Wolf Files: Too Fat to Eat Fast?

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Where have all the big guys gone? They're still in the game. Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, the highest-ranked American-born competitor in the Coney Island dogfight this weekend, expects to weigh in at 419 pounds.

Jarvis, a 36-year-old real estate broker from Long Island, N.Y., is ranked No. 3 worldwide among competitive eaters, behind Kobayashi and Thomas. But anyone who can inhale 21 cannolis in six minutes and more than a gallon of ice cream in 12 minutes must be taken seriously.

"I think we've shown that competitive eaters come in all sizes," says Richard Shea, president of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, the sport's sanctioning body.

"To be a food-eating champ, you need stamina. You need to train," Shea says. "In that respect, being overweight doesn't help."

Veteran food-racers say body size is less important than stomach elasticity. When they train, they'll stretch out their stomach by drinking massive amounts of water.

"I drink a gallon and a half of water in under two minutes," says Jarvis. "The first two gallons go down in a minute and five seconds. The last two cups take a minute. That's when you start to sweat."

Donald "Moses" Lerman, a 45-year-old former matzo ball- and burger-eating champ, has been refining his training methods for years.

"I'll stretch my stomach until it causes internal bleeding," he says. "I do it for the thrill of competition. Some people are good at math. Some people are good at golf. I'm good at eating."

"When you've eaten your 12th matzo ball in under three minutes, you have reach deep within yourself to finish number 13."

Thomas, a rookie sensation and the top female competitor on the food circuit, doesn't train with water. She drinks diet soda while working at her job in a Burger King.

"I walk around with the jumbo cup and swallow one glass after another, each day a little more," she says.