November 28, 2008

The Lobster Checks In

Note from Crabby: Today we have a special guest post from The Lobster about our recent cross-country trip! Regular readers may know that "The Lobster" is Crabby's long-suffering spouse and not just some random crustacean who wandered in. Crabby is so grateful for the Lobster's contribution that she resisted the temptation to delete a photo of her own ass which appears therein... tempting as that may have been. But it's the Lobster's post, so Crabby will not mess with it. So without further ado...

Lobstah here.

The Crab and I just returned from our 16 day slog across the nation in our camper van. Many of you (actually none of you but let’s not quibble over numbers) have asked "what’s it like to travel with Crabby given her obsessive focus on health and fitness?" Well, I guess it’s no surprise that what to eat and where to exercise garners a lot of discussion in that old camper van. And, being in a 152 square foot space together uninterrupted for 384 hours, there is a whole lot of time to garner.

Let’s tackle the unpleasant one first, exercise. We usually stop at a gym at least every three days, not because we are particularly interested in working out (well, we kind of are) but because that is our opportunity to shower (see 384 hours referenced above). This is not the first time we have crossed North America and with our BFF Maggie (Magellan, our GPS device loaded with all kinds of information including the location and phone numbers of gyms), and so we’re starting to get that down. Oh, except that we always forget to bring something from the van, like, say a towel or deodorant or the hair dryer. Some people might make a list of things but we’re kind of used to the "oh crap" process. So every 3rd day, we’re set for exercise. Sometimes we even treat ourselves afterward to an "undo" breakfast at a Waffle House or other kind of House of Damage.

The other two days are more challenging. Crabby likes to do that whole running-aerobic thing and needs soft surfaces because of periodic knee issues. I’m more of a died-in-the-wool walker because I like to be able to listen to NPR’s "Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me" on my iPod and any sort of breathing heavy hampers my laughing. We both like to hike (flat and medium length is my sweet spot) so we end up doing a lot of that. We have been on some of the most fantastic hikes in the universe like this one from Yoho National Park in Canada:

And this one from Yellowstone National Park:

These were great but to be honest, the vast majority of our hikes and my view over the mostly flat and about 4-5 mile hikes look like this:

In big huge hunks of this country, there is absolutely no hiking. Really, check out the map and look at those parts where there is nothing green on the map (or in the grocery stores for that matter but we’ll address the whole eating thing later). And, that whole hiking thing is, for us, weather dependent as well. So, in order to get our 4 miles in, we have to get rather creative. I’m much more likely to declare a lost exercise day but Crabby is more determined and resilient. She has spent hours walking the streets of little towns and around rest stops. Our low point, I think, was on a trip up the west coast to see some friends in Seattle. After 3 days of TORRENTIAL rain and no gyms in sight, we decided to walk around a mall, a very small mall. This is how I remember it: Radio Shack, Piercing Pagoda, Zales, Dollar General, Hot Socks, KB Toys, Radio Shack, Piercing Pagoda…..50 freaking times.

Now about the challenge of eating right on the road. Truthfully, we don’t exactly adhere to regular guidelines on while traveling - there are road rules. For example, if we have a long travel day across wide stretches of nothing, we get a treat like ice cream. We’ll do an occasional hamburger but back away from the fries and have an apple instead. We do a lot of salads and even cook full meals from scratch in our "kitchen" that includes roughly 9 inches by 14 inches of counter space. Crabby keeps a supply of hard boiled eggs on hand for morning protein and, depending on the part of the country we’re in, we usually can find decent produce. I do, however, remember one particularly distressing shopping trip in Rapid City, South Dakota, where the entire produce department consisted of potatoes, onions, apples and squash. But then again, we’ve stopped at Austin’s flagship Whole Foods which utterly amazing.

This trip, I have to say the food highlight for me was (drum roll), the beignets at CafĂ© Du Monde in New Orleans. Every culture has their fried dough specialty, but this, to me, is the best any culture has to offer. The only downside is that they come three to an order. I could, of course, easily eat three myself, but that would be too piggy and I’d only do it if Crabby weren’t around. So that meant that we had to split one. Negotiations around how to split the order are represented here:

Now that we’re home and beignet-less, we're on a little post trip, pre-holiday "thing" (we don't like the word "diet") which means no more ice cream or hamburgers for awhile. It also means it’s back to regular gym visits and runs/walks. But at least we’re back in drought-stricken sunny California and can walk outside and not in the mall.

Lobstah, over and out.

November 27, 2008

Random T-day

Happy Thursday!

Or, if you're of the American persuasion, Happy Thanksgiving! We are currently away from the computer, but we wanted to leave you with a random post, as a thanks to all of you for coming here and for leaving such terrific comments! We really do feel grateful.

Word of the year: is it an omen?

Last year we informed you that the word of the year was "Woot." This year, I don't feel I'm jumping the gun to tell you that Merriam Webster has already decided on the word of the year: "bailout." No, I'm not making that one up, alas. (Do the Word of the Year choices mirror the economic mood, like hemlines are supposed to go up or down based on how the market is doing?)

Fair to fat people, unfair to basketball players?

In Canada, if you're too wide to fit into an airline seat, you're entitled to two seats for the price of one. Obese have the right to two seats for the price of one.

My question is -- why only obese people? The airlines really do try to scrunch as many people as they can into the smallest possible space. What about tall people? One of the few times I'm glad to be vertically challenged is when I'm sitting in an airplane. It must stink to be a tall frequent flyer.

Not only obese getting scrunched by the airplanes. This link takes you to an article that talks about the different seat sizes you'll find on different airlines. Turns out some airlines are more into 'scrunch' than others. Personally, I think everyone should be entitled to two seats. So long as both seats are right next to each other. (Sudden vision of a bureaucratic airline assigning me two seats: 1A and 57B.)

Eat meat, get Alzheimer's?

This is a study that fell into the interesting-but-not-a-whole-post-interesting category: Fatty acid levels affect Alzheimer's. Turns out the fatty acid in question is our old enemy arachidonic acid. (Mentioned in last week's review of Dr. Sears' book Toxic Fat.)

One researcher said, "The most striking change we discovered in the Alzheimer's mice was an increase in arachidonic acid and related metabolites [products] in the hippocampus, a memory centre that is affected early and severely by Alzheimer's disease."

His theory is that too much arachidonic acid could be responsible for excessively stimulating brain cells, and that lowering the levels of archidonic acid might allow the cells to function normally.

Me, I believe it.

Throw another shrimp on the Barbie?

I always wondered why Australians like to pile shrimp onto Barbies.

Turns out Oregonians are even stranger.

Crazy Oregonian researchers decided that shrimps need more exercise. They introduced the shrimp to a treadmill. (Didn't know shrimp could run, did you? See, reading Cranky Fitness is educational.)

No! Not another shrimp!
(Tragic photo courtesy of Migraine Chick.)

The resulting video is a smash hit sensation on YouTube.

Shrimp on a Treadmill!

One last note on gratitude

Thanksgiving is about exactly what the name states -- giving thanks. If you read Crabby's post yesterday on gratitude, you probably took a moment or two to think about the things you're grateful for. I've been reading the Fat Cyclist blog for awhile now, and I challenge you to read his gratitude list. I don't think it's possible to read it without receiving a swift reality check to the head. We all have a lot to be thankful for.

November 26, 2008

Happy Almost-Thanksgiving

It's the Day Before Thanksgiving!

All Ready? Gettin' Excited?
Photo: Plan59

So it's a day early for a Thanksgiving post, but heck, it's close enough, right? At least I'm not blogging about Christmas yet, be thankful for that.

I'm mindful that it's traditional when writing about Thanksgiving, particularly if one is female, to pick one of these tried and true topics:

  • How to Prepare a Sumptuous Thanksgiving Feast
  • How to Not to Eat 15,000 Calories in One Meal and Subsequently Explode
  • How to Avoid Becoming Psychotic With Stress and Killing All Your Annoying Relatives
  • How to Rationalize the Fact That Decades After the Advent of Feminism, Women Still Pretty Much Slave Away in the Kitchen While Men Get to Sit on Their Asses And Watch Football
  • Or, most traditional of all: Time to Feel All Thankful and Shit.

If you had to guess, which one would do you think I’d pick?

So, did you pick "Time to Feel All Thankful and Shit?"

Yes, this is Cranky Fitness, but even the Crabbiest of Crabs has to occasionally acknowledge some Awesome Things to feel grateful for. But don't worry; this will be gratitude with a lot of swear words mixed in, because why the hell not.

Gratitude is Good for You!

First, a bit of science to class up the blog:
(I know, I use this picture all the time. I just like it.)

Gratitude research (yes, there is such a thing--doesn't that almost make you want to go back to school?) says that:

  • People who kept gratitude journals exercised more regularly, had fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives, and were more optimistic than those were were told to record "hassles" or neutral life events.
  • The Grateful Group was also more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals; and,
  • Self-guided gratitude exercises (no, sorry, not a euphemism for masturbation) increased alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.

I used to keep a mental gratitude list, and then got out of the habit. But I gotta get back to it, especially with such cool bonus benefits like better health and energy and goal attainment. Selfish Gratitude? Sounds like a concept I can get behind!

Making a Gratitude List

I think the trick here is to do it often, so you can make it short and mix it up a little each time. At least that's my theory. Because if I tried to be comprehensive my list would run 97,023 items long. (I'm one hella fortunate Crab). You'd all get bored and go off to watch tv or pick a fight with your in-laws or something, and I'd never get to hear what you're grateful for. So I'll try to keep it short and maybe save up some gratitude for next year.

So here goes a very personal, abbreviated list of things I'm grateful for:

1. The Lobster
Always number one.

2. Family and friends

This totally includes "online" friends. Y'all rock!

3. Merry Sunshine, who Single Handedly Saved Cranky Fitness from Obscurity, Abandonment, and Ill Repute.

Besides teaching me all kinds of interesting things, totally cracking me up with her great posts, and being a blast to work with, Merry's joining up as a coblogger kept this blog going! I would have seriously quit by now if I didn't have her to pal around with. Or I would have turned it into a lucrative fitness porn site or something. (Seriously, we get googled for "fitness porn" all the time, there must be some money there).

By the way, Merry's One Year Cranky Fitness Anniversary was this weekend! Dang, I shoulda organized a surprise party.

Photo credit: amy_b

Three cheers for Merry!!!!

(And speaking of blog anniversaries, another favorite fitness blogger just had one and wrote a Very Special Anniversary Post).

4. Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate, Olive Oil, Red Wine, Avocados, Eggs, and Coffee
And all the other yummy foods we were warned away from by the "experts" that turned out to be good for us after all.

5. Good health!
I know how much pain and disability some people are afflicted with. Even though I may whine about a runny nose or achy knees, I do get how lucky I am to be in overall great health.

6. Great Blogs to Steal Ideas From! Read and Admire!
I can't even begin to list all the awesome blogs I read and enjoy or we'd be here until next Thanksgiving. (And I know I am horrible about linking, commenting, blogrolling, and otherwise properly acknowledging all of them. But I hope you know who you are!)

Just as one example: if you're a fan of thankfulness as a concept, and think it's useful for more than one day a year, then Leah over at the Goat's Lunch Pail serves up hot fresh gratitude every Monday!

7. Broccolini
It's apparently a hybrid cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, but whatever. It's good for you like broccoli (full of cancer fighting isothiocyanates, sulforaphane and indoles) but it's much tastier. Plus it's fun to say. Actually, it should be sung rather than spoken, to the tune of "Mona Lisa." Broccollllinniii, Broccollllinniii, I adore you... (I know those are not the actual words to Mona Lisa.) (Also, I would sing the Broccolini song only at home and not when you're at the store asking the produce guy if they have any, which at a normal grocery store, they usually don't anyway).

8. Trader Joe's
They usually DO have broccolini! Plus, TJ's has prepackaged but reasonably fresh pomegranates to keep you from going crazy peeling the little f*ckers. And they have cute little dark-chocolate covered graham crackers! And whole wheat tortillas and tasty blue corn chips and Fage yogurt! I could go on, obviously.

9. Obama and the Democrats winning the election
This isn't a blog about politics but screw it, I'm really pleased about this. I wasn't a big Obama fan at the very beginning (I was for Hilary, as his lack of experience troubled me), but now I'm a big ol' fan. A thoughtful, intelligent, grown-up in charge of the country, hooray! Despite our Supremely Screwed Up Economy, I actually feel optimistic about the future of this country. (OK, maybe not the immediate future... it's gonna take a little while to undo the last 8 years).

10. Running to Cheesy Songs on the iPod.
It's all about the beat, and I will listen to the most embarrassing crap imaginable as long as it gets me pumping. There is nothing that compares to running on a beautiful trail with a motivating tune, a caffeine buzz, and an endorphin rush. Even if it means listening to Mouret's Rondeau (the Masterpiece Theater Song) set to a synthesized disco beat. Seriously, I have that one and it's awesome. It's worth totally ruining your knees over and having to spend the rest of your life using a walker. Um, I think. Check back in a few years, I may have changed my mind on that.

11. Blog Sponsors
If you are a blogger and invest quite a bit of time into blogging with the delusion goal of earning a little income, you know how difficult and discouraging it can be. I'm so grateful to our current sponsors, particularly the independent ones, Fit Couture and Mio! We're hoping folks check 'em out every now and then and that they decide to stay a while!

12. Drag Queens.
And all of the other wonderful things about Provincetown, Massachusetts. Like the Rock Walk, and Tea Dances at the Boatslip (yes, we're probably too old to shake our groove thangs; but no, we don't give a crap and we dance our asses off anyway), Right Whales frolicking off the coast, and inspirational local legends like Mary Oliver and John Waters and Michael Cunningham. Oh, and being able to get legally married and all. That was cool.

13. Cupcakes.

I do not need to explain cupcakes.

14. Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me
If I didn't check in with my buddies at the always entertaining NPR quiz show, how would I ever hear about such, um, innovative fitness inventions such as the SpeedFit?

15. Cranky Fitness Commenters
Truly you folks are the best. Who else would write hilarious poems about fake twinkies? I love reading what you have to say--you always surprise, entertain, inform, amuse me, and warm the cockles of my Crabby little heart.

So is there anything you're grateful for this Thanksgiving?

November 25, 2008

Running away from Thanksgiving

Ah, the holidays. A time of shopping and tinsel, when being a big guy in a red outfit giving away goodies to children will probably not get you arrested.

A time to get together with family and indulge in the usual family occupations: food, watching The Game, and revisiting old memories -- like the time cousin Joe got into a fight with aunt Susan over who really was supposed to have inherited Grandma Mary's lamborghini.

Sorry -- a bit of Christmas fantasy crept into that last paragraph. I'll try to stick to the basics.

Adding insult to insulin...

The truth is, love 'em or loathe 'em, family can be hard to take. Lots of hugs, laughter, and old times revisited. Also usually some snippy remarks, poisonous as mistletoe and just as traditional. And to add insult to insulin, just at a time when you're emotionally wound up, there's humoungous spread of comfort food spread out in front of you.

Running away from my problems

I've taken to developing new traditions.

Running away from my problems is one of them. Literally. On Thanksgiving morning, I've signed up for a Turkey Trot at the Zoo. Apparently you don't need to be an actual turkey to participate. Not the kind with wings, anyway.

I like the idea of working off all the calories before the feast. And even if you're stuck in the kitchen hoping that dang bird cooks, why not let the non-cooks tackle the dishes, while you take aunt Margaret for a walk? Work off that gravy by pounding the pavement rather than ending up face down in the pecan pie.

Are there any Canadians who have helpful tips they could share about their T-Day experiences in the trencherman trenches?

Does anyone have clever exercise plans for T-day? Or are you going to try to go low cal on this traditional day of gustatory excesses? Or are you going to simply chalk it up as a high-calorie day and work off the calories by fighting the crowds on Black Friday?

A couple of blogs had some helpful suggestions:
Journeying to lose 200 pounds: Top 10 Healthy Thanksgiving Strategies.
Almost Vegetarian: Finds to make Thanksgiving Easier.

Photos courtesy of jblyberg.

November 24, 2008

It's a Big Country

Our Road Trip Comes to an End

Possibly legally insufficient photo credit
(But heck, at least we tried)

Damn it's great to be back to Cranky Fitness. I really missed everybody!

As regular readers may recall, I've been on the road for the past two or three weeks, traveling cross-country with my lawfully wedded spouse the Lobster and our aging but always amiable cat. This is the first year of our Great Bi-Coastal Living Experiment: we spend the temperate seasons in Provincetown, Massachusetts, but flee to sunny California in the winter to stay with the Lobster's mom instead of stoically freezing our butts off like true New Englanders. No point in pretending otherwise: we are weather wimps.

As to the experiment: so far, so good! Our posteriors remain warm; we had Excellent Adventures crossing the country, and arrived back in the S.F. Bay Area safe and sound.

A Shocking Reality Check
However, in some respects the trip was a wake-up call. You know those studies that say obesity rates and healthy behaviors tend to vary by state or by neighborhood?

Well, holy crap is that the truth. (Warning: potentially offensive material ahead.)

I've lived most of my life in various "elitist'" neighborhoods in coastal blue states. Even in the hippest urban neighborhood there is enough variation in how people approach health and fitness that you think you have some sense of perspective. Then you travel across the country and realize you had no freakin' clue.

Making the Worst of a Bad Situation
Not everyone is lucky enough to have the money to choose their "perfect" neighborhood. I think it's awful when so many towns are built with hardly any parks, trails or even sidewalks. Often in these same car-centric places the restaurants are mostly chains, featuring gargantuan meaty greasy cheesy saucy fried dinners paired with decadent desserts. The grocery stores are skimpy in the produce section, and offer mostly processed snack foods, desserts, frozen dinners, and meat laced with hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives.

I know I'd really, really struggle if I lived in some of these places. I'd probably eat lousier and exercise less and feel pretty helpless about it.

But damn, lots of these folks don't seem to be "struggling" with it at all. They're driving everywhere, ignoring their few exercise options, and gobbling up every bite of the junk food on offer.

Hello, personal responsibility?

It was shocking to look at the crap piled up in most people's shopping carts or watch what they ordered at restaurants or even to see how many were smoking. I also had to wonder: was the reason many of the convenience stores had no non-fat milk part of a sinister "make 'em drink whole milk and die young" campaign? Was the grocery store produce section so skimpy because tyrannical suppliers refused to send a variety of wholesome healthy fruits and vegetables?

Or were the selections so lame because the local vendors have discovered most folks won't buy the healthy stuff when they try to stock it?

We are freaks here in health blogland. In much of America, folks are not debating: Should I get my Omega 3 from fish or flax? They are wondering: what do I want for dessert after my triple cheeseburger and fries and coke, the cherry pie with ice cream or the caramel chocolate pecan cake with whipped cream?

And, um, I couldn't help noticing... a huge percentage of people in a lot of these places were fat.

Thin Ice
This is a sensitive issue, and I don't want to be an asshole and start shrieking "Oh My God, Our country is fat! And that's so terrrribbble!"

Because I'm not anti-fat!

At least I think I'm not. I'm all for Fat Acceptance. I hate that the media tells us we're all supposed to be scrawny stick figures and that so many women buy into that. And I firmly believe you can be quite a bit heavier that what those annoying BMI charts say and still be totally healthy and beautiful. Hell, I love adipositivity!

Plus, I think many people have crappy genes and metabolisms and are fat in spite of all their healthy efforts. (And I was thoroughly ridiculed recently over at a site called... wait for it... Testosterone Nation for suggesting that not everyone gets the same deal, genetically, when it comes to losing weight.)

But I have to confess: wandering into communities where most people are not just chunky but are obese, and where exercise is considered eccentric and people make stupid food choices, I find myself troubled.

There is "fit and healthy and making smart choices" kind of fat... many of our readers have that kind. But then there is the other kind. The kind that involves Oreo Dessert pizzas and buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I think I have perhaps underestimated the extent to which "the other kind" of fat is still a huge problem in our country. You folks who live in these places must be going: "Duh, Crabby!"

A Shining Exception
In our travels through the South, one city stood out as being 180% the opposite: Austin Texas. Wow, what an awesome town!

The Whole Foods Flagship store goes on for acres and acres. (And to cheer a lazy slacker's heart, much of what is on offer is already prepared. There may be better healthy grocery stores for those who love to cook, my favorite being Berkeley Bowl in the SF Bay Area, but if you want to grab a quick healthy meal to go? This place is freakin' amazing. (However, I do feel it is my duty, whenever I go to a Whole Foods, to stand in their bakery section, peruse the bread and roll options, and complain loudly to no one in particular that the items that say "whole grain" still list wheat flour as their first ingredient. The Lobster, who has seen this performance repeated many times to absolutely no effect, just rolls her eyes.))

And it's not only the Whole Foods in Austin but the awesome running trails along the river packed with folks huffing and puffing happily at all hours of the day; the many gyms and outdoor gear companies; the walkability of the city, and just the general good cheer which must come from all the music those young folks are listening to or all the coffee they are drinking. Or something. I was impressed--but perhaps you folks who actually live there have a different perspective.

Suggestion to folks in the South: more Austins, please!

Travel is Broadening
At least that's what my mother used to say. (And please excuse the pun). Our trip, while it did set off a blog rant I may end up regretting, gave me new admiration for all of you out there who live in communities where the healthy choices are so limited. How the heck do you cope?

November 21, 2008

Rewarding Yourself for Your Hard Work!

Our guest blogger today is Just _Kelly. She blogs over at Choosing Losing, where she is "documenting her slow and sustainable (or staggering and stumbling, depending on the day) journey to a healthier life!"

As ya’ll can tell I like charts and graphs. I also like makeup. And jewelry. And luxe spa treatments and gadgets. Combine these loves and you get reward charts! I think a little extra motivation for getting healthier never hurt anyone. Sure having good blood pressure and healthy BMI and low triglyceride levels are all good and dandy, but sometimes having something tangible to reach for can help put weight loss losers over the brink.

Most of us are extremely motivated by rewards, and rewards can be beneficial to your weight loss and fitness success. Looking at the big picture can often be intimidating. If you have a lot of weight to lose, realistically, it could be a long road to hoe until your reach your goal weight. It is important to reward yourself throughout your weight loss journey to stay motivated.

Long Term Goals

If you have over 10 lbs to lose I suggest setting up long-term and short-term goals. These goals should be personal and can be utilized to focus on the things you need the most improvement on. Long-term goals focus on the big picture. You should have a vision of your final goals. How much can you bench? What will you run a 5k in? What is your goal weight or size? What will your daily eating habits look like? What will it feel like when you reach this goal?
  • Long-term goals and rewards are fun to think up because they are BIG! Examples of possible rewards for your long term goals:
  • Weekend vacation or cruise.
  • New wardrobe.
  • Salon makeover.
  • Large piece of workout equipment.
  • Pretty piece of jewelry.

Your big ticket reward items should correlate with your big goals. Let’s take this out of the weight loss realm a minute. One of my goals is to get a higher paying job. Once I hit a certain salary number, I will buy myself a new car. That is dang good motivation for me to either earn a promotion or scout for a different, higher paying position. Your goal in itself should mean so much to you, should be something you want so bad, that you’d go after it just for its own sake. By adding some frosting on top though you might give yourself the little edge you need to get their sooner!

So you know your big, long term goal. You’ve visualized reaching it. What it looks like, how it feels. Now you just need to get there. Daunting, huh? Let’s slice and dice that into miniature, bite-size (can you tell Halloween candy is on my mind), less overwhelming pieces, shall we?

Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals are the bits and pieces that collectively bring you to your long-term goal. They can be related to weigh loss, food, exercise, water intake and other areas of personal improvement.

The key with short-term goals is to set small, achievable goals and reward yourself frequently. Create a simple chart to track your progress and watch as your rewards quickly add up, giving you another reason to stay on track.

Some examples of short-term goals are:

  • Reaching a weekly cardio limit.
  • Staying within your daily calorie range for so many days in a row.
  • Drinking 8 or more cups of water per day.
  • Reaching a certain weight loss.
  • Exercising so 15/20/25 days out of the month.

Using Rewards for Motivation

Often, people on weight loss journeys have difficulty staying on track because they feel deprived. Depravation often occurs when people cut back on calories and increase their exercise while working on lifestyle changes.

The hardest struggle for many overweight people: you have to break the habit of rewarding yourself with food. It will be easier to adapt if you put something else in its place.

Try using small rewards to stay motivated. The reward should be pre-determined and something you are willing to work for. Rewards should not consist of food. Rewards should also not be something you would need to buy eventually anyways. For example, I don’t think new running shoes are a good reward. Why? Because, if you are running, you’ll eventually need new shoes anyways. This inevitability of having to buy your reward gives you a mental excuse to not reach your goal to achieve it. So choose decadent rewards! Things you don’t need but want! Also, make them specific! Look up actual spa treatments/gadgets/books/thingamabobs and list them by name.

Examples of small rewards include:

  • A massage.
  • A manicure/pedicure.
  • A book, CD or DVD.
  • Dumbbells, medicine ball or resistance bands.
  • Inexpensive jewelry.
  • Moderately priced exercise gadgets.

Soon you will work harder and stay on track because you will look forward to treating yourself to these rewards as you work towards your long term weight loss goal.

Some final helpful hints:
  • Make sure you think of your goal and reward chart is a living, breathing document. Change it as necessary! Add new goals for yourself as they become relevant! Make it a document that grows and changes as you grow and change.
  • Post it somewhere you’ll see it regularly, whether it be your personal blog, on your mirror in your bathroom, on your iGoogle homepage, on your refrigerator.
  • Embellish it with pictures of your rewards. Seeing the image will be that much more of a trigger.
  • Don’t cheat! Reward yourself for your accomplishments. If you are struggling between small goals, maybe add an intermediate goal and a small reward to go with it. Look at your journey as an adventure; the harder you work the more rewarding it’ll be in the end!

November 20, 2008

Sears' Toxic Fat: The Man, the Diet, the Controversy

Who is Dr. Sears?

Okay, pop quiz time.

Two out of the following three statements apply to Barry Sears:

1 - He's got a Ph.D in biochemistry.
2 - He's the author of The Zone Diet.
3 - He's the star of a movie that just came out about teenage vampires who sparkle and have a lot of biochemistry.

Warning: if you flunked that quiz, you might be reading the wrong blog.

Barry Sears exemplifies the important role the preposition plays in the English language. People who've read his books either swear by him, or swear at him.

Unless you've been living in a chemically sterilized biosphere for the last 13 years and had earplugs on the whole time you were there, you've probably heard of Dr. Sears' book "The Zone Diet." He has a new book out, called Toxic Fat.

Seeing the word 'toxic' in a title makes me suspicious, simply because a lot of marketing folks have jumped on the bandwagon with this particular word. I know marketing sells books; I still object to it if the words they use have the effect of making the book's actual message unclear or inaccurate. I got so fed up with marketing claims that I wrote an overview of the biology behind the term 'Toxic Fat'.

In this case, I'm not sure if I agree with Dr. Sears' claim about fat itself being toxic. Which is a shame, because there are good points in this book.

Toxic Fat briefly mentions fat cells storing toxins, but that is not the main focus of the book. Not toxins from pollution, at any rate. What this book focuses on is the toxic effect of the 'bad' fatty acid Arachidonic acid (which I abbreviate ArA 'cause there's no way I'm typing that out over and over again).

You may not have heard of ArA, but you've heard of its rivals, the fatty acids that lead to Omega-3 fatty acids being produced in the body.

I've found this book difficult to review for two reasons. One, there's a lot of information in it, and it's hard to condense. I wrote a lengthy, detailed, highly erudite analysis -- you can thank me later for not posting it.

The other thing that made this book difficult to read, for me, was the fact that Dr. Sears' books are considered controversial, so I felt constrained to stop and analyze every sentence.

What is Sears' approach to Toxic Fat?

This is where it gets complicated. I also wrote a long, detailed description of the biochemical processes involved in the production of Omega-3 (good) and Prostaglandins (bad). You can thank me for not including it here.

Instead, here's the short version:

Alpha-linolenic acid is one of the omega-3 fatty acids. (Couldn't fit them all into the diagram.) Prostaglandins are bad. Prostaglandins are responsible for painful menstrual cramps. I do not like them.

I'm simplifying horribly but the main contentions are:

1 - Uncontrolled inflammation screws up the body.
2 - Diabetes, heart disease, obesity are all caused by inflammation.
3 - Arachidonic acid (ArA) plays a large part in the inflammation epidemic.
4 - According to Sears, the Zone Diet is the answer to this problem.

Dr. Sears vs. Cranky Fitness

Uncontrolled inflammation is on the rise
Sears Yes
Cranky Fitness Yes

High levels of ArA lead to high levels of inflammation
Sears Yes
Cranky Fitness Yes

Uncontrolled inflammation leads to heart disease, diabetes, obesity
Sears Yes
Cranky Fitness Yes*

The Zone Diet is the way to alleviate inflammation
Sears Yes
Cranky Fitness Read More

*I hesitated over his claim that inflammation is linked to obesity; a person can be 'fit but fat.' If he means (and he probably does) someone with a lot of abdominal fat has problems with inflammation, then yes.

It is really dangerous when you get so much fat in the abdominal area that the body starts storing fat in the liver. A fatty liver can kill you just as nastily as a liver soaked in vodka.

What's so controversial about Dr. Sears?

Sears' books are controversial because at the heart of all his books is the Zone Diet, and many nutritionists and doctors, such as Joel Fuhrman (Toxic Hunger), disagree stridently with Sears' conclusions.

When is a diet like a restroom?

There are lots of sites that explain the Zone Diet in detail. (The 20-second condensed version: you should eat fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in a precise ratio suited to your size.) In the Toxic Fat book, meal plans are separated by gender -- different ones for men and for women. (Essentially, men have larger portions.) Except that not all woman are small, and not all men are large, so I'm not sure if that works. Maybe he's basing this on the fact that men have more muscle mass?

I can't whole-heartedly endorse this diet, but I can't condemn it either, not 100%. I mean, anything that gets people to pay attention to what they eat, and that helps them lose weight, isn't all bad. (I just know someone will write in to say that this diet has helped them, and who am I to say that's a bad thing?) I will say that I don't think it's a long-term diet and I don't think long term it's healthy and sustainable.

My problems with the Zone diet are based on anthropology and psychology as much as biology. I don't see that the human body was designed/has evolved to a diet that is so precisely balanced.

The other problem is that there is no way that I could follow this diet. I know myself well enough to say that without someone else doing all the weighing and calculating, I'd give up the Zone diet in a day. All that math would drive me crazy. (I know people say "oh, it gets easier... you get used to it..." but in my case I doubt it. I had enough trouble trying to eat 4 or 5 servings of vegetables per day. Much much simpler to go all vegetarian with the occasional night out.)

Toxic Fat: The book

Good: There's a long bibliography listing his sources for the claims made in each chapter.
Bad: Many of the sources cited are from his previous books, which seems a kind of circular logic.
Ugly: The polysyllabic names of the many different fatty acids under discussion. It's like one of those Russian novels where all the characters have names that are twenty syllables long.

One thing about his diet argument that I can't agree with is the seeming contradiction between his claim that ArA is bad (which I agree with, or at least I agree that it's bad in high levels), and his insistence on eating lots of meat-based protein. Sears claims that the high-level of ArA in the typical diet is due to the cheap vegetable oil that is so readily available these days. I don't see that he proves this point. Other sources (here's one of them) claim that the major sources of ArA are meat, poultry, and eggs.

Instead of making sure your diet is a certain percentage of meat, I think it is more helpful to make sure your diet is 100% organic, and as Dr. Weil would say avoid food that has a long list of ingredients you can't pronounce. Avoid food with added hormones, antibiotics, or a long list of unpronounceable chemical preservatives.

To sum up, this book makes some good points as well as some not so good points (points that I don't agree with, I lump into the 'not so good' category automatically). I don't agree that the diet he suggests will help, but I completely agree with Sears' claim that we need to pay attention to inflammation and the dangers it presents.

Other reviews you might like

Diet Blog
Pasta Queen (Half of Me)

Has any one else read this book? Or tried the Zone Diet? If so, what did you think about it? I'd love to hear other people's viewpoint on this issue.

November 19, 2008

Breakfast For “ I Hate Morning” People

We're pleased to have a guest post today from Toni Brayer, M.D. She's practiced Internal Medicine in San Francisco for over 20 years, and has done lots of impressive stuff like serve as President of the San Francisco Medical Society, and Chief of Staff at California Pacific Medical Center. In other words, she knows a LOT more about health than Crabby does. Toni is also a speaker and a writer, and she has a great blog over at Everything Health--be sure to check it out!

And no, that is NOT her pictured below; it is someone who failed to follow her smart advice.

I’m one of those people who hate to eat breakfast unless someone else is making it for me. Since I don’t have a personal chef, that means it takes a big conscious effort for me to do what is right: Eat breakfast before I start my day. Every study on weight control and optimal performance tells us we need to fuel our bodies and I am a believer, but it ain’t easy!

For those of us who would rather just skip it, the easier breakfast is to prepare, the better. And nothing is easier and better for you than oatmeal. It provides carbs, fiber, vitamins and bulk to keep us from feeling ravenous or weak before lunch. But that doesn’t mean we can raid the middle aisles of the grocery store where there are rows and rows of sugary cereals. We need to be smart in our choices and that is why oatmeal fits the bill.

The best choice is steel-cut oats. Also called Irish Oats, these little grains have more cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber than any other oatmeal. They are 100% whole grain and the bran germ is left intact. The germ contains B-vitamins and iron. Plus it is really filling.

You can make up a big batch and just warm it in the microwave, which saves on cook time later in the week. Add low-fat milk and a few raisins or banana slices and you are set.

Other quick but nutritious breakfast choices are fresh fruit with yogurt, hard-boiled or poached egg with whole-wheat toast or a fruit smoothie.

OK, I know that the fruit smoothie might be a stretch for someone who hates to prepare but here is why you should make the effort.

It counts as two of your 5 fruits and vegetables a day! Frozen organic berries can be found in any grocery store and mixed in the blender with yogurt, milk or apple juice, it is a quick “to go” breakfast. Add protein powder and it is a complete meal.

Breakfast doesn’t “just happen”. Like anything worthwhile, it takes a little planning and making sure the shelf and fridge are stocked, but getting in the habit of eating a healthy breakfast can be the start of a healthy and long life.

November 18, 2008

Diabetic? Who cares?

Hear no diabetes, speak no diabetes, get photo from Flickr.

According to the CDC, 1/4 of Americans have prediabetes and don't know it.

Wait a minute. Back up and read that again. 1 out of 4?

Here's another statistic. The rate of people who already have diabetes has gone up by 90%. And WebMD says that may be an underestimate. (They also say the number of people who already have prediabetes is 1 out of 3.)

Type II Diabetes: easy to control, dangerous to ignore

Even though yes, I know, there are tons of people out there who are either at risk or already have the disease and don't know it, this still surprises me.

The trouble is that if you're reading this post, you probably are not one of the people with prediabetes, because you are interested in regular exercise and a healthy diet. But I will guarantee that someone you know -- maybe someone you love -- is one of the statistics.

I mean, damn! In the early stages at least, prediabetes and Type II diabetes are easily controllable disorders. And they can be controlled by the individual; it's not a situation where you have to put yourself in the hands of others and take a bucketful of weird and expensive drugs with powerful side effects.

People who know better and don't bother

It's frustrating. As an example, take this guy I know. Extremely well-educated (well, I assume lawyers are educated, they sure know a lot of words I don't) so you would think he could bother to read about the risks of Type II diabetes, you would think he would bother to find out the minimal steps necessary to deal with the condition. The only concession he made to his condition was to take his medication. (Yes, he did switch to lite beer, and he did minimize the amount of red wine to a couple of drinks a night, but I don't call those concessions.)

The thing is that Type II diabetes is one of those diseases that you CAN do something about: diet and exercise and (definitely 3rd in the list) medication can control the symptoms and progression of the disease.

So why are there so many people out there who can't be bothered?

Diabetes doesn't go away if you ignore it!

My anger in this case is all the stronger because if you don't take care of the situation, You Get Worse. Diabetes leads to serious and irreversible problems, especially when you combine it with alcohol. This lawyer is now forced to listen to doctors use phrases like "poor prognosis" and "experimental studies." His younger daughter is seventeen, and he'll be lucky to see her graduate from high school.

I don't know how (or even if it's possible) to get someone to listen when they're risking their life through sheer inertia. Maybe this post will help someone to become 'scared straight' or whatever.

Someone to talk to about diabetes

MyHealthVillage is hosting a series of diabetes chats, starting tonight.

The Chats will be hosted by Cindy Sears (RN, CDE) -- diabetes educator with years of experience working with persons with diabetes at Capital Regional Medical Center and private physician practices in Missouri, who has participated in a research study for rural primary care practices funded by the Missouri Foundation.

To participate in the diabetes chats, simply go to and join the Chat on any of the following dates and times.

Tuesday, 11/18 at 8 p.m. ET -- Insulin Myths and Realities

Thursday, 11/20 at 1 p.m. ET -- Medication Know-How

Friday, 11/21 at 11 a.m. ET - Pondering Privacy

Tuesday, 11/25 at 8 p.m. ET -- Here Come the Holidays!

Okay, end of rant

This post was me ranting because someone I know is dying and it could have been avoided. It is inexpressibly frustrating to not be able to help with something like this.

I can't be the only person with friends or family who are digging their grave with their teeth, as it were. Anyone have any good suggestions on how to handle the frustration? I don't think there's much we can do to help people who don't want to change.

November 17, 2008

Why the Weight Loss Plateau?

This next guest post is by Jolene of Healthy Discoveries Blog. And today she's going to discuss six reasons you may not have thought of for hitting a Weight Loss Plateau.
1. You Are Dehydrated- Make sure you drink enough water each day to hydrate your body mass! Adequate hydration will help boost your metabolism. One way to make your cells more isotonic (absorb and eliminate water efficiently) is to drink some coconut water along with your daily water requirement.

2. You Are Eating Too Little Or Skipping Breakfast- Calorie restriction and portion control are important; but when taken too an extreme it can physiologically backfire. Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, Endocrinologist and author of The Schwarzbein Principle, cautions people who restrict carbohydrates under 20 grams per day. Very low carbohydrate levels along with skipping meals (especially breakfast) can raise adrenaline and cortisol. When these stress hormones are high the body becomes resistant to losing body fat. Along with elevated cortisol, irregular eating will slow down the metabolism.

3. You Are Not Eating Enough Of The Right Fats- Omega 3 fats are found in fish and flax seeds. Omega 6 fats are found in vegetable oils, Borage Oil, and Evening Primrose Oil. The typical American consumes a 20:1 ratio in favor of Omega 6 vegetable oils. Often an Omega 6 fat, such as soybean bean oil, is heated and turned into a trans-fat. Omega 6 oils are heated (hydrogenated) in order to fry food and preserve the shelf life of food. To improve weight loss, eliminate vegetable oils/trans-fats. Strive for a 1:1 ratio of healthy Omega 3 (fish oil, flax seeds) to a healthy Omega 6 (Borage Oil, Evening Primrose Oil).

4. You Are Intolerant To Certain Foods- Wheat gluten and dairy are the biggest offenders. If people avoid gluten and/or dairy products their water weight often disappears. Those stubborn 5-10 pounds are lost and they feel less bloated.

5. You Are Not Getting Enough Sleep- Sleep is one of the most important, yet overlooked factors, for weight loss and weight maintenance. Lack of sleep raises cortisol levels. High cortisol levels send a message to the body to store more fat around the middle. Also, when we continually miss out on deep, restful sleep the body is unable to maintain an adequate level of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are connected to sugar cravings, carbohydrate cravings, and binge eating. Finally, the pituitary gland requires deep sleep in order to produce growth hormone. Growth hormone assists with muscle growth and fat loss.

6. Your Thyroid Gland Is Sluggish- The current TSH range is 0.3-3.0. If your TSH is higher than 3.0 you might have a hypothyroid. A hypothyroid may make weight loss more difficult.

November 16, 2008

Crabby (and Mizfit) say Hi!

Sorry, only a few minutes of internet access and no breaking health news to report. Just a quick dispatch from the road. (Still making our way across country, but are getting closer, one state at a time).

However, I did want to mention I had a rendezvous in a bookstore cafe with a favorite blogger, MizFit! How cool is that?

In case you had any doubt, she is as awesome in real life as she is on her blog. (And FYI: The Renaissance Man and the Toddler Tornado are just as adorable and charming as you might imagine).

That's all for now, but the Lobster and I will be hurrying home now and I'll be back to regular blog posts soon!

November 14, 2008

Burning calories or boosting spirits?

Photo by: Sergio Silva

This guest post is written by Drew Harvey, who blogs over at Diet Tired. Drew is an exercise and nutrition physiologist, entrepreneur, and advocate of diet free weight loss.

Few would disagree that regular physical activity is important for weight loss. But how it leads to weight loss and more importantly, keeping weight off is commonly misunderstood.

Let’s start with what constitutes the best form of exercise for weight loss? Here is a shocker: anything that gets you moving on a regular, preferably daily, basis.

Many have a hard time understanding this concept, including sleeveless personal trainers.

I suspect this is because weight loss ultimately comes down to calories in versus calories out. Therefore, maximizing calories burned and feeling the ‘burn’ should be your number one goal right? Or another common fallacy is spending hours in the mythical ‘fat burning zone’.

Thus common exercise recommendations are: as high of intensity as possible, as long as possible and of course, as miserable as possible.

Thanks to weight loss television shows, visions of overweight people panting up hills and performing embarrassing obstacle courses while being ridiculed by obnoxious hard bodies come to mind. Ultimately suggesting that doing ‘miserable’ forms of exercise is the answer and if you stop being so lazy you too could drop magical amounts of weight.

Worse, while performing these exercises you scold yourself with “I wouldn’t have to do this if I hadn’t gained all this weight.”

Is taking the ‘any activity is good activity’ approach a cop out? Is it something that I suggest simply to make my clients and readers feel better? No, this strategy works and here is why.

Being physically active is the best predictor of sustained weight loss and it still would be even if it didn't burn any extra calories! You might need to read the previous sentence again.

Here is an example. Many feel discouraged when the machine they have just sweated on for 30 minutes tells them that they have burned a measly 200 calories, the equivalent of a large double-double or a large cookie. However, they are not counting the health benefits of the exercise or the boost in confidence and willpower that ensues, making them far more likely to make healthy food choices.

It is a well known fact that people eat healthier on days that they are active. By simply being active and consequently feeling good about yourself, you decrease your daily calorie intake through better food choices.

I’ll leave you with a proud client example. After some convincing, Randy decided to take a 20 minute walk each evening around his neighborhood. Previously he felt that walking wasn’t vigorous enough to promote weight loss. After just two weeks he told me that he had taken a liking to the evening walks because they burned an extra 400 - 500 calories.

I didn't want to burst his bubble but I did indicate that a 20 minute walk burns approximately 100 calories; not 500.

To which he replied, "I know, but if I had stayed home I would have eaten 400 calories worth of cookies!"

November 13, 2008

Diets & Cults: is there a difference?

I'm a bum.

I was going to post a long, incredibly well-written and irrefutably researched review of Barry Sears' book, Toxic Fat. But I'm going to put that off until next week so I can put this up today.

(Okay, also because I still want to tweak it a bit more. It's not quite right yet.)

I absolutely loved one thing I read in Sears's book. To quote:

"Three things in life are visceral because they are based on belief systems: Religion, politics, and nutrition."


Emotions are closely tied in with food

You know how some people get a 'gut feeling'? The gut has such a high concentration of nerve cells that it has been called a second brain. The highest concentration is of course the brain.

No, I don't care what you've heard about some men, it really is in the head brain.

If there's a second brain in the gut, would that explain why people get so emotional about the favorite diet?

Whatever you do, don't disparage the diet

It looks like people develop an emotional attachment to a certain diet, or the philosophy behind it. As an example, take this review that Diet Blog did about Dr. Joel Fuhrman's diet book, Toxic Hunger. It's a pretty straightforward review, but what caught my attention were the comments. People got emotional over whether this diet was, or was not, a good idea.

Putting down a diet plan is a sure fire way to get a ton of comments on your blog. (Ah... the real reason for this post comes out.) The blog Starling Fitness averages a couple of comments on a post; when she wrote a mildly disapproving post about Weight Watchers and the points system, she got 95 comments. People are really into their particular diet.

If this blog were being written by Ms. Crabby, at this point there would be an insightful paragraph or two about why people defend their diet plans like a lioness defending her last cub. Since she ain't here, just imagine that something insightful was said at this point.

Okay, enough already.

Being me, I have to confess that I don't get why this is such an emotional issue. Being healthy is a good thing. Yeah, I got that part. But we're all different, right? So if diet A works for me, and diet B works for Crabby, why should the two of us have a huge argument about which is better?

I think diets are like cults in that people can get really obsessive about them both.

Weight watchers is evil!

It's tempting to disparage a whole lot of diet plans so that the post would get lots and lots of comments. (Weight Watchers is evil! The Zone Diet is followed by Terrorists! Hitler was a vegetarian!) But in all honesty, I don't get it. Why can't we all get along? Or agree to disagree, or something civilized like that?

November 12, 2008

Danger, Holidays Fast Approaching!

This guest post is by Terrie Farley Moran, who blogs over at Women of Mystery. She is also a contributor to the new anthology Dying in a Winter Wonderland, which she'll tell you more about soon!

Take a look around. The Halloween decorations are gone. A cardboard turkey with a pop out tummy is overwhelmed by the Christmas decorations in shop windows. Red and green mini lights and white icicle lights are beginning to show up on front porches, ready to be plugged in as soon as the last piece of pumpkin pie is gobbled on Thanksgiving night.

Last year around this time, Merry, who has her own entertaining blog, Sheesh, posted a holiday survival quiz here at Cranky Fitness.

I warn you, the test is not for the faint of will power. The accompanying picture of a plate of brownies was enough to get me drooling.

If it wasn’t for the fruitcake question, I would have scored a perfect twelve, which far exceeds the perfect four that would indicate I have my holiday eating under control. So, thanks to Merry (and my personal history) I already know that I will taste, and perhaps eat too much of the brownies, the homemade fudge, the pies and every home made cookie in sight. I will avoid only the fruitcake.

Since I am sure I’m going to overeat, I can accept, enjoy, and risk rolling back all the progress I have made this year or I can devise a plan, a strategy to minimize the damage. I see you shaking your head. A plan? A strategy? Come on, Ter, we know all that stuff. Avoid alcohol. Eat the raw veggies instead of the chips.

Yep, we do know all those ideas and I have followed them faithfully and still come up on the wrong side of the scale on New Year’s Day. So my strategy this year involves two basics.

First, I will plan and execute Perfect Days. I have already printed out blank calendar pages for the weeks beginning with Sunday, November 23rd and ending on Saturday, January 3rd. I filled in the dates I know will be a problem for me: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day. I called two friends who throw holiday parties I usually attend and, hooray, they already know the dates of their parties. On the calendar they go. Then I looked at my paydays and plugged in my shopping days accordingly. There are still plenty of empty boxes. I picked two each week and labeled them Perfect Days. On those days I will do my maximum exercise and my food will be high quality protein with lots of vegetables and a small portion of fruit. I do this not to give myself permission to pig out on party days, but to ward off any damage I might do while trying to be on my best behavior during social occasions.

Second, I will increase my exercise every day. Yes, every single day of the holiday season. I will keep moving. My efforts will be as simple as playing assistant hostess at every gathering. “Can I get you a refill?” “May I clear away your plate?” and as joyful as touring a different neighborhood (on foot) to take pleasure in the holiday lights. On shopping days I will have a large mug of veggie soup right before I leave the house. Then I will take a brisk half hour walk around the outside of the mall before I set one foot inside. I am counting on that combo to energize me to get in, get what I need and get out without needing a rest stop at the food court.

As part of my keep moving line of attack, I am enlisting your help. Those of you who visit us over at Women of Mystery know that I am proud as can be to have a story in this year’s Toys For Tots anthology, Dying In A Winter Wonderland published by Wolfmont Press. The anthology is written for adults and every story is light, festive and touches on one or more of the winter holidays: Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice.

Each of the stories, the editing service and the publishing service have been donated, so all of the proceeds garnered from sales of Dying In A Winter Wonderland will go directly to the Toys For Tots Foundation sponsored by the US Marine Corps Reserve.

Dying in A Winter Wonderland makes a perfect holiday gift for everyone on your list, friends and family alike. With all the proceeds going to provide holiday gifts for children in need, every purchase is a win-win. You can order from the publisher, (see above link) your local bookstore, or from Amazon.

For every copy of Dying In A Winter Wonderland you purchase, I will walk one mile between now and the New Year. Just contact me over at Women of Mystery and I will give you the date and time of your walk, so you can cheer me on, or better yet, join me.

So, please help me keep on my holiday exercise track, help Toys For Tots provide the gifts that will make the holiday season special for so many girls and boys, and help yourself by stocking up on a present that will be sure to delight.

Many thanks to Crabby and Merry for sharing their space with me and the Toys For Tots kids.


November 11, 2008

Update on the Raw Food Diet

Do you have it in a different color? Transparent is so last year...

Did you ever wonder about Cinderella? I mean, did she really think she could live happily ever after with a guy who's got some weird frangible shoe fetish?

Health is not a fairy tale

It's like those shows that celebrate someone losing 200 pounds... but there's never any follow up on these shows to find out what happens next.

Here at Cranky Fitness, we are determined to shun such prevarications. So it seemed like a good time to provide an update on how my body felt after the 30 days of 90% all raw vegetables.

- Because I was on such an extremely low-fat diet, my skin broke out. (I know -- it's supposed to break out when it's greasy. I'm weird. The only time my skin has problems is when I'm behaving like as a teenager, i.e. going on extremely rigid and unrealistic diets.)

- Because I became so used to eating vegetables 90% of the time, it was no hardship to transition after the 30 days into eating lots of cooked veggies. Roasted vegetables, lightly sprayed with olive oil, are much more filling than their raw relatives.

- Because I've gotten so used to eating vegetables, it's -- wait for it -- gotten to the point where I, the most confirmed carnivore on the face of the planet, don't crave 'substantial' food like meat, chicken, or fish. Used to think those were the essential cornerstones of a meal, without which you would have cranky, resentful stomachs. Turns out that's not a basic law of nature. Gravity is a law of nature. Meat with every meal? Not.

- Look, if you're a guy please skip this point and go on to the next. (Are you gone? Good.) Okay, I have to mention that going cold carrot was an incredible help in that it made the cramps much, much, much, much less painful. (I would like to throw in a few more 'much'es into that last sentence, just to emphasize the point, but I think you got the idea already.)

- I put on a pair of jeans and walked around for 20 minutes before realizing that these were my 'skinny' jeans that I'd not been able to fit into two months ago. Still haven't unpacked my scale, but I take the jeans as proof that the raw food helped me shape wise.

A love affair with lettuce? Maybe just a fling

A coach that smells of pumpkin? Actually, I'd prefer a crock pot.

A raw food diet might make a useful transition for someone who wants to eat more healthy food and less saturated fat. I wouldn't recommend having a long-term relationship with an all-raw diet, but as an intermediate step to a more healthy diet? Might be worth a try.

I think I might suggest adding this idea to the Cranky Fitness Diet Book. Every diet book I've read starts out with an intro diet, a two-week section that is supposed to help the dieter lose weight quickly and get motivated to go on to the long-term maintenance diet.

Judging by the comments, everybody here is already into healthy diets. I feel like I'm trying to catch up to the point where you're already at. So maybe you can tell me -- did you all jump straight into eating healthily? Or was there a transitional period, where you went to an extreme version of a diet before settling into more moderate and healthy habits? (Or did you always eat 'good food' and if so were you never tempted into evil ways?)

November 10, 2008

Hello from The Crab!

Nov. 10, 2008, Charlotte, North Carolina (or thereabouts).

Hello, and... Whooops!
So I must apologize to anyone who has sent email, or commented recently, or written brilliant posts at their own blogs which I haven't stopped by yet to read. I may have mentioned that I was setting out on a cross-country trip, but I didn't anticipate that the first four nights we'd end up with no internet coverage at all in any of the campgrounds we stayed in . That's almost five whole days without going online!

As you might imagine, five days offline is an eternity to a web-addicted, neurotic, nutcase blogger.

One the positive side: the obsessive voice in my head that evaluates every daily experience or observation, no matter how trivial, for potential blogworthiness? It's a bit quieter! That's probably a good thing.

But dang, I miss everyone. This is sort of a "wish you were here" postcard.

OK, so maybe I don't wish all of you were physically here inside Fran the Van. That might get a bit crowded. Let's just say "here" in a broader, more metaphorical sense.

So regulars might notice this is another weird post--just a bunch of random thoughts--but fear not. The "normal" crab will be back sometime Thanksgiving-ish, and might even have written a coherent post health and fitness post by then.

Weddings and Elections
So my last post was written just after getting gay-married and right before election day. Many thanks to all the wonderful folks who commented and had such supportive, kind, encouraging things to say! It really meant a lot to us. It was hard, however, amid the general post election euphoria (hooray for Obama!), to see Prop 8 and all the other anti-gay ballot initiatives win. Damn it. That hurt.

Road Trip Wonderfulness
Sad as we were to leave P-town for the winter, we're having a great time on our journey west to California. Not every mile has been stunning but a LOT of it has been gorgeous as we've been getting off the interstates a bit and traveling some two lane highways. Beautiful fall colors (Merritt Parkway, OMG!); rustic farms and spunky small towns and, of course, hideous strip malls and coastal high rises. We've been enjoying breathless NPR reports on the new Obama administration and the world's excitement; and sampling regional cuisine. (Note: vinegary barbecue, not our fave! Who knew there were so many variations?). We've been enjoying nearly empty campgrounds and long hikes and gas stations with prices like $1.99 a gallon. And we get to have the cat with us, who entertains us and cuddles with us and is an excellent traveling companion--even if she does still scoot every now and then. (Tip: "Unbelievable" really is an unbelievable stain remover).

The Long and Whiny Road
Of course I can always find a few things to grouse about. I'll limit myself to jut two:

Faked Out at The Food Court
FYI: If you are ever looking for a quick fast-food lunch and have rationalized to yourself that a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken with the skin pulled off, and maybe some baked beans and coleslaw wouldn't be too unhealthy a choice...

Do NOT be fooled into stopping at service area advertising a "KFC Express."

What's a KFC Express? Well, the one we stopped at was basically a burger place that had two or three items from the KFC menu: Fried chicken "strips" and potato wedges and macaroni and cheese.

You couldn't even get a piece of actual chicken at a Kentucky Fried Chicken! As far as I can tell, a "chicken strip" is just another word for a "greasy fried batter delivery system."

We were so annoyed we decided to take the high road and so we avoided the burger joint/fake KFC entirely. Instead we opted for a lame chicken Caesar salad from another food court vendor. Then we were forced to eat 5,000 calories worth of trail mix and whole wheat cookies to compensate. Curse you, fake KFC!

Time Warp Gyms
When we're on the road, we tend to visit local gyms along the way and go in on a day pass. It's often an adventure, as no two places are ever exactly the same, and I am incredibly fussy and opinionated about gym equipment.

Our first stop was a gym that was the Cutting Edge of fitness... about 30 years ago. The building was bright and clean and the people were very friendly and helpful. Overall, it was great as they had my favorite eliptical, the armless PreCor. But when it came time for weights... the place was stuffed full of the old first generation Nautilus machines. Remember those?

The old Nautilus machines (which by now are beat to shit and jerky and sticky) were annoying even when they came out. You can't reach the pins to adjust the weights without getting up and walking around to the back of the machine. So if you ever wondered where all those Nautilus machines ended up? They're still out there--at a gym in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Back on the road...
The adventure continues! Hope there's more internet along the way, but if it remains scarce, I'll look forward to catching up with everyone when I get to California.

And a big thanks to Merry and the Great Guest Posters for keeping the blog going while the Lobster and I meander our way back west!

November 07, 2008

Treadmill Rage

This Guest Post was written by Charlotte Anderson over at The Great Fitness Experiment, which as many of you have discovered is one of the best fitness blogs on the planet. Charlotte also blogs at Huffington Post and she's been on TV and seems generally to be headed for a Bright Shiny Future. I can't help but find myself insanely jealous filled with admiration! And today she has a fun Quiz for us. Enjoy!--Crabby

Guest Post by Charlotte Anderson

You've heard of "road rage." But have you, or anyone you love, been a victim of Treadmill Rage? Have you ever felt a murderous impulse rise as you watch the two giggling teens monopolize your favorite machines for an hour without even having the decency to break a sweat? Take this test to find out!

1. Have you ever fantasized about chucking a dumbbell at someone on the weight floor?
  • Was it a slow-moving grandpa or a confused lifting newbie? -5 points.
  • Was it a meathead carefully monopolizing every piece of equipment on the weight floor (signaled by him placing exactly one item of his squarely in the middle of each bench and then walking territorially around the room surveying his domain)? +1 point, +3 if you actually hit him.
2. Have you ever had the urge to stick your arm out and clothesline someone running on the track?
  • Were you bitter just because they are faster than you? 0 points just for considering it (we're human after all) -3 points if you actually did it. You jerk.
  • Was said runner passing you on the inside? While screaming "Outta my way, I'm doing Fartleks!!"? Did she catch you with an elbow? +1 point for fantasizing, +5 if you actually throw your arm out - congratulations, you just made the world a safer place. You're like Superman. Someone give you a medal. And a cape.
3. Your favorite cardio equipment is taken. Do you:
  • Find something else to get your heartrate up? +3 for being flexible - yogis have nothing on you.
  • Sigh loudly & tap your feet while looking impatiently from your watch to the display on their machine? 0 points if the display reads 0:03:42. You want your own machine? Buy one. +1 points if the display reads 0:47:21. They're obviously going the full hour. Nobody stops on a "weird" number. +5 points if the display reads 3:25:54 and you give them a pamphlet on exercise bulimia - you good citizen, you.

4. The girl at the front of your aerobics class is obviously new and lost.
  • Is she just using the mirror to do her hair? +1 for staring, hoping she gets the hint to actually move her body. It's cardio Barbie. +2 if you run up to "help" her and then style her as a Muppet. The whole class will thank you.
  • Do you ignore her? 0 points. You're no hero but at least you refrained from rolling your eyes at your friend. In the mirror.
  • Do you give her a little encouragement during the water break and maybe help her nail that tricky part because, hey, at least she's making the effort to exercise? +4 points. Can I be in your classes??
  • Do you Carefully move up on her until you're breathing down her neck so she knows she's in your space? -3 points. It's not your spot. You don't have a spot. Nobody does except the teacher. And dogs. And then laugh loudly every time she makes a mistake? -10 points. You sociopath.
The Cure

Treadmill Rage is common. We've all felt it. Hopefully we didn't act on it (unless you have a really good reason, see list above). But giving in to your violent impulses really won't increase your calorie burn. Much.

Do you know what is much harder? Being nice. For some reason it doesn't come naturally to most of us, especially if we (ahem, me) are competitive. But being kind and forgiving is actually much better for your health. Besides adding up to 5 years to your life (see? You'll outlive all those jerks! That'll teach 'em!! Oh, wait...), being chill helps ease depression & anxiety while helping you heal faster from surgery, increasing your life satisfaction and giving you a happier outlook on life.

For a great example check out what this biker does when confronted with inconsiderate drivers (thanks for tip TJ!!). Truly this is a great story and if nothing else will help you pay more attention to who's in the crosswalk. He's one creative and gutsy dude:)

Tell me if you've ever been a victim or perpetrator of Treadmill Rage! Don't worry we won't judge or laugh. Much. ;)