Lauren Takao is a 30-year-old fifth grade teacher at Christian Academy who helps coach the school’s cross country team. She’s a Beachbody — think P90X and Insanity — coach and part-time yoga teacher. And she just had a baby seven months ago.
Not exactly the person you’d expect to to finish 12 scoops of ice cream or 2 1/2 boxes of cereal in one sitting.
Yet Takao is one of those unlikely competitive eaters, now a finalist for an upcoming episode of the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food Nation.”
Her video is one of five selected in a recent casting call, and folks have until Aug. 11 to vote. (To cast your vote — one a day until the deadline — click here.)
Takao is the only female finalist, the only one from Hawaii, and, well, the only one who doesn’t seem like she could finish 12 hot wings in six minutes in the Buffalo Wild Wings Challenge.
So you know I had a few questions to ask!
CAT: I’m assuming you’re a fan of the show.
LT: Huge fan!
CAT: How did you hear about this challenge?
LT: I heard about the challenge through the Internet. I love the show and thought, “Hey, I can do that!”
CAT: What compelled you to submit the video
LT: I submitted the video on a whim. My husband and I are huge Man v Food fans, and would go to the restaurants (host) Adam (Richman) went to whenever we traveled. Also, we tried doing many food challenges, and I figured I might as well submit a video, and God willing, I would get picked. Never actually thought it would happen!
CAT: So, you were you surprised you were named a finalist?
LT: I was totally shocked that I was named a finalist! When I first got the call I didn’t recognize the number and thought it was a telemarketer!
CAT: I gotta admit, the other finalists are pretty impressive. You concerned at all?
LT: I think all four are pretty impressive. When I saw their videos I thought mine was not that great. They had terrific editing, pictures, etc. My video was just shot in my living room with the TV on in the background and car seat on the side! All five of us can eat; it’s just now a matter of who the public would like to see and what city they want the crew to shoot at.
CAT: So what are all the eating challenges you’ve won or participated in?
LT: Tried Mac 24/7 pancakes but the most I ate was a little more than three-fourths. Finished the 12 scoop sundae at Sweet Krevz in Aiea in about 20 to 30 minutes, finished the Buffalo Wild Wings Challenge, finished the Sharkey’s buffalo wing challenge (only woman to do so), came in second in the Waikiki Speed Eating contest, came in third at the Bayfest burger competition last month, finished third in JJ Dolans pizza competition this past year, only person to finish the Cereal Remix Megamix challenge (2 1/2 boxes of cereal, milk, 6 toppings). So far, those are the only ones I remember doing!
CAT: OMG. I’m sure you get this ALL THE TIME: You’re so damn skinny! What’s your secret?
LT: Ha ha, I was always pretty skinny — my mom was small, not even 100 pounds when she got married! — but breastfeeding also helps lose that pregnancy weight. I have always been active, too — done many marathons, triathlons, yoga competitions, etc. After giving birth I also became a Beachbody coach and did the 60-day Insanity workout and that really helped me lose a lot of weight (although I didn’t do it with the intention of losing, just to gain strength).
CAT: Uh, still. That’s just not fair. So what do you enjoy about competitive eating?
LT: I love the fact that I’m so small but can eat and amaze people. I also love food, and it takes a lot of mental strength and determination to do these challenges. It fits my personality because I’m pretty competitive and will push myself to do the best I can.
CAT: So I’m envisioning your daily meals to be gorge-fests. Very Paul Bunyan. No?
LT: Breakfast is fruit and yogurt. Lunch varies but is usually something fast like sandwich, sushi, salad. Dinner is great because it’s with my husband and daughter. I’m not a great cook, and if we go out we go to kid-friendly places nearby like Big City Diner. I like fish a lot, but sometimes really crave a thick steak. And we always have vegetables with dinner. Pretty standard diet. Lots of fruits, veggies, good proteins and whole grains, but I also love having a glass or two of wine with dinner. Just discovered Morimoto’s beer and am liking that, too.
If you want to see Lauren represent Hawaii on an upcoming episode of “Man V. Food Nation,” vote for her video. You have until Aug. 11.