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The first time I entered my Sims in an eating contest, I used the "testingcheatsenabled true" code so that I could manually scroll down their hunger really low. (Didn't want them to get fat, after all.)
Shortly into the race, one of them dropped to the fetal position and died! I assumed that I had accidentally scrolled his hunger down too low, to the point of starvation. So I exited without saving the game, started it up again, and then sent my Sims back to the summer festival. Stupidly, I had them enter the eating contest again, this time carefully monitoring their hunger levels.
This time, my other Sim died!! Is this like some cruel public service announcement warning us to not eat too quickly? WTF?
What works for me is not having their hunger too low (in the yellow) because while choking down hot dogs or pie, they will vomit, making their hunger go even lower. I always save, just in case, because the first time my Sim died, too. There's also a lifetime reward that helps them.
My hubby's werewolf totally owned his contest. Werewolves must have a bottomless pit for food.