When Travel Channel’s Man v. Food debuted in 2008, it soon established itself as a popular guilty TV pleasure. The show’s concept of a relatable everyman touring the U.S. in search of impressive food offerings and madcap eating challenges was enticing in itself, but the affable charisma of host Adam Richman truly tied everything together.
The sight of Richman desperately digging into his eating feats — like downing an absurd pile of ghost pepper-infused fat and carbs — was a marvel to behold, and his genuine enthusiasm made it easy to believe he wasn’t just in it for just the paycheck. Clearly, the man loved food.
The thing is, when you spend four seasons digging into massive amounts of greasy, spicy food, the abyss eventually starts staring back. As such, when Richman left the show in 2012, he was a different man than he was before embarking on his four-year on-camera eating binge — and not just because he had gotten famous. From health and body image issues to enduring criticism from his idols, let’s take a look at some of the ways Man v. Food changed Adam Richman.
Adam Richman had to train to become a big eater for Man v. Food
These days, Adam Richman can sometimes be found listed among the ranks of legendary professional eating champions, but as he mentioned on the show, he hosted Man v. Food as a regular guy with zero background in the world of competitive eating. This was by design, because while it’s mesmerizing to witness eating legend Joey Chestnut demolish a five-pound BurritoZilla in the San Jose, California episode of season 1, watching Richman try and fail to tackle a seven-pound breakfast burrito in the very next episode is arguably far more entertaining.
As The Daily Meal tells us, Richman was a Yale-educated actor and a sushi chef before he got the Man v. Food gig. In 2011, he told Heeb that the auditioning process for the show didn’t even involve any difficult eating challenges. While this means he had to develop methods to prepare for his gluttonous triumphs after getting the job, anyone who’s watched Man v. Food can attest that Richman certainly succeeded.
By the time of his Heeb interview, Richman was a seasoned veteran whose challenge preparation routines sounded like that of a pro athlete doing warm-ups. He revealed these surprising tricks to get his body going before the big moment: "It was always lots of exercise like leg and back work-outs in particular. They’re your biggest muscle group so they activate your metabolism quite a bit. And then I would do interval sprints on the treadmill or jump rope."
Adam Richman got into fasting to survive Man v. Food challenges
As Adam Richman told 411mania, he preferred to view Man v. Food challenges as a good time and an enjoyable communal experience rather than a brutal battle against a giant meal. Still, the eating challenges remained a gigantic hurdle for Richman, and in order to survive them, there was a trick he tried to use whenever possible: fasting.
Richman preferred to enter a challenge well-hydrated, with no food in his stomach and with an extensive workout under him to "combat the caloric avalanche," he told 411mania. By keeping his diet and health on point, he also stood a chance to feel significantly better after challenges. A shining example of successful preparation was the Big Texan 72-ounce steak challenge, during which Richman devoured the giant slab of beef in under half an hour, despite that it was only his first year on the job.
On the other hand, if Richman’s fasting failed, he was immediately in a much worse situation, reported 411mania. "The simple fact is that if I eat at all the day before I have a major, major obstacle going against me when it comes to the big challenges," Richman said.
Adam Richman had to get in shape even before shooting Man v. Food
It’s easy to think that big eating is a big man’s game, and that a huge appetite is a far more important factor than decent physical conditioning. Then again, a look at the lean and ultra-fit competitive eating legend Takeru Kobayashi indicates that when the portions get super-dupersized, quite the opposite can be true.
While answering fan questions for the ESPN website, Adam Richman made clear that he was well aware of the benefits of being as healthy as possible before he started shooting Man v. Food. So, before the cameras started rolling and the mega-dishes started coming, he took steps to make sure his physical condition was par for the course. "When I started the show before the first episode was filmed, I went to specialists ahead of time because I wanted to start with a baseline of good health, versus correcting bad health down the road," he revealed.
Adam Richman doesn’t like oysters anymore thanks to this Man v. Food challenge
When you host a show like Man v. Food, it’s only natural that at some point, you might reach a stage where you simply can’t stomach a certain food anymore — even if you used to find it delicious. As Adam Richman told the Mirror in 2015, this exact thing happened to him with oysters. "After the oyster challenge in New Orleans, which was over half a decade ago, I think I may have had less than a dozen since," he said. "It just turned me off."
The Man v. Food challenge Richman is referring to is his 2009 visit to the ACME Oyster House, where he was tasked with joining the restaurant’s "15 Dozen Club" by wolfing down the requisite 180 oysters. Man managed to beat food that time, but the experience of 15 dozen molluscs passing through his gullet was evidently more than enough to scare even a battle-hardened food aficionado like Richman away from future oyster feasts.
Adam Richman learned to talk with his mouth full for Man v. Food
The fact that half-masticated bits of burger didn’t keep falling out of Adam Richman’s mouth every time he opened it during Man v. Food eating challenges is proof that the man is quite adept at combining his two widely known talents: eating and talking. Knowing how to speak with food in your mouth is an extremely strange and specific thing to master in a world where not talking with your mouth full is the go-to move in most social situations. However, Richman’s role as Man v. Food host featured so much eating and speaking in front of the camera that at times the two were bound to intertwine, but as the man himself stated on Eat With Mikey, "No one really teaches you to eat on camera."
Fortunately, the world now has an expert. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Richman revealed his secret for unlocking the questionable ability to monologue with your mouth full. "Realize where you articulate," he advised. "If I hold all my food [in the right cheek], I can still talk. I can essentially recite the Declaration of Independence, as long as I keep my food here. If I move it to my left side, I’m absolutely shot." So, keep an eye on that right cheek during your next Man v. Food marathon. You never know what secrets it might be hiding.
Adam Richman struggled with body image issues because of Man v. Food
Consuming wild amounts of food for a living could take a toll on your mental well-being, especially if your job also entails being constantly in front of the camera. As Adam Richman told the Mirror, for him this meant that he eventually became ashamed of the extra pounds that his Man v. Food gig was piling on him. "I didn’t like how I looked -– it was making me depressed," the host revealed.
Per The Guardian, Richman has had a history of body image issues, and as he discussed further in Men’s Health, he was getting depressed over his looks. To give you a rough idea of exactly what he saw in the mirror, Richman reportedly compared his physique to "a small car" during a People interview (via Yahoo! News). Things got so bad that at one point, he even tried to meddle with camera angles in an effort to cover the way he looked — though a member of the crew promptly told him that it’s probably not the best idea for a TV show host to only show the side of his face, he told the Mirror.
Adam Richman packed on the pounds during Man v. Food, and lost them fast
If you didn’t keep tabs on Adam Richman after his tenure on Man v. Food, you might be surprised to find out that he became a considerably more streamlined presence. According to an article Richman co-wrote for Men’s Health in 2013, that his reputation revolved around his capacity and willingness to eat vast amounts of unhealthy food ultimately lost out to wanting to feel healthy again.
As such, Richman decided to make some dietary sacrifices so he could shed the excess weight he gained from the TV show. After meeting with health with health professionals, Richman started a healthy diet that dramatically cut back his calorie intake. This and exercise helped him shed a whopping 70 pounds in only 10 months.
Richman started noticing his extra Man v. Food-induced pounds during the making of 2013’s Adam Richman’s Fandemonium, and his look was only one of the things that indicated he’d become rather sturdier: "Airplane seats felt cramped, I was wearing an XXL jacket, and I had less energy," Richman said, describing the situation at its, well, heaviest. Richman has also said that he attributes his weight gain to the fact that his meticulous health preparations for Man v. Food challenges failed to account for the rest of the food he was munching on during his long and arduous shooting days.
Adam Richman’s attempt to shed his Man v. Food pounds led to social media disaster
Per a study in The International Encyclopedia of Gender, Media, and Communication, "thinspiration" is a term that can be used as social media shorthand for people who "share dieting and weight‐loss tips and images," and such information could affect those who suffer from eating disorders.
You wouldn’t expect such unfortunate connotations to have anything to do with Adam Richman, the man with the famous appetite. However, "thinspiration" entered the former Man v. Food host’s Instagram lexicon in the summer of 2014 — but not without some backlash. As a result of criticism for using the term in an Instagram post, which some commenters said promoted thinness in a possibly harmful way, Richman responded by brutally insulting commenters who called him out for using the hashtag.
Richman’s comments received plenty of publicity at the time and don’t really need repeating — most damningly, he wished bodily harm on one Instagram user in an extremely nasty manner — and the The Washington Post points out that even factoring in the inevitable apology, the incident could very well have imploded his career. Still, despite these temporary speedbumps, he was soon back on air.
One Man v. Food challenge "almost killed" Adam Richman
Man v. Food gave Adam Richman many life-changing experiences, but he probably could have skipped the time a restaurant possibly endangered his health. The food challenge that "almost killed" Richman happened during the show’s season 2 trip to Sarasota, Florida, when Richman visited the Munchies 4:20 Café to tackle their "Fire in Your Hole" challenge of downing 10 super-hot wings. Richman only managed two. "I had to decide. Carry on and die, or end the challenge by sipping the only relief in sight?" he said during the episode’s narration.
Richman chose milk, and the rest of the episode is details his deep, seemingly never-ending suffering. On First We Feast Hot Ones, he revealed the restaurant had actually cheated by spiking the wings with an entire bottle of dangerous ghost pepper extract. "It’s that it’s cavalier and very dangerous," he said. "They weaponize ghost chili extract in police grenades in India."
Even years later, he remembered the terrifying experience. On Eat With Mikey in 2018 Richman described the "Fire in Your Hole" challenge as a full-on death scare — though he did note that a crowd member grabbed one of the wings and, weirdly, ate it without issue. Still, for Richman himself, the experience was excruciating: "I remember thinking I’m going to check out," he said. " What happens is your nose swells, your mucus passages swell in your nose, and your throat swells. So it was like ‘I can’t breathe, my tears burn’."
Adam Richman had to learn to deal with hate for his Man v. Food stunts
Adam Richman got to eat all sorts of wonders on Man v. Food, but he also had to swallow the bitter pill of drawing criticism, which has included the ire of other famous food personalities. In 2010, he got a crash course on dealing with hate when celebrity chef and food show presenter Alton Brown said some pretty nasty things about his work in an interview with Zap2It (via Eater). "That show is about gluttony, and gluttony is wrong," Brown said. "It’s wasteful. Think about people that are starving to death and think about that show. I think it’s an embarrassment."
Another famous chef with bad things to say about Richman was the late, great and notoriously acidic Anthony Bourdain. Per the Los Angeles Times, he had a theory about the Man v. Food host and why his food challenges were so enticing: "Admit it. You wanted him to die." Then again, Bourdain also famously had it out for Guy Fieri, so maybe he just didn’t like casual road-trip culinary show hosts, period.
Despite Bourdain’s comments, Richman later told the Observer that he and Bourdain were good friends. However, Brown’s attack seems to have really stung Richman. "Alton Brown," Richman wrote on Twitter. "MvF is about indulgence — NOT gluttony — & has brought loads of biz to Mom-n-Pop places. You were my hero, sir. No more," he lamented, complete with the hashtag #damnshame.
Anthony Bourdain had some choice words for Man v. Food’s global image
Man v. Food and its original host are well-known in the U.S., but, as one famous chef once indicated, Adam Richman may also have fans in some pretty surprising places. According to the Los Angeles Times, Anthony Bourdain stated in 2015 that people in Middle-Eastern countries like Libya, Iran, and Yemen and Afghanistan enjoy Man v. Food – though not necessarily in the way it’s meant to be enjoyed.
"The show confirms their worst suspicions — that Americans are fat, lazy, slothful [and] wasteful," Bourdain claimed. He also conjured an image of an Afghan watching Richman’s battles with giant platters of food: "I know what he’s thinking, ‘America is a terrible place. I want to join ISIS." Ouch.
Of course, it’s probably worth noting that this particular story does come from Bourdain, a man who was somewhat well-known for slinging sharp insults at other food folks. And considering Rachman and Bourdain remained friends after the fact, the statement should probably be taken with a pinch of salt. There’s also the possibility Bourdain was jokingly exaggerating Richman’s Middle-Eastern influence in order to make a point about Western gluttony. Then again, who knows? Maybe the well-traveled Parts Unknown host was simply fed up with the way people kept asking if he knew Richman whenever his journeys took him to that corner of the world.