned spaghetti in just 12 minutes. The concoction included cream, MSG, extra salt and plenty of grated cheese.
“Never again,” she said. “It tasted rank.
“I wasn’t a fan of tinned spaghetti before, and I don’t think I will ever eat it again.”
As well as posting challenges online, which she has done weekly since she started, Nela has also travelled overseas to take part in competitions with other competitive eaters.
She’s competed in the much-hyped Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Championships in New York where, as a relative newcomer in 2015, she ranked seventh in the rookie division.
In April this year, she will travel to Singapore to compete with Zermatt Neo, a 31-year-old Singaporean titleholder and internet celebrity.
While her achievements are far ranging, the question on the lips of many is how the model manages to stay so slim despite regularly gorging on so much food.
“I go to the gym five days a week, and I do intermittent fasting. I only eat one or two meals a day,” she said.
“Not all my challenges are unhealthy either. Last week I ate half a kilo of raw broccoli.”
Coping with the aftermath of a challenge isn’t always straightforward; some leave her feeling sick for a day, while others don’t present any problems at all.
“Meat tends to fill me way more than carbs or vegetables. So, if it is a meat-heavy challenge, I may feel under the weather for a while.”
While there is no question of Nela’s dedication to the sport, it’s unknown whether she will keep going once she has graduated med school.
She has three years left of her degree and says it’s unlikely she will have the time or energy to keep pursuing new challenges.
For now, though, the 26-year-old is having a lot of fun, and her fellow students get a kick out of taking classes with world-famous competitive eater.
“They love it and think it’s amazing,” she said.
And as for her lecturers and teachers?
“I don’t think any of them really know,” she said giggling, “and if they do they haven’t said anything. I don’t think it’s the sort of content they’d search for.
“I suspect some might know, but so far no one has said anything.”