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2004: The Year of the Boob

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4. The Fat Belt Theory: Competitive Eating Is a Skinny Person's Game
Even though you shouldn't judge athletes by their physical appearance, some people still say, "White guys can't jump." Here's a sporting stereotype that might be much more accurate: "Fat guys can't eat."

The Michael Jordan of hot dog eating, Takeru Kobayashi, who weighs just 144 pounds, broke his own world record in July, by wolfing down 53½ franks, and handily beating more hefty opponents, such as 419-pound challenger and reigning cannoli champ Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, who finished in fifth place, downing 27 dogs.

Buck Wolf was on hand at the Coney Island, N.Y., frankfurter contest in July, as part of the play-by-play team on a coast-to-coast broadcast over ABC Radio Networks.

The fastest-rising star on the competitive eating circuit is even skinnier than Kobayashi. Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas weighs just 105 pounds, yet this petite, 36-year-old dynamo set nine world records in recent months, devouring everything from fried asparagus spears (5.75 pounds in 10 minutes) to cheesecake (11 pounds in nine minutes) and hard-boiled eggs (65 eggs in six minutes).

How does Thomas beat fat men at their own game? Some competitive eating fans say that big guys have a roll of fat on their gut that stops their stomach from expanding in time-sensitive tests of gluttony. For big-mouthed, big guys everywhere, the so-called "Fat Belt" theory is too much to swallow. [Full Story]

5. Holy Velveeta! It's a $28,000 Grilled Cheese Sandwich!
In late November, when a partially eaten, 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary sold on eBay for $28,000, you knew it had to be a sign of something, although not necessarily divine.

As it turns out, the toasted miracle wasn't the first time fast food resembling a religious icon has been turned into a shrine. The Miracle Tortilla of Lake Arthur, N.M. — found by a homemaker while preparing her family's breakfast in 1977 — is said to bear the face of Jesus. The family's priest reluctantly blessed the tortilla, after trying to tell the woman it was all a coincidence. Nevertheless, thousands of visitors have since seen the Miracle Tortilla, some coming to pray for divine assistance.

Nashville has its famed "Nun Bun," a cinnamon roll discovered at the Bongo Java coffee shop that resembled the late Mother Theresa. This "Immaculate Confection," has drawn such international fame that the saintly nun asked representatives to investigate the phenomena shortly before her death.

The sale of the grilled cheese Virgin Mary opened the floodgates to hundreds of other miracles rendered on toast and available on eBay, including a cheese sandwich with an uncanny likeness to SpongeBob.

Still, another man found the face of God on a burned fish stick, which, it can be assumed, will also soon be put up for auction. Will it also sell for $28,000? We must pray to our blessed grilled cheese sandwich for the answer. [Full Story]

6. Fat Cats and Porky Pooches
Remember a time when a dog could avoid the pounds by outrunning dog catchers? Maybe it's true that pet owners and their pets start to resemble each other, especially around the belly and thighs.

The National Research Council now estimates that up to 25 percent of household pets in Western countries are obese. In the last two years, doggy and kitty heart attacks have risen 47 percent, according to Veterinary Pet Insurance, America's largest pet insurer.

Perhaps that's why overweight critters now have a whole litany of diet plans. The Pedigree Food Company began offering the first high-protein, 12-week doggie diet inspired by the overwhelming success of the Atkins and the South Beach diets. No plans yet for a "Catkins," but cat food is typically high in protein.

After a 12-week program, a hefty hound should drop 10 percent of its body weight, and switch to Pedigree Weight Maintenance, a kibble with 27 percent protein, the company says.

Doggie and kitty health spas have opened in several cities. One New York fitness instructor offers pets and their owners side-by-side yoga classes. But would your cat be willing to do downward-facing dog? [Full Story]

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