One by one the 30-odd men and women at Mark Thompson's Super Bowl party heaved themselves onto his electronic scale.
The crowd cheered as the weight of each bloated gut was announced – a careful calculation based on a pre-party weigh in. "Full transparency is of paramount importance," the 35-year-old Torontonian explained.
After six years of serving epic feasts for the year's biggest football game, Mr. Thompson decided in 2011 to turn the eating into a contest. While the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers clashed for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the guests vied to pack on the most pounds during the duration of the "Pork-o-licious" party.
This Sunday, his guests will be treated to another calorie-fest, at one of thousands of Super Bowl parties – from the extravagant to the outrageous – that are a tradition across North America. It's the second biggest eating day of the year in the United States, with Americans expected to scarf more than 45-million kilograms of chicken wings this weekend as they watch the New England Patriots bear down on the New York Giants in Indianapolis.
"Mark puts on a pretty big ceremony," said Kevin O'Brien, a regular guest at Mr. Thompson's events. "Everyone steps up and takes their shoes off … it's like a UFC fight weigh-in."
The menu at last year's pigskin feast started with "about 50 pounds of meat" and included pulled pork and back bacon sandwiches, white-hot chicken chili, chicken wings, meatballs, onion rings, chili nachos, jalapeno poppers and ice-cream sandwiches.
Mr. Thompson recalls how his wife – forced to focus her appetite on the cheese fondue, poutine and heaps of Vachon cakes to make up for her vegetarianism – tipped the scale for her final tally.
"There's not a lot of vegetables," he concedes, "unless you consider salsa a vegetable."
And yet competition brings out the best.
"My wife gained six pounds [2.7 kg]" Mr. Thompson said proudly.
Impressive. But not enough. The victor wolfed down what became an extra 9.8 pounds (4.5 kg) to seal the modest cash prize.
Not all Super Bowl parties are just about the food, however.
Kipp Wotherspoon, 33, throws a "rival party" to Mr. Thompson's each year.
In his home in North Toronto, "a bag full of toonies, as soon as you walk in," greets the 20 to 30 friends who pack his living room, "shouting bets on anything and everything," he said.
"Everything" includes bets on the length of the national anthem, the number of presidential sightings, whether the next commercial be about cars, beer, or movies, and who'll be the next guest to arrive at the party. On and on it goes throughout the game.
"We try to take those proposition bets to the next level," explained Mr. Wotherspoon, whose friend Jamie Nicholls scribbles them down furiously with a Sharpie on his flip-chart.
"The game is secondary to the betting," Mr. Wotherspoon said. "The food isn't really the focus of the party, either." Although they do have their traditional fare: Cheeseburgers from McDonald's and a bucket of KFC.
For his part, Mr. O'Brien, 33, is pumped up for another weight-gain fiesta at Mr. Thompson's place. After a disappointing showing in the inaugural event, he's got a new strategy.
"I really need to focus on the pastries at the end," he said.
With the reigning champ away this year, Mr. O'Brien thinks his goal of a six- or seven-pound gain will give him a shot at the belt.