The “body boss”

In one of my favorite Stephen King stories, an overweight artist is driven to paint the same scene over and over: A construction crew laboring over a  big job that turns out to be processing his junk-food diet.

In the story, “Stationary Bike,” the beefy guys in hard hats turn hostile when they realize his new fitness regimen is jeopardizing their jobs. But what would they say if the “body boss” started guzzling ice water — saddling them with long hours heating all that fluid to body temperature — just so he could burn more calories?

My first thought when I read this diet tip, in “The Men’s Health Big Book of Food and Nutrition” that Ben left lying in the bathroom, was that I’d finally found an incentive to cut back on coffee and increase my water intake.

According to the book, 6 cups of cold water revs up your interior water heater enough to burn an extra 50 calories a day — 5 pounds in a year.

But I’m dubious about this for two reasons:
1. This same book botches its Weight Watchers critique, suggesting you’d wind up “starving yourself” if you used up your points early in the day. With zero-point veggies — and now fruits — there’s never any reason to go hungry, and weekly bonus points make up for “judgment errors.” If Men’s Health screwed this up, how do I know they got the details right on the water-heating data? (They did, for the most part.*)

2. More importantly, I can’t help wondering if it’s smart to stress my body’s  processors just so I can eat an extra cookie every day or fit into a smaller pair of jeans.

Desperate times do call for desperate measures. (When I was fixated on keeping my “losing” streak alive, I sometimes fantasized about temporarily detaching a limb before stepping on the scale.) For now I feel good that I’ve devised a system for keeping my weight in check, though I wish I didn’t still jump through various hoops to periodically indulge my weakness for Reese’s peanut butter cups.

One day I hope to have a truly noble diet and exercise regimen. I‘d like to be the kind of “body boss” who treats her interior work crew with kindness and respect. Because you never know when those guys might turn on you.

*I tracked this down elsewhere, and discovered they were right, more or less — though it’s not clear how cold the water was. Obviously drinking plenty of water is a desirable thing to do; I’m just not convinced that icy cold water is better for your health. At any rate, here’s what I found:

As reported on live, Michael Boschmann and Jochen Steiniger published their results in the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism” in December 2003 and August 2007. “During the 2003 study, they evaluated the effect of drinking 500 ml, or about 2 cups, of water on metabolism in 14 healthy participants of normal weight. Drinking this amount of water increased the metabolic rate by 30 percent in both men and women … The effect occurred within 10 minutes and reached its maximum within 30 to 40 minutes. The effect lasted over an hour. The 2007 study repeated the process with overweight and obese participants. The same amount of water increased metabolism 24 percent within 60 minutes.

Read more:

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