February 29, 2008

Random Friday, Compact Travel Edition

The Actual Plane Crabby Is Taking is Just As Safe and Comfortable

Why so Compact this week? Because the Crab is traveling again, which means she is packing and fretting rather than blogging.

Actually as you read this, she is very likely in a blurry haze, staggering towards baggage claim in the Boston airport, having (hopefully) survived a red-eye flight despite her airplane fears. She can't sleep sitting up, so she will be sleep-deprived and contentious, the perfect condition in which to make final decisions about floor tiles and bathroom vanities and kitchen faucets. (For those who are new to Cranky Fitness, the Crab and her long-suffering Lobster are remodeling a place in Provincetown MA, which they plan to occupy fairly soon. They are running out of time to dither around about it).

Crabby's plan is that if she specifically mentions the fact that she is flying and that she fears the plane will crash, it would be WAY too much of a coincidence for each one of you if that very flight ended up crashing. Crabby is banking on all that accumulated improbability to help keep the plane aloft. Clever plan, huh?

Anyway, so Crabby will just throw a couple items out there, and Merry might too. (You betcha! There's an essential component to a Random Friday post, which can be found only at the end. Can you guess what it is? -Merry)

Now on to the abbreviated randomness!

Wrapper Tip
Our friends at Healthbolt, who always have the best in off-beat as well as on-beat health stories (and no, I have no idea what I meant by that) are reporting a helpful tip for candy eaters. According to a recent study from Cornell University, you can cut your candy consumption in half simply by saving the wrappers so you can see what a pig you've been. (The trick also apparently works with chicken wings).

Those of you who are regular readers of Cranky Fitness may have discovered that (a) Crabby is a simple sort who likes poetry that rhymes and (b) Merry is a classier type who tries to slip in stealth haiku when Crabby isn't looking.

So Crabby was amused to see another great blog, Scrumpy's Baker, offering up a whole post of fitness-related Haiku. So go check it out, and feel free to offer up your own efforts here or there or both places!

Frosted Mini-Things
Remember a while back we were talking about products with stupid warnings?

Well Crabby just noticed that the Lobster's favorite breakfast cereal was being very careful to warn those folks who may have wheat allergies with a cautionary label:

Contains Wheat Ingredients

Really? Cause who would have guessed that Frosted Mini-Wheats might contain wheat?

Bored At Work?
I'm guessin' so, otherwise why would you be reading us? Anyway, when you're done here you could always check out whether you have any haunted houses or UFO's or other freaky things going on in your neighborhood.

Or, you could find out what the geeks scholars are up to by checking out real-time Wikipedia edits. Why is this interesting? I have no idea, but it kinda is, at least for thirty seconds or so.

Sweet Love Songs:
Here are two videos you've either (a) seen before, because they're all over the internet or (b) will be incredibly offended by, if you don't have an adolescent sense of humor like Crabby does.

Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman are a couple, and both are comedians. Sarah performed this video for their anniversary or Jimmy's birthday or something, Crabby can't quite remember. Anyway, it's crude but quite amusing, or at least the Crab thought so.

And Jimmy's response, also pretty funny, is here.

Have a great Friday, everyone!

[p.s. This is Merry again... did you notice? Not One Single Cat Video!!! Yes, I was shocked too. So here's the best I could do: a link to a Jumping Cat Monastery in Burma]

February 28, 2008

Memory: Girl Brains and Boy Brains Differ

[By Crabby]

I'm always fascinated by gender differences. While I've personally never fit all that comfortably into the "feminine" world (the subject of an upcoming post, I think), there are still many ways in which I feel distinctly a girl, not a boy. Even if you'd have to threaten me with a lethal weapon to get me to wear false eyelashes or a pair of stiletto heels.

And while exceptions are everywhere, men and women do seem, in many ways, kinda different.

How much of that is how we're wired, and how much of that is because each gender is taught to behave and think differently? The question used to seem really threatening, because any hint of innate difference was seen as a reason to discriminate against women.

Feminism still has a LONG way to go, but we now have at least a little more freedom to wonder about this stuff. I think the main thing that's changed is that it's not as common anymore to assume that the "boy" way of thinking is always better, and the "girl" way is always worse. (People do, however, tend assume that the "boy" way is normal, and the "girl" way is different, even though we are half the freakin' population.)

(There is a book I've been meaning to read called "The Female Brain," which I think explores this subject more thoroughly. Anyone read it yet?).

Anyway, so there's a new study out that suggests women and men remember things differently. In short, "women excelled in verbal episodic memory tasks, such as remembering words, objects, pictures or everyday events, and men outperformed women in remembering symbolic, non-linguistic information, known as visuospatial processing." The example cited is that "a man would be more likely to remember his way out of the woods."

As someone who can barely find my way out of my own bedroom, I've decided to embrace my deficient visuospatial abilities as one of the few ways in which I'm apparently quite feminine. I can always compensate by using my verbal abilities to get someone else to tell me how to get myself where I need to be. Or better yet, I can talk my way out of even having to go anywhere in the first place!

Note: I think individual differences are always more important than overall generalizations, and I know tons of women who can totally kick any guys ass when it comes to finding her way out of the woods. And lets be realistic--which gender usually gets itself lost in the woods in the first place?

So the study also said there were "sex differences favoring women on tasks such as remembering the location of car keys, which requires both verbal and visuospatial processing," and that "women are better than men at remembering faces, especially of females." Overall, they believed "females currently hold the advantage in episodic memory."

It's interesting, then, how often in movies we see women being all flighty and spacey and it's the guys who always remember things. They always get to save the day because they can recognize the terrorist in disguise or remember where the gun was stashed or recall the secret password. Whereas it looks like in real life, it would be the gal who would be more likely to remember that stuff.

There are tons of other ways in which men and women, overall, appear to perhaps function a bit differently; this is just one tiny example. What do you guys think, are these differences significant? Or pretty much imaginary? And if you do see differences, do you think it's mostly because we're born differently or because we're treated differently?

February 27, 2008

Are you pregnant? Head for Australia, quick!

[By Merry]

A science article in the Telegraph suggests that the season in which you are born can influence your personality. For example, women born in May are often more impulsive, while women born in November are more reflective. (Or so says John Eagle, of Aberdeen University.)

The article goes on to quote other researchers, who found that "people born in the autumn will tend to be physically active and excel in football while those born in the spring will be more cerebral and may be better suited to chess."

(Am I impulsive? Moi? I need to reflect a bit on that, frankly. And I stink at chess, so there's another question mark right there.)

All these claims sounded wacko to me, but then I read further. What I liked about these studies is that the May/November conclusions apply only to the Northern Hemisphere. If you look at people born down under, the findings are reversed. Kiwi November babies get the impulsive label slapped on them instead. (Being labeled 'impulsive' doesn't strike me as a compliment.)

According to another researcher, Jayanti Chotai, at Umea University in Sweden, levels of crucial hormones produced by a pregnant woman change based on the seasons (due to temperature, light levels, changes in nutrition levels, and so on), and this can "hard-wire personality traits while the baby is in the womb."

So apparently we've got another reason to blame our parents for whatever it is we don't like about ourselves. It's not my fault I don't exercise enough. If my parents had had the foresight to arrange matters so that I was born in the fall, I could be off playing football right now.

I don't know nuthin' about birthin' babies*, but if you're in the process of producing a baby in northern hemispherical spring season, and you want the little'un to be into fitness, it sounds as if this might be a good time to emigrate to Australia and give birth in their autumn. On the other hand, if you want to produce the next braniac... hmmmn. Tough choice there. I suppose you could always compromise and give birth on the Equator somewhere.

What do you think? Does the idea of womb-wired personalities require a little seasoning?

Astrological clock thanks to flickr.

*Sorry. Couldn't help myself.

February 26, 2008

Cranky Fitness Takes a Nap

[By Crabby]

Do you like to nap?

When napping isn't scaring us by being correlated with strokes, we're all for it here at Cranky Fitness. If you have the sort of daily schedule in which you can slip a nap in, we say: go for it!

However, for me a nap is kind of like a massage: very enjoyable, but I'm never sure if I'm getting any therapeutic benefit from it. (When I get a massage it feels lovely, but I don't tend to find myself any less sore or tight the next day. In fact I'm often more sore and tight the next day, though my wallet does tend to feel a bit looser and lighter.)

Naps are cheaper than massages (I was going to say free, but read on--this post is actually a product review) but I'm not sure if they work for me. If I take a nap because I'm feeling sleepy and groggy, I enjoy it very much, but I tend to wake up feeling pretty much the same way. But my understanding is: for most people, power napping is a smart thing to do. Most people who are not Crabby McSlacker feel more energetic after a nap. Crabby just enjoys the hell out of them.

So when I got a pitch for a software product that would enable me to take an "energizer nap" and have all kinds of afternoon energy, I thought: cool! Especially if I can try it out without paying for it. I'm all for free things, and for having more afternoon energy. Plus, I loved the idea that it would give me a good excuse to experimental naps every day for a week or so in the name of blogging.

The thing is called "Pzizz", and I tried the Energizer nap version. ($29.95) It also comes in another version ($25.95; or $49.95 for both) that helps you go to sleep at night if you have insomnia. (Sorry Merry: perhaps I should have offered you this review opportunity instead of the laxatives?) More information about the product is available at the Pzizz website.

Pzizz isn't a CD; it's software you download and use to generate somewhat customized audios that you can listen to on your headphones while you nap. You can choose how long you want it and it adjusts accordingly. It plays music and has background sounds and a guy talks to you and gives you helpful suggestions about relaxing.

I call him Mr. Pzizz.

So here, in no particular order, are some thoughts about Mr. Pzizz and his software:

Good Things About Mr. Pzizz:

1. Mr. Pzizz says slightly different things each time he talks to you. This is because each time you want to use the recording you generate a new version. This is a VERY COOL feature! I've tried lots of relaxation and self-hypnosis tapes and they get old really fast--this will be an even nicer feature if they keep their promise to provide free updates. The more new things Mr. Pzizz is able to say, the better I like him. Right now, he still seems to repeat himself quite a bit from nap to nap, but there's usually at least something new.

2. Over time, you start to associate Mr. Pzizz with feeling sleepy. I can barely type right now, for example, because even the name Pzizz makes me very, very tired. When I started doing the Pzizz thing I didn't nap at all during the recording, I just thought it was supposed to relax you. Now I put on the headphones and conk out fairly quickly.

3. You can adjust the volume of Mr. Pzizz so that's he's quite audible over the sounds and music, if you want to hear his suggestions loud and clear. Or you can make it so you can barely hear him if you just want to snooze while he natters on.

4. Mr. Pzizz uses binaural-beat technology, which theoretically can help you "entrain your brain" to reach states of relaxation more quickly. (There is also a free version of binaural beat audio here, but it's not a whole fancy program like Pzizz.) Does this technology really work to help you relax more deeply? I'm not sure--but I bet it will if you think it will.

5. Because I promised Mr. Pzziz I'd give him a try, this got me in the habit of allocating 25 min a day to either relaxation or napping. Otherwise, I never get around to it. If you fork over money for the software, you may feel a similar commitment to your own relaxation just to justify the $29.95.

Not So Good Things About Pzizz:

1. Could they have thought of a less appealing name for a product than Pzizz? "Pzizzing" sounds like something you'd end up doing after eating too many beans for lunch, not something you'd pay money to do on purpose.

2. I can't quite figure out if you're supposed to be sleeping during these sessions, or just relaxing and absorbing hypnotic suggestions.

Both relaxation and napping have their benefits, but in my mind these are two different, mutually exclusive things. So if you're picky about whether you want to learn to relax, or to actually fall asleep, you might want a different product--or at least one with clearer instructions.

3. There aren't much in the way of "energizing" suggestions--just a couple of sentences when it's time to "wake up." So if you're like me and having a nap itself doesn't give you a whole bunch of energy, then you don't get much additional help from Mr. Pzizz. I've been really enjoying my little relaxation/nap experiences, but I haven't noticed any sudden burst of afternoon energy.

4. Technical issues: because you have to generate a new recording each time, it's hard to just jump in and nap. You need to wait (less than a minute, but still) for it to generate. And there's also no rewind button. So if you get all ready for your nap, start the recording, and then realize you need to pee or get a drink of water or something, too bad. You have to start over and generate a new nap.

5. It's $29.95.

Bottom Line: Would I buy it? Quite possibly! But then I've shelled out money for all kinds of odd relaxation/meditation stuff before, like Kelly Howell's CD's or the extremely freaky "Sphinx of the Imagination" by Hypnotica. I'm crap at relaxing on my own. And having spent a number of afternoons with Mr Pzizz I've actually grown quite fond of him. (I don't know if this will be a brief fling or a long-term relationship, but I do know I have a hot date with him this afternoon...)

How about you folks, how do you feel about naps, do they refresh you? Do you ever get to take them? Or how about relaxation tapes--ever buy any?

Is anyone else getting sleepy just reading this?

February 25, 2008

50 ways to lose your blubber

[By Merry]

Oh come now -- you know full well that I do not have an attention span long enough to list 50 ways to lose fat. Besides, Cranky Fitness is not a Weight Loss blog. It was just a cheap trick to make you click the link. Which you have, so I'm happy. You can go away now.

Crap. You're still here. I suppose that means I've got to follow through on what I started.

Have you noticed those '25 things to do before I die' lists that people have been making on their blogs? This is an example: 100 things to do before you die.

One thing that most of the lists have in common is that the activities listed are frequently ones that would cause you to lose fat and gain muscle. (Climb Mount Kilimanjaro, ski down Everest, wrestle a sabre-toothed tiger.)
What could be better?

Go forth, spake I to myself, and create a list of things you really want to do before you die. Scan the list for things that would cause you to lose fat. Do these things. What could be simpler?

Oh, so now you expect me to follow my own advice, do you? Want me to publish such a list just to show I'm not a chicken? Fine. See below.


Before you get to my list, a couple of things to bear in mind.
Something that these lists have in common is that the lister really would like to do these actions. So from my perspective, that meant scratching anything that involved heights, depths, or cats the size of sanitation trucks.

Another similarity with many of these lists is that some of the tasks on them are frankly... well, they read a bit like those Christmas letters you get from someone you don't know very well, in fact you've forgotten the names of their children, but the letter tells you that the 10 year old has been accepted into Harvard and the 3 year old won the Turner prize for Art. One of those letters. I am not convinced that some of these people really have any plans to ride the space shuttle, drive coast to coast in a red convertible with a hot blond, or ask their boss for a raise. They probably couldn't come up with a full 25 without some padding.

My list, as it stands now, is only composed of things that I really want to do and that are within my capabilities, physical, emotional, financial.

My List:
  1. Ride a century (100 mile bike race).
  2. Run one of those -- what do you call them? A 401k? Oh, right, a 5k. (Knew it was something like that.)
  3. Get my house organized
  4. Ride with a regular cycling group, (Currently my pace is a bit too slow for the groups around here.)
  5. Become thin-and-fit, ready to embark on a career of World Domination.

Looking at this list, it's a bit depressing that I can't think of 25 things to do before I die. Really, I'm not planning to go for several more decades. Time to start thinking of things to do. Because I think the worst thing I could do would be to drift through life and only realize at the end that I could have enjoyed myself a bit more.

One way to come up with ideas is to try this: Tackle any issue with a list of 100. I'll have to see if I can come up with more things to do.

Or if you have any suggestions, please let me know. What's on your list?

If you still need a '50 ways' fix, might I suggest 50 ways to get fit for summer? It's still useful information at any time of the year.

Photo courtesy of flickr. For some reason, "swim with dolphins" was on every single To Do list that I saw.

February 24, 2008


[By Crabby]

Cranky Fitness has been terribly remiss about linking to other people's blogs lately. Or at least the Crab half of the team has been seriously slacking.

Basically, I visit many of your awesome blogs and think: "Wow, great post! I should leave a comment! Or better yet, I should link to this post the next time I'm writing about [fill in the blank]... And dang, it's really way past time to update my blogroll, some of my favorites aren't on there yet. I'm gonna do all that this afternoon, definitely. Oh wait, but I still need to pay that Visa bill and return that book to the library and wasn't I supposed to defrost something for dinner? Hmm, I think it's time for a nap."

It's tough being a McSlacker.

Of course there's no way one hurried weekend post is going to make much dent in the backlog, but hell, you gotta start somewhere. So these are just a few recent notables--and I really will try to remember to do this more often. (She said, looking longingly at the Nap Couch). So here we go:

Stephanie at Back In Skinny Jeans not only has a cool new blog, Noshtopia, but she's apparently going to be the next Skinny Bitch-- and we mean that in the nicest way!

And Vanilla at Half-Fast isn't content just being hilarious, apparently he wants to start his own unique blog niche: he's going to save you from various common running emergencies like falling into quicksand. Oh yeah, and he still remains the foremost world authority on running skirts for men.

If you like our feature "Ask Cranky Fitness" but have noted the lack of unfaked questions, you might want to check in with MizFit. She's funny and she actually knows something about fitness. For example, you know how the experts are always nagging you to drink more water? She can tell you how the hell you're supposed to do that.

(And speaking of Fitness Advice, don't forget our pal Dr. J at Calorielab--you might even get a $10 gift certificate if he chooses your question!)

Oh, and our newest sponsor, My Fitness Solutions, not only offers online help with getting into shape, but has a blog of its very own with plenty of health and fitness suggestions!

While over at Iowa Avenue, they've introduced a new feature called "Tight Ass Tuesday." Of course Cranky Fitness heartily endorses anything with the word "Ass" in it.

Enjoy the Oscars tonight, if you do that sort of thing, click on a few links here if you have the chance, and have a great rest-of-the-weekend!

And we'll be back Monday with more of whatever it is we do here.

February 22, 2008

Random Friday Returns!

[By Crabby and Merry]

So we're skimping on actual scientific research this week because nothing new was discovered anywhere in the world we felt more like doing silly items and not thinking too much. Maybe next Random Friday we'll put on our crisp white lab coats and our horn-rimmed glasses and scientificate a little more and sillyify a little less. Maybe.

But here's at least one study:

Old People Not as Screwed, Memory-Wise, As They Used to Be.
[Could Crabby have perhaps put that a bit more delicately? Yeah, but then this would be a different, better blog.]
So according to a study in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, (summarized here), memory loss and thinking problems are decreasing among those over 70. The researchers point to improvements in higher education, economic status, and health care as possible reasons.

However, I'm not exactly counting on my higher education or my 401K to keep me sharp, since I'm already a space cadet to begin with. I don't have a whole heck of a lot of excess brain power to bank on. So until they figure out a cure for Alzheimers, etc, I'm going to keep popping those dang fish oil capsules even if they do give me fish burps.

Guess What: Weight Loss is Simple After All!
Merry spotted this incredible product, via Fitness Fixation, from a company called Too Faced. It's Guilt-Free Lip Gloss. To quote their product blurb, it's "A super shiny lip gloss inspired by Fuze energy drinks that energizes and slenderizes."

Really? Lip gloss can make you lose weight?

I'm thinking the only kind of lip gloss that could truly promise to slenderize would be one made out of Super Glue. But what do I know? I'm a Chapstick kinda gal.

Cranqué Pheeetniss
Crabby, being a crab, naturally dislikes mimes, street artists, jugglers, and others who gratuitously try to cheer her up in public places. So it's not surprising that Merry is the one who dug up this "walking as performance art" video. (Quick poll: Crabby would have so committed vehicular manslaughter about three minutes in. Anyone else? Perhaps Crabby needs to cut down on her caffeine.)

Classy as Always:
Cranky Fitness just wanted to make sure you were up on the latest headlines:
"Police: Crack Found in Man's Buttocks".

Oh, and speaking of Crack-related items, remember the magazine Cracked, which was a knock-off version of Mad Magazine when we (baby boomers) were growing up? Well, apparently it still exists! And it's actually got some funny stuff. So for those who appreciate culturally insensitive bathroom humor, here's a great roundup of Weird Toys from Around the World. (Note: By "weird" we mean mostly poop-related, and by "the World" we mean Japan.)

Optical Illusion Plus Your Own 'Freedom Passive Income Stream!'
I enjoy optical illusions, but it cracked me up that this one is hosted by some new-agey site promoting inner happiness and schemes for making a quick buck. Material happiness is just an illusion, right? So what happened to those pink dots? And hey, what the hell just happened to my bank account???

Translate Your Blog Into Red-Neck
I was skeptical 'til I tried it, but this blog translation device can be pretty funny. Just type in the URL of your favorite blog (don't forget the www if it's part of the name) and try to resist the sudden craving for a buckit of fried chicken, a bottle a' hooch and a Hee Haw marathon.

Cute Animal Overload (Because We Just Can't Help It):
Computer monitor getting a little dirty? Well, here's a must-have screensaver.

Need help waking up in the morning? Cats really help ease that transition and get you moving:

Or, for those who prefer the quicker cat alarm clock version:

funny pictures
Courtesy of icanhascheezburger.com

Have an energetic, slenderizing Friday everyone!

February 21, 2008

Psst, Girls... Get Your Hot Porn Here!

[By Crabby]
Cover Photo: Porn for Women

So I'm about a year late on this and you all probably have seen it, but what the hell: this book looks hilarious. And there's a new one coming out soon called: Porn for New Moms.

The premise: guys who actually do their share of the chores and are extremely sensitive to their wives desires are... well, mostly amusingly fictional. But to the extent that they do exist: they're HOT! Hotter, actually, than the square jawed guys who bare their six pack abs and pose in skimpy underwear.

So the "pornographic" pictures feature men dusting and vacuuming and saying things like this:

Which play on gender stereotypes, sure, but so what. They totally crack me up.

I probably shouldn't be weighing in on the issue of heterosexual chore division at all, since I have zero personal experience to draw on. But I have noticed that it's not an uncommon expectation that the "home" stuff is predominantly the woman's job, even when both spouses work. And that this expectation persists even though women have been saying "hey, what the hell's up with that?" for the last 40 years or so.

The good news: apparently that expectation is finally beginning to shift a bit, and there's more recognition that guys who do chores are hot! And that at least some men are figuring out that learning to pull their own weight domestically can make them a more desirable mate.

I often wonder how some of you gals who have demanding jobs and kids and a bunch of other responsibilities manage to get enough time to pull off healthy meal planning and shopping and cooking and still have time for exercise. Do chores ever get in the way of your health goals? And are you getting 50/50 help from your significant other? Or are we not quite there yet?

(Anyone hear an odd noise, sort of a chomping, spitting, gargly sound? That's the sound of Crabby physically restraining herself from expressing opinions on matters she knows nothing about. She will be listening, for a change, not spouting off, if any of you want to share how the whole chore-sharing thing works in your relationships or what sort of stuff you've observed watching other couples you know. Crabby will put on her anthropologist's pith helmet and take notes! She finds heterosexual relationships fascinating.)

February 20, 2008

Someone you REALLY want to keep happy

[By Merry]

There is someone you really want to keep happy.

No, not your significant other. Not your mother, either.

The scenario: You want someone to do something for you.

Do you:
a) Ask them nicely and thank them afterwards?
b) Use guilt, insults, and contempt to pressure them into doing what you want?

Counting hands Wow. That's a lot of people who went straight for the second option. Let me re-phrase the scenario. You want something done and you need to make sure the person you're asking the favor of will still be on good terms with you later. The person you're asking the favor of is someone you really, really don't want to abandon you. In fact, the person you're asking the favor of is the person you see when you look in the mirror.

So many approaches to fitness focus on denying yourself – 'you can't have that brownie, it's bad for you' or 'you will run that last mile, you need to do it, push yourself.' What if you tried the opposite approach and treated your body with some appreciation? It feels really good to do something to pamper yourself. Make the body feel appreciated instead of punished.

I know, the first impulse at this point would be to reach for the fudge ice cream, or glass of red wine, the cigarette or whatever else provides immediate gratification to the taste buds. But feeding a junk craving rarely benefits the body. I would suggest that the junk/comfort foods are largely created by forces outside of yourself – what your parents gave you to eat, what advertisers pushed on you, things like that. Once you satisfy the craving, your body often feels worse. And – come on, admit it. If you try a health-food diet for a few months, your body does feel better.

So, instead of gratifying your cravings, do something nice for your body. For example, I just bought 3 new sweaters, the clingy kind that has angora woven in and feels incredibly soft and warm to wear.

The irrefutable logic behind this purchase:

Irrefutable Statement #1 - Wearing something nice makes you feel good.
Irrefutable Statement #2 - Feeling good makes you appreciate your body.
Irrefutable Statement #3 - Appreciating the body you walk around in leads to wanting to do good things for your body. You reach for the peach instead of the peach schnapps, because it makes you feel good about yourself to treat your body well.

So what the hell. Take an hour or two to get a massage, soak in a hot tub, buy that soft, angora sweater. Do something fun. Do something nice today for somebody you really want to be happy for a long time to come.

February 19, 2008

Hey, Look How Strong I... Oh Crap

[By Crabby]

Sure, Crabby is Strong Like This Too!

Is Anyone Else Ever This Dumb?

So I was feeling pretty pleased with myself recently when I noticed that I was actually making some progress with a couple of my ab exercises, despite having had a period of bad behavior when I'd laid off entirely for a week or two.

Apparently the rest did me good, because after after years of settling into the same routine, all of a sudden I felt strong enough to push myself further and further each time! It wasn't just a good day, but workout after workout, I was finding the motivation and strength to power though more reps than I'd ever done before!

Until I realized... somewhere along the line I'd started counting differently. These were exercises that had a left and a right side, and I used to count "one" after completing both sides. Now I was going left: "one," right "two."


So I was actually doing way less than I had before, but feeling incredibly smug about it.

And this is not the first time I've had such disappointments:

My walking and running times at a newly discovered running track were so much better than I thought they'd be--my half-assed but consistent training efforts had apparently paid off big time, now that I could measure them! I was so psyched I started going to the track all the time--how could I have ever thought running tracks were boring?-- and I found myself abandoning my previous hilly, unmeasurable routes.


Until one day I discovered the track was some sort of freakish old-fashioned non-standard thing that was Way Under a quarter mile. My times were NOT suddenly faster than I'd ever gone before. I sort of wish I hadn't asked, or that the smarty pants soccer team guy hadn't been so pleased and amused to set me straight about it. (Haven't been back to the track since then, oddly enough).

Oh and that stupid "gravitron" machine at the Gold's Gym in D.C.? The one that made me feel SO proud and pumped about how little help I needed to do pull-ups and tricep dips? Too bad I finally noticed that weights labeled in 10 lb increments were actually 20 lb weights, and I was needing twice the help I'd thought I was getting.

Got Skepticism?
Why am I not more suspicious when my usual half-assed efforts all of a sudden yield amazing results? When something is suddenly harder, I'm quite quick to assume there's something wrong with the machine, or that the trail that looks flat must actually be uphill--err, in both directions? Or that it's the wind or hormones or what I ate for breakfast or the cycle of the moon or something.

I just want to believe, so bad, that I'm really awesome and strong and dedicated, without actually putting out the kind of effort to be any of those things.

Heart Rate Goes Up, Brain Shuts Down
Part of my problem too is that I can't think and exercise at the same time. Trying to do six intervals during my treadmill routine proved impossible until I made myself do them at specific time increments--because I discovered I could not count to six.

I even tried putting six pennies in my pocket and taking one out after each interval--but I'd keep forgetting to do it... or thinking maybe I'd forgotten to do it. Surely there couldn't be three f*cking pennies still left--I must have done at least four intervals by now! Maybe I just forgot to take out one of the pennies?

Screw It, It Is What It Is
One answer to the painful disappointment that accompanies faux performance gains: stop measuring and caring that much about how much I do. It's pretty clear after several decades of working out that I'm not willing to push myself hard enough to do amazing things. And I'm pretty content, over all, with my consistent if not spectacular performance. So why get so excited if some number gets big all of a sudden?

Damn ego, wish I could send it packing. But that would probably take some sort of self-improvement effort--and I don't seem to be willing to put in a bunch of time doing that, either.

What about you folks, do you measure your performance and have expectations about it? Ever go through any ups and downs over the results?

February 18, 2008

When sleep is just a dream

[By Merry]

"How do people go to sleep? I'm afraid I've lost the knack." - Dorothy Parker

Sleep is good.

Working so much overtime that you get hooked on coffee is bad, but that's where I'm at right now. (I have to write documentation for an application, but the only time I can get access to the software without some bloody engineer tinkering with it is between 8pm and 5am, so I've become really, really appreciative of sleep.) The trouble is, if you get into the habit of punishing your body with excess caffeine, when you finally lay down you're still twitching with aggravated adrenalin jolts.

Trying to find research that has helpful suggestions led me instead to the ultimate vindication for your inner slug: getting up early can be harmful to your health. Apparently, "getting up early is also more likely to lead to muscle aches, cold symptoms, headaches and significantly worse moods." [They needed a study to figure that last one out?] Of course, not exercising because you slept in isn't great for your health either.

I mean, I do realize some of the bad things that can happen to you if you don't sleep:

How do you get to sleep when you're wired-but-tired? I'd love to hear how you manage it. Here are some of the suggestions that I've gathered so far:
  • Do try that deep breathing/counting stuff. Even if the mind is going around and around like a Starbucks-addicted hamster on an exercise wheel, the body can affect the mind; besides, if you’re lying there in the dark staring at the ceiling, it gives you something to do besides being irritated.
  • Don’t drink when trying to get to sleep. Helps you fall asleep, but can cause you to wake in the middle of the night, which is invariably the most depressing time of the whole 24-hour cycle. Besides, unless you’re on the Wine diet, it’s not going to help the waistline.
  • Avoid 12 Frappacinos before bedtime. (Okay, so some of the suggestions were pretty obvious.)
  • Try some milk, if you can stomach it. Or a turkey sandwich. (Or both, since both contain tryptophan.)
  • Instead of regular sleeping pills, try the homeopathic ones like Moondrops. [Note: this is not an endorsement or a warning against this stuff. I'm passing on a suggestion I received.]
  • Avoid if possible sleeping pills that might cause strange behavior. Several cases have been reported about people taking Ambien, which apparently made them get up in the middle of the night, not fully conscious, and go driving. Even if it doesn't have that effect on you, it has been known to get people up in the middle of the night to raid the frig. Seriously. (If you're going to raid the frig, you should at least enjoy the moment!)

Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Until I find a solution, it's comforting to know that scientists are tirelessly working on this problem. Researchers at Wake Forest have discovered a naturally occurring brain peptide that can improve the cognitive performance of sleep-deprived monkeys. Hell, if it can make monkeys think better when they're short on sleep, maybe it can do the same for technical writers. Very similar species, after all.

Sketch courtesy of Flickr.

February 16, 2008


I Don't See a Slot For Blog Posts

[By Crabby]

Don't worry, this isn't a post nagging you to clean out your funky-smelling milk containers and save your used tea bags for the compost heap. I know you folks are green as all get-out and you're all over that stuff already.

(I keep having these nagging recycling questions myself, like: used napkins-- are they paper or garbage? Does it depend on what food they were used for and how disgusting they got? But never mind--like I said, this isn't actually about that kind of recycling).

So I just wrote a comment in an attempt to win a contest at Blogher, which is a pretty hopeless quest but I figured what the hell. And then I thought, why waste what's essentially a short post? So I decided I'd "recycle" the darn comment here.

For other Blogher folks who may be interested in entering the contest and spoiling my chances, the contest is about Your Plans to Live Healthier in 2008.

Note: the deadline is soon and there is a harsh and punitive WORD LIMIT of 250, which made it really hard for me because I do not tend to shut up about anything after writing a mere 250 words. I can't write a grocery list that short even if all I need is milk.

The competition looks pretty stiff, because everyone wants an all-expense paid trip to the Blogher conference in San Francisco this summer, which is the prize. (I'm assuming they know I will no longer be living near SF by then and hate to fly. I'm guessing if I win they'll send a very patient limo driver to Provincetown MA to pick me up and ferry me cross-country. Right, Blogher?)

Unfortunately, lots of the other contestants actually went out and did a bunch of cool new healthy things, which puts me at a decided disadvantage. But here we go anyway!

Crabby's Three Awesome Health Resolutions for 2008:

1. I'm going to run my very first MARATHON! Hooray for me!
1. Oh wait... my knees are pretty trashed. But I'm gonna do lots of healthy stretching and strengthening, and work up to running 5-7 miles five times a week!
1. Err, strike that. How about three to four miles, five times a week? That's still pretty darn healthy!
1. Ouch. Ow ow ow.
1. Sigh. I'll go running ONCE a week and return to dorky race-walking and elliptical like before.

2. I'm going to eat nothing but fresh organic produce, lean protein, whole grains, nuts and seeds and olive oil and I'll never touch another evil cupcake or eat another plate of nachos ever again!
2. Plus maybe a little dark chocolate and red wine, too. Those are good for you.
2. Okay, only ONE cupcake a week, as a treat.
2. Oops. Well maybe some weeks two cupcakes... But definitely only one order of nachos a quarter. Err, per month... Okay, per week.
2. Um, so lets say I resolve to eat pretty healthy MOST of the time, like I was doing already.

3. I'm going to resolve to keep improving my physical and mental well-being in every way possible every single day!
3. Um... most of the time, anyway.
3. Oh dear. Well, maybe I'll just try my best to be as healthy as I can. Life's too short for perfection!

So it's a holiday weekend for a lot of people, and I know you're all out playing and I hope you're having a great time. But if you're doing something healthier in 2008, Cranky Fitness would love to hear about it, especially if it keeps you from going over to tell Blogher about it and stealing my all expense paid trip.

Have a great weekend everyone!

February 15, 2008

Ask Cranky Fitness: Winter Blues and Swimsuit Snark

[Written by Merry and Crabby.]

Dear Cranky Fitness,

I’m soooo bored with winter! I am tired of indoor workouts but I don’t want to freeze outdoors. What can I do? How can I get my motivation back?

Signed, Dreary in Dayton

Dear DiD,
Dreary winter days
Grey skies stretch to March at least
Work out anyway.

(What? Crabby, why are you looking at me that way? Sheesh, I try to add a little culture to this blog, just one innocent haiku, and I get weird looks. Hmph.)

Anyway, a couple of thoughts:

  • Motivation is a summer creature; it flies south for the winter and doesn’t return until spring. Unless you’re in Australia, where it flies north for the winter, but let’s not go there. Actually, we probably should go there; Australia is warm right now, better suited to exercising. But if that’s not in the budget, my best advice is to fake it till you make it. Find a new workout companion, join a new class at the Y, take up aerobic whining for a couple of months. We’re almost there. You can make it.
  • Is it just the exercising that’s boooooring, or is it the weather, the traffic, work stress, etc.? If you need to lift your mood in general, exercise is the cure not the problem. Another way to alleviate the winter blahs – try something creative. You may not be the world’s best artist, but even so drawing or playing music or dancing will access areas on the right-side of the brain that don’t normally get a workout in our practical, left-brained society, and this can be immensely satisfying.


Dear Cranky Fitness,

I'm 19 years old and thin and gorgeous and hot. I have really rich parents, a bunch of cute boyfriends, a brand new BMW and I don't even need to go to college 'cause my Daddy got me this awesome job at his recording studio. Everyone wishes they were me.

Anyway, I keep hearing all this stuff about exercise and sleep and antioxidants and I have to laugh. I can eat anything I want and I look great! I can party all night and drink and smoke and snort pretty much anything I want and the next day, I'm still like, beautiful and thin and awesome! (Just a little sleepy).

My question is: Why should I eat gross vegetables and do boring exercises when it's no fun? Sweat is smelly and icky. And everyone knows smokers are way hipper than non-smokers, so why should I quit? Oh, and treadmills and yogurt and vegetables--those are just for the ugly fat people, right? Sexy people are perfect just the way we are.

So no offense but your advice, like, totally sucks.

Signed, Hollywood Hottie

Dear Hottie,

Oh gosh, my mistake. You are so right!

Sorry for all the previous advice I've given about health and fitness: I should have made it clear I didn't mean you.

Of course young, naturally slim, sexy people don't have to play by the same rules. Everyone knows you're special!

So don't worry! Enjoy yourself: party all night, eat crap all day, smoke, skip the sticky sunscreen, take lots of fun drugs, don't educate yourself, let Daddy and Mommy take care of everything that's difficult, and check back in about twenty or thirty years and tell us how you're doing in life! We'll be really curious.

Sorry again for the mistake.


Dear Cranky Fitness,

I’m always trying to eat healthy foods, but I share an office with coworkers who are addicted to Scottish cuisine, i.e. they bring back McDonald’s every day. One woman in particular is always ribbing me for eating “rabbit food.” The worst part is, she’s thin and never seem to gain weight.

Is there some snappy response I can make when she starts making fun of me?

Signed, Watership Down

Dear WD,

Some possible responses you could try:

a)“Yes, this is rabbit food, very funny ha ha” (and keep right on munching). Agreeing with someone is a great way to take the wind out of their sails. If they’re expecting an argument then it throws them off balance, which is entertaining to watch. Even if they feel the need to repeat themselves a few more times trying to needle you, just smile and nod and get on with your own life.

b)If you want to take the low road and be mean, start talking about how swimsuit season is coming up, and you’re planning on buying a smaller size this year. Ask her if she’s planning to go to the beach this summer. If she says yes, hesitate in a meaningful, significant fashion, as if you really wanted to say something, then change the topic to something innocuous. This will sow the seeds of doubt in even the most confident woman’s mind. (No woman is ever 100% confident about how she looks in a swimsuit.)

c)You could take the neutral road and not react at all. Tell her the subject has been thoroughly discussed and there’s really nothing more to add to the topic. Less entertaining than being mean, but probably more practical if you have to work with the woman on a daily basis.


Dear Cranky Fitness,

So what the hell happened to Random Friday? Where are the contradictory studies and the links that have nothing to do with health and fitness even though you pretend they do? Where are the animals exercising? Random Friday wasn't all that great but now that it's not here I miss it!

Signed, Miffed in Minneapolis

Dear Miffed,

Random Friday is not gone forever. Crabby has just been a bit busy of late taking care of her elderly mother-in-law still trying to decide between Revere Pewter or Coventry Gray for the P-town living room. She she fully intends to bring Random Friday back. Perhaps not every Friday but a least on a somewhat regular basis.

Fortunately, Merry, who has been saving Crabby's lazy ass all week, has an emergency Random-Fridayish contribution in the Animal Exercise department! (It's an ad, but not an annoying one).

Have any questions, concerns, or general irritations that you’d like to see Merry or Crabby address on Cranky Fitness so we can stop making so much of this sh*t up? Send them on the back of a $20 bill to crabbymcslacker at gmail dot com.

And have a great Friday!

February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day?

[By Crabby]

Valentine's Day is a terrible holiday and I am totally against it.

For one thing, you don't get the day off work, which makes it a crappy excuse for a holiday. But the worst thing is the forced, commercialized nature of it. It pretends to be a celebration, but just seems to put all kinds of weird pressure on the coupled and the uncoupled alike.

Singles often say they feel extra lonely and marginalized, even those who are generally quite happy and content with their unencumbered state.

And even many happily married couples seem to be gritting their teeth a bit. The gals often end up feeling under-appreciated. Because isn't your guy's Valentine's Day performance supposed to be some sort of test of how much he loves you? That's what all the commercials say. Like the pressure to be skinny or eternally youthful--even if you know perfectly well the message is bogus, it's still hard not to be affected by it.

(So, like how come you ended up with the guy who never remembers it's Valentines Day at all, or who'd rather celebrate with pizza and a night in front of the tv? Where's that thoughtful hubby who sends flowers to the office where all the other girls can admire them? And how come other women get those broad-shouldered dudes in black tie who spirit them off in a limo for an elegant dinner, then coyly pull out a $20,000 diamond necklace? Where the hell is your limo ride and diamond necklace, huh?)

As for the men... I'm guessing no matter how diplomatically they've learned to hide it, many must secretly dread the whole thing. Culturally, Valentines Day is not a gender-neutral, equal opportunity occasion. It's a test. If you are a straight couple (one gathers from the tv commercials) the Boy's role is to Come Through with the Goodies. The Girl's role is to Cross Her Fingers and Hope He Doesn't F*ck it Up.

So yeah, I hate Valentine's Day... in theory.

But, well, the Crab and the Lobster do celebrate Valentine's Day anyway and it's pretty much always awesome.

[Sorry, some of you probably didn't need to hear that today].

I think same-sex couples have it a little easier on Valentines Day--we're pretty much left out of the cultural and media conversations. DeBeers has not yet, to my knowledge, tried to put pressure on Susie to spring for an expensive diamond bracelet to prove her love to Pam. The 1-800-Flower people are not bugging Steve to make sure he remembers to send a bouquet to Jonathan on this special day. The advertisers leave us the hell alone. Usually that bugs me, but it this case, I feel like it's actually a favor.

However, there are still plenty of miserable gay people on Valentines Day. Why are the Crab and Lobster so lucky?

Partly it's because we've customized the celebration. There's no pressure--it's just one more chance to say "I love you" and have a really nice dinner out. (Which we may actually have the night before or the night after, when it's easier to get reservations. We don't give a crap about the actual date). We don't do the candy or the flowers anymore, or even cards, because after 17 years, we've done all that stuff enough already. We don't need to make any sort of special statement, other than: you're amazing, I love you, how about steak tonight? It may be coincidence, but other couples we know who enjoy the holiday also tend to take a fairly low-key approach.

(Actually, I think the main reason I still enjoy Valentines Day so much despite all my objections is because the Lobster is an incredible person and a perfect partner. So what's not to celebrate? And yes, we belong to that rare and profoundly annoying species: the blissfully happy couple. Really, I'm not kidding, you best avoid us--we're totally nauseating to be around.)

Anyway, to me, what's wrong with Valentines Day is pretty much what's wrong with our view of romantic relationships generally: we celebrate the superficial and barely acknowledge the deeper stuff.

Just look at how so many people select mates: The sweetest, most reliable, thoughtful guy in the world is considered a "loser" if he's not financially successful. The funniest, kindest, brightest woman in the world is considered hopeless if if she's got a few extra pounds or wasn't blessed with a pretty face. Fortunately, not everyone is so short-sighted--but a lot of people are exactly that superficial. The poster children for "love" are always young and pretty and rich, as though those qualities have anything at all to do with the success of long-term relationships.

So my advice? Screw the arbitrary over-hyped Hallmark version of Valentines Day. If you have love to celebrate, celebrate it every day and any old way you feel like it. And if trading heart shaped boxes of candy once a year makes you happy, then do it and have fun!

Just don't let a bunch of corporate hucksters set your expectations for how love is supposed to be shown. The flower and candy and diamond merchants don't give a hoot about your relationship--they just want your credit card number.

What if you are single on Valentines Day? Try to ignore those ads that imply everyone else out there is (a) coupled and (b) happy about it. Sure, a few of us are, but in most cases, a recent study says couples actually find each other more irritating over time. (Not true of other relationships, apparently, like with your friends or your kids). Just keep in mind that a lot of those guys you see dutifully heading home with huge bouquets of roses are actually feeling kinda pissed off at the gals they're bringing 'em home to.

And if you've got some extra unused love on a day meant to celebrate that emotion? Well, how about spending some on yourself. Strangely enough, you may find you plenty left over for other people you care about too.

How about you folks--do you tend to enjoy Valentine's Day, or do you just wish it would hurry up and be over?

February 13, 2008

Beets Me

[By Crabby]

When I'm stressed, sometimes my blood pressure becomes a bit problematic.

No, not the "you must rush out and take care of that immediately" kind of bad, but the "ehr, better keep an eye on that" sort of number.

I have a blood pressure monitor at home that I'm very good about checking it when I know everything's mellow and it's going to show me a nice acceptable number. Oddly enough, I avoid using the monitor when I'm all wound up and I suspect it's going to tell me something I don't like.

I already eat pretty healthy, watch my salt, exercise religiously (except on road trips), and do every freakin' thing you're supposed to do. (Okay, I could be better about scheduling deep breathing/relaxation time, but I at least do a little of it.) And I'm reluctant to start on medication for as long as I can avoid it. So I'm always on the lookout for natural ways to lower my blood pressure.

And guess what, here's a new one: "Beet Juice Lowers Blood Pressure!" Just two cups a day.

Um, two whole cups of beet juice a day?


Normally, a sweet taste in a vegetable is a good thing. Yams? Onions? Roasted Eggplant? All quite likable. But there's something about beety sweetness that I find totally disgusting.

If I had to drink two cups of beet juice a day I'd barf.

Is it just me, or does anyone else share an extreme hatred of beets, or have some other healthy vegetable you just can't stomach?

I'm also curious if anyone is on blood pressure meds and what those are like. I'm already up to my eyeballs in healthy vegetables, and will even drink beet juice if it will actually help, but I'm a little pessimistic. None of the other lifestyle things that are supposed to lower blood pressure have made a noticeable difference.

Or maybe all the healthy things I'm doing are really helping, and my blood pressure would be totally off the charts if I wasn't doing any of them.

I can't really complain about being unlucky in the blood pressure department, as all my other numbers have always been good. I know lots of you struggle with cholesterol or blood sugar or other unfair "bad" numbers despite your best efforts to be healthy. (Kinda frustrating, or do you take it in stride?)

Note: I'm definitely going in for a physical as soon as I get my new health insurance policy, so I can see what the doctor says. (When I go to my ob/gyn and my blood pressure comes out a little highish she doesn't seem too concerned--but then it's not really her department. And I'm thinking doctors who wield speculums are probably used to seeing patients who are not entirely comfortable and relaxed).

But for those of you who know something about the pros and cons of blood pressure drugs: Should I Fear The Pills? Anyone have any cautionary tales/words of encouragement? Or should I just suck it up and drink my beets?

February 12, 2008

Boxers vs. Briefs: the latest fitness debate

[By Merry]

Ever notice how depressing it feels to be surrounded by boxes?

I always used to think people who were overly concerned with neatness with neatfreaks. Actually, I still think that, but I’m starting to wonder if a little neatness now and then might be a good thing.

Some people, whom I shall refer to as boxers, live surrounded by Uncontrolled Stuff, a.k.a clutter. (Not to be confused with people who live surrounded by piles that resemble the aftermath of a tornado, but they know where everything is and they're not stressed about having everything out in view. That's Controlled Stuff.)

There's a theory that clutter is related to being overweight. A decade ago, the guru was Karen Kingston, author of Clearing clutter with feng shui. Now it’s Fly Lady, with her book Body Clutter. Even Oprah has gotten on the bandwagon with this notion, with her clutter expert Peter Walsh. Basically the theory is that clutter and excess weight are both used as some kind of buffer system between the boxer and the outside world. If you can't let things go, then you end up letting yourself go, as it were.

Note: these authorities suggest people who tend to live in clutter also tend to be overweight. My theory that people who live in clutter tend not to be in good shape. It’s possible to be thin without being fit, and that seems to be the dividing line.

People who live cluttered lives have more trouble letting go of things or more trouble making decisions. We accumulate clutter because we’re emotionally attached to our possessions or we don't know where they should go and so the stuff stays out on the kitchen table for days/weeks/eons.

You could make decisions for an indecisive boxer, if you want to spend the rest of your life playing nanny. But you can't forcibly take the clutter away from an emotionally attached boxer -- if you throw out all their stuff they feel naked and vulnerable, and consciously or not start gathering clutter again.

Living with clutter or with a lack of fitness is essentially giving up control over your environment, be it your living space or your body. Dr. J. wrote a blog post about a link between obese people and littering. I think it’s the same sort of behavior. I mean, the more you care about your body, the less likely you are to put junk food into it and the more likely you are to keep it in good shape. The more you care about the environment, the less likely you are to litter. Can we extend that to a cluttered home or workspace?

Am I whistling Dixie and postulating whereof I am ignorant? Please feel free to shoot this theory down. I'm open to debate.

Presumably people who practice a more lean, unfettered existence should be designated as briefs. I'm not sure how to verify that lean people are more organized around the house except by finding some lean, fit man and following him home to check out his personal surroundings. Could be an interesting research subject, but any grant money would have to pay for my lawyer's fees when I get arrested for stalking.

Probably that little snag is the reason I haven't found any scientific studies about this. But there's lots of anecdotal evidence, plus it’s on Oprah – what more do you want?

I do believe that people who can bring themselves to get rid of clutter Feel Better. And certainly people who are moving house are more stressed and crantankerous than the average human. Why else would people who fight be named boxers?

Note: the above post is talking about human boxers, not any four-legged friends you might happen to know and love. Honest.

February 11, 2008

Childhood Obesity: Nature or Nurture?

[By Crabby]

Cranky Fitness is confused.

So there was a study that came out last week on the heritability of childhood obesity. The study looked at how much of childhood obesity is genetic, versus how much has to do with lifestyle stuff.

You know, like eating Pop Tarts and Dunkin' Doughnuts for breakfast instead of oatmeal and blueberries. Or playing video games and watching Survivor instead of going outside to play wholesome games like "Kick the Can" or "Capture the Flag" or "Jump Off the Roof with a Grocery Bag Parachute" or "Nearly Set the Neighbor's House on Fire Playing With Matches."

(Younger readers might not be aware that in the old days, we Baby Boomers were often permitted to play outside for hours and hours at a time, completely unsupervised. Isn't that neat? We tended to be slimmer, those of us who actually survived.)

Anyway, even though the study didn't get that specific, the general conclusion was: fat kids are mostly screwed because of their genes, not because of how their parents are raising them.

A few observations, then I'm eager to hear what you all think.

1. This was an extremely depressing study.

Not just because of the poor fat kids, but also because I could NOT make any sense out of it. I'm hoping an actual scientist might take a look, because it seemed to be saying a lot of contradictory things all at once. I can usually at least follow along a little bit when I read research studies, but this one made me feel dumb. I think it may have said that being a fat kid is about 77% genetic, but, well, don't quote me on that.

2. People Are Going to Believe What They Already Think is True.

Many who report on this study simply go with the headline and proclaim that "Nature Tops Nurture" when it comes to obesity, so Don't Blame the Parents. Others read the same study and come to the opposite conclusion.

At Mark's Daily Apple, for example, where the Impressively Healthy hang out, they noted that there is still a big environmental influence on how genes get switched on and off. If you drop down into the comments section, the general tenor is very academic, and the conclusion seems to be: screw the headlines, it's still mostly Nurture, not Nature.

3. I Think it's Both Nature and Nurture.

4. So Don't Leap to the Conclusion That Any Particular Fat Kid has Unusually Bad Health Habits.

If 77% of obesity is indeed genetic, there are some kids who are going to be fat doing the exact same stuff the skinny kids are doing. To stigmatize them and blame their parents without actually knowing anything about their particular diet or exercise habits is counter-productive and really mean.

Back when I was growing up, there were fewer obese kids--but those who were, in my experience, weren't doing anything all that different from the rest of us. To pretend we all have the same metabolisms and that all skinny people are virtuous and all fat people are lazy is just silly.

5. But As a Society, We Feed Kids Too Much Crap and Don't Ensure They Exercise Enough. That Needs to Stop.

Genes don't change over a couple of generations. The obesity epidemic is a real problem, and it wouldn't be here all of a sudden unless something major changed in the way we're eating and exercising.

So since we can't change individual genes (yet), we have to do all we can to make sure all kids are learning healthy habits. The ones who are genetically lucky enough to be a healthy weight despite eating crap and not exercising enough will still pay for it later in life. No one can afford to grow up thinking that unrestrained scarfing of junk food and a sedentary lifestyle are "normal," let alone some sort of entitlement.

End of Sermon.

So what do you folks think about the Nature vs. Nurture debate as far as childhood obesity?

February 08, 2008

Mighty Mice

Mouse or Rat? We're Not Sure. Whatever, At Least It's a Rodent.

[By Crabby]

Oh dear, is it Friday already?

For those regular readers expecting the usual "Random Friday" post, complete with an assemblage of bizarro web links--um, sorry! A certain crab didn't manage to put in the usual hours of exhaustive scholarly research mindless web surfing necessary to put one together.

So instead, we have some breaking news about weight training and mouse fitness.

Did you know there are some really strong mice out there hoisting barbells with their tiny paws? And that these mice are better off than the mice who put on their itsy bitsy running shoes and go for a nice long run?

You'd sure think so from this strange little press release (discussed here in case the link screws up again):

"Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have demonstrated that in mice, the use of barbells may be as important to losing weight and improving health as the use of running shoes."

Can't you just picture these determined little rodents in their gym outfits and teeny tiny little ipods? How adorable! A whole new kind of gym rat.

Well, turns out that the press release is either (a) trying to be funny or (b) written while on drugs, because despite my hopes there was no actual miniature mice exercise equipment involved at all.

The researchers just genetically engineered a mouse so that they could mess with a muscle growth-regulating gene. (They're called "MyoMice," not "mighty mice," alas). The upshot of the research seems to be that, at least if you're a mouse, weight lifting as you age will keep you slimmer and healthier and more junk-food resistant than running mouse-marathons. It has to do with all the swell things that type II muscle fiber can do for your metabolism.

The implications are that humans could do a better job fighting obesity if they'd lift weights. Good point! However, I just was SO disappointed after that initial paragraph to find out they did not actually design any little mouse-sized Nike's.

But here's what I'm curious about:

We've been hearing for quite a while now that we're supposed to be doing strength training, not just cardio. I make myself do it, even though I don't like it much. (Okay, some days, honestly, I loathe it). But it really does help you slim down and burn more fat and makes you feel all strong and virtuous and smug.

And yet... I get the feeling a lot of people, particular female people, tend to avoid strength training. When I work out at a gym, there are lots of gals on the treadmills and ellipticals, yet I don't have much female competition for the weight equipment. (And among my friends and relatives--far more pay attention to cardio than bother with weights) .

What's up with that? Is it fear of bulk? Is it psychological? Does strength training truly feel more miserable to women than to men?

I'm curious if you all have any theories. Or whether you guys do weights yourselves. Or is it perhaps something you keep meaning to get around to.. "some day?"

February 07, 2008

Tax the fat?

[By Merry]

Talk about ‘no country for old men’ – it’s no country for old women either. Apparently some doctors in Britain don’t want to treat people who are old or obese. According to the BBC, "About one in 10 hospitals [in the U.K.] already deny some surgery to obese patients and smokers, with restrictions most common in hospitals battling debt."

And this is not an opinion limited to the British. A new bill in Mississippi would make it illegal for restaurants to serve obese customers. The legislation, introduced by three members of the state’s House of Representatives, would allow health inspectors to revoke the license of any restaurant that "repeatedly" feeds extremely overweight people. I get the feeling that a lot of people are, if you will excuse the pun, fed up with people who are overweight. (I do hope you will excuse the pun. I couldn't think of another way to phrase it.)

I can see doctors getting exasperated with people whose behavior made them unwell. But not treating people because they’re old? That’s not just saying Do Not Resuscitate, which is after all supposed to be decided by the patient. This is more like the insurance company that refused a liver transplant to that sick teenage girl. (They argued about it until she was too sick to have the operation performed anyway, basically Death by Red Tape.) Where do you draw the line on how much money to spend on a patient?

Even if the doctors are exasperated, what good will come from stopping treatment because the patient is morbidly obese? All it would do is cause more suffering. It won’t stop people from becoming obese. This article got me thinking about Worst Case Scenarios, the kind of measures the governments might take if we continue to gain weight at this rate. Taking things to a logical extreme, I came up to a few possible W.C. scenarios:

  • They could pass a law that those of us who have more than 30% body fat must go to a nutritional counselor or physical trainer. Like sending someone who has trouble driving to traffic school. Or sending an alcoholic to rehab. You can’t force someone to stop overeating or under-exercising, but you can make it clear what the consequences of this behavior are. Something along the lines of showing children pictures of a smoker’s lungs, showing pictures of untreated diabetes?

  • Or they might put a higher tax on junk food, as some states do with cigarettes, and use the money to fund nutritional education. Katharine at Editing My Body wrote about how expensive it is to eat well in America. Researchers found that the problem was worst in the rural South, which is a region where you could grow some kind of vegetable year ‘round. There’s a cultural bias against “Yankee” food, but it’s surely better to change a bias than to try to reverse diabetes or something like that.

  • If I were really paranoid, the most extreme solution I can see would be forcing people to have gastric bypass surgery. Okay, that’s an extremely extreme solution, but it is similar, in thought if not in scale, with forcing people to wear helmets (or seat belts) or risk being fined. (I do wear helmets or seat belts, but the idea of being forced to look after myself is still annoying.)

These solutions all sound draconian, but not nearly as much as refusing to treat people altogether. That sounds like the voice of exasperation pushed to the point of being totally pissed off. It’s like they want to punish people for being unhealthy.

I suppose the thought behind refusing to treat the obese is based on the feeling that if you're fat, it's your own fault. The relationship between obesity and illness is seen as cause and effect, in the same way that jumping into a tiger’s cage can result in permanent loss of limb or life. If you make a deliberate, conscious choice, you should be prepared for the possible consequences. Fair enough, but not everyone makes a deliberate choice to live off junk food or become a couch potato. I think a lot of people become obese because we didn’t make a conscious choice to be anything else, following the path of feast least resistance.

*********obligatory disclaimer****************
I know there are people who are morbidly obese due to factors beyond their control. Speaking for myself, my weight is my own fault. It would be easier to lose weight if my thyroid functioned like those lean greyhound-type people. (You know who I mean, the ones who can eat anything and remain thin.) But even as I am, I can lose weight if I work at it.
*********end of obligatory disclaimer****************

I still worry about the old people. I mean, who decides the definition of old? To me, old is a term applied to people who have been on this planet longer than I have. I’m not old, and I’ll thank all you young whippersnappers to remember that fact.

Some ancient tribes in the arctic supposedly would abandon their old people out on an ice floe when they got too old to work. Maybe that’s where we got the expression ‘go with the floe’ from. Okay, maybe not. I could see insurance companies wanting to return to that tradition. But it surprises me to find the same feeling is apparently so widespread among doctors. Am I being naive?