September 28, 2007

Let's Get Physical--Some Other Time

This is a quick slacky vacation post to throw you all off guard. Is she here? Is she gone? What's up with that? Guess we really should check in every day!

Anyway, so a new study is out questioning the medical benefits of an annual physical exam. Apparently they're not really worth the cost most of the time, especially since preventative care can be delivered during other office visits. The article noted that most people came in for other medical visits during the year anyway.

The study's author said: "Although annual exams are not recommended by any major North American clinical organization, our health system is clearly devoting a great deal of time, money and resources to them."

On the other hand, they said "preventive physicals and preventive gynecological exams were the most common venue for evidence-based preventive services like mammograms and Pap smears." What the heck does that mean? So should Crabby keep seeing her very nice gynecologist every year but stop feeling guilt when she 'forgets' yet again to schedule a physical? Crabby should probably dig around for the real study rather than the summary, but this is not a real post and she's not really here so she'll leave that for more diligent health news reporters to do.

According to their numbers, 21% of Americans got a physical, while about while about 18% of women went in for a preventive gynecological exam. This apparently cost bazillions of dollars that could have been better spent on other things. The average physical lasted 23 minutes and cost $116, including related laboratory and radiology services.

Interestingly enough, a person who lived in the Northeast was 60 percent more likely to get a physical than someone who lived in the West.

Crabby thinks common sense should prevail here--a young healthy person without much worrisome family history should probably not be hauled in every year for a morning spent reading ancient magazines, an chance to model an ugly paper gown, and the opportunity to pee in a cup (or all over her hand, if she's got bad aim. TMI? Sorry). On the other hand, it's probably not a good idea to play hooky from the Doctor's office indefinitely, especially if you're getting on in years, have no idea what your cholesterol or other important numbers look like, and have family members who are in the habit of dropping dead at young ages.

Crabby always thinks of herself as the first sort of person, the healthy youngster, who doesn't really need to bother coming in unless she's sick (which she pretty much never is). But actually, she's getting to be more like person two, the middle-aged Doctor Avoider who should Get her Butt in for a Checkup Someday. So a physical is now at least on her to-do list.

So do you folks get physicals every year? Ever? Do you go to your ob/gyn if you have that particular set of equipment? Any thoughts or opinions on medical care generally or anything else on your minds?

(And Crabby hasn't forgotten about Crab Facts. Stay tuned... for those who actually care, some may be coming along any day now!)

September 27, 2007

Guest Post: Lily on Procrastination

So as Crabby is starting her Vacation and Vacation-like Adventures, she is not leaving you all alone. There will be plenty going on at Cranky Fitness, starting of with some helpful advice from Lily T. on how to avoid procrastination. Crabby has a big problem with this herself, so she really enjoyed this post and hopes you will too. You can find much more from Lily over at her place, Lily Loss Lbs! And now, here's Lily!

Getting Over Procrastination

I am a procrastinator. Many people believe that “laziness and complacency” are at the root of procrastination, but I don’t believe so. However, this is the most common excuse I’ve heard from others as to why they are not actively pursuing weight loss when it is on the top of their wish list. My aunt says that she’s “too lazy” to exercise. My cousin’s girlfriend Jackie says she’s “too lazy” to record food intake.

But there’s nothing “lazy” about these individuals. My aunt has two teenaged daughters, keeps her house clean, and works full time. Jackie also works full time and manages to cook for every picnic and barbeque that we share together. And me? Well, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’ve been quite successful with maintaining a blog despite the responsibilities of motherhood and everything else. In reality, I’m quite productive, doing anything but what I’m supposed to be doing.

Living on campus as an undergrad, my room was spotless, which was unheard of to my family back at home. In actuality, I didn’t have a TV to help me avoid studying, so my energies went to cleaning. It’s just that studying was such a chore, that in comparison, cleaning was a joy.

So when others or myself say, “I’m lazy” what we really mean is “I find that particular task way too unappealing and would rather do something else.” And here lies the true problem of a procrastinator. So how do we get ourselves to do what we have to do? Here are a few steps that I have come up with, using how-to books and magazine articles that I have complied on the subject throughout the years.

1. Stop criticizing yourself! We are our biggest critics, and to be honest that’s one sure way to NOT be productive.

2. Identify your obstacles. Are you afraid of failure? Success? Writing it all down will help decrease their power over you. Talking to an “understanding” someone about them helps even more. (Note: don’t talk to someone whom you know will only criticize you and tell you what to do.)

3. Be aware of how you use your time. You can do this by keeping track of how you spend it for a couple of days or weeks.

4. Don’t over commit. Don’t be afraid to say no! If you have too many commitments, you won’t have time for your project.

5. Breakdown your project into manageable pieces. If someone told you to move a mountain, you would have looked at him or her as if they were crazy. Don’t expect to complete a massive project such as weight loss with one fell swoop. Take your project one task at a time, while keeping your ultimate goal in mind.

6. Work on a have-to for at least 15 minutes. You should try to do this the first thing possible everyday. The hardest part of doing anything unpleasant is starting. Tell yourself that you only have to work on your have-to for 15 minutes. If by chance you get into a groove and want to keep working after the 15 minutes, then by all means do it.

7. Make time to play. Write down all the activities that you enjoy and do one at least once every week or even everyday. Schedule it in if you have to. If you don’t, you’ll start resenting your project and start procrastinating with activities that you most likely don’t enjoy as much.

So there you have it. I’m no expert or anything, but I do love those how-to books and magazine articles.

September 26, 2007

The Next Few Weeks: Don't Go Away!

Yes, it's true that Crabby will be posting less frequently and even more lazily than usual from now until Mid-October. Sorry!

At first she will be busy because a passel of Crab Family Members are winging (on Special Crab Wings) their way to Washington D.C. for a visit starting today. They will be staying at the not-very-spacious Crab and Lobster temporary residence, so this should be interesting! The plan is: get out of the tiny apartment as often as possible. Then, after the visiting Crabs all scuttle back to their own stretch of sand, Crabby and the Lobster will be heading off for a vacation of their own. (To one of their favorite places, hooray!) When that's over, they will be packing up and resettling back on the West Coast.

However, Crabby has some great guest posts lined up! (She can always use more, too, if anyone is still mulling the idea over.) And she will post a few things here and there to entice you to keep visiting. She promises her posts won't be the least bit educational.

There may even be a Surprising Personal Revelation or two, if Crabby doesn't chicken out. She is toying with the idea of becoming slightly less anonymous. (Not that there are exactly legions of Crab Fans pining for Crab Facts. But humor her here, okay?) On the other hand, it is also possible Crabby will re-think this notion and stay holed up inside her crusty shell for a while longer. But--should it happen, only the loyal readers who keep checking in during her "break" will be in the know!

Also, apologies in advance: Crabby is already way behind on blog visits, and will probably have to catch up with everyone when she gets back. And while she will greedily read every comment left on the blog in her semi-absence, she may not be responding much, if at all. Please leave comments anyway, though! Lots of people enjoy them, not just Crabby. And Crabby will giggle to herself as she reads them, even if she may not jump into the discussion herself. You can even respond to each other's comments and pretend you are Crabby, only funnier! That would make her very happy.

Crabby is nervous, of course, that if she's not here as much you will all forget you were ever regulars here. Please don't! A morose crab with no snap in its claws is a terribly depressing thing to witness. No one wants to see that.

So... don't forget to check in tomorrow to see what's up at Cranky Fitness, and thanks, everyone, for your patience!

September 25, 2007

Glamorous Crab!

So today's "real" post is below, but Crabby just wanted to mention she has a guest post today over at an extremely unlikely venue: one of the Glamour Magazine blogs!

The Crab is not by nature a glamorous creature. If Glamour had a sister publication, Frump, Crabby would be a much more natural candidate for a guest appearance there. (In fact, it occurs to Crabby she'd love to publish a magazine called Frump if one doesn't already exist!)

Anyway, if you have room in your busy days for yet another website click, check out the crab at Sunny's Shape Up--if only for the amusing juxtaposition of the Cheerful Sunny inviting the Grouchy Crab over for a visit. (There's even a poll there if you really like to click on things!)

Are You "Eating Competent?"

"People who are confident, comfortable and flexible with their eating habits may be at a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease than people who are not."

Or so says a recent study out of Penn State, and Barbara Lohse, one of the researchers. She calls this "eating competence." There is even a questionnaire designed to assess whether you know what you're doing when you shove food in your mouth, but after a few minutes googling exhaustive research, Cranky Fitness was unable to obtain a copy. So Crabby may never know if she is a competent or an incompetent eater.

Of course it's hard not to poke a little fun at the notion of "eating competence." It sounds like just another instance of making a simple idea way more complicated than it needs to be. Right? Who doesn't know how to eat?

Well, actually, plenty of people. As silly as it sounds, those judged by the questionnaire to be lacking in this "competence" were five times more likely to have unhealthy levels of LDL and seven times more likely to have high triglycerides.

So maybe we'll stop making fun of it now.

"Eating Competence" seems to come from a nutritional model developed by Ellyn Satter. (Though the model seems quite sensible, it's apparently named "ecSatter," which, sorry Ellyn, sounds pretty darn ungainly). Anyway, Eating Competence "incorporates processes such as awareness of hunger, appetite and eating enjoyment with the body's biological tendency to maintain a preferred and stable weight."

Sounds good.

Of course, sometimes a healthy "awareness of eating enjoyment" can lead to problems, especially if the food causing that awareness is a double scoop of mocha almond fudge ice cream. Mmmm, does that cause some profound eating enjoyment.

But it really is a huge chunk of any healthy eating battle plan: how to figure out when you're really feeling hunger, not just cravings. And how to stop eating when you're not hungry anymore, even though there are plenty of tasty items left on your plate.

So Crabby is curious about the questionnaire, and she loves to take little quizzes. If anyone runs across a copy of it in their web travels, please do report in. Perhaps we can all find out if we're competent to eat our dinner tonight or we're just going to make a big ol' mess of it.

So, what do you guys think of the notion of "eating competence," and the fact it actually seems to correlate with heart disease risk? Or as usual, check in about anything on your minds!

September 24, 2007

Progress Photos

Often people who have blogs about losing weight post Progress Photos. These can be so inspiring, especially when progress is actually being made! Katie over at Sister Skinny recently posted one (she looks great) and it got Crabby thinking a little more about them.

Cranky Fitness has often been categorized as a "weight loss blog," though it isn't quite. We sure talk a lot about weight loss, though, as this is a health blog and obesity is a major health issue. And all of us are surrounded by temptations that if indulged in, would lead to major weight gain, which at least for Crabby, would not be a healthy thing at all.

However, this assumption that Cranky Fitness is primarily a weight loss blog sometimes makes Crabby feel a bit guilty, because she is not in the midst of an ambitious weight loss quest herself. She doesn't have a particularly heroic story to tell, either, and the pictures above are the best readers are going to get of her "before" and "after." She reached what she considers a healthy weight years ago. She has a reasonably cooperative metabolism, though not an unusually fast one. She's always been fairly vigilant about Health and Fitness, so she's never been more than about 25 lbs out of range. Crabby's battles are more about not cupcaking and cheeseburgering her way back into an unhealthy lifestyle (and, not coincidentally, a larger waistline). But still, even that 25 lbs felt like a substantial challenge. She can totally relate to weight loss struggles.

And she loves viewing "before" and "after" photos.

In fact, while she is probably the sole human on earth who doesn't tune into the Biggest Loser on a regular basis, she likes to catch the final episode: tons and tons of "before" and "after" footage. Tears and pride and congratulations all around! It makes her very happy to see people who have worked hard be rewarded with success.

Of course, sometimes "before" and "after" is only part of the story. Often there is "before," and "after, and then back to "before," and perhaps another "after," and so on. This is not as inspiring. However, it is all too human and real and completely understandable. Especially if extraordinary effort and near-starvation went into creating "after."

One great thing about weight loss blogs is that these photos come with a context. You can read what the person went through, how they approach things, and discover how sensibly or not "after" was obtained. You hear the "voice" of the successful person and it tells you so much more than the same sort of photos in a magazine ad would.

Now when you come across "afters" in certain blogs you just get a good feeling about them. No one can ever know for sure--but you just sense this person is going to stay an "after," whatever temporary obstacles might come along.

There of course are many of these out there. Crabby is only going to name two as examples: Mousaroo's blog is one, with its cheerful header photo and funny posts and of course, the marvelous Marie at the helm. And the other is one a popular blog Crabby found only recently (via Mary's Great Guest Post and the BlogHer ads). Pasta Queen at Half of Me not only has an awesome blog, but check out her Progress Photos page. They document Amazing Progress, sure, but you can even make them rotate! Does it say something bizarre about Crabby that she sat there for a good five minutes spinning a bunch of the pictures around? She hopes poor Pasta Queen is not too dizzy.

Crabby knows many of her readers are on heroic weight loss quests of their own. She is filled with admiration for you all. Eating healthy food in reasonable portions and getting enough exercise are all things she believes in, even though she does have those nasty cupcakes taunting you from the top of the page. Perhaps some day she will replace them with something less evil.

Because she truly hopes all of you trying to lose weight end up with the "After" pictures you deserve.

So what do you all think about "Befores" and "Afters?" Or about Weight Loss or Weight Loss blogs generally? Are there any you find particularly inspiring? Or, as usual, feel free to share your thoughts about any ol' thing on your minds.

September 21, 2007

Friday It Is!

It being Friday, Cranky Fitness prepares for the weekend in the traditional way: throwing a bunch of unrelated junk into a post and hoping you can find something in there worth reading. Good luck!

Play Ball!
In a recent Danish study (no, not of the pastries, though Crabby would very much like to volunteer for that Danish study), researchers found that soccer beat out jogging as exercise, and was more fun to boot! (Sorry). A bunch of guys in their early thirties were sent out to either run, play soccer, or do nothing in particular 3 times a week for about an hour. After three months, the soccer players had more muscle, less fat, and a lot more fun than the joggers or the couch potatoes. The joggers were in better shape than the spuds, but found their routines fairly miserable. However, like this was apparently the old-fashioned kind of jogging that involves slogging along at an even pace, not the new fancier kind with lots of intervals and variety. And hey--plenty of Cranky Fitness readers are Big Time runners who aren't the least bit whiny about it!

According to this USA Today article, many Americans are getting too big for their cars. Cars actually do have weight limits, in order to ensure tire safety, and it's not that difficult for heavier folks these day to top these limits in certain cars, especially two-seaters. For example, some Miatas and Corvettes aren't supposed to carry two 200-pound adults. And many five-passenger vehicles max out if their occupants average more than 170 pounds apiece.

Is this really anything to worry about? Well, possibly, yes! Overloading is considered a factor in tire failure (very, very bad; you really don't want this going on underneath you while zooming down the freeway). And guess what else? If you exceed the weight limit of your car, automakers may be able to claim they don't have any responsibility for a part that fails causing you to you crash. Yikes.

Spin This Any Way You Want
Via the always awesome Fitness Fixation, did you know there's now such a phenomenon as Spin Rage? Well at least according to the attorney for a Wall Street Broker with some serious anger management issues. Apparently Broker became enraged at Hedge Fund Manager pedaling next to him (can't you just picture this gym?) because of all his grunting and hooting. Words were exchanged, then Broker proceeded to pick up Fund Manager and his bike, and hurled them into a wall. So, are you looking for a good excuse to skip your spin class and can't think of any new ones? You're welcome.

Not a Very Nice Way to Wake Up...
At your own autopsy. With a scalpel cutting into your face. The guy's fine though, and still quite handsome despite the car accident, the being declared dead and all, and the rude awakening in the morgue.

Tick Tick Tick
Crabby had never come across this weirdly addictive world time clock before, but our friend Dr. J. just brought it to her attention. Check it out! (Though the site was down once on a recent visit; seems to be back up now.) Once you start watching all the numbers roll by and grasp the ramifications of some of them, you can start to feel a bit... well, freaky.

After The Stork Flies Away...
Moms, want a refreshing dose of reality about women's bodies, post-pregnancy? Many of you may have probably found this site already, but if you haven't, check out The Shape of A Mother. (After you read the introduction, click "enter" and you will be taken to photos readers have sent in of their bodies both during and after pregnancy. There are (gasp) stretch marks on view! It's sweet and real and a nice place to get a sense of perspective back about what's natural.

Okay, warning, now we're gonna get decidedly weirder...

Don't Do it, Steve!
So were we just speaking of new mothers and their unique physiology? Here's a somewhat related blog post that's part of the series Steve, Don't Eat That! But Don't Click Just Yet, Caution is strongly advised as some may find this distasteful and possibly offensive. And yet Crabby nonetheless found it quite amusing. OK, have at it if you dare.

And our final bit of silliness?

More Gratuitous Animal Exercise Videos!
So last time Crabby tried to embed a video it broke her feed! So this time, those of you with time on your hands may want click these links to watch this little guy or this big gal do their respective things.

Have a great weekend everyone!

September 20, 2007

Guest Post: Mary on Diet Books!

You may know Mary from her great comments here at Cranky Fitness, or for her funny and insightful blog, Sheesh. If you haven't found it yet, be sure to visit as soon as you are done here!

And yes, Crabby is squandering a precious Guest Post which she should be hoarding for her vacation. But she's running a bit behind these last few days with her negligible and mostly imaginary Numerous and Important responsibilities. Rest assured, h
owever--she has left you in excellent hands. And Crabby will be back tomorrow with the usual silliness.

And now, here's Mary!

Diet Books: Useful Sources of Fiber?

I decided to look into the South Beach diet, mainly because of the amazing success of Pasta Queen, who lost almost 200 pounds through following this diet and sensible exercise. (Amazing pictures on her blog. Check them out!) I read the book. If you accept the premise that everyone has the same insulin spike when they eat high-glycemic foods, then this diet should work. I did like the section on Why People Fail on this Diet. It's refreshing to read someone admitting that no diet is 100% successful for everyone all the time.

Then I read what the experts had to say about the diet. Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter rips into the South Beach diet, while the DietBlog didn't think it was that bad. Dr. Weil's opinion was somewhere in-between.

It's the same all over the place. Pritikin, Ornish, Atkins, every popular diet book is touted as a)The Best Diet Book Ever and b)Total Crap Written By a Dangerous Moron. It's both confusing and discouraging. I'm starting to think that the best thing to do is toss all these books over my shoulder. Or just eat them. Fiber is good for you. (Is ink is toxic?)

Cookbooks, sure. Always good to find a new way to cook something while staying healthy. And general books on nutrition can be useful; once I understand the why behind something I should be eating, it's much easier to do it. But diet books are an uneasy hybrid between the two; they leave out too much detail behind their specific Diet Philosophy, they generally lack very much variety in the recipes, and they all spend Far Too Much Time trying to sell you on their particular diet. Sheesh. Enough already.

Reading books on health, diet, exercise can be extremely helpful, because they help train the most important part of your body: your brain. I used to be a complete and dedicated carnivore, but after reading book after book about how much better my life would be if I ate vegetables, I tentatively, gingerly, with all the confidence of a timid maiden dipping one toe into a cold pool, actually Bought A Vegetable. And even ate it. I would never have done that if I hadn't read up on healthy eating. Reading good books is a useful motivational tool. But reading specific diet books? Bah. Tailor a diet to your own needs, and make sure it's something a) healthy and b) something you'd be willing to do as a lifetime adjustment rather than a quick fix.

September 19, 2007

Coffee Addiction: An Owner's Manual

Welcome and Congratulations, New User!

If you're acquiring your Coffee Addiction (COFAD) for the first time, please be sure to read all the enclosed materials carefully! With proper care and maintenance you can be prepared to enjoy your COFAD for many, many years to come.

Who Can Safely Use a COFAD?

Lots and lots of folks! COFAD has been thoroughly tested and approved for use by many individuals. However, COFAD is not advised for those with certain body types, brain types, religions, or chemical sensitivities. Nor is it recommended for persons who find the taste of coffee repulsive or who prefer to get "high on life." Please see further warnings below!

What Are Some COFAD Benefits?
  • Stay Up Later
  • Exercise With Less Whining
  • Get More Done
  • Look More Sophisticated (Sorry, only applies if 18 yrs of age or younger)
  • Talk A Lot Faster
  • Entertain Young Children with Sporadic Hand Tremors
  • Burn Calories Fast with Compulsive Twitching, Finger-drumming and Teeth Grinding

Why COFAD is Better Than Ever!

Haven't had a COFAD for a few years? Now it's New and Improved. Check out these Exciting Enhancements:
  • 95% less guilt! Coffee has been declared, for most people, a Healthy Beverage!
  • More Variety! Check out all the additional new styles and price ranges! Remember the days when to perform proper COFAD maintenance you had to chose between Grocery Store Brands, Overheated Diner Coffee, or Workplace Sludge? Fancy Espresso drinks were available only if you were European or lived in an unusually hip neighborhood. Now, everyone can line up twenty deep in order to pay $4.00 for your morning brew!
  • Trendier Than Ever--this Addiction Never Goes Out of Style! (Remember poppers?) Famous Actors, Hipsters, Writers, High-Powered Executives, Sports Heroes, CyberGeeks, and Rock Stars--Everybody's Got COFAD!

  • Step One: Initialize your COFAD. Simply start by consuming the Coffee-based beverage of your choice. If you find it too bitter, add whiteners and brighteners until the flavor becomes more palatable and tastes like a dessert.
  • Step Two: Habituate. Make sure you never miss a daily dosage!
  • Step Three: Escalate. To do so, gradually increase your consumption by adding additional cups. You will know when it's time--former amounts that used to send you flying won't even register anymore.
  • Step Four: Success! How to know when you don't need to escalate anymore and have successfully set up your COFAD? Quick test: Is it impossible to imagine rising from your bed and speaking, let alone getting through a workday without a steady infusion of coffee? Or, if you found yourself totally out of coffee and your car wouldn't start, would you walk five miles through a snowstorm in your bathrobe and slippers to buy more? How about just your underwear? If your answer to all these questions is Yes, Congratulations, you've successfully installed your COFAD!
  • Advance Usage: Expert users have reported the ability to enjoy coffee in moderation and find it enhances performance best when Step Three, escalation, is skipped entirely! However, this is not a technique most novices can master. Decades of practice combined with periods of Abstinence or Decaf may be required to achieve this "Moderation" effect.
Certain side effects have been documented. Like Death. (Click here for For Handy Caffeine Fatal Dosage Calculator. Really--it's pretty amusing).

September 18, 2007

Walkable Neighborhoods: Yes, Please!

A recent study conducted in Atlanta looked at obesity in folks living in walkable versus car-dependent neighborhoods. And, not surprisingly, came to the conclusion that walkable neighborhoods are great and we should have more of them! However, the findings were pretty interesting, a bit disconcerting, and make an excellent excuse for bullet points. Bullet points are cool! We'll get to those in a minute.

The study, by Lawrence Douglas Frank, will be published eventually in the journal Social Science and Medicine. But unfortunately, figuring out how to link to the abstract without understanding what "DOI" means turned out to ridiculously complicated! So sorry 'bout that: technical difficulties (otherwise known as "cluelessness") prevented putting a handy link here.

Anyway, the study tried to remove the effects of self-selection of neighborhoods when comparing obesity rates--which seems like a smart idea. Fitness Freaks may choose walkable neighborhoods more often, so we can't be giving their neighborhoods sole credit for their trim waists and muscular calves if they came fully equipped with these features already.

So now, on with the bullet points!
  • A significant number of people are “mismatched” and do not live in their preferred type of neighborhood.
  • Those who wanted to live in a walkable neighborhood and actually did so walked the most, (33.9% walked). They drove 25.8 miles per day on average.
  • Those who preferred car dependent neighborhoods and lived in one of them walked the least. (3.3%). They also drove the most: 43 miles per day.
  • Those who didn't prefer a walkable environment walked very little. They showed no change in obesity rates regardless of where they lived.
  • Obesity rates were about half as high (11.7%) among those who preferred and lived in walkable neighborhoods compared to those who preferred car dependent 'hoods (21.6%).
"The bottom line is the built environment really does matter to health," concluded the study's author.

Well, kind of. If you're one of those 23% of people who wants to live in a walkable neighborhood and doesn't. The rest of folks either already live in a walkable neighborhood or don't give a rat's ass how many trails or sidewalks or nearby shops and restaurants there are. They'll take the freakin car. Or bus. Or they'll order in.

This study actually seemed pretty depressing, at least for a firm believer in trying to turn unwalkable neighborhoods into walkable ones. It seems as though not only do we need to build the sidewalks, we need to confiscate all the cars too! (Note: not a serious suggestion; car-lovers, do not be alarmed).

There are of course lots of barriers to choosing a walkable neighborhood to live in--expense and quality of schools and location of workplace being big ones. Some people clearly have little choice.

But is it too annoying to point out that some people do? That "where you live" is not always just a given that you have to accept and can't control?

Some folks who could afford a modest sized place in a walkable area will choose instead to live in a much bigger house further away from everything, where they have a hideous commute, no sidewalks or bike trails, and no option but to drive everywhere. Is it possible that families who have do more options might start considering shifting their priorities a bit?

Because until the demand is there, developers and urban planners probably aren't going to bust their butts trying to create cool walkable neighborhoods. We're going to have to be clamoring for them. And it it looks like so far, we're just not clamoring loud enough.

How about you folks--do you live somewhere you can get out and walk when you want to? How big a priority is that for you when you hunt for a place to live? And did you have much choice about where you ended up?

September 17, 2007

Microchips: Now With Special Surprise!

You may have chipped your dog or cat already. Perhaps you've heard that microchips have been approved for people now too.

Curious? Creeped out? Either way, you may want to take note: an Associated Press report takes a new look at animal microchipping studies that were done before approval was even granted. And guess what turned up? Malignant tumors. Oops!

Apparently this went unmentioned by the manufacturer or the regulators at the time. But Keith Johnson, who led a study at Dow in 1996 said the transponders were the cause of the tumors in mice and rats. (This is all via Todd Lewan at AP, who apparently did some actual investigative reporting--increasingly rare in these days of recycled corporate press releases).

There were apparently a number of studies done on mice and rats from 1996 to 2006. And when AP recently had leading cancer specialists review the research, they said the findings troubled them. They urged further research before the transponders were widely implanted in people.

So what is microchipping and why would someone do it to themselves when it's not even decorative like a nice nose-piercing or tattoo?

Well, storing medical information is one application. VeriChip Corporation markets an electronic capsule that transmits "a unique code"--which medical workers can then scan to access medical records stored online. The chips are only as big as "two grains of rice," and implantation is done by injection into the upper arm. About 2,000 of these RFID (radio frequency identification) chips have been implanted in people so far.

In theory, this actually sounds kinda handy for people with chronic dangerous medical conditions, especially the kind that land you in the hospital unconscious. (Though couldn't they just put "a unique code" on a Medic Alert bracelet or an attractive pendant or something not implanted inside living human tissue to access the same database? Just askin'.)

And to be fair, the VeriChip folks say they've used the transponders for more than 15 years and received no complaints about malignant tumors. Also, a veterinarian oncologist points out that despite all the dogs that have been chipped, veterinary pathologists haven't reported any outbreaks of related sarcomas.

But then what about the studies published in veterinary and toxicology journals in the last decade or so that found sarcomas in chipped mice and rats? Why did the FDA not mention these studies when they approved the technology? Did they even review the literature on microchip implants and animal cancer? Um, well, the FDA isn't saying.

(For those who have their blood pressure well under control, do take a look at that AP article. When you get to the part about Tommy Thompson, and where he ended up working, be prepared to take some nice deep breaths.)

It may well be that the risk of cancer from these things is extremely minimal. Mice and rats get cancer way more easily than large animals or humans. So for those of you worried about your pets, it's probably not worth panicking until more data is in--especially since there doesn't seem to be any signs that sarcomas are turning up in significant numbers. The benefits may far outweigh the risks. But wouldn't it have been nice to have been informed of the risks in the first place?

It's hard not to feel discouraged by the way government agencies charged with protecting us seem to be doing such a lousy job of it lately. Whether it's our environment, our health, our privacy, our finances, our civil rights, or any of number of things we hold dear, is anyone else worried that we may have hired foxes to guard our hen-houses?

Of course, this microchipping thing might not be one of these instances. It could just be a simple miscommunication. ("Yeah, we saw the studies and didn't think much of them but forgot to mention it or explain why and we didn't anticipate that anyone would actually give a crap." Or something).

But as example after example piles up, at least some of us are feeling eager to sweep out the foxes and bring in, well, some actual watchdogs. Loyal canines who are trustworthy and protective and have our best interests at heart. And we promise we won't even microchip 'em!

September 15, 2007

Anniversaries, Marching, Gratitude, and Guest Posts

So this weekend marks the Five Month Anniversary of Cranky Fitness! Crabby actually thought it was the Sixth Month Anniversary when she wrote this post, and was just about to hit Publish when she decided to double-check. Nope, Five Months, not Six. What to do, rewrite the post so it doesn't reference a meaningless anniversary? Or just change the Six to a Five? Gosh, tough call.

So to celebrate this not particularly momentous event, Crabby is backing slowly away from her laptop and going out rejoin Real Life, even if only for a day or so. She will be Marching Against the War--not that any politician has ever given a crap what she marches for or against. But, well, she's here in D.C. so she'll go. She'll get some exercise and try to avoid excess Speechifying. Crabs are not much for listening to speeches, even if the points being made are all quite reasonable. But walking around and being mad at things? Crabs like these activities just fine.

So a Big Special Six Five Month Anniverary Thank You to all the Awesome Readers, Extremely Smart Commenters, and the cool blogs who've linked to Cranky Fitness! The blog has become ludicrously important in Crabby's tiny world, and so when you come here you make her so very happy! She loves the conversations down in the Comments, and feels like she's made a bunch of great new friends. (Also Crabby is a neurotic crab who tends to confuse "self-worth" with "unique visitors." And boy does she have Unique Visitors! You all are so much more interesting than the Ordinary Visitors who must show up in other blogger's stats).

And now, right on the heels of thanking you, she has a couple of favors to ask!

For a number of reasons, posting is going to be very light from near the end of September through Mid-October. (Family in Town, Fun Vacation, and Relocation back to California). However, Please Don't Go Away during this time or Crabby's self-esteem will plummet! She is hoping to supplement her own occasional postings with a few more Guest Posts than usual, so please keep checking in to see what's here.

Where will these guest posts come from? Well, now Crabby must ask yet another favor! She would love to receive some additional Guest Post Submissions!

(Note: You don't even have to have a blog to play! Many Witty and Observant Folks tend to drop by in the Comments, and some have not yet had their lives nearly taken over by the pleasure of publishing A Blog of Their Own. This could be a chance to experience the thrill of blogging without having to know a scrap of html coding!)

So here are the guidelines for anyone Foolish Adventurous Enough to want to be a Cranky Fitness Guest Blogger:

1. Please submit a draft post (a word document attached to an email works fine) in the 350-750 word range about something at least vaguely related to health or fitness to Crabby McSlacker @ gmail. com (but skip the spaces);

2. If you've got a picture (that you have the right to use) that goes with it, attach that too, if not, don't worry about it, it doesn't need one;

And most importantly,

3. Please Please Please Don't Get Too Hurt of Mad if Crabby Edits your post or decides Not to Use it At All.

That part sucks, doesn't it?

Crabby herself has submitted guest posts, on more than one occasion and to more than one blog, that have not been used. She has tried to act all grown-up about it but it still feels kind of bad. So she assures you that if this happens to you, it is NOT because it wasn't a good post, but because Crabby was thinking of writing something herself on the same issue, or already did, or finds it in some way too similar or too different from other Cranky Fitness stuff.

So what's in it for you? Absolutely Nothing! (Crabby will never have a Bright Future in Sales, unfortunately). Really, all it is a chance to get exposure to a slightly different audience than you normally write for, if you're a blogger. Or a chance to try your hand at this blogging thing if you haven't and you're curious. Crabby will be surprised and delighted if anyone wants to take her up on this, but most of all, grateful!

If you decide to send something and Crabby doesn't at least acknowledge receipt within a day or two, then something may have Gone Horribly Wrong. Please try again or alert her in the comments. (Unless you send it in Very Late September or October, in which case delays will indeed be likely).

So thanks again everyone and have a great weekend!

September 14, 2007

Urinal Lot of Trouble Now...

It's Random Friday, Special Tasteless Edition!

It had to happen eventually: Cranky Fitness descends to bathroom humor to fill out a Friday post. However, don't panic: the actual urinal pictures don't appear until the end and you can cut away well before that and go visit a much more grown up health blog.

Like for instance, That'sFit, where Crabby stole noticed these three items:

Apparently this past Wednesday was declared Sex Day in Russia, as couples in the Ulyanovsk region were given the day off work in order to, well, do their best to personally boost declining population numbers. For those with excellent timing, prizes like cars, or TV's will be awarded to reward couples who give birth exactly nine months later on "National Day." Quoth the Dude in Charge: "If there's a good, healthy atmosphere at home within the family, if the husband and wife both love each other and their child, they will be in good spirits... so there'll be a healthy atmosphere throughout the country!"

On the other hand, there's this depressing statistic: One in ten American women smoke while pregnant! Actually it was even worse than that: 22% smoked at least sometime during their pregnancy, and 12% were classified as nicotine dependent. The smokers also suffered high rates of depression which made it harder to quit. Reading this, Crabby found herself suffering a sudden high rate of depression and the emergency administration of Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds was required. (Is there a Patch for that?)

But on a more cheerful note, folks in Baltimore have been taking advantage of free exercise equipment stationed around Druid Park, including rowing, elliptical, back and leg press machines. Crabby will try to stow her usual pessimism and assume the absence of vandalism and the existence of magical Equipment Maintenance Fairies (or perhaps Druids?) to keep the things in working order. Or perhaps these machines function differently than the ones in her gym and do not break down ever three minutes.

And a couple more quick heath notes for women: First, get some sleep! Women are much more susceptible than men to blood pressure problems if they don't get more than 5 hours of shut-eye every night. And second, if you take the Pill and are worried about cancer--a new study suggest that cancer risk may actually be slightly reduced among Pill takers, at least for those taking it fewer than eight years. The study looked at data from 46,000 women over 36 years, back far enough to include years when the dosage was much higher than it is now. It also appeared the protective effects lasted at least 15 years after stopping.

Enough health? Now on to the Usual Randomness! (And the first few aren't even tasteless).

For those who haven't already found this over at The Goat's Lunch Pail or at Women of Mystery, there is a quick, fun, and often Weirdly Accurate Personality Test that tells you what famous novel you most resemble. There are only six questions to answer, and the answers tend to be put in mostly flattering terms, so there's little to fear!

Unfortunately, Crabby has been alerted to another funny blog, and she's not sure she she's supposed to get anything done if she keeps reading random posts and laughing and being overcome by murderous jealousy hearty appreciation and everything. (The culprit who alerted her was Vanilla over at Half-Fast, but Crabby is not even going to link to him again because he's going to think she's stalking him. But you know where to find him, or if you don't--just keep refreshing this page and adding to Crabby's Page View statistics looking for his blog until it magically appears in the blogroll over on the side bar).

This Awkwardness Survival Guide is also quite amusing, as it includes instructions on what to do in quite a few uncomfortable situations, including when:

"A waiter entreats you to enjoy your meal and you respond with 'you too;'

"Out of habit, you end a phone conversation with 'I love you' when not talking to your significant other; or,

"You call your teacher 'mom.'"

Crabby has done many of the Embarrassing Things listed, so she found it reassuring to discover there were others out there just as clueless.

And so, now to the Potty-related Part of the Post!

First up, Jennifer at Off-Beat Homes brings us, for real, plans for building The Poop House. She asks if you'd ever consider living there. Crabby says, "No Way in Hell!"

And then The Lethological Reader introduces us to A Perplexing new Product: Pee Powered Batteries!

And next are two pictures of Urinals, one that Crabby found Amusing, and the other Downright Offensive! Try to guess which is which, and feel free to tell her what you all thought, as well as sharing any thoughts, feelings, opinions, or off-color jokes or whatever else you may have going on in your Clever Creative minds!

First Urinal, photo courtesy of NerdTests:

Second Urinal, brought to you by Gadling:

And have a great weekend folks!

September 13, 2007

Re-Motivating: When it Just Ain't Happening

(Image courtesy of Plan59)

So this post is not so much for the folks who are just starting out trying to lose weight or live a healthy lifestyle. If you're in the initial stages of improving your eating and exercise habits, you may be facing lots of challenges--but Motivation probably isn't one of them yet. You're probably still pretty charged up.

But for those of us ol' timers who've been at it for a while: we do go through those inevitable cycles, don't we?

First it's all: Whoa, I'm so awesome, this is Really Working and I'm Making Progress! Right until: OK, I'm still On Track but Gosh this Sometimes all Seems Like a Huge Pain in the Ass, right on down to: Screw it, I Hate This! Hand Me that Freakin' Remote Control and a Carton of Ben and Jerry's Right this Minute or I'll Bonk You On the Head With my Exercise Ball!

Sometimes Re-Motivation happens spontaneously and naturally--something we see or hear or think triggers a subconscious shift in perspective. And all of a sudden we reconnect with why we're making all these icky sacrifices in the first place."Oh yeah, right, it's all worth it!" we exclaim. "Bring on the next challenge!"

But often we just drag our asses around for a while until we realize: Damn it, it's time to stop waiting for inspiration to strike. We're gonna have to Force It.

So here is the Cranky Fitness Dorky Reminder List, Complete with Bullet Points, on How To Forcibly Re-Motivate Yourself.

  1. Acknowledge that Re-Motivation is a Chore Itself and Plan Accordingly. It really helps to give yourself a break from some other "shoulds" and a big fat reward for tackling this. You're going to have to do some creative thinking; you're might have to do some research; you may need to buy something new or go to the library or visualize something or make any number of time-consuming but worthwhile investments in your future success. The time (and possibly money) you spend will pay off, but you may feel some resistance to Yet Another Chore. Persevere anyway, your long-term success is worth it!

  2. Do Some Detective Work. Try to become your own therapist (or use your actual therapist, if you have a good one). Often de-Motivation doesn't visit out of the blue; there may be some specific events or unhelpful thoughts lurking behind it.

    Haul these trouble-making thoughts out into the light of day, and argue with them and berate them until you really do get it that they're wrong. (You may want to do this in your head, not out loud, unless you don't care whether people think you're a nutbasket). Some examples: "I've been really good lately, so I deserve to eat whatever I want for as long as I want until I happen to feel like being healthy again." Or, "I know deep down I'm a weak person and I'll never be successful at this anyway, so there's no reason to try so hard." Or, "My boyfriend seems to get grouchy when I'm exercising so regularly and watching what I eat, so I need to go back to the old way to make him feel better."

    Other Detective ideas: Could you be suffering from depression generally and need to check into it? Have things in your life changed, yet you haven't changed anything to accommodate this? Have you been overdoing it like crazy and just need a few days off? Getting specific about what's wrong may give you a short cut as to how to fix it.

  3. Reconnect With Your Goals on an Emotional Level. You can read all the self-help ideas you want, but motivation requires emotional energy, not just intellectual activity. And so Feeling Re-Motivated sometimes requires you to Get Sappy! Rent your favorite underdog-struggles-to-overcome-the-odds movie, or watch the Biggest Loser, or get all Chicken-Soupy or whatever makes you Feel It. You are the Star in the Epic Struggle and Triumph of Your Own Life! You can Do it! Think of all the Hard Things you've done in the Past! You're capable of Amazing Things!

  4. Seek Social Support. Duh, right? But we tend to do this when we're all smug and happy and proud of ourselves, and pull back when we're feeling embarrassed and stalled and need support the most. So call a friend or leave a comment on a favorite blog or text or IM someone or whatever it is you young folks do to connect with each other these days.

  5. Get Ready to Do Something Different The most obvious Re-Motivation technique is to mix up your usual routine and do something different. Below will be a bunch of examples. However, change is hard and inertia is powerful. Just be aware of that and be prepared to bribe and reward yourself like crazy. Heap praise on yourself for planning, for scouting, for any little step you make. And break it down into little chunks.

    Also, this is a good time to question perfectionism again. Often the reason we settle into a boring routine is that we've spent a lot of time figuring out the Best and most Perfect options. We know what gym equipment we like, the healthiest recipes, the prettiest running routes--we've tried other options and they're not nearly as good! Well, sometimes "different" beats "best," when you're sick of "best" and need variety. Lower your standards, and like magic, and all kinds of new options appear.

  6. A Few Random Ideas--You Can Think of Way Better Ones Yourself

  • Download or buy a bunch of New Tunes to workout to. Or books on tape or whatever gets you going. Banish thoughts of "this sucks" before they drag you down because you won't be thinking, you'll be rockin' out or listening to find out what happens next.
  • Go to a new more appealing place to run/walk/workout/swim even if it's farther away than normal and you have to use a car, bike, or bus to get there. Not forever, just every now and then to make it an event. Bonus if you arrange to meet someone there during or after so you can't back out.
  • Watch other people exercising. Oddly enough this can be motivating whether they are (a) Buffed Gods and Goddesses or (b) Way Worse Off than You.
  • New Recipes This might also include new cookware, new cookbooks, or new ingredients. Yes, there's a chance you might not use whatever it is all the time. (And this is NOT a good idea for people with compulsive shopping problems). But sometimes laziness or cost-consciousness can get us trapped into eating the same few things over and over then resorting to treats when we get bored. If a waffle-iron will keep the dang Krispy Kreme's out of the house, then buy a waffle iron!
  • Pissing contest! No, not literally. But a contest or bet or dare or something can be very motivating for some people. Who can rack up a hundred new walking/running miles first? Or race your running partner for the last quarter mile of your route. Challenge your spouse to who can hold out longest on gratuitous junk food! First one to cave and open the bag of Tostitos does the dishes.
  • Or raise the stakes further and enter an Official Race or Contest. (Note: a Hot Dog or Pie Eating Contest is NOT the sort of contest we're talking about).
  • Cross-train. They always say to do this yet most people seem to find this completely unappealing. You've spent all this energy getting better at your favorite thing, how is taking on something different going to help? Well, all the experts say it does, plus it prevents over-use injuries. Bonus: it will give you not only a whole new set of goals and accomplishments to obsess over, but it may mean new outfits and equipment as well.
  • Take a Class. A cooking class, an exercise class, a bird watching class, a dance class, whatever. Something that sounds intriguing but you've always been afraid you'll be bad at. Think of it as Amusing Material for your Blog or for cocktail parties.
  • Visit or do a Very Intense Visualization of a Nursing Home or some other place where people have little ability to exercise and no way to choose healthy tasty food that they actually like. Feel the boredom as you sit in front of the tv, taste the boiled potatoes and canned peas, smell the musty smells, hear the staff bickering about who's turn it is to check on Screaming Margaret down the hall, feel your muscles wasting away from disuse. Get good and depressed and claustrophobic and then realize, wait, that's not me! I can get out of my chair, I can dance, I can go prepare tasty fresh food, I can and go outside and play.
  • Get Visual and be Very Silly About It. You can even buy a special Doofy Bulletin Board or Scrapbook just for this purpose. Calendars with accomplishments and Gold Stars! Collages! Pictures from magazines of outfits you'd like to wear, people you'd like to be, 'before' and 'after' pictures, Motivational Slogans!
  • Congratulate and Reward Yourself for Effort, not Results. Scales and muscle size and race times etc. are all fickle. They'll go up and down and sometimes there will be a reason and other times there won't. What will guarantee your success and promote your health in the long run is your commitment to the Process. You are Staying on Track and getting healthy. You are being good to yourself every time you make a smart food choice or get any exercise at all. Praise the hell out of yourself for it!
  • Buy a new exercise toy. A heart-rate monitor, a pedometer, a cheap mp3 player, a new exercise video, barbells to do some of your workout at home. Or a subscription to a motivating fitness or health magazine. (Again, not if you have compulsive spending problems).
  • Commit to making just one small step towards doing a New Thing Soon --today if you can, or if not, within the next couple days. But make it very small and easy. Is there an exercise machine at the gym you've never tried? Is there a recipe you want to search for on the web and print out, even if you're not quite committed to making it yet? Is there a Self-Help book you think might be motivational that you'd like to purchase or borrow from the library? A class you want to pick up a schedule for? Choose something, plan when you're going to do it, and take that first step to re-Motivating. You're going to have to make a conscious decision to do it, because it probably ain't gonna happen by itself.

So, does anyone have some better re-Motivating ideas? What's worked for you in the past?

(Note: post edited 1/05/08 to remove about 2,000 unnecessary exclamation points.)

September 12, 2007

Unscheduled Rant

Today's post was supposed to be about teen suicide, since the alarming news is that there is suddenly a lot more of it happening, especially among girls.

No one knows whether this is just an anomalous blip or an actual trend. (Fortunately, it's still very rare; rates are about 1/100,000). The experts didn't seem to offer any convincing theories, either, about why the rates went up, other than the usual "life is hard for teens now" sort of thing.

Crabby was going to chime in and say, somewhat predictably, that life has never been easy and each generation going back through time has had some Pretty Intense Stuff to deal with. But then Crabby realized she really doesn't have much of a clue and should probably just shut up about it, especially since (a) suicide is a very complicated problem and (b) she doesn't have any teens herself to know what they're actually dealing with.

However, we can still talk about teen suicide in the Comments, as some of you may have some more actual info, theories, or observations about this that could help Crabby understand better what might be up with that.

The main reason the suicide post got interrupted, however, was that Crabby found herself so flustered and mad she couldn't concentrate and had to get a little rant out of the way.

Yesterday morning, for the second time in two weeks, she was nearly killed while crossing the street, in the designated crosswalk, with the right of way, by a car eager to make a left-hand turn on top of her.

Note: neither of these were fake crosswalks, the kind put in optimistically mid-block or at uncontrolled intersections, where theoretically the pedestrian might have the right away but no pedestrian is foolish enough to rely upon it. These were both real crosswalks at actual controlled intersections.

In both cases, Crabby was already well into the crosswalk before either car started to make their turn. So she was smack in front of these drivers when they not only turned, but then decided to head right for her and speed up in order to force her to run the rest of the way across. In neither case was there an oncoming car that the left-hand turner was trying to avoid colliding with. And had Crabby not sprinted either of these times, she would have been hit. No lie. Both these cars were so sure of Crabby's willingness to run to avoid being hit that they were going too fast to be able to stop.

This is a situation in which people are prone to exaggerate, but Crabby truly feared for her life each time. Had she tripped and stumbled or decided to stubbornly keep walking a normal speed, she would be writing this post from a hospital bed.

Or perhaps not writing it at all.

Crabby is not sure this has ever happened to her before--at least not in such a terrifying way, and certainly not twice in two weeks! She was actually warned by a Smart Reader about D.C. drivers, but except for these two bizarre instances, she has not noticed the driving being any worse here than other major metropolitan areas. Many drivers here are actually quite considerate!

And having lived in Manhattan for two years, Crabby knows something about aggressive driving. She knows that "the right of way" and "who really gets to go now" are two different concepts. She also knows that when a pedestrian wants to cross the street and a driver wants to make a turn, there are competing interests and a certain amount of strategizing goes on--a pedestrian who has just taken a few steps of the curb, for instance, knows she may need to stop her progress if a car decides to turn right in front of her.

But damn it, if you are a driver wanting to make a left turn and the pedestrian is now right smack in front of you, GAME OVER. You lost that one. Sorry, now you have to wait, as painful as that is for you. You do not Proceed Anyway and try to Hit the Pedestrian! If you are in such a F*cking Hurry, keep in mind that a mangled body on the hood of your car is going to take up quite a bit of your morning, and perhaps even the rest of your life, to sort out!

Is this some sort of horrible new trend? Or just an unlucky coincidence? Do people suddenly think they are starring in their own Hollywood Action films or video games when they get behind the wheel and that there will be no real life consequences when they do crazy reckless things? (Hmm... the teen suicide statistics... a theory begins to take form...)

Anyway, at least there is a semi-satisfying epilogue:

In yesterday morning's incident, Crabby actually discovered the vehicle pulled over a few blocks away. It was some sort of government-looking thing (probably local), all white with some red stars or something on it, and the woman driving it was wearing a blue uniform. Crabby actually got the license number, and discovered there was a "How's My Driving?" bumper sticker on the back of the car! But unfortunately, the number didn't have a handy acronym like 1-800-WTF-LADY??!! or anything, and the driver saw Crabby staring at the back of her car, recognized her, and pulled away before Crabby could attempt to memorize the phone number.

Crabby may never find out what agency or company this woman worked for (any D.C. folks have any suspects? This was in Georgetown, if it makes any difference). But she does have the license number and the date and time in case she ever does figure it out. And even better? Crabby had the satisfaction of watching this woman, who nearly hit her, realize that the person she tried to mow down was now attempting to Rat Her Out. Perhaps she even worried about it a bit, and took a bit less menacing approach towards the next annoying pedestrian who had the nerve to be in a crosswalk in front of her.

So drive safe, folks, and look both ways before crossing the street, and even if you do, be prepared to sprint through intersections away from insanely reckless drivers!

September 11, 2007

Guest Post: Sara from Healthbolt on The Cookie Diet!

Cranky Fitness is quite pleased to bring you a Guest Post today from Sara Ost! She hosts the amazing Healthbolt blog (which is a must-read for both Useful Information as well as Totally Weird but Strangely Addictive Off-beat Health news). And not only that--Sara is a frequent contributor and Important Person over at Mark's Daily Apple, another incredible resource for healthy living!

Sarah is going to give us her opinion about the Hollywood Cookie Diet--think she's a big fan? Hmmm, let's find out...

The Fact That They Aren’t Cupcakes Is Almost Beside the Point

Another fad diet is in our midst, friends: the Hollywood Cookie Diet.

Though it’s been around for several years, the cookie diet is experiencing a resurgence amongst certain celebrities hoping to shed what little body fat they have left. Which, collectively, is probably less than my left butt cheek.

The cookie diet – whether in its latest Tinseltown incarnation or not – is just wrong. Not because this diet of four to six* puny cookies daily adds up to only 800 calories (dieters must “supplement” with a portion of meat at dinner in order to avoid what is known in medical terminology as “agonizing starvation”). Not because a steady intake of cookies is about as nutritious as a can of Red Bull with a cocaine chaser. Not because this diet is expensive, or boring, or lacking in calcium, or impossible to sustain for the long haul. And not because cookies are not fruits, vegetables, or anything else that most people would consider part of a reasonably healthy weight loss plan. And not even because the cookie diet is fatally flawed.

Why would anyone subsist on the cookie diet when there are cupcakes in this world?

(I mean, come on: it’s a cake! In a cup! And it’s cute! What does cookie really accomplish, other than to further the general suffix confusion of the English language? There’s no tease with cupcake. It’s phonetic, and it’s wonderful. You know exactly what you’re getting: a warm, precious cup of fluffy sweetness, sized just for you. Note that Marie Antoinette did not say “let them eat cookies”. Technically, she did not say anything about cakes, either, but historical accuracy is beside the point. And the point is that cupcakes are better than cookies.)

But pesky issues of deficiency and malnutrition aside, the real reason the cookie diet is silly is because it ruins all the fun of cheating. In fact, even a cupcake diet would ruin one of life’s greatest joys: totally blowing your normally healthy diet at least once a month, preferably with a fat, fizzy glass of champagne. Failing that, a good roll in the hay.

The cookie diet is an assault on all that is delicious and decadent in this world. It’s been said, but evidently not nearly enough: If you’re going to have a cookie, have a cookie. I’m not sure why anyone would cough up their hard-earned cupcake cash to subsist on bad cookies (they’re made of oatmeal, wheat, bran, and rice, although the new starlet version does include a sprinkling of chocolate if you like). If the name of the game is cutting calories to get that My Diet Is My Religion look, you could easily live on cupcakes instead, and for less money. Why, you could even bake yourself up some chocolatey (chocolatie?), gooey, chewy cookies yourself and eat those if you’re partial to cookies. If you’re going to get osteoporosis, why not make it sweet osteoporosis?

But I digress. Treats are special because they are just that: treats. The cookie diet is the worst of both worlds: it ruins treats and it ruins regular waistline-minding meals. Besides, with so many delicious, sustainable, healthier ways to lose weight – the Sonoma Diet, the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, the just-eat-healthy-most-of-the-time diet – there’s just no need to subsist on glorified oat pellets your pet ferret would probably ignore. What say you, Crabby readers?

*six cookies on the original diet; four on the new Hollywood version

September 10, 2007

"Healthy" Convenience Foods: The Never-ending Quest

Are you one of those virtuous people who eats only natural whole foods, often purchased from local growers or grown yourself? Do you, without fail, take these wholesome ingredients and lovingly fashion them into delicious meals and snacks, cooking everything from scratch?

Good for you! Could you please come over to Crabby's house now and do the same for her?

Ah well, it was worth a try.

Whole foods and home cooking with only healthy ingredients is what the magazines act like we're all doing, and it's certainly the ideal. We all know a diet of mostly processed food is a Really Stupid Idea. (For example, this recent depressing study noted that British four year olds were getting roughly twice as much salt as they should from processed foods and that it was already showing up in their blood pressure readings).

But if you're not totally dedicated, exceptionally creative, and super well-organized, it can be a struggle. You need time, and nearby healthy food retailers, and cooperative (or at least coercible) family members in order to have any hope of banishing processed convenience foods from your life. It's theoretically possible. However, it ain't happening anytime soon at the Crab and Lobster household.

So for those of us who are perhaps not so creative or dedicated: we have our little repertoire of home cooked meals, which we make as often as we can stand. And we have our favorite restaurants and semi-healthy take-out options. (Crabby just discovered Pizzeria Paradiso, a D.C. pizza place that makes a tasty pie with a whole wheat crust. Paired with a salad: a quick dinner with minimal guilt!

Some of the time though, we end up buying stuff that's been pre-made or processed and packaged up for later. We buy crackers or bread or frozen enchiladas or pancake mixes or lunch-meats or canned beans or tofutti cuties. And as soon as we push our carts past the pyramids of fresh produce and venture into the rest of the grocery store? We have to pass through the gates of CompromiseLand.

(This is different from Don'tGiveaCrapWorld, where the majority of people seem to shop. Their stores are vast and their aisles are packed with tons of tempting options).

You know the drill. Say you've seen an ad for a new breakfast cereal. It promises to be whole grain and healthy but tasty, packed with healthy fruit and nuts. You are skeptical but perhaps you're just a tiny bit tired of your same old oatmeal every day, and you're tempted by the idea of the sweet crunch of a "regular" breakfast cereal like everyone else gets to eat. You locate the box and maybe it IS healthier than most! It's fairly low in calories, high fiber, a decent amount of protein, but whoa... look at all that sodium! And it's sweetened with high fructose corn syrup!

Do you buy it?

Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. Crabby's kitchen cupboards contain an embarrassing quantity of products that are "the best she could do." They're better than most but there's usually something wrong with them. They're not a total all out Junky but Yummy Treat, like transfat-packed cookies or something. But then they're not a virtuous sack of dried lentils, either.

Convenience Foods are on Crabby's mind more than usual lately, because she has just moved within four blocks of the Holy Grail for Almost-Healthy Convenience Food: A Trader Joe's!

Have you been there? Crabby has visited other locations over the years but hadn't ever lived close by enough to become a regular. So every couple of days she comes back with some new convenience item to try: Pre-cooked Microwaveable Brown Rice! Unsalted Blue Tortilla Chips! Fancy Greek Yogurt! Whole Wheat Pretzels! Dark-Chocolate Covered Almonds! Cheap Frozen Calamari! Black Bean Taquitos! Whole Wheat Low-Carb Tortillas!

So far, most of these Trader Joe items seem to be pretty reasonable compromise foods. They taste anywhere from OK to yummy, and they do their best to eliminate or minimize Bad Things. Some she will probably get tired of soon because that often happens--the novelty of the new item fades and somehow the "packaged" part of the flavor starts to stand out more. Crabby is rather promiscuous when it comes to convenience foods and few go on to become household staples.

Crabby's current favorite item is the Fage Nonfat Greek Yogurt, which is incredibly rich and tasty and high in protein (and expensive!). When mixed with vanilla and the sweetener of your choice, it tastes like freakin' cheese cake. (The Trader Joe's brand of Greek Yogurt, while much cheaper, tastes kind of salty and sour). The Scariest Item she's brought home? It's those low carb tortillas. The ingredients sound more appropriate for insulating your house than wrapping around a pile of beans and cheese and putting in your mouth. But the dang things only have 50 calories, they have an insane amount of fiber and protein, and they don't even taste bad.

It's funny though: we all have our own idea about what a Somewhat Acceptable Compromise Convenience Foods is--and our ideas may be totally different!

So while there are lots of Scummy Marketeers trying to lie to us about blatantly unhealthy food, even the products that are Sincerely Trying to be Good still end up falling short for many of us. Because Weight Watcher people need to prioritize their Points, and whole-food crunchy people need everything be as natural and organic as possible, while others are being extra careful about saturated fats or white flour or sugar or sodium or calories or fiber or transfats or the correct ratio of Omega 3's to Omega 6's.

Then there's the fact that everyone has their own personal health histories and nutritional goals. Plus, sometimes "reasonably healthy and convenient" means "astronomically expensive" and not everyone can go down that road. And some people stubbornly insist that their convenience food actually taste good!

The result is, while most whole foods work for nearly everyone, any packaged product is going to seem like a Toxic Poison to someone and a Gift From Heaven to someone else. It's sort of like looking for the perfect iTunes workout playlist: everyone agrees it's a great thing to have, but no two people would chose the same one. And other people's choices can seem downright ridiculous!

So Crabby would never presume to come up with a list of Best and Healthiest Convenience Foods. But she's still curious to hear about what you all look for and what you've found that's good! She would love some new ideas. (Has anyone, for instance, found a whole wheat pasta that doesn't taste like the box it came in?) Or, in contrast, since she tends to be a sucker for ads about Some Favorite Old Forbidden Convenience Food which has had a New Healthy Makeover, what should she be warned to stay far, far away from?

September 09, 2007

Go Back Outside And Play!

Crabby plans to resume playtime herself, any minute now. So this is not a real post, just one of those pretend weekend ones to prove she is still alive. (Note: that is NOT her in the photo! She is a crab so she can not leap into the air like that. Nor is she male).

The main reason for this non-post is just to say a huge Thank You to all the nice people who linked to or commented on her "Give Up on Being Perfect" post. In particular, she'd like to thank the amazing Roni at Roni's Weight Watchen Page and Roni's awesome readers--and Goodness, there are a lot of you!

For those of you who haven't ventured over there yet, Roni has a great site with tons of helpful suggestions, particularly if you're on the Weight Watcher's program. Crabby was probably the last health and fitness blogger in the universe to discover this great resource. And unlike Crabby, Roni even Knows Something about Cooking! So there are lots of great recipes as well as humor and practical advice and inspiration.

However, Crabby also needs to warn her readers, Beware! (Not of Roni, who seems very nice; rather of Future Posts at Cranky Fitness).

At first Crabby was almost sort of embarrassed to run a post reminding you of things you already knew. But no one made fun of her so she may do it again! She loves spouting off about the motivational aspects of healthy living because it's fun and it doesn't even require googling. So she's thinking maybe once a week or so of doing similar sorts of Motivational/Reminder posts. (Probably later in the week, in case you're trying to avoid them.)

So thanks again and see you all tomorrow!

September 07, 2007

Friday Freakishness

Yep, it's time again for Friday's random health and not-so-health related linkage!

First up: Soldiers in Iraq, particularly female soldiers, are going off and getting cosmetic surgery without permission, according to this interesting blog post. (The source is actually a military site with ads like "Imagine...No Liberals!" so caution is advised). Anyway, these unauthorized surgeries are becoming more popular because troops are getting paid more now than they used to, and medical procedures over there are cheap.

Apparently military folks are getting breast augmentation, nose jobs, liposuction and tummy tucks, which are sometimes botched by unqualified doctors! Crabby knows the first thing she'd think of doing if sent off to a foreign land to fight a bloody war is go get elective cosmetic surgery. How 'bout you? But unfortunately, troops are ending up sidelined from duty for extended periods when they should be off doing soldiery things instead.

And via Healthbolt, always a favorite source of amusing but educational health items: A speed-dating study out of Indiana University came to this conclusion: men look for beauty in assessing potential partners, while women seek wealth and financial security. Shocking, declares Cranky Fitness, just shocking!

The study also found that women were pickier than men. While men on average wanted to see about one out of two of the women again, the women wanted to meet only a third of the men. (The article didn't say which third--lets just be tasteful and assume the top third, from the chest up.)

And now a weird, too-small-to-be-useful, but intriguing study of Poets and Suicide, brought to Cranky Fitness by PsyBlog, a thoughtful psychology blog that Crabby somehow hadn't come across before. The study (which can be found here) used a computer program to analyze the text of 300 poems written by 20 different poets, half of whom eventually committed suicide. What sort of differences did they find in their poems?

Suicidal poets were not more likely to use words associated with negative emotions or mention death than the non-suicidal poets. However, they were more likely to use the first-person singular (I, me, my) than non-suicidal poets. And suicidal poets focused on sex more than non-suicidal poets.

So: "There once was a man from Nantucket..." was simply a cry for help? (Note: Crabby did not even realize there was a non-obscene version of this limerick, but apparently it all started off quite innocently!)

Now we make the leap from Surgery, Sex, and Death... to Fitness! But at least it's not Boring Old Normal Fitness.

So Kelly from Fitness Fixation, whom Crabby already adores, wrote a very funny post recently about blogging and swearing. (Her Mom even pipes up in the Comments; it's really cute). However, Crabby couldn't quite figure out how to sell that as health-related. But it turns out Kelly has another great post over at That'sfit in which she tells us How to Get Fit by Slinging Your Beloved Family Members Around Like Human Barbells! Now THAT is fitness related, so we're good! (And actually, the post contains some really smart ideas about exercising with your kids).

But here's where it starts to get weirder, because, well, Crabby doesn't have any kids so she was googling around looking for instructions on how to use one's pets as barbells. (Not for real! Just to find a funny picture, she swears).

Alas, no funny (free) pictures, but she did find some weird animal exercise stuff! She'll spare you the rest of them but she'll leave you with this bit of strangeness: (Warning: you may want to Turn Down Your Sound because this contains annoying music).

Crabby has NO idea what to make of that.

Anyway, she hopes you all have a great weekend! Crabby may stop by the blog and post something inconsequential, or she may go outside instead and play in the sunshine!

UPDATE: Well, Crabby was playing in the sunshine, but she returned home from her exciting adventures to discover her Feed was Suddenly Invalid! Crabby needs to feel Validated as much and as often as possible--so to be told that she now has Zero subscribers was a bit of a shock. She's going to Monkey Around with this post and see if perhaps the embedded YouTube video destroyed her feed, since that's the only thing unusual about it. She'll replace it with a link and see if that helps.