June 30, 2007

Saturday Grab Bag

It's a random research day here at Cranky Fitness--where weekends mean sloppy laid-back blogging! Featuring: no transitions, weird stuff Crabby has collected but doesn't have anything sensible to say about, and assorted observations about things that have nothing to do with health and fitness.

Will Sunday's entry be any better? Is there any chance tomorrow will have carefully researched health news and nuanced discussion of Important Health Issues?

Not at all! Tomorrow is all about Adsense and Amazon and other bloggy things. Serious health and fitness readers are advised, as usual, to hit the archives or go explore other fine health and fitness blogs. Like, for instance, Diet King or Blogging While Fat. Both feature thoughtful, witty posts about weight loss.

Or you could always go look at cool offbeat architecture. Whenever Crabby goes there she lusts after dwellings that are not her own. It's house porn!

Another fine diversion, especially if you have a blog: go visit our good friend Geosomin at The Supposed Golden Path, and find out what your blog is rated! (Cranky Fitness is rated PG, for mentioning both Drugs (2) and Death (1)!)

On a more humanitarian note, you could help Deb Shed Pounds for Primates!

But if you're stubborn and would still like a few random health and fitness tidbits, Cranky Fitness style, here they are.

From a study of 92 patients over three years at an Irish hospital, here are some interesting observations about human bite wounds:

1. Men are 12 times more likely than women to sustain severe human bite injuries;

2. Alcohol was involved in 86% of the injuries; illicit drugs in 12%.

3. Seventy per cent of incidents occurred during the weekend or on a public holiday.

4. Seven out of ten bites were to the face.

And so remember how Crabby said no transitions? She meant it! Next up, a depressing survey of 3500 eleven year olds on the use of doping agents. The results:

More than one percent of them admitted to using performance enhancing drugs to do better in sports. The proportion increased from 1.2 to 3 percent by the age of 15. "While 62% of eleven years olds used doping agents less than once per month, at 15 the same proportion were using them at least every week and 24 per cent daily."


And here's some information on the health status of college students, based on a survey of more than 800 undergraduates:

1. At least one-third were overweight or obese;

3. Sixty percent of men had high blood pressure;

4. More than two-thirds of women were not meeting their nutritional needs for iron, calcium or folate; and,

5. Eight percent of men had "metabolic syndrome." This means a combination of high blood pressure, excess abdominal fat, high blood glucose, high triglycerides, and low “good” cholesterol. Sixty-six percent of men had at least one risk factor, as did fifty percent of the women. Metabolic syndrome often predicts future development of heart disease and diabetes.

Oh yes, and remember that discussion we had about Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention, and how you could take supplements but maybe you didn't have to worry if you got plenty of sunshine?

Well, sorry! New info just in: You can live in Hawaii, foolishly go out without sunscreen for hours a day, and yet still be deficient in Vitamin D!

Depressed yet? Research is fun! Maybe next time, Crabby will find a more uplifting group of random studies. Enjoy your weekend!

June 29, 2007


Our friend Kery over at Color Me Fit had an interesting post the other day about feeling extra hungry one weekend. Kery's thoughtful observations about hunger got Crabby thinking about it too.

So it occurred to Crabby that with all of our recent discussion of Portion Size (what with special plates and tall skinny glasses and whatnot), she was making a major assumption that she left clean out of the discussion. And thus some of us may be talking about completely different things when we talk about limiting portion sizes.

When Crabby strategizes about decreasing serving sizes, she means: tricks to keep from eating well past the point of satiety just because something is tasty.

She does not believe anyone should ever have to go hungry in the name of health. If arbitrary portion sizes are too small to fill you up, then you need to eat more.

But what is "hungry?" What is "full?" These are tricky concepts, because there's a lot of space in between "starving" and "stuffed." Many of us find eating pleasurable. The amount we want to eat is frequently a great deal larger than the amount we need to eat to avoid a state of uncomfortable hunger.

Also, there's a difference between "real" hunger, in which one desires food, almost any food that's not vile, versus eating for entertainment or for emotional comfort. Are you craving chips and cookies and ice cream and nachos but not somehow you're not quite hungry enough for roasted chicken or green beans or spaghetti? Then perhaps you're not "really" hungry. This is the type of eating that Crabby thinks should be controlled--not eating from "real" hunger.

So without doing any research or providing any helpful links to actual studies, Crabby is just going to go out on a limb and proclaim: No diet/lifestyle-change/eating plan or whatever is going to work on a permanent basis if it leaves you feeling hungry all the time. Crabby believes that if you are eating almost exclusively healthy nutrient-dense foods--whole grains and lean protein and fruits and lots of vegetables and reasonable amounts of healthy fats--than you should never have to experience "real" hunger except when it's time for your next meal.

(And what if you just want to starve yourself "temporarily" to meet a goal weight? Good luck with that. From what Crabby understands, what one does to keep weight off is not all that different from what one had to do to lose it. So going slow and adopting lifestyle changes you can keep to always seemed a much more sensible plan than starvation, at least to Crabby.)

But all of this is easy for Crabby to say. She's not fat. Her metabolism works in such a way that she can maintain her desired weight by exercising a lot, eating healthy, and avoiding more than occasional gratuitous recreational eating.

Suppose, though, that she were like many of you--suppose she did all that healthy stuff and was still heavy? And what if she had to put up with all the crap that society dishes out to people who are overweight? Would she still say "eat more if you're really hungry?"

She sure hopes so. Strong healthy people come in all different sizes, and she hopes she would be proud of her strength and good health regardless of the size of her waist or the number on the scale.

So smart readers, is Crabby full of it? (No pun intended). And what do you think of limiting portions to the point of hunger. Do you/would you do that yourself?

June 28, 2007

Shhh: Salvia Divinorum, a Legal Hallucinogen?

Crabby loves newspaper articles like this one:

"Legal, Intense Hallucinogen Raises Alarms!"

What's so great about this investigative report? Well, it's informative and interesting, and it tells Crabby all about something she's never heard of--a legal hallucinogen that goes by "Salvia," or, the more colorful "Magic Mint" or "Sally D."

But that's not why the article piqued Crabby's interest.

Why then? Because the whole point of the piece is that there's a Possibly Scary drug out there that's unregulated, that can cause brief but intense hallucinations, and could be a health concern if lots of young people start using it. But it hasn't been much of a problem--mainly because not that many people know about it yet.

Hmmm. So how do we keep curious teens from finding out about it and trying it?

We write a front page news article telling them how freaky it will make them feel and how easy it is to get some!

Now of course Crabby is doing the exact same thing. But she has reasons. Excuses. Rationalizations. Whatever. Anyway, here they are:

1. Cranky Fitness is a tiny blog, not a big metropolitan newspaper;

2. The stuff actually doesn't sound all that dangerous, compared to other things out there;

3. Anyone who finds this blog post by Googling Salvia Divinorum already knows about its supposed hallucinogenic effects--otherwise why would they be Googling it? But most importantly:

4. Regular readers of Cranky Fitness do not tend to be teenage recreational drug users.

(In fact, on that last point: Apparently the title of this blog, "Cranky Fitness" has led the folks at Adsense to believe you are all quite elderly and in need of modified exercise equipment and lots of milk. Crabby is going to boot out Adsense in favor of something else, anything else, in the very near future. But she believes they may be right on one point: most of you are not impulsive teenagers looking to score).

So here's a little more info on Salvia Divinorum, courtesy of the S.F. Chronicle:

It's a plant from Mexico that has been used by shamans in religious ceremonies. When chewed or smoked, it can causes intense hallucinations. Sold in smoke shops, herbal stores, and over the internet, it costs about $15-$50 a hit. The high is "a dream-like state" that can cause out of body experiences. It typically lasts anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour.

The drug has been outlawed in a few states already, and no one knows if it's truly safe or not. However, medical researchers haven't found negative side effects yet and it doesn't appear to be addictive. What concerns folks the most is the potential for trouble when people are hallucinating and try to drive or whatever. (There was even a murder and a suicide supposedly linked to Salvia use, but others were not convinced there was any connection).

The feds want to ban it of course, but researchers say salvia might also have beneficial effects and they want to study it.

And Jodie Trafton, an addiction specialist, didn't see the need for regulation. "People who use this aren't going to continue using it," Trafton said. "You're never going to get more than low-level use. The effect is too short, so by the time somebody starts freaking out... it's over. It's not something that's going to bombard emergency rooms."

Crabby would be way too chicken to try any "intense hallucinogen," as her brain functions weirdly enough as it is. But she tends to take a "lets license and tax the sh*t out of it but not ban it" stance on many recreational drugs. She wonders if readers have any thoughts or relevant experiences. And in particular, if readers who are parents might have different opinions than those who are not.

June 27, 2007

Amazing "Portion Control Tool" Helps Diabetics Reduce Meds

A fun new study on portion control out of the University of Calgary found that diabetics using a special "portion control tool" lost weight--in fact, as much weight as they would have by going on medication.

Seventeen percent of participants using this special "tool" lost five percent or more of their body weight. And twenty six percent who used the "portion control tool" were able to decrease their use of diabetic medications. Hooray! That's impressive.

And what was this cutting edge "portion control tool" that was so successful?

It's a plate! A really funny-looking plate! Well, it's actually kind of cute, especially if like your plates on the whimsical side.

Crabby doesn't want to make a habit out of using people's pictures without permission (sorry, IGallop), or at least not until she figures out what the rules are. So she'll refer you to the Diet Plate website to show you what it looks like. Sort of adorable, no?

The study that used the Diet Plate has already been discussed all over the blogosphere by people much smarter than Crabby. So you may have already formed your own opinions. But that won't stop Crabby from tossing in her two cents! After all Portion Control is a favorite subject here at Cranky Fitness. (And Crabby has lots more sneaky tricks, but she doesn't want to use them up just yet. She's going to need material for future posts).

So one thing Crabby likes about this study is that it's more proof of one of her favorite theories: people are dimwits! And this is very good news, because we can use our own dimwittedness to great advantage.

Because of course there's no reason you can't put less food on your plate all by yourself. If you know you need to eat less, then eat less. But we don't do it! Now, however, maybe we will because someone has invented a "special" plate. It's actually clever: it's got smaller surface area than normal (but a nice big rim), and they've put little lines on it that label various parts of our meal and set limits on how much to eat. And research says it actually works! How cool (and dumb) is that?

However, there's one surprising downside to the amazing new Diet Plate: it costs $30! Doesn't that seem awfully high for one plate? If you want a matching bowl with that, and the whole "plan," it will run you quite a bit more. (Crabby was going to give you that figure too, but the website went down as she was writing this because the Diet Plate people were getting too much traffic!)

Rather than spend $30, Crabby prefers to just take the idea, which is free, and eat on a smaller plate. (And actually, Smart Readers already suggested this idea back in the comment section of the previous portion control post). And perhaps we can use some sort of barely edible garnish, like skinny carrot sticks or celery slivers, as a divider to make sure we go way easy on the potatoes and way less easy on the broccoli.

Or, better yet, we can wait a few weeks for some discount chain to crank out a cheap Diet Plate knock-off. (Is that too mean? But Crabby sort of thinks the Diet Plate People have it coming for trying to charge $30 for one plate). On the other hand, if you've got the cash and don't want to wait or try to arrange garnishes or paint lines on your plate--just go ahead and order it! If it helps, it's worth thirty bucks. Crabby promises she won't make fun of you.

Oh, and another thing that tickles Crabby about the Diet Plate people is their marketing. Here's one of the come-ons for this plan:

"Want to eat with your family without being made to feel different because you want to lose weight?"

Then buy the Diet Plate?

Because Lord knows, eating off your own weirdly painted and brightly colored "special plate" will make you feel much less conspicuous when dinnertime comes around!

Unless, of course, you decide to spring for special Diet Plates for the whole family... Oh.

Actually, Crabby thinks the whole idea is a good one. She just thinks it could be cheaper. She is someone who is easily fooled by the shape and size of the containers her food is served in, so she would probably be a good candidate for her own Very Special Plate!

So what do you guys think? (And no need to stay on topic--any thoughts about anything are always welcome at Cranky Fitness).

June 26, 2007

Ovarian Cancer Warning Signs

A couple of weeks ago, there was a headline that seemed to give some encouraging news about earlier detection of Ovarian Cancer. Crabby was quite happy to see this news: "Ovarian Cancer Has Early Warning Signs."

Why did this seem like such good news? A couple of reasons:

1. Ovarian cancer can be a deadly disease if not caught early; and

2. It's been known as a "silent killer" because it's so rarely detected until the later stages.

But reading beyond the headlines, the news didn't sound so encouraging after all. Crabby almost decided not to post about it, but since some information is better than none, and some of you might have missed this, she'll pass it along. This information comes via the American Cancer Society, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, and seventeen other cancer organizations have endorsed it. So who is Crabby to say it won't be useful?

So here are some important symptoms to watch out for:

Pelvic or abdominal pain;


Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and

Urgent or frequent urination.

What bothers Crabby is that these seem both a bit vague and also very common. Most times, if they mean anything at all, it's more likely irritable bowel syndrome, or menstrual bloating, or urinary tract infections, or any number of benign causes.

According to Barbara Goff, an impressively titled person at the University of Washington, women with any of these symptoms may want to see a gynecologist, especially if the problems are "new, severe and occur almost daily for more than two or three weeks." The next step is often pelvic and rectal exam, a transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for a cancer marker. Unfortunately, even these tests aren't very accurate. And further diagnostic testing is fairly invasive.

There are some other symptoms of ovarian cancer too, but these aren't always much help either because they're so darn common:

Irregular vaginal bleeding;

Gastro-intestinal symptoms such as heartburn and nausea;

Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation and diarrhea;

Tiredness and appetite loss; and

Unexplained weight loss or weight gain.

No woman wants to be thought of as a neurotic hypochondriac. But checking out early warning signs could save your life.

And really, it's good news that most people with these symptoms don't have cancer. So if you notice these warning signs, you don't have to freak out.

But do stop into your doctor's office, especially if the symptoms are new and severe and don't go away soon. Please?

June 25, 2007

IGallop: Yeeehaww!

So Crabby recently came across a Brookstone ad for this rather amusing exercise gadget. She's late to the party, as the IGallop has apparently been out for at least a year and has been featured on TV shows like The View and Ellen. (As an aside: Crabby greatly admires Ellen Degeneres, but not being a daytime TV watcher she only gets to see her on award shows and American Express commercials. She couldn't find a clip of Ellen IGalloping, or she would certainly share it).

Anyway, the whole IGallup concept was a brand new one for Crabby and she was quite intrigued. Despite having no actual experience with it, having done no research, and not even having seen a video of it in motion, she naturally felt she must rush out and express some opinions about it.

So she finds she has two opinions. The first:

It's Ridiculous and Silly!

One is supposed to use this to work core muscles like the abdominals and other ones Crabby doesn't know the name of. But because it does the moving, your job is just to stay on and ride. You can do it while you watch TV! It used to cost $600, but apparently they weren't "galloping" off the shelves, because now they're down to $350.

Is Crabby the only one with a Dirty Mind? Because depending on what the surface of the seat is like, friction-wise, and how bouncy the ride is, she wonders if certain users might not aiming for a whole different sort of Peak Performance. Perhaps they wouldn't have had to mark it down if they'd renamed it the O-Gallop?

"Mommy? Mommy? How come you always lock the door to the TV room whenever you're exercising?"

Okay, so maybe not. But even if it doesn't supply that kind of wild ride, Crabby would suggest drawing the curtains. When seen by a passer-by from the waist up, an IGallop exercise routine could look, well, like a lot more fun than it probably is.

So what's Crabby's second opinion?

She wants one!

It actually looks kind of fun, doesn't it? Crabby would love to build strong core muscles while watching TV. And she's never gotten the chance to get drunk and jump on one of those mechanical bulls at a cowboy bar, so she still has illusions that it would be a kick to have an exercise gadget that's actually a ride. If it ever gets down to a hundred bucks or so... who knows? Anything could happen!

Crabby knows it's unlikely, given the size of her readership, but do any of you own one of these? Can you really get a decent abdominal work out from it? Is it entertaining? Or is it one of those deals like the Magical Sea Horses Crabby ordered from the back of a comic book when she was eight? What a disappointment that turned out to be!

Or if, like Crabby, you have no experience with the beast, would you be the least bit tempted by something this ludicrous?

Of course if you do find yourself longing for a little gallop, Crabby will try to make it easy for you...

June 24, 2007

Sitemeter: Gone (Sigh).

Warning: this is a rambling Sunday post about Blog Things. Regulars know that Crabby is even Slackier than usual on the weekends. Sorry, newcomers, posting will be much more health related during the week. In the meantime: check the Archives for actual health posts, or find another fine blog on the sidebar to visit!

So Crabby confessed earlier that she has a serious Sitemeter Addiction. What is Sitemeter? It's a free software program that compiles statistics and tells narcissistic bloggers whether anyone is visiting them.

So when narcissistic blogger asks, "Sitemeter, please tell me, is anyone looking at me?"

Reassuring sitemeter says: "Yes, Crabby. Three people are indeed looking at you this very moment."

"Hooray," cries Crabby, "They see me! They see me! My very existence is validated! Thank you, dear Sitemeter."

"No problem," says Sitemeter. "Happy to help."

(Brief Pause).

"Uh, Sitemeter? How about now? Is anybody looking at me now?"

This is sort of how the whole day goes between Crabby and Sitemeter.

Crabby will admit--she's had an infatuation with Sitemeter that some might consider unwholesome.

So come to find out--Sitemeter is not quite the benevolent suitor Crabby believed she was dallying with!

Crabby recently received news that her Very Special Friend has been getting a bit too cosy with Visitors. Rumor has it that new tweaks in the Sitemeter software are getting snoopy, and may even be trying to track people. Is this true, is it bad, is it serious? Crabby, frankly, isn't entirely sure. But she read a post by another blogger who dug around a bit more, and it raised some concerns.

Crabby loves her visitors and doesn't want them spied upon. Also, selfishly, she does not want to been seen as "unclean," her blog home infested with Cooties.

So Crabby, sadly, had Sitemeter escorted out the back door of Cranky Fitness. She mourned for a bit, then switched to a Cootie-free program, Statcounter, instead.

But it just isn't the same.

Crabby, sadly, still pines for Sitemeter.

Statcounter looks different. Statcounter works in a slightly different way. Statcounter speaks in an unfamiliar voice, one not as soothing. While Sitemeter and Crabby shared a history; Statcounter has no idea who Crabby is or that were days when she had many visitors.

Statcounter thinks Crabby is a nobody! It thinks she never had any visitors before.

"Statcounter? Statcounter? Is anybody looking at me?"

"Not at this time, Crabby. It's the weekend, for crying out loud. People have better things to do than read your blog. And you have better things to do than watch them not come here. Remember those posts you just wrote about 'balance?' Go outside and play!"


Statcounter is not as nice as Sitemeter--but perhaps that's a good thing.

June 23, 2007

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

So did anyone else who enjoys camping and hiking see this article and feel totally creeped out?

It's a news item from a few days ago, in which a black bear (not a Grizzly) slit open a tent in a campground and dragged off an eleven year old boy.

The story does not have a happy ending.

Yes, Crabby knows: it's very rare, it's not the bear's fault, expanding human habitation, blah, blah blah.

Still--the kid was minding his own business in a tent and got dragged away, like something out of a spooky old German fairy tale or your worst nightmare.

Hiking in remote and beautiful national parks is one of Crabby's favorite recreational activities. It's healthy and fun and Crabby loves it--or she always used to. But with more and more stories of bear and mountain lion attacks (sorry, no actual tigers in this post), she finds herself enjoying these hikes less than she used to.

When she's in Serious Bear Country she and Most Significant Other still venture out. (They love the Canadian Rockies, for example, but--loads o' bears there.) But if you're not traveling in a large group, you're supposed to make a fair amount of noise so you don't startle any of them and rile them up.

Have any of you ever done a hike like this? Do you not feel ridiculous? We shake cans of rocks or clap; we talk extra loud or sing silly go-away-bear songs. We then cringe when stray hikers surprise us coming from the opposite direction as we are bellowing out nonsensical lyrics. The experience is not all that relaxing.

Crabby knows actual bear attacks are rare, but she and MSO had a scary bear encounter a year or two ago. It was a black bear too, but one that had grown unafraid of people. It was waiting for us on the trail; it had heard us coming, as we'd been making all the requisite noise, but it did not flee as it was supposed to. It advanced. Banging sticks together and trying to look large, we demanded, in stern tones of voice: "Go Away Bear!"

The bear did not go away as requested.

It was a really big bear too. Crabby had never seen a huge bear up that close, at least not a live one outside of a cage.

The bear seemed intrigued by the noise, but not the least bit frightened. After a bit it stopped advancing, but it still did not leave, either.

Okay, so eventually it did. But not for a really long time. (Well, maybe three minutes, but it felt like a very long three minutes).

So Crabby will still go hiking, sometimes, but she and MSO find themselves, more often than they used to, sticking to crowded trails with plenty of other hikers. Sometimes, when choosing between a potentially spectacular nature hike in an area where mountain lions have been recently sighted, or a nice paved path around a lake where they have not, Crabby and MSO will opt for the wimpier route.

Crabby knows she really should somehow end this post with a cheerful "don't let your silly fears stop you, go out there and explore the wilderness! After all, you're much more likely to get hit by lightning than eaten by a bear or a lion!"

But this is Cranky Fitness. And Crabby is plenty scared of lightning too.

So, dear readers, any thoughts about hiking, bears, freak accidents, fears, the necessity (or not) of braving said fears? All comments welcome, relevant or not!

June 22, 2007

Getting Off The Couch

For the past couple days at Cranky Fitness, we've been discussing the issue of screwed-up priorities, and how to maybe stop putting all our energy into one thing at the expense of everything else.

So today's topic is Getting Your Ass of the Couch to get moving in some area of your life you've been neglecting. Crabby herself is really bad at this. But every now and then she manages, and when she does she feels so smug and virtuous! And Crabs love feeling smug and virtuous, almost as much as they love cupcakes.

So here is a list of Sneaky Tricks and Sloth-Busting Principles.

(And by the way, you already know this stuff. Crabby is just recycling the same self-help advice we've all been reading for years. But it works! And we all need to be reminded every now and then).

1. Acknowledge that Inertia is Huge Obstacle.
Getting started, (or getting started again) with something is way harder than doing more of what you already do. It takes more will power, more planning, more pep talks and Much Bigger Rewards. You're going to have trouble motivating if you don't give yourself Huge credit right from the get-go for taking on something you've been neglecting.

2. Break it Up.
As the always sensible Katieo warned earlier in the comments section: Baby Steps, people! When you've been on the couch, even standing up next to the couch for a few moments, looking around, and then plopping right back down for a Gilligan's Island marathon is progress.

This means the first step might merely be planning to make the change. Picking the date, say. Defeating procrastination is a huge chunk of the battle. And the subsequent steps should be really, really easy too. Need to clean up your house, car, garage, life? Start with the silverware drawer--and stop there. Get some momentum going before you take on anything that's going to take longer than a few minutes.

3. Rewards, Rewards, Rewards.
This seems obvious, but how often do you actually reward yourself? Do it, it helps!

(Note, however: the reward is for after you do your little task. Crabby often has trouble with this part. "I'll have a nice cup of coffee and a bit of dark chocolate after I do X," she says. Then she goes and drinks the coffee and eats the chocolate anyway, because it's on her mind. Will X get done? Don't bet on it. So don't make this dumb mistake like Crabby does. Rewards are for after.

4. Expect Backsliding.
It's gonna happen. Good time to work on that "all or nothing" thinking. You're gonna screw up, what are you going to do next? Give up? No. Don't do that! Swear a little, then figure you're human and do your best the next day.

5. Gripe if you Want To!
So this isn't on most lists. If it is, they usually frame it much more positively: get support from your friends! Yeah, yeah, whatever. Here at Cranky Fitness, we encourage complaints about How Hard It All Is. Cheerfulness is not mandatory, as you may have noticed. So if you're making some new healthy change and are feeling grouchy about it, come here and whine about it! Change is hard and Crabby totally gets it.

So these are just a few lame all-purpose type tips. You folks no doubt have much better suggestions, which Crabby hopes you'll share. Or interesting experiences, successes, or failures trying to start something new. Or complaints! Crabby loves to hear complaints as she agrees that so many things in life are a pain in the ass.

June 21, 2007

Slowing Down: Walking is Good!

So this is Part II of what Crabby didn't know was going to be a Three Part Post. If you've just arrived and didn't catch part one, you probably want to stop here first. We'll wait for ya.

Back now? Excellent.

Just to recap anyway: Many of us seem to be "runners" in some areas of our lives, but can't get our asses off the couch in others. And even when we know a shift in priorities might make sense--we don't do it. We just keep doing what we always do.

How do we refocus? And more specifically, how do we even think about getting off the couch in other areas (tomorrows subject) if we can't figure out how to back off from our usual favorite "runs?"

Crabby is going to pretend to be your Therapist today. (And she duly warns you that she's not your therapist. Please don't take her advice and then try to sue her when it doesn't work out).

So lets visualize that you're in a nicely furnished office for your Therapy Appointment. The chair is soft and accommodating; the room smells like furniture polish and mint tea; and there's really nice art on the walls. (You paid for it, you might as well admire it). And picture Dr. Crabby as a pleasant, professionally dressed well-groomed Healer here to help you. Today she is neither a hard-shelled crustacean nor a ripped-jeans-wearing Slacker. Let's say she looks just like Dr. Melfi on the Sopranos.

"So," says Dr. Crabby. "Why so frantic? Why are you spending so much energy [running/working/parenting/studying/dieting]? Aren't there other priorities you've said are important?"

"But I can't slow down," you say. "There's still so much more I need to do! I know I should do other things too, but I have to keep going. I can't slow down!"

"You can't?" Dr. Crabby looks curious. "So what are you afraid will happen if you try?"

So? What are you afraid of?

This is not to pretend that nothing bad could happen. Life is all about trade-offs: the time you need for other things has to come from somewhere. But what are you telling yourself would happen? Are you sure your fears are realistic?

Do you fear if you don't do it "all" you won't do anything?

Do you fear people will think you've become lazy/stupid/unreliable?

Do you fear that everything you've already accomplished will disappear overnight if you cut back a bit?

Do you fear you would just be "ordinary" if you didn't excel?

You folks can probably think of better examples. But the idea is to figure out what's driving you, personally, to overemphasize this one area of your life. (If this is indeed something you're doing).

And here's a good place for Crabby to point out that a Psychotherapist's office really is a good (if expensive) place to explore some of this stuff. Because it's one thing to read something, go "yeah, that's me" and quite another to actually work on changing it.

Anyway. Crabby struggles with this stuff herself and is trying to confront illogical ideas about achievement and all-or-nothing thinking. So this lecture is really for her more than anyone else.

One more thought before Crabby turns this subject over to her Smart Readers.

Often, it's easy to prioritize Appearances over Reality. Sometimes adjustments can be made along these lines to free up time. For example the things people do to Look like a Good Parents (i.e., coaching Little League) may be extremely time consuming and may not correlate all that well with being Good Parents.

Likewise, the numbers on the scale, or the miles logged on a treadmill, or the number of pounds we can bench press: they're just numbers. They're not "health."

So what do you folks think? Are there areas in your life you're overemphasizing, and if so, could you imagine doing less? Or does the very thought make you break out into hives? Crabby would love to know.

June 20, 2007

Running, Walking, and Lying on the Couch

Don't worry. This is not one of those exercise posts suggesting you get off your ass more than you already do and start running if you don't already. In fact, it's sort of the opposite. This is an annoying philosophical post, and running is just a metaphor. It's actually about priorities, and the amusing human tendency to focus them all in one place.

So if you'll bear with Crabby's analogy for a bit:

In the exercise world, some people are runners; some people are walkers; and the vast majority of folks rarely get off the couch at all.

Those who do get off the couch and walk are doing something huge and healthy and virtuous. Yet walking isn't as fast as running. People who run often feel a bit smug about it. People who "only" walk can feel inadequate, or guilty, or frustrated, or envious, depending on why it is they're not running. (They'd feel much better if they compared themselves instead to the Couch People, but for some reason, the vast legions of Couch People become irrelevant once one has left one's own couch behind).

However, there are many areas of life besides aerobic exercise. You may be a "walker" when it comes to exercise, but a "runner" when it comes to your job. You may be "lying on the couch" when it comes to Making Your Marriage Work. There are not enough hours a day to be a runner in everything.

So why do so many of us concentrate our efforts on improving our fastest times in areas where we're already running? But remain, in other important areas of our lives, stuck on the couch stuffing Ding-Dongs in our mouths?

You know what I mean. Say you've been putting a tremendous amount of energy into being The Worlds' Best Mom. Because what could be more important? You're running marathons at a 4 minute mile pace, yet you still feel you should run further, faster--because there's still more you could do. Your little boy just bit the Kindergarten teacher and you haven't made brownies from scratch in months!

And yet you promised yourself you'd do something about your rising blood pressure and racing heart and your doctor said something about "relaxation exercises" but where would you find the time?

To Crabby, the hardest part about achieving "better balance" is not putting more effort into something: it's contemplating spending less effort on the things she's already invested in. What once seemed an amazing accomplishment (a promotion to Supervisor, a triathlon, a pound a week weight loss) is now just "normal" and expected. (And by the way, these examples are all hypothetical and are not from Crabby's actual life. She expects to do her first triathlon, for example, right about the time Giant Two-Headed Moon People show up to take over the world).

On the other hand, if you've ever suffered a death in the family, or had your house burn down, or even had really bad stomach flu and barfed for three days straight, you know that it is possible to stop running. Right in the middle of everything, suddenly with no warning--Bam. You're flat on your back on the couch and you can't do any of those things that you "have" to do. But the world doesn't end! In fact, somehow everything works out just fine.

At some point, it seems wise to learn how to get off the couch. But also how to take a deep breath and stop running so fast. Walking is good too!

So does anyone else find this issue of priorities a challenge? Are you pretty balanced in life or are there important things you're neglecting? Are you a slacker who longs to be an over-achiever, or vice versa? Any thoughts are welcome!

June 19, 2007

Alli: Lots of Questions

A new diet drug is on the market, and people seem to have strong feelings about it. Crabby, who is ordinarily opinionated about everything, feels a bit left out. She's all rarin' to climb up on her soap box and spout off--but she's not quite sure what to spout. She's hoping you folks will help her figure out what to think about Alli, so she can locate her self-righteousness again and pretend to be a Crab Who Knows Everything.

Some background:

Alli is a weaker, non-prescription version of the drug Orlistat. It works by interfering with fat absorption, blocking about 25% of the fat you eat.

Users are supposed to diet in conjunction with using the drug, and the manufacturers say it will typically result in a 50% greater weight loss than one would get from dieting alone.

However, Alli can cause disconcerting side effects if you eat too much fat while taking it: "loose or more frequent stools that may be hard to control, or gas with an oily discharge."


An LA Times article says Alli is flying off the shelves in Los Angeles. By contrast, no winged diet pills were observed further north in the Oakland/Berkeley area, where Crabby stopped by her local pharmacy. The guy behind the counter didn't even know what Alli was. But one would assume that if it's an over-the-counter diet drug with a large marketing campaign behind it, people will be sooner or later be buying it with enthusiasm. Especially if it works.

So here's what Crabby doesn't like, so far, about Alli:

Crabby wonders if it's a such a good idea to take something for the long term that interferes with the way your body naturally works. She also wonders if Alli allows you to get and process enough "good" fats--she's hoping someone smarter than she is has some more information about this. The limit per meal for any kind of fat is about 15 grams.

And the L.A. Times article featured a bunch of superficial-sounding women who were completely ignorant about how it worked and who were going to use it anyway. (Crabby hopes they'll be stocking up on Depends along with their pills). Are they typical? Who knows. But they're certainly out there.

There's also an interesting recent study that concluded: "consumers who contemplate taking a prescription or over-the-counter drug" for obesity "become more likely to engage in bad habits like junk food and a sedentary lifestyle."

And finally, there was something kind of yucky about the way the Alli pamphlet tried to soft-pedal the downsides of their medicine. They don't like the term "side effects;" they prefer you call them "treatment effects." And the disgusting oil that you're excreting instead of digesting? Don't be alarmed. "It's not harmful. In fact you may recognize it as something that looks like the oil on top of pizza"!

Yeah, but the "oil on top of pizza" isn't usually coming straight out of your ass.


On the other hand, there are some things to admire about the whole Alli concept and advertising campaign.

For one, their marketing approach is way different than most diet products. Their pamphlet starts right off with: "Your commitment, your hard work, powered by Alli."

Not many weight loss products mention "hard work." Most imply magic.

They offer online help in diet planning. They even have an "are you ready quiz," which asks users to swear, solemnly, like earnest jurors under oath, that they are:

"Willing to do the hard work to lose weight gradually,"
"Committed to following a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet," and
"Committed to making the time to be more physically active."

(They also have to swear they understand about the totally disgusting side effects they'll be dealing with if they eat too much fat).

So Crabby sees both pros and cons. She knows some people are desperate for a little help. Is this something that might be useful?

She's hoping her Smart Readers have some thoughts to share.

June 18, 2007

Breast-Feeding: Indecent?

So buried within this Newsweek article was actually a bit of good news: more states are passing protective laws giving women the right to nurse in public.

But why on earth would we even need such laws? Isn't it sort of a no-brainer that breast-feeding is not "indecent exposure?"

Apparently not. Despite all the health benefits to mother and baby that come from breast feeding, people still freak out when they see it in public. And as a result, the Newsweek authors claim, breast-feeding is starting to decline again. They cite a study saying that 48 percent of women "would feel uncomfortable" nursing their babies in a park, store or mall.

This is crazy.

Crabby is going to trust Newsweek's fact-checkers on the health research behind this; they're a big Fancy-Pants Authoritative news magazine. Here's what they say:

"Nursing reduces a baby's risk of diarrhea, ear infections, urinary-tract infections and bacterial infections," as well as possibly "food allergies, obesity and diabetes." It also lowers the mother's risk of breast and ovarian cancer, burns 500 calories a day, and saves about $1,500 a year in formula costs.

Gosh, we sure wouldn't want to encourage that!

Breast-feeding isn't right for every mother; Crabby isn't saying every mom should. But it seems clear that overall it's a healthy thing, a normal thing, and something we shouldn't be making anymore difficult than it already is.

Squeamishness about breast-feeding seems so adolescent. Crabby is beginning to think modern Americans are idiots. Brutal violence is acceptable entertainment for everyone, including children--but the human breast is obscene.

Crabby could rant about this subject at great length but she will try to restrain herself. Do any of you folks have any interesting experiences or thoughts about any of this?

June 17, 2007

Random Research and Rambling; Plus a Plea for Help

In keeping with the new laid-back weekend approach to Cranky Fitness, Crabby will just throw a few things out there and not worry too much about making this into a coherent post. Weekends are especially informal here. So take off your shoes, sip on a tasty ice tea, draft beer, or other favorite beverage, and get comfortable! You can even belch if you want. Crabby's being informal and sloppy; please join her.

First off, a recommendation for any parents who haven't already discovered it yet: Strollerderby is a wonderful blog! Smart and funny and informative. Lots of daily posts, too, (not just one like stingy Cranky Fitness) and all written by witty and likable bloggers. Crabby has a particular appreciation for Kelly, who is always amusing and has been very nice to Cranky Fitness, but there other great bloggers over there as well.

So this month's copy of Prevention magazine arrived, and after a quick perusal, Crabby thought she'd steal some interesting research tidbits from them:

Women's desks at the office harbor three times as many bacteria as men's do. Crabby would have totally guessed the opposite. Whats the reason? More snacks, lotions, make-up, and personal items at women's desks. Further googling revealed that the study was done by Charles Gerba at University of Arizona, and was commissioned by the Clorox Co. This may explain the startling conclusion: that disinfectant wipes should be used to address the problem.

Orange tomatoes contain more cancer-fighting lycopene that red ones. (Again, Crabby would have guessed wrong, since red seems like a more intense color than orange. Color intensity is Crabby's ballpark method of estimating Vegetable Virtuousness).

And surgeons who play a lot of video games make 32% fewer errors than other surgeons who don't play them. Another surprise! Does the ability to shoot down aliens on a game console really help when it comes to removing a pancreas? Apparently so. More info can be found here.

Finally, Crabby would just like to say thank you to all the great people who come visit Cranky Fitness, and especially to those who take the time to comment! Unfortunately, it seems to be getting harder to find the time to respond to each one individually every time. And ironically, it is often the discussions that generate the best comments that Crabby is the most likely to get behind, panic, and just cop out with a big group thanks at the end.

At some point, Crabby will have to figure out some sort of system for intermittent responding that isn't completely arbitrary and obnoxious. She would love to be a blog like Tennessee Text Wrestling, for example, where Thomma Lyn responds personally and graciously every time someone comments. But Crabby is neither as nice nor as efficient as Thomma Lyn, and she's already falling well short of this ideal.

On the other hand, there are many fine blogs where the hosts don't tend to dip down into the comments section at all, or very rarely, and no one seems to mind. Crabby's not sure she wants to be this hands-off, however.

So is there a way to be in-between? How does a blogger answer some comments and not others without offending people? If any seasoned bloggers out there have helpful suggestions, Crabby would love to hear them!

June 16, 2007

Ripples On the Lake--A Great Read!

So alert readers may notice that this is not a health and fitness post. But since this weekend marks the three month anniversary of Cranky Fitness (hooray!), Crabby has decided she gets to write whatever she wants all weekend. For newcomers, there are plenty of educational health and fitness posts to check out in the archives. Want to know more about prostate cancer? Fat maps? The worlds most disgusting meatballs? It's all there on the sidebar, just waiting. (Those little triangles right next to April and May? Click on them, and they expand to show all the posts for those months. Cool, huh?)

But back over here in the main section, there is important news to report. Dawn Rotarangi's debut novel Ripples on the Lake is just out, and to cut to the chase: it's great. Buy it! You'll really enjoy it!

Dawn Rotarangi is a most esteemed and beloved Contributor of Commentary here at Cranky Fitness, and so Crabby is very excited to tell people about her book. However, the fact that Dawn is so well liked in these parts almost makes it harder to convince everyone that they should read the novel. Readers may not believe Crabby. (And truthfully, Dawn could have published random pages from the Taupo Telephone Directory and Crabby would have tried to find something nice to say about it--"the L's, R's, and Q's were deftly handled and quite true to life!")

But, here's the thing: Ripples on the Lake is really, really good! Crabby is not just being nice and making things up. Other reviewers will confirm this too.

(This is all going to be so much help for Dawn in promoting her novel, don't you think? "Ripples on the Lake is really, really good! --Crabby McSlacker, obscure blogger with a silly name.")

Rather than give you a blow-by-blow summary of the plot, taking you two-thirds of the way through and spoiling a bunch of surprises (which so many reviewers seem to love to do) Crabby will just tell you a bunch of reasons she liked it. You should go to Dawn's website to get the "what it's about" info, because you'll be wanting to stop there anyway to get the details on buying it. And Crabby is terrible at trying to summarize novels coherently.

So here's why Ripples on the Lake is so great:

It has a feisty female heroine, it's extremely fast paced, and it's creepy. A few pages in and things get seriously weird and scary and you have to keep going to find out what happens.

Seriously, bad things do happen. Though the tone is often light and always entertaining, there is a sense of menace that makes the whole adventure very compelling. The pace never lets up, either--it stays exciting the whole way through.

Plus, the author is quite sneaky: without even realizing it, you learn all kind of things about Maori history and traditions, but in an "oh that's cool" way, not in a (sigh) "I guess it's good for me" way.

It's the sort of book you lose yourself in, because the world and characters are so vividly drawn--they're both familiar and totally exotic. There are people you root for and other people... well, that you don't root for so much.

Crabby could go on, but she's already getting tempted to get too specific and spoil plot twists and surprises.

Warning: the book will be coming to you from New Zealand, so a bit of extra money for shipping may be required. But it will all be quite worth it once you receive your copy. Dawn's website will tell you where you can get it; you know what to do!

June 15, 2007

Childhood Obesity: Is Honesty the Best Policy?

So yet another strange headline caught Crabby's attention the other day: "Expert panel says to call kids obese.'"

Really? It seemed odd advice, even from Experts. Crabby should just walk up to an extremely overweight child and say "Hey kid, you're obese?"

Well, no. This was more about changing the language in the guidelines the Center for Disease Control uses in defining childhood obesity. The Experts aren't really recommending we walk up to kids and start calling them names.

(Actually, you may want to take a look at the article itself, because with her tiny Crab brain, it was hard for Crabby to understand what they meant by all this. She wasn't entirely clear on who the experts were, what the guidelines do, and how this would impact actual doctor/patient/family conversations). But apparently the guidelines "refer to children many would consider too fat as being 'at risk for overweight,' and use 'overweight' for those others would consider obese."

This sounds like a difficult issue for pediatricians, and Crabby doesn't envy them the alternatives: spare the family's feelings and the kid's self esteem by normalizing excessive weight gain? Or be more blunt and possibly alienate the family and make the fat kid feel like crap?

And what if it's one of those families where there's a strong genetic component to the obesity? How do you handle the issue if the family feels they're already doing what they can to encourage healthy eating?

Crabby has no kids herself, and she's never had to deal with the social stigma or the health risks of obesity. She's all questions here, not answers.

What do you folks think about this? Should pediatricians be more honest with kids and families about obesity?

UPDATE: This is one of those posts where all the insightful observations and great suggestions are happening down in the Comments section. If you don't usually click on the Comments to these posts, today is a good day to find out what goes on down there! Crabby is off for a bit this afternoon, but she shall return later to see what other sensible and/or brilliant things you folks have written. She's way impressed so far.

June 14, 2007

McDonalds Much?

If one is not a regular patron of McDonald's, it can be good smug fun to check out their nutritional information. Some of the more amusing items: a large order of Chicken Breast Strips: 1270 calories; Deluxe Breakfast with Large Biscuit, 1380 calories (plus another 250 if you want a large orange juice with that); Large Vanilla "Triple Thick Shake," 1110 calories... you get the idea. "People" eat these things but probably most of you don't, or at least not regularly.

But consider a more "typical" take-out meal at the Golden Arches, say a Big Mac, medium fries, and a large (but not Super-Sized) Coke. That will run you 1230 calories--and that doesn't include dessert. And isn't there's something about the junky but compelling blend of salty, greasy, savory flavors, combined with the sense that you've already sinned, that makes dessert seem sort of hard to resist? Only problem: that "Swamp Sludge McFlurry" is another 710 calories.

At this point, Crabby will confess that this post was originally going to be about other, healthier Take-Out options--the McDonald's part was just going to be an aside. But instead, we'll save the Other Options for later. Crabby is not done talking about McDonalds yet.

Crabby and her Most Significant Other take a fair number of road trips and sometimes they find themselves at a McDonalds. Crabby actually enjoys a Big Mac and a milkshake as much as the next American, but she doesn't usually order that. She sees people all around her ordering and eating huge gluttonous feasts, and feeding them to their children as well. Crabby is horrified and jealous at the same time.

On the other hand, Crabby doesn't order a salad either. It's McDonalds! She can't make herself order a salad. Because with proper planning, trips to McDonalds can actually fit quite well into Crabby's 90/10 rule.

Here's is the trick with McDonalds--you have to Mitigate and Accessorize.

And what the hell does that mean?

By "Mitigate," Crabby means: don't order a whole big meal of all the Evil McDonald's items. If you're craving a burger, order one with a diet drink, but no fries or dessert. If you've been thinking for days about one of their air-puffed but strangely delicious hot fudge sundaes (330 calories without the peanuts) then you need to save that for a treat and have something small and healthy elsewhere for lunch.

And to "Accessorize" is simply to bring other stuff along. (They don't search you at the door). Take in an apple to replace the french-fries; a banana to slice over their pancakes, a couple of carrots to chomp on before you get to your burger. Crabby has done it numerous times and no one even looks at her funny. (And yes, if you're not coming from home you have to make two stops. But convenience stores often at least have the fruit if not the carrots).

Crabby's personal McDonald's favorites: an Egg Mcmuffin (300 calories); or the aforementioned hot fudge sundae. For a junky fast food burger, she actually prefers Burger King.

So Smart Readers, are you appalled that Crabby does this on rare occasions? (Appleton, one of our Refined Regulars, would no doubt rather be struck dead by lightning than down a Big Mac. Crabby hopes he stops by to give her hell). Or do any of the rest of you ever visit McDonald's sometimes yourself?

June 13, 2007

Gay Bombs, Watch Out Below!

The headline sounded too silly to be true: "Pentagon Confirms It Sought To Build A 'Gay Bomb.'"

Crabby tried to picture what a "Gay Bomb" could possibly be. Would the army actually seek to engineer and deploy exploding homosexuals?

The United States government seems to have an irrational dislike of gay people, but even for them, that sounded extreme.

But no, this was a way better idea than blowing gays up--the Pentagon seriously thought about building a bomb that would create more gay people. Out of enemy soldiers! Cool beans, as a young person might say.

Crabby is going to borrow extensively from reporter Hank Plante's informative article, just 'cause he did a good job and she's lazy. (Crabby hopes nice ol' Hank won't sue her for copyright infringement. She's not exactly clear on how much borrowing is "fair use"--lots and lots, is what she's hoping).

So anyway, a guy named Edward Hammond, whom we hope is a long-haired hippie peacenik (since he's from something called the "Sunshine Project" in Berkeley) but whom we suspect is just a regular boring attorney or something, did some digging. And he found an Air Force chemical weapons proposal.

What did this proposal propose, exactly? "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs," it said, "especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior." The Air Force lab then asked for $7.5 million to develop this "gay bomb."

The Pentagon actually confirmed this: the proposal was made in 1994. A Department of Defense spokesperson claimed that the idea was quickly dismissed, but Hammond (the hippie, we still hope) says otherwise. He contends that the Pentagon used this gay bomb idea repeatedly "and in fact they submitted it to the highest scientific review body in the country for them to consider."


So, um, is it too late? A bomb that would spread aphrodisiacs; a chemical that would target warring soldiers bent on killing other soldiers and sometimes innocent civilians, a bomb so terrible it would turn them instead into loving, possibly same-sex attracted, Romance Machines?

Where can we get this stuff?

First stop for our bombing runs: the White House and the Pentagon. Next: a good chunk of Red State Middle America.

Is that all we need, $7.5 million? Crabby is so, so ready to donate.

June 12, 2007

Spectator Sports Cause Shocking Rise in Obesity?

Really? Are professional sports in some way responsible for the population's increasing problem with excess weight?

Nah. Well, who knows. It's at least as good a theory as blaming microwave ovens. (Or workplace vending machines. Or PBS, Paris Hilton, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, or leg warmers. But it sure is fun to blame someone, isn't it?)

Actually Crabby just feels like picking on spectator sports today, so she will. She went to a baseball game over the weekend, so she's especially eager to make fun of that sport. (She actually had a great time, what with the sun and the snacks and the Anchor Steam). But towards the end of the post, Crabby will even go out on a limb and proclaim Baseball a Stupid Sport! Be sure to tell all your friends to come here and see for themselves what a complete jerk she is.

But first, a quick list of reasons why spectator sports, particularly viewed at home on TV, are Bad For You:

They are generally viewed in a seated position, and they go on forever. Think about it: televised sporting events are about three times as long as normal TV shows. Even without the pre-game this and the post-game that. And true sports fans always need to see a pre-game this or a post-game that.

Worse, since you have to watch games in real time, you're sitting through all the commercials. (Which tend to feature beer and junk food). If you watch House or Gray's Anatomy, for instance, you Tivo it or whatever and you don't even know what crap they might be advertising. But during a ball game, you end up hearing about every damn topping Domino's decides to dump on their pizzas that week.

But here's the most insidious thing about spectator sports: the way they trick the spectators into thinking they've gotten exercise themselves.

Ever seen a total sports fan watch a game? They go through all the agony and the triumph, riding the same roller-coaster of endorphins that the actual players do--but they do it all sprawled on the couch with a big bag of Doritos in their laps.

When it's over, do they jump up and go out for a run or to play a little game of football or basketball or baseball themselves? Your actual mileage may vary, but from what I've observed: they do not. Sure, a nice big hunk of the day is gone, but they've helped their team win! (Or almost win!) They're tired now. They need a nap.

And now, as promised, Crabby's going to complain even more about Baseball, a game that perplexes her. The thing she finds most confusing is why all the smart, thoughtful, otherwise admirable people she knows seem to find it so enchanting.

It's designed, on purpose, to be boring! Hardly anything ever happens!

For one, the season consists of seven hundred thousand games, plus the playoffs, so no individual game actually counts until the very end.

And in what other sport do the participants get to delay the game whenever they feel like it, with no penalty, just 'cause they don't feel quite "ready?" They need to think about it. They need more practice swings. Batters finally get all crouched and ready and then they step out of the box again to scratch their noses and take even more practice swings. Pitchers stare and swivel around to second base. They adjust their crotches and stare some more. Ready yet? Ah... no. Not quite yet.

Sometimes when the pitcher's screwing up there's even a little tea-party on the mound. Why on earth is this allowed? The pitcher and the catcher and maybe a baseman or two all decide to have a conference. What could these guys possibly need to say to the pitcher besides: "could you please stop walking people and pitch a few f*cking strikes instead?" But they have their little committee meetings anyway, and the fans all just sit there and wait. And have another hot dog or a few more tortilla chips.

Okay, to be fair, sometimes there's action. An occasional home run. Watch the ball... it's going over the fence... Yep, there it goes. It's gone.

And then every now and then a pitcher will hit a batter "accidentally" in a way the boys in the dugout take exception to. This is indeed exciting. Suddenly, everyone comes charging out and they're all hitting each other! (Though generally not a fan of violence, Crabby actually sort of enjoys the sight of overpaid professional athletes mixing it up. She's not proud of this, but its true). Unfortunately, this hardly ever happens.

Crabby really, really doesn't get why people are so enthusiastic about baseball. She officially declares Baseball a Really Stupid Sport.

(Crabby, ducking hurled objects, makes her exit quickly, stage left).

June 11, 2007

Microwaved Food: Healthy Alternative or Satan's Snack?

Crabby recently received an email from a health & fitness blogger at another site (FitSugar?), urging her to participate in a Boycott or Protest or something against the use of Microwave Ovens.

"Microwave Free Fridays," Crabby thinks it was called, but unfortunately she deleted the email before she realized she wanted to write a post about it.

These people are no doubt very nice and very well-intentioned, but to Crabby, the whole idea sounded, well, kind of silly.

Why are we supposed to be boycotting Microwave Ovens? Apparently because of this pronouncement by Professor Jane Wardle, who blames the invention of the microwave for our current problems with obesity.

Here's what Wardle has to say:

"I looked at the figures showing rates of obesity in the population over many years and it seem very clear it began between 1984 and 1987."

"So then we looked at what changes were going on in the food and activity world at that time and one of the striking changes was there were differences in the speed with which we could prepare a meal as a consequence of the introduction of microwaves."

Oh fer cryin' out loud.

Wait, Crabby has a better theory: Frankie Goes To Hollywood had a song called "Relax" that was a big hit during these years--coincidence? Or was it part of a conspiracy with the Microwave Oven People to make sure everyone "Relaxed" and stopped bothering to exercise and eat healthy ever again?

Or maybe obesity and modern lifestyles are complicated issues that don't have a single cause, let alone such a dopey one?

Part of the reason the idea seems silly to Crabby is because microwave ovens can just as easily heat up healthy stuff as unhealthy stuff. In fact microwaves enable you to make large quantities of healthy soups and stews and casseroles, freeze them, and then heat them up again in a few quick minutes. As opposed to popping out to McDonalds or Pizza Hut for a meal.

Crabby will occasionally even eat a microwaved frozen entree for lunch (though they're not quite tasty enough for dinner, a meal she looks forward to a bit more). A little high on sodium, perhaps, but again, better for you than most take-out food. Crabby favors the Lean Cuisine Spa kind with the whole grains and double vegetables, or Amy's enchiladas sometimes, though she wouldn't want to eat any of them more than about once every week or two. But time is precious--and Crabby has nothing against saving a little of it with a microwave. On some days, Crabby would much rather nuke herself some leftover chicken vegetable soup from the freezer and go for a long pleasant walk rather than spend an extra hour in the kitchen preparing some damn thing from scratch. But maybe that's just her.

So what do you folks think--will you be boycotting your microwave ovens come Friday?

June 10, 2007

Accidental Death, Evil Empire, and Other Pleasant Sunday Subjects

Some blogs go sensibly dark on the weekends; others just keep plugging away as though their authors and readers had no actual lives. Welcome to Cranky Fitness!

At some point Crabby may well have to explore the "dark" side herself, and think about taking weekends off. She seems to be blogging all the time now. Yet she has a novel to finish, a Crabby McSlacker self-help book to consider, and a Crabby McSlacker Health and Fitness Empire to build. (She will, at some point, fill readers in on her Sinister Scheme for World Domination).

For now, however, Crabby is mostly just blogging and there will usually be something here for loyal readers to peek at, even on weekends. Maybe not both days, but at least one of the two.

A warning, however: weekend posts may be short and random and disorganized.

Well, okay, sometimes weekday posts will be like that too.

So lacking an elegant transition (it being a weekend) Crabby will just present you with some random research and news that she didn't fit in during the week.

Accidental deaths have been rising, and are up twelve percent, worrying those who track such things. In particular, there are more drug overdoses, more old people falling in their homes, and, wait for it, more Baby Boomers wiping out on motorcycles. Crabby isn't kidding about that last one--feel free to write your own punchline.

Speaking of weird causes of accidental death, a teenage athlete died from over-use of "muscle cream" (think Bengay, Icy Hot, etc). Apparently she was a cross-country runner who used "topical medication to excess" and absorbed too much methyl salicylate, an anti-inflammatory. Yet another (strange) reminder: everything in moderation!

And to continue our cheerful theme, Crabby was just passing a newsstand and spied a headline on a newspaper rack that's become all too common these days: "Five-year-old finds gun, kills himself." Should Crabby venture her opinions on guns, gun ownership, and the general idiocy of the American legal, cultural, and political systems when it comes to this issue?

Perhaps not, at least not on this sunny Sunday. Another day.

Enjoy what's left of your weekend, folks!

June 09, 2007

Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention; Also, Important Instructions!

So another study is out suggesting that Vitamin D may reduce the risk of cancer. New research found that "vitamin D cut the risk of several types of cancer by 60 percent overall for older women."

The study was small and was really supposed to be more about bone health. And one Skeptical Guy said: "I don't think it's the last word." (Okay, so Skeptical Guy was a nutrition and cancer researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. Whatever.)

But apparently there were some cool methodological aspects of the research which managed to get Other Less Skeptical Scientists pretty excited. (Crabby won't go into these here, because she doesn't want to start getting a reputation for scientific rigor or thoroughness. But go ahead and click on the link if you want to know more).

If fact, Cedric Garland got so excited he declared the findings "a breakthrough of great medical and public health importance!" Who is Cedric Garland? "A prominent vitamin D researcher at the University of California San Diego."

Crabby must pause for a moment at this juncture to note that this would be a great answer to that tiresome cocktail party inquiry: "And so what is it you do?"

"I'm a prominent Vitamin D researcher at the University of California San Diego!" Cedric might exclaim, turning down a proffered martini in favor of a big glass of milk.

(Or perhaps not. Crabby feels especially entitled to tease UCSD researchers because UCSD is her alma mater. Or one of them, anyway. And she wants to know: is there still a fountain in the plaza of Revelle College into which undergraduates are thrown on their birthdays?)


Vitamin D is the one you get from the sun, but watch out for skin cancer. It's also found in foods, like salmon, tuna and fortified milk. But apparently many people in the U.S. don't get enough from diet and sun exposure.

How about supplementation? As usual, the experts can't seem to agree on whether to take supplements or how much to take. Some support raising the guideline from the 200-600 range it is now to 1000 units a day. On the other hand, a guy at the American Cancer Society warns that more than 2,000 units may be dangerous.

You scientists duke it out. Crabby, having heard rumors of Vitamin D's anti-cancer potential, takes a pill with an extra 400 units. She's also heard there may be some association between vitamin D deficiency and MS, but she'll save that for a future post because she doesn't feel like looking it up at the moment.

And now for the promised Important Instructions.

Have any of you wandered here from some other site, thought there was something you might want to say, (like Hi Crabby, luv ur blog! or whatever) but couldn't quite figure out how to do it? It's not all that obvious.

Fortunately, our good friend Katieo at Sister Skinny has carefully explained the whole process. Go there, read this post, notice that the Sisters have a great blog going on, bookmark the commenting instructions, (and this is the important part) race back here to practice your new-found commenting skill! And then go back to Sister Skinny, of course, and practice a whole bunch more.

Thanks Katie!

June 08, 2007

Crabby Admits: Not All Vegetables Taste Terrible

Constant complaints here at Cranky Fitness about how lousy most vegetables taste, especially when compared to hot fudge sundaes, might lead readers to the wrong impression.

Crabby doesn't hate vegetables.

Okay, she hates celery and beets and probably some others she doesn't even remember because it's been a long time since anyone made her eat them. But all and all: it's not true. She eats vegetables all the time and rarely even makes a face. Depending on how they are prepared, Crabby's feelings range from somewhat indifferent to almost enthusiastic.

But here's what sets Cranky Fitness apart from many other health or food blogs: Crabby doesn't pretend that an ordinary vegetable, even one sauteed in something tasty and sprinkled with something crunchy, is in the same league as a juicy steak or a three layer chocolate cake with buttercream icing.

A great vegetable is still just a vegetable.

Crabby will give some examples of vegetables she actually likes. It will not be an exhaustive list, because if Crabby is still blogging in future months and years, she's going to run out of topics. She doesn't want to feel that she's completely used up "vegetables she kind of likes" as a future subject. You won't even remember this post by then, but still, should you find it in the archives you'll think poorly of her if it's the exact same list.

Oh, and another thing. She doesn't give a crap about actual botanical taxonomy. A tomato is a vegetable, for example, because Crabby says it is.

1. Fresh sweet tomatoes in some combination with garlic and basil and olive oil. This can be over pasta or as bruschetta or snuggled next to a slice of fresh mozzarella.

2. Roasted or grilled asparagus, especially if lightly coated with olive oil and cooked way longer than most people like it. Crabby is not sophisticated and doesn't like her spears al dente. She likes them a little bit shrivelled.

3. Sweet in-season corn on the cob. Don't tell Crabby corn is a grain or a starch. As far as she'd concerned, it's a vegetable. She will concede, however, that it still needs to be served with another vegetable, because it only partly counts.

4. Pretty much any vegetable if it appears in a really tasty Thai curry or stir fry.

5. Broccolini sauteed in (again) olive oil with a Whole Ton of garlic.

6. Okay, if we're going to keep sauteing everything in garlic, lets just say garlic! Onions too! Anything tastes good when sauteed with garlic and onions.

That's enough for now. Crabby will do more later.

So how's this for a boring question: do you folks have any favorite vegetables?

June 07, 2007

Second Hand Smoke Hurts Kids

So yet another study is out detailing the dangers of second hand smoke; this time the research focuses on the damage it does to kids who are exposed to it.

Said one of the researchers: "Even a little exposure to smoke at home or in the public environment can be harmful to the cardiovascular system of healthy schoolchildren."

Second hand smoke is a known killer; every day non-smokers who have to breathe it die of lung cancer and heart disease.

The whole issue makes Crabby very angry. People who don't choose to smoke themselves should not have to endure the associated health risks. Especially not children.

The fact that smoking is harmful is not news--people younger than about 50 years old knew damn well when they started that they were risking their health. Crabby knows nicotine addiction is incredibly powerful; had she become a smoker herself she's not sure she would have been able to quit, though she certainly hopes so.

But if she hears one more smoker whining about how his "right" to smoke in public places is somehow more fundamental than the rights of others not to die of cancer, she's going to slap someone--and it's not going to be a non-smoker.

Crabby figured out by the time she was about ten years old that if smoking was bad for people, breathing second hand smoke was probably not too good for you either. She has been waiting since that time for the rest of society to catch up so that she and all the other nonsmokers out there don't have to choke on any more obnoxious and dangerous smoke. Times are finally changing, a bit. But people are still taking up the foolish habit and other people around them are still having to deal with the consequences.

Crabby lives in a metropolitan area that actually bans smoking in most indoor public places--but even this isn't quite enough to keep it at bay. At some of the trendy bars, for example, smoking seems to be making a comeback. (Crabby is not the least bit trendy, but she has friends who are, so she's found herself at these places on rare occasions).

She was appalled the first time she saw people at one of these places starting to light up. Surely they knew it wasn't allowed? However no one said a word. It was clear everyone was just supposed to just shut up and be "cool" about it. How could this be happening again?

"Would you mind putting that out?"

Crabby has braved the wrath of those around her to ask that question, but it makes her feel like a freak. She longs for the day when no one has to say it anymore because it will seem so obvious: smoking indoors, in public, is unacceptable. Unfortuately, we're not there yet.


This is another bloggy post that has nothing to do with health. Immediately preceding this one, however, is a nice boring study about Tea. Readers, you know who you are and what you want to read about--feel free to skip either or both of these.

(Similar to Crabby's 90/10 rule for healthy eating, she has a rule about what she writes about: every now and then, if she's managed enough broccoli sprouts and strength training and Omega 3's, she gets, as a treat, to indulge in a post about blogging itself. She is somewhat obsessed with blogging, being brand new at the whole business, and has reluctantly given herself a diagnosis of blogitis, which may or may not be a real disease).

So Crabby, as a blogitis sufferer, naturally finds herself totally infatuated with Sitemeter. For those nonbloggers who've hung in this far, "Sitemeter" is a toy that bloggers can use to see if anyone is coming to visit them. (Statcounter is another version).

Did you notice Crabby was gone for a few seconds just then? Well, she was. She went off to see if any new readers arrived while she was composing the first three paragraphs.

Yes, it's that addictive. At least it is to Crabby. She has a serious problem with Sitemeter.

Do other more seasoned bloggers have any advice? Does this disease go away on its own?

Readers, do not be alarmed, because Sitemeter does not know who you are. But depending on your computer and ISP and such, Sitemeter might know what country or city you live in. (When it guesses at a city, however, it's often wrong. It doesn't care so much where you live, as much as where your Internet Service Provider lives. (Or at least that's Crabby's guess). However, countries are good too. For an introverted blogger, the fact that folks in Singapore or Italy or Brazil are popping in for a visit is thrilling enough.

Sometimes Sitemeter knows how you got to the blog, other times not. Sometimes it can tell if you left right away; other times, depending on how you leave, it has no idea how long you were there.

(Hint: we bloggers like it when you hang out for long periods of time and go through the archives! Do remember that many of us are narcissists and need to feel as though someone is paying attention to us. Pathetic? You betcha).

On days when the Sitemeter is popping along at a good clip, Crabby is happy! On days when it pokes and sputters, Crabby is sad. Crabby needs, she fears, some sort of intervention.

It's easy to anticipate that in a few months, Crabby will find herself very embarrassed by this post. The affliction will have passed, the numbers (she hopes) will have grown enough so that the need to track the coming and going of virtually every visitor will seem laughable.

However that day has not yet arrived. Oops, excuse Crabby for a moment... she'll be right back.

June 06, 2007

Tea As Cancer-Fighter: an Update

This is just a quick good-newsy post: at least if you like tea; and like it brewed strong, with milk.

Tea, though it seems a refined beverage, is nonetheless a scrappy bad-ass cancer fighter. Antioxidants, those nutritional Superheroes, are the reason. And in a previous post, Crabby reviewed some of the health benefits of various kinds of tea, but noted this disturbing caveat: drinking tea with milk seemed to negate some of the cardiovascular benefits.

At least this news was disturbing to Crabby, because she drinks her tea strong, and likes to dump in both milk and Splenda. And she feared that if milk somehow negated the heart-disease fighting properties of tea, that it might also mess with antioxidant levels and tea's cancer-fighting ability too.

But here's what a recent study on antioxidants and black tea just found:

Adding milk to a cup of tea had no effect on its cancer-fighting properties.

And the folks who drank tea that had been brewed for five minutes had blood antioxidant levels 60% higher than those who drank a one-minute infusion.

But brewing longer than five minutes yielded no extra health benefits.

There was also something about brewing tea in a pot being better than brewing it in a cup. Given that this was in the title of the article, Crabby was expecting a bit more information about what this meant exactly and why it might be true. She is a cup-brewer herself. However, there were no such details provided. Crabby was not willing, however, to forage around the web much herself to figure it out. As we've established, Crabby is lazy.

Cup or pot, could it really make all that much difference? Rather than worry too much about the question, Crabby resolved to use a bigger cup in the future with more room for the teabags to spread out and get comfortable. (And since she uses a frightening number of teabags per cup, steeps for longer than 5 minutes, and squeezes every bit of tea liquid from the soggy bags before tossing them out, she probably already has more antioxidants swimming around in her bloodstream than her body knows what do with).

Because this a short and boring post, but one that is actually health-related, Crabby plans to indulge herself in another post later today that has nothing whatever to do with health but everything to do with Blogs. So please check back later for further adventures in Cranky Fitness.

Bob over at Slashfood, a new favorite site of Crabby's, has even better news about tea. At least if it's Oolong. Looks like it might also help with weightloss!

June 05, 2007

Interval Training Update, Plus a Blog that Rocks

Apologies to those who don't give a crap about intervals.

A second post in two days?

Readers who feel aggrieved may want to just skim through this one (but don't miss the Important Website Recommendation), and then hurry off to a better blog. Or just plop down comfortably into the comments section without absorbing any of this. Interval Training is not a required subject of conversation down there; we'll come up with something better by the end of the post.

So late yesterday morning, Crabby took her own advice and climbed onto the treadmill to actually test out this interval thing. As she mentioned, she already does "interval training," but in a random, haphazard manner. She usually goes extra hard for a couple of minutes during some of her weekly workouts, but she probably only does it two or three times during a session. She isn't really doing it the way the experts advise.

(For more on Crabby's most common form of exercise and why you might not want to be caught dead doing it in public, go here.)

To correct this haphazardness problem, Crabby resolved to be more formal about her interval training. She decided to start with the easiest amount that the experts said would be helpful: thirty second bursts of intense activity, followed by four minutes of moderate activity, repeated four to six times. For her intense phase, she cranked up the treadmill incline to the max and ran as fast as she could uphill. (And she hoped not to fly off the treadmill smack into the wall behind her). For the moderate phase, she walked more slowly uphill.

Here are some things she found:

Thirty seconds felt too short, even for running uphill, so Crabby made it 45 seconds instead.

Four minutes in between was too long and boring, so Crabby just started up again when she felt like it.

Forty five seconds was still short enough that Crabby felt encouraged to do eight repetitions instead of 4-6. She does not necessarily think this will happen next time, and she reserves the right to go back to 4-6.

Crabby's knees were a bit sore when she was done. (This was not a surprise; she has trashed her knees through years of running and it's why she doesn't run very often anymore).

The intervals were fun and the whole workout was over really quickly. (This was a surprise).

It probably wouldn't be fun done more than once a week. (Probably not after the novelty wears off either).

Thirty to forty-five second intervals aren't nearly as exhausting as two minute ones, and so if the experts say you can do them this way, Crabby is all for it. Plus, by the end you still feel good and exercised, with all the kick-ass endorphins that accompany this state.

Bottom line: Crabby likes interval training!

(This week.)

Now for the second part: the blog that rocks.

Crabby is embarrassed to say that she found it once before, thought it was great, may have even commented on it, then forgot to bookmark it. Result: gone entirely from her little crab brain.

But fortunately, Kelly over at Fitness Fixation is smarter, probably because she works out harder and eats fewer cupcakes, so she found Crabby instead. She very generously linked here and reminded Crabby what a great blog Fitness Fixation is.

It's sort of like Cranky Fitness, only better. (But Crabby hopes that you will find room in your heart and on your Favorites for both of us).

These girls (Kelly seems to be the ringleader, but here's also, for example, a great post by Tsan) are funny. Plus they're hardcore (in a good way). They could probably explain this interval thing a lot better than Crabby can.

(Plus, lurking behind the blog is something called the "Ice Chamber." Doesn't it sound sort of medieval and scary, yet at the same time irresistible?)

As promised, Comments will likely veer away from Interval Training as there is only so much one can say about it. So feel free to take a break today, or weigh in on Trying New Things, or Blogs That You've Just Discovered, or Why Exercise Sucks, or Any Old Thing You Can Think Of.