Physiotherapist. Personal trainer. Those are the occupations one would immediately associate with Zermatt Neo due to his well-built physique and sculpted abs. He’s the chap that aunties at the gym would ask, “Ah boy, you just completed NS ah?” but he’s also the guy who chowed down 10,000 calories worth of KFC in an hour, prompting curious questions
on his weight and earning him more clients.
We settle at The Connoisseur Concerto’s (tcc) The Central boutique, the charming Zermatt full of enthusiasm. It’s hard to guess he was once a skinny-fat kid who suffered digestive problems, asthma and regular bouts of flu, much less a champion eater. “When I was 23 I came into bodybuilding (to get over a breakup), started eating clean, counting calories and knowing what my body needs. Miraculously all those issues went away.”
He’s hardly at odds with both aspects of his life, thanks to his foundation in nutrition. He casually explains that balancing calories and discipline is all that’s needed. “Who can eat steamed broccoli and chicken breast every (non-competitive) day? I don’t even add salt and pepper. I’m a very bland person.”
But bland is hardly how we’d describe Zermatt, who got his name from his aunt’s huge jigsaw puzzle of the famous Swiss mountain area. Even his career has been a colourful one. After spending two years as an HR executive, he decided a desk job wasn’t for him. “While at the gym, I realised a lot of my peers sustained training injuries. I started reading up on nutrition and physiotherapy and ended up pursuing a degree on the latter in Sydney.”
Shortly after his return in 2013, a friend noticed how on his cheat days, the 27-year-old would load up at a buffet (“that’s the only place I can get all my cravings” ) and be the last man standing. He was promptly signed up for the Ramen Champion Big Eater Challenge (where he also met his current boss, the doctor at the competition) and emerged second place,
behind professional competitive eater and bikini model Tomoko Miyake (“I want a rematch, losing to a girl is not my thing.” ). He had no prior preparation and managed to get so far. He was hooked.
Zermatt pauses to dunk a cookie into his hot chocolate. “I like it balanced, not too thick, not too sweet.” The passionate symbolism of chocolate also alludes to his fierce drive to succeed beneath his chill demeanor. We offer to share our food, but he declines: there’s filming for a challenge later and he abstains from food for 16 to 18 hours daily, part of the Intermittent Fasting regime. “I’m not even hungry when I compete–too nervous.”
Big events take a toll on him too: he can’t taste/enjoy his food (has to focus on just swallowing) and can’t afford to pig out again. “Afterwards, I feel super drained, so tired I’ll just crash. Recovery involves a lot of sleeping and water, as the body is not meant to do this. My health comes first so I won’t attempt crazy stunts like big back-to-back challenges, eating ghost peppers (spice) or beer chugging (alcohol).”
So what does the future hold? “Proper (competitive eating) training because I tasted defeat this year and it’s not nice. I’d also like to start a clinic to fix lower back, mobility issues; maybe tie-up with a charity to help more people be pain-free.” Admirable life goals indeed. We’ve got your back, Zermatt!