One of my humanities professors in college, a rather portly fellow I’ll call Dr. Gibbs, once told me vigorous physical exercise is actually very bad for you. You’re only allotted a certain number of heartbeats per lifetime, he said, and exercise makes them tick off way faster than necessary.
About a year ago, I bought a stationary bicycle equipped with enough digital bells and whistles to plot the course of a rocket ship to Mars. I’m sure you’ve seen similar ones--in gyms, in sporting goods stores, in dark cobwebbed corners of friends’ basements. Maybe you even have one yourself. Or, maybe you have a treadmill. Or a weight bench. Or the latest gadget from a TV infomercial.
Admit it. At some point during your lifetime, you have purchased an expensive piece of exercise equipment with the intention of finally getting in shape. If you can commit to just twenty minutes per day, you reckon, you’ll be looking like Michelangelo’s sculpture of David in no time. Right?
The models you see in ads have to work out several hours a day to maintain those muscular physiques. Working out is their job. It’s their life. They are really, like, you know, into it. If you can commit to just twenty minutes per day, it will take you approximately 314 years to have the kind of body those models have.
Okay, so maybe you’ll settle for losing a little weight and improving your overall fitness. That sounds reasonable. That, I’ve decided, is my goal for 2009. To lose thirty pounds.
Will riding my fancy exer-cycle for twenty minutes every day help me achieve my goal?
First of all, if you’ve ever climbed onto one of those contraptions and started pedaling, you know twenty minutes is a glacial age. If an archeological team digs up my bike in 5000 years, they’ll undoubtedly think it was some kind of 21st century torture device. Back then, interrogators would escort a suspect into a dusty space illuminated by a naked bulb, unveil the machine and say, “Vee half vays of making you talk.” If the suspect lasted twenty minutes, well, it was a safe bet they were never going to give up the goods...
Twenty minutes of huffing and puffing. Twenty minutes of quadriceps screaming for mercy. Twenty minutes of ass-numbing boredom.
Not to mention the...perspiration. You know, you have to take a shower afterward. There’s just no getting around it. You can’t expect another human to want to be around you after your daily Sweat-O-Rama. So, you have to take a second shower for the day, use twice as much water, twice as much electricity, soap, shampoo, deodorant...
When you get down to it, this thing called exercise is costing you--and the planet Earth--a fortune. It’s totally un-green. If everyone stopped exercising today, we could probably stop global warming in its tracks.
But I digress. Back to my goal!
Regardless of what the latest fad diet book or dietary supplement advertisement might tell you, weight loss/gain is all about calories consumed vs. calories burned. If you eat more and exercise less, you will gain weight. If you eat less and exercise more, you will lose weight. It’s a very simple formula...
So where am I going with this? What could any of this possibly have to do with writing? With getting a seven-figure book deal?
Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Tess Gerritsen, Brad Thor, John Grisham, Janet Evanovich, Robert Crais...
What do all these bestselling novelists have in common?
I’ll tell you what they have in common. They are SKINNY.
Just a coincidence? Or is there something a little more sinister going on here? Is there a direct correlation between body proportions and book sales? Is the publishing industry secretly blackballing husky, paunchy, plump, rotund, tubby, beefy, heavy, pot-bellied, plus-sized writers while promoting their lean counterparts? What is an editor really saying when he tells you to trim the fat?
It’s a conspiracy, I tell you! Just ask any fat writer who hasn’t gotten a book deal yet or who hasn’t made it to the NYT bestseller list.
So, I’m determined to lose thirty pounds this year, and the only way I know how to do that is to eat less and exercise more.
But, as anyone who has tried can testify, eating less and exercising more isn’t as easy as it sounds. I can subject myself to The Administrator of Pain (no, I don’t have a dominatrix. I’m talking about my exer-cycle, you perverts, so get your minds out of the gutter!) for twenty minutes every day, only to see negligible results by the end of the week. You see, twenty minutes on level 5 of the Plateau mode only burns 140 calories. That doesn’t sound bad, until you consider that SITTING ON YOUR ASS DOING NOTHING burns about 40. So, twenty minutes of torture for a net expenditure of 100 calories. That’s one light beer. Half a Snickers bar. One friggin’ bite of a cheeseburger...
And now, without further ado, here’s what you’ve been waiting so patiently for: Math!
According to my exhaustive, painstaking research (i.e. about thirty seconds on Google), to lose a pound a week, I need to alter my caloric intake/expenditure by 500 calories a day. So, if I burn 100 calories/day through increased exercise, and lower my caloric intake by 400, I should, in approximately four years, theoretically, disappear.
Gee. I hope I get a book deal before that happens.