The Winners’ Guide to All-You-Can-Eat Buffets

It’s a shame if you’re a part of that third party. You’ve entirely written off all-you-can-eats for some misguided, unpatriotic reason and you aren’t looking back. You’re the type that says you’re completely free, standing there, covered in hemp jewelry and filth, while you work at your “career” of selling shoddy, artisan wind chimes at the flea market two days a week. Please, I hope you recognize that you won’t truly be free, as in free to eat all you can, until you let Buffet Nation into your heart in the form of large doses of cholesterol and trans fat.

For the rest of you freedom-loving eaters out there there’s the idea of winning each time you pay for a buffet. As you likely figured, “buffet winning” is eating enough that the restaurant actually loses money on your visit. This isn’t Vegas, beating the house is possible, but it still takes prep work. You don’t get to be an unfunny loudmouth and corpulent consumption machine like Man vs. Food’s Adam Richman overnight. No, it takes a complete disregard for shame, body image, and comedy to get on his level.

Abstaining from eating beforehand is obvious, but if you do find you can eat more when you’re drunk (akin to Mr. Richman) then, by all means, binge drink before you binge eat. Rock those pants with the elastic waistband and your other already-stained clothing, as both provide the freedom to eat as much and as messily as you desire. Don’t believe U.S. veterans—freedom can be free if you swipe that dirty-tracksuit-turned-buffet-attire out of a dumpster, Salvation Army donation box, or Ukrainian gangster’s wardrobe.

Now, mental preparation can be as easy as pounding whiskey at ten in the morning to get yourself family-brunch-buffet-ready or as difficult as making pre-peace with the Cobain-ian state of self-loathing and inactivity you’ll be in post-gorge. Everyone’s preparation ritual differs; some might have a good prayer or a good cry while watching an hour of culinary porn on The Food Network. Some might simply get pumped up on a intoxicating cocktail of Jolt Cola and the Space Jam soundtrack on the ride over. You may just arrive and politely inform the patrons at the neighboring tables to relocate if they don’t wish to be inside your “splash zone” or be privy to you “making generous mouth whoopee to a few dozen plates of meat tacos.” It’s your choice—just make sure you don’t skip any steps.

The moment has arrived; they’ve handed you a plate that holds limitless possibilities and you’ve began scouring the troughs of food, judging what will recoup your investment the quickest. Every place is different, but use your head and don’t waste time or space filling up on rice, soup, or bread—remember, you’re a buffet patron not a Hebrew slave.

Keep chewing and conversation to a minimum, lose yourself in Flavor Country, and channel your inner, stress-eating teenage girl to cram as much saucy meat down your craw before your body knows what’s happening. Except in dire, life-or-mess situations, refuse to listen to your body. Really try to focus on reaching that “eater’s high,” where your blood and time slow down and you feel as if you can gorge forever, or at least until the diabetes sets in.

Should the worst happen and you’re filling up before you’ve netted a gain be prepared with a back-up plan. Your plan B, much like the morning-after pill, will be intended to pull your body’s internal fire alarm and expel any unwanted masses. Frankly, you don’t need more than a fast-acting laxative or ipecac to quickly make room to eat more—all you have to decide is which end you want it to come out.

It might be twenty minutes, it might be two hours, but eventually you’ll hit that point where your intake has exceeded the cost. Relish in the feeling of achievement. It’s a great sensation that’s been shared throughout human history by the likes of Nelson Mandela, Moses, Dr. Martin Luther King, and now you—all heroes proving victorious against improbable odds. Solid work, perhaps you’ll have a future hosting Man vs. Food when Richman dies at age forty next year.

Justin Gawel is an adult baby from Michigan. Look for more of his writing, his archive (which is under construction), and his updates at or follow him @justingawel on Twitter.