September 30, 2008

Toxic fat: reality or money-milking myth?

A popular fishing spot in Oregon,
next to a (now destroyed) nuclear power plant

Photo credit: wikipedia commons

I have been reading a lot of nutrition/diet books lately, and I keep reading about toxic this and toxic that... the poor adjective has been used a whole lot. Oh yeah, that buzzword again, yawn.... hmmn... who's been kicked off Dancing with the Stars this week... But the fact that the word has become a popular marketing buzz-toy doesn't mean that there aren't toxins out there.

Isn't 'toxic' simply the latest buzzword?

A lot of the buzz is based on biology. There are some facts hidden amidst the fuss.

It is a fact that there are toxins out there, and it is a fact that your body deals with them, or tries to. And the body uses fat cells in the process.

Fat is useful

Fat, also known as adipose tissue, isn't just sitting there on your hips. (Or jiggling there on your hips. Whatever.) "Adipose tissue is a complex, essential, and highly active metabolic and endocrine organ."

Unlike some of us (*cough* points at self *cough*), the body doesn't go out and rent a storage area to put extra 'stuff' and then forget about it.

Photo credit: Esprit de sel

The body makes use of these fat cells. Fat cells are storage units that maintain triglyceride and free fatty acid levels. In addition, there are several different hormones created in fat cells. "Adipose tissue is also a major site for metabolism of sex steroids and glucocorticoids." Indeed, some of the metabolic processes that go on in adipose tissue aren't always beneficial in the long run. "...adipose tissue is a major endocrine organ that secretes numerous polypeptide hormones and cytokines that are proinflammatory and proatherogenic."

Fat cells are also the preferential storage area for toxins that your body can't get rid of in some other way.

No, you can't store children in these containers
(Photo credit: russeljsmith)

When your body meets a toxin... Not a sequel to When Harry Met

In general, you're pretty good when it comes to dealing with toxins. How your body deals with a toxin depends in part on how the toxin comes into the system. Sometimes the body's responses, which originated during a time when there was no industrial waste, aren't helpful. For example, when cigarette smoke comes into the lungs, the body reacts by transforming a major component of the smoke into a carcinogenic compound. (1)

Alternatively, if the body receives the toxin known as alcohol (grain alcohol) in relatively small doses, the liver processes it and the human frequently enjoys the process of being intoxicated.

Or, your body could store the toxin. "Most of us have been exposed to organochlorines found in pesticides, dyes, solvents, etc... and we contain residues in our adipose tissue, where they are preferentially stored."

Yet another reason to eat organic and not live next to a chemical factory

I don't mean to scare anybody, but you should be aware that if you've got toxins in your system, they can affect you adversely. "Because most of environmental chemicals, called estrogen disruptors or xenoestrogens, are toxic and estrogen/antiandrogen active, they can disregulate hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis potentially inducing reproductive disorders."

Similarly, if you're having problems with low thyroid levels, the toxins in your environment might be one of the causes. "Even after adjustment for weight loss, the related increase in organochlorine concentration has been correlated with decreases in triidothyronine (T3) concentration and resting metabolic rate."

Why all the talk about detox diets?

Researching all this stuff not only increased my paranoia level, it made me appreciate why people are so eager to buy books and products that purport to help rid your body of toxins. I plan to write another post on detox diets, but I had to write this one first, because there was too much material to fit into one post.

Three things I should mention here:

- All the kerfuffle about toxins in your system has some depressing basis in reality.

- Because this is such a popular subject, there are tons of unscrupulous people trying to sell you something to deal with toxins. I think it's safe to say that there might also some scrupulous people trying to sell you something to help with the problem.

- If you're obese, you have more toxins stored in your body. "... the obese tend to have increased organochlorine concentrations compared to lean individuals. During body weight loss, a decrease in fat mass results in lipid mobilization, and organochlorine concentrations increase both in plasma and remaining adipose tissue."

The preferential storage place is adipose tissue, the fat cells. If you are losing weight, and hopefully are doing weight lifting and aerobic exercise, then you're losing fat, which does mean that there are toxins circulating in your system. Even people who advocate Calorie Restriction do not recommend adopting the CR lifestyle too abruptly, for fear that losing a whole lot of weight quickly (and thus releasing a large the amount of toxins into the system all at once) might overwhelm the body:

"Our foods contain various chemicals (e.g. pesticides) that are fat soluble.... losing fat (weight) too quickly will flush lots of toxic chemicals into our bloodstream -- too fast for our bodies to effectively eliminate."

Toxins are bad for you, baby

I don't want to sound like I'm saying toxins are bad only if you're obese. They're bad, period. Remember the post that Crabby did about breast milk being used in restaurant meals? According to the World Health Organization (which supports breastfeeding), "Contamination of
human milk is widespread and due to decades of inadequately controlled pollution by toxicants, persistent pesticides or chemical solvents. These chemicals tend to degrade slowly in the environment, to bioaccumulate in the food chain and to have long half-lives in humans

Well, now that you're feeling all paranoid...

Cheerful stuff, eh? I'm not trying to increase the general level of paranoia in the world; some of this stuff I can't control, so I refuse to stress over it. I will focus on the areas where I can control the amount of toxins.

If you're looking for ways to reduce the amount of toxins in your environment, iVillage has a quiz that claims to test how healthy your home is. They also have an interactive little video quiz that focuses on different areas of your home and ways to reduce pesticide levels. High-level stuff, but it's a starting place.

(1) Vander, Sherman, Luciano Human Physiology 6th edition, p. 740

September 29, 2008

Ooops: Calorie Restriction, Protein and Longevity

People are not rodents?
I coulda told you that!

Ever feel vaguely guilty because you're not one of those Calorie Restriction People who is supposedly going to live to be 120? Well, feel better: new research suggests the picture may have gotten a bit more complicated. Turns out, Calorie Restriction may not extend human lives the same way it does for rodents.

And if you're on a high protein diet? Er, you may want to give this study a bit of a look-see as well.

Bony Cronies?

There's an impressive amount of evidence out there that lab animals on very, very low calorie diets can live extremely long lives. And there is a group of Calorie Restriction People out there who apparently take this animal research very seriously.

From what I can tell, these poor guys (most of them are men, apparently), eat practically nothing and get very thin and cold but are perfectly happy living like that. There's a whole society of them, some of whom call themselves Cronies--(from "Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition").

But even with their cute acronym, I've never been too tempted to join them. I'm guessing a Cronie doesn't get to eat much in the way of cupcakes. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather have a shorter, cupcake-inclusive life than live to be 120.

Where the hell is my cupcake?

Who Cares About IGF-1?

Most of us have never heard of it, but it stands for insulin-like growth factor-1. Blah blah blah, right? But here's the deal:

In animal models of longevity, extended lifespan seems to be related to this IGF-1 stuff. And in calorie-restricted animals, their levels of circulating IGF-1 decline 30 percent to 40 percent.

Turns out in humans on Calorie Restricted diets? Not so much. The researchers took a look at Cronies who'd been on a calorie-restriction diet for an average of seven years: their IGF-1 levels were "virtually identical to sedentary people who ate a standard, Western diet."


If I'd been nearly starving myself for seven years for the sake of longevity and found that out? I would not be a happy camper.

(MJM is not, to our knowledge, a Cronie;
he just takes a cute angry picture)

However, there was one group that did see reduced IGF-1 levels. Guess who? The vegans!

Hooray, happy Vegans!
(art by VeganWarrior)

Protein: Not So Good for Longevity?

The researchers already suspected, from previous research, that protein consumption could affect IGF-1 levels, so they compared the Cronies, who got 23-24% of their calories from protein, to a population of strict vegans who got only about 10% percent of their total calories that way.

Result? "The vegans had significantly less circulating IGF-1, even if they were heavier and had more body fat than Cronies," said the study's lead author, Luigi Fontana. "Protein in the diet seemed to correlate with the lower levels of IGF-1."

They also took a subgroup of the Cronies and had them lower their protein intake. After three weeks, "their circulating IGF-1 declined dramatically."

Bottom Line: You Might Want to Look at Your Protein Consumption

Fontana noted that the findings were preliminary and need to be confirmed. And he doesn't recommend a drastic low-protein diet either. Instead, he suggests limiting your consumption to the RDA, which is roughly 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. (It depends on body weight: .82 grams of protein per kilogram.)

An interesting final quote:

"It's much easier to restrict protein than to restrict calories. If our research is on the right track, maybe humans don't need to be so calorie restricted. Limiting protein intake to .7 or .8 grams per kilogram per day might be more effective."

A Little Help from the Scientists, Please?

I don't know how seriously to take this study or these recommendations.

Frankly, I've always been an advocate of moderation when it comes to nutrition: a little bit of everything is sort of my philosophy. So I never signed on to the "eliminate all those scary carbs and get all the protein you can!" approach.

But I couldn't help but notice that this did not seem to be some widely publicized study out of the New England Journal of Medicine or anything. It was done out of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and published in the online journal Aging Cell. Unfortunately, the Cranky Fitness Academic Research Library consists solely of the Google, and I'm not familiar with the reputation of these sources. I don't even know how to quickly discover if a journal is peer-reviewed or not.

I know some of you out there are actual scientists--perhaps you might have a better idea how seriously to take this?

(And I wonder if the folks at Mark's Daily Apple will take a look at this one. They're both big on science and big on protein; I don't always agree with their conclusions but they're definitely a bunch of smarties over there and if they come across it, they may have some interesting things to say.)

What Do You Folks Think? Any opinions on Calorie Restriction, High-Protein diets, Veganism, or Whatever?

September 26, 2008

On the Menu: Answers, Updates, and Breast Milk?

Please don't let the title of this post scare you--we're not giving away breast milk this week. Our Friday Giveaway is just below. This is just an Odd's & End's post, because we're Odd, and it's the End of the week!

Return of The "What the Heck" Random Post Button

Merry and I thought perhaps we broke it, since we were using it a LOT. (And we were the only ones, as far as I can tell, but what can I say--it amuses us). It randomly calls up old Cranky Fitness Posts from the archives. It's on the right, under "Typical Crankiness."

This clever random post widget had apparently been working just fine for almost a year and a half, but a couple days after we installed it? It broke. (For everyone, not just us).

So if you find yourself at work, and not wanting to get back to something productive yet, check it out! No doubt you'll end up on a lame post like this one, but you never know.

Major Blog Funk Update:

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all who commented on my meltdown post. I truly do want to keep this blog going, and your helpful, compassionate, understanding, and sometimes hilarious comments really reminded me of why it's so essential to me to stay part of this awesome community of people.

I need to figure out how to get more streamlined over the next few months while I try to get a book proposal together. (Not that there's any reason to think a book proposal would fly. But it's part of the Grand Plan and one of the reasons I started a blog in the first place. I didn't actually plan to blog indefinitely, but hell, now I'm hooked.)

So I'm thinking...

I may not be commenting very often on other folk's blogs over the next few weeks or months. Which is selfish, and probably short-sighted. I will no doubt go into a panic when comments here start to dwindle.

However, I will be stopping by your blogs, to see what you're up to--just not commenting very often.

I know it it sounds silly, but as much as I love it, trying to comment on so many of your fine blogs takes me a huge amount of time. I wish I was better organized and more efficient!

Blogroll Update

In attempting to update the Random Rotating Blogroll, I think I may have lost some of you whom I didn't mean to delete. (Doh!) Plus, there are newer Cranky Fitness Friends who should be on there, but I haven't been very organized about noticing that you're not.

So: are you a somewhat recurrent visitor/commenter/linker to us?

Are we on your blogroll, or if you don't have one, have you mentioned us in some way in the not too distant past?

Do you have a blog which may be of interest to our readers?

Do you keep visiting the site but your blogname NEVER seems to come up in the random blogroll?

Well, if all these are true, then shoot, we need to add you! Sorry. Please leave a comment or send us an email and we'll correct it.

On the other hand, whenever I've even whispered the word "blogroll" in the past, people I've never heard of before (who often have boring blogs) and no relationship to CF sweep in from the far reaches of the blogosphere and ask to be included. We'd like the list to be useful to readers, and stay short enough that everyone sees their name up there fairly frequently. So we'll try to be somewhat selective.

Cranky Quiz Answers:

Not only was Merry was kind enough to assemble the Cranky Quiz, but she provided answers and links. So, how did you all do?


1c. Dear Crabby.
2d. The infamous Slanket!
3b. The Lobster
4c. Recycle those old shoes and they'll be turned into rubber-type running surfaces!
5c. Rhoda Runner
6a. Salvia Divinorum
7b. The Cookie diet
8c. The Flat Belly
9a. Hide your alarm clock? As if!
10d. Coffee addiction

And What's That about Breast Milk on the Menu?

Yep, literally.

Over at L.A. Time's Booster Shots, they're reporting about a Swiss chef who plans to put human breast milk on the menu at his restaurant. He'd like to feature soups and stews that are up to 75% breast milk. (Local authorities, however, take a dim view of it).

And Peta chimed in too, sending a letter to Ben and Jerry's, asking them to start using human mother's milk instead of cow's milk for health reasons.

I have a strong, reflexive "acccck" reaction. But why should it seem gross? Why is the idea of consuming human milk so unappealing, when we are, actually, human? It really is arguably more natural than drinking cows milk. But, well, .... yuck.

Update: I just discovered after I wrote this that yet again, Healthbolt beat me to it and already posted on this. That's what I get for dawdling. They really are a great source of weird health news.

So what do you think of adult humans eating stuff made from breast milk? (Anyone ever tried it?)

Gratuitous Beefcake and Perfect Pull-Up Giveaway

Feeling' a little restless and need to burn off some energy? Wouldn't it be nice to have this waiting for you in your basement? Or, heh-heh-heh, your spare bedroom?

Yeah, okay, we don't actually mean Mr. Meaty here. We mean the Perfect Pull-Up, which actually looks pretty cool.

(Oops, did we just scare off all the straight guys? Sorry! But Cranky Fitness feels a responsibility to fight against the inexcusably tiny Beefcake-to-Cheesecake ratio in modern advertising. We're going to try to tip the scales back to 50-50! Do check back in a few thousand years, will you, and see how that's going?)

And Giveaway Skimmers, yes, it's that time.

You know what to do. Details about the nifty fitness product and the entry instructions are below if you're feeling impatient with my disjointed thoughts about pull ups and home fitness equipment and want to skip down. Don't worry; the regulars and I will join you in the comments section in a few minutes--and we promise not to talk about you while you're gone.

Bye now!

(Ha! Think they bought it? Now... since it's just us again...don't you think that the people who actually read Cranky Fitness posts even when they're boring are way COOLER than the folks who just head straight down for a chance to win the goodies?

Ooops... shh... I think I hear a few of them coming back.... Quick, let's distract them!)

Where were we? Oh yeah...


So I know I've blogged about them before, because there seems to be a big movement to get women doing pull-ups. Which is great, in that pull-ups are one of those good combo moves, where you get to work a bunch of muscles at once. We like that!

We just don't think anyone should feel bad if they can't do unassisted pull-ups. Especially since I can't do them yet either. Doing unassisted pull ups should not be some sort of new Fitness Requirement. But for those who can do them: hooray for you! (I'm getting closer, but so far, still need about 20 lbs of assistance. You can bet if I ever get to the point I can do them without help, I'll be posting my first ever Cranky Fitness video and you're all gonna have to pretend you've watched it).

Got a Home Gym?

Since it turns out I actually didn't have much to say about pull-ups that I haven't already said, let's talk about another giveaway related subject: working out at home.

Alas, I don't have a home gym set-up anymore. We used to have one in California, and I miss it a lot.

You know which was the most useful piece of equipment we had in our gym?

(Ours was not this nice)

Yep, the washer. And the dryer. Because it was the need to visit these machines that reminded us of the treadmill and the weights and stability ball, etc.

Did you know that doing laundry goes particularly well with weight training? Especially if you hate weight training and have to coax yourself in to it. Instead of doing it all at once, you can just do a couple of exercises every time you bring down laundry or fold clothes or whatever. Eventually, both the laundry and your strength training are done!

Your sure can't do that at 24 Hour Fitness.

Of course, even if you don't have weights or a perfect pull-up machine or a treadmill, you can still exercise at home.

And the clever folks at Elastic Waist put up this helpful video to explain just how to do it!

About The Perfect Pull-Up:

So the Perfect Pull-Up comes from the same folks who make the Perfect Pushup. You can find more pictures of Mr. Meaty read more about the product at the Perfect Pullup Page of the Perfect Pushup Website.

But if you don't feel like clicking, here's the PR Pitch from the Perfect PullUp People:

It's "a complete system for working over 600 muscles, now available with an ab strap that provides an additional workout for the body core. Additional innovations include rotating handles that allow consumers to do pullups and chinups together for the first time and two swing arms that can be used in three different positions where consumers of any fitness levels can improve from standing row pullups, to Australian pullups, to normal pullups."

The system retails for $99.95 and includes "one adjustable Pullup bar, two swing arms, two rotating handles, ab straps, and a 21-day workout created by founder and former Navy SEAL Alden Mills." It installs into any standard door frame. It's designed to "take one of the toughest basic exercises, the pullup, and makes it doable for consumers of any fitness level."

Sounds awesome!

How To Win A Perfect Pull Up

Sorry, U.S. residents only again, dagnab it. (Although international folks can play for a U.S. friend). Note: if we EVER get a product that the PR firms are willing to have shipped internationally, I think I'm going to have an International Only Giveaway, not that it would make up for all of these.

If you'd like to enter, leave a comment saying why you might want a Perfect Pullup. And of course, we appreciate comments of all kinds, whether they be about Pullups or Beefcake or Fridays or whatever. The entries we like best (for completely arbitrary reasons) will be given triple credit and assigned 3 numbers rather than one.

And I don't usually mention this, but in case you were wondering... folks who leave multiple comments are only entered in these things for their first comment, so no need to worry if you see someone coming back to chat. We like that just fine! (However, if anyone is ever caught coming up with multiple identities to try to fool us into thinking you are different people, you will be banned from winning CF giveaways for life. You will also acquire some pretty nasty karma. But we don't tend to attract that sort of person here, thank goodness).

Contest deadline: Tuesday night, Sept 30th; winner announced Wednesday, Oct 1. If you win, please email to claim your prize by Friday Oct 3rd.

Note: Another post is coming up later today--we owe you quiz answers, and I want to post a bit of a Blog Update.

Oh, and for another cool giveaway, be sure to check out what Leslie's got for you over at The Weighting Game!

September 25, 2008

Test Your Crankiness

I was going to put together this well-reasoned, deeply intellectual and incredibly scintillating post about ... oh, something or other. Exercising, I think. But Crabby's post of day gone by got me thinking about the history of the blog.

In my most assuredly non-professional opinion, the occasional mood of 'feeling down' is not a bad thing at all. It's like a flag thrown up by the subconscious trying to get some important message through my oft clueless awake self. I don't enjoy feeling depressed, but it sometimes feels like a necessary adjustment period.

I would also like to mention that I think there's a great community of people who comment on this blog. Sometimes it's tempting to take out the post and just leave the comments. They're good.

And speaking of good... are you feeling smart today? Think you know Cranky Fitness? Sure about that? I've put together a quiz based on the long year and a half amount of time that Cranky Fitness has been cranking out crank wise words about fitness.

There's no prize except for the sheer joy of intellectual fulfillment. But that's nothing to sneer at.

1. Before the Ask Cranky Fitness posts, what kind of advice column was
a) The Doctor is in... gimme the quarter
b) Whaddya want to know?
c) Dear Crabby
d) Silly questions, sillier answers, no charge

2. What does Crabby want for Christmas?
a) Squash!
b) Whirled peas
c) Either of the above, so long as it is covered in chocolate
d) Her very own warm slanky robe

3. What is the name of Crabby's significant other?
a) The Crayfish
b) The Lobster
c) The Cuttlefish
d) The Significant Other

4. What is the Cranky Fitness recommendation as to what you can do with your old running shoes?
a) Rush them to the nearest HazMat facility
b) Palm them off on unsuspecting friends and relations
c) Recycle them at an obliging store
d) I can't repeat that in public!

5. Which of the following is a type of runner, according to Cranky Fitness?
a) Roger Rabbit
b) Selma Slug
c) Rhoda Runner
d) Twinkle Toes

6. Which one of the following is a legal* hallucinogen, according to Ms. Crab?
a) Salvia Divinorum
b) Psilocybin mushrooms (a.k.a. 'shrooms, dude!)
c) Kava Kava
d) Coffee

*Legal in the U.S. We're not talking what's legal in Amsterdam; that would make for a much longer list.

7. What diet did Sara from Healthbolt write about in a guest post?
a) The cupcake diet
b) The cookie diet
c) The ice cream with hot fudge diet
d) The pizza diet

8. Which body part did Crabby worry about for a whole post?
a) The flat ass
b) The flat chest
c) The flat belly
d) The flat feet

9. Which of the following was not one of Crabby's recommendations for getting up in the morning?
a) Hide your alarm clock
b) Get a dog
c) Get a cat
d) Drink a gallon of water right before bedtime

10. What addiction does Crabby freely, and indeed shamelessly, admit to?
a) Late night encounters with Baskin & Robbins
b) A collection of Barry Manilow records
c) Pizza with gratuitous anchovies
d) Hot coffee lovin'

Okay, put down your pencils. How'd you do?

What, you're not sure? I'll see if I can persuade Crabby to post the answers tomorrow. I suspect she's planning a cool and tantalizing giveaway, but maybe I can slip the answer post in afterwards. In very small print or something.

Answers here.

September 24, 2008

Ill-Advised Post

So there's a shiny new template up at Cranky Fitness, and more visitors than ever. I've got a great co-blogger whom I love working with, and ambitious plans to turn Cranky Fitness into a book... things are looking great!

Gosh, what a lovely time for an emotional meltdown!

So yes, that was indeed Crabby McSlacker over in the comments at Mizfit recently, inappropriately blurting out my doubts about blogging. I was in a bad mood, and I found myself pondering, out loud, whether I should think about quitting the whole Cranky Fitness deal. I even found myself in tears several times during the day; anyone who's met me knows this is not normal crab behavior.

What's UP with that?

I don't know why it hit full force yesterday. But it's been simmering for a long time: What am I doing? Where is this leading? How could I ever quit Cranky Fitness? But how can I continue to blog indefinitely, with very little income to show for it and no exit plan?

What the Hell are You Talking About?

This whole post is going to seem bizarre to the majority of you, who either (a) don't have a blog of your own or (b) have a blog that you write for your own amusement or to further your self-improvement goals.

Blogging is just supposed to be for fun, right?

Well, yeah, it is mostly. But there is a subgroup of bloggers who blog not only because we enjoy it, but because we have delusional fantasies hopes that some day we might actually earn some income from it. This could be either from advertising revenue, or by growing a large enough audience that we can promote our writing or our businesses or whatever.

I got plenty of warning that this was not likely to happen, but I started a blog anyway. It takes a long time to grow a blog big enough to make money; very few folks make it. Those who do are often experts, brilliant writers, folks who have their fingers on the pulse of pop culture, or tenacious, talented marketers.

I am none of those things. But I jumped in anyway, and found myself instantly hooked. I wanted to somehow "succeed" at it.

The Downside of Blog Ambitions

If you're trying to build an audience for your blog and make money from it in some way, it's more of a challenge than just blogging for fun. At least that's true for me. It takes way more time. You would think, with just one blog to write and the luxury of an awesome co-blogger, Merry, handling my "blog duties" would be a piece of cake. Some people write many successful and popular blogs, all by themselves! But I'm not a speedy, efficient, go-get-'em type. Stuff just takes me longer than it does other people.

And have I mentioned I'm neurotic?

To grow Cranky Fitness into a "real" blog, I figure I have to write not just when I feel like it, but when I don't. I write long posts that take hours and hours and then realize they're not "good enough" for publication so I don't run them. I worry when feed subscriptions drop for no reason. I watch the stats constantly. I feel terrible when I realize I haven't commented on blogs I like; I feel dumb for not taking advantage of promotional opportunities that could help me get the word out about Cranky Fitness, just because they involve a little extra work. I forget to link to great blog posts I've seen even though the bloggers who've written them link to me all the time.

Most problematic of all, I am a painfully slow writer, and it can take forever for me to do the research, organize my thoughts, and compose a post. (I know it doesn't seem like it, given the slap-dash quality of the writing. But, sadly enough, even slap-dash takes me a huge amount of time and futzing around).

Let's face it: I'm a dawdler. I'm sure one day they'll discover a gene responsible for dawdling. And when they do, I plan to blog about it at Cranky Fitness. Slowly!

And there's also stress. How can blogging be stressful? I suspect my family and friends think I'm nuts. But there is always something I'm behind on; something that needs doing. My brain is constantly trying to turn everyday events into blog posts, when it should probably be experiencing and enjoying some of those events. Sometimes there is even sleeplessness. And there is time spent blogging that would probably be better spent with loved ones.

Net result? It's kind of like a job. With only the hope of money someday, not the actual green stuff that could buy groceries. (Okay, technically we get a little bit of ad revenue, but it might shock you to find out how little that is).

Then Why Do It?

So here's the thing: if in some ways blogging resembles a job, it also happens to be one of the best jobs in the world, at least for me.

I've never done anything as satisfying, exhilarating, joyous, and engrossing. For all my whining and frequent feelings of inadequacy, I would love to be a professional blogger.

I've met and befriended so many cool people; I've learned so many fascinating things; I've participated in so many discussions where I was totally blown away by what others had to say. When I used to hear talk about blog "communities," I had no idea. But it's true! It's the best part about blogging. Well, and I also love getting to mouth off about stuff and have people actually stop by and read it. Oh, and the occasional free hazlenut candy bar. Those are nice too.

The weirdest thing? "Crabby McSlacker" is not just a blog name. In my own mind, I really have become Crabby McSlacker. Is that twisted, or what?

So I can't imagine ever giving it up.

But then some days I can't imagine continuing to spend so much time at a "job" I love that doesn't pay any actual money.

Why am I blogging about this?

It's a really dumb idea; I know that.

A good blog friend of mine posed the question: what is your goal in posting about this?

And I didn't have an answer. Not for a long time. But then it kind of occurred to me what this is all about: I need to kick my own ass.

I think it's time for me to get serious about turning Cranky Fitness into something at at least resembles a Real Job.

It could be the blog-based book proposal I keep talking about but never seem to get around to writing. It could be increasing our page views to a more serious number and getting some non-trivial ad revenue in. (We get about 35,000 a month; I suspect we need to be at least triple that to even have a hope of being seen as a "real" blog by sponsors or book publishers.)

Hell, I'd be happy to sell T-shirts and coffee mugs. Whatever.

I have a deadline in mind but it seems a really silly idea to share it, since I could change my mind tomorrow. Let's just say it's not in the immediate future. But it's no longer just "whenever," either. There's a date. This is a first for me and it's a scary thing to think about.

And if I can't turn it into a job...

It doesn't necessarily mean the end of Cranky Fitness.

Perhaps I just need to transition the blog into something I do for solely for fun. I could post once a month if that's all I felt like. Let Merry handle all the real health and fitness posting while I put up cute pictures of my cat. Who knows.

Am I the only one or do any other bloggers struggle with this?

Does anyone else find that blogging is taking up more and more of your life, stealing time away from other pursuits or even from the people you love?

Do any of you ever fantasize about walking away, but then recoil in horror at what it would be like, the morning after, to suddenly have no blog?

Is there life after blogging?

Or non-bloggers: does this all sound totally crazy? I imagine it does; sorry about that!

MBT Shoe Winner

So congratulations, Azusmom, you are the winner in the MBT shoe giveaway!

Please contact us before Friday night, Sept 26th (midnight EST) by emailing crabbymcslacker @ gmail dot com. If you happen to have your shoe choice, shoe size, and mailing info that would be nifty. (If it turns out your favorite isn't available, then we'll figure out something!)

And thanks to all who commented with so many dang good reasons to walk!

September 23, 2008

Sex-22, Comfort food, & Ask Cranky Fitness

Thanks to Crabby and to John-the-Designer for putting together the new template! (They both put a lot of work into it.) And I totally love the "Random" link on the sidebar. Click it and you're instantly transported back in time to a previous Cranky Fitness episode.

[Intrusive Note from the Crab.... ironically, we are having technical difficulties this morning with the random post function so I had to remove it. It's been working fine up until last night! Since I don't know how it works--I just swiped the code from a blogger help site--I have no idea why it stopped working. I really liked it too! Sorry, will check into it and try to bring it back...]

Maybe to other people this has all the fascination of looking at someone's old photos, i.e. very little, but I think it's great fun. Also, I love random things in general, which is why this post came into existence. Yes, it's Random Tuesday.

Could this be the end of Ask Cranky Fitness?

That's what's known as a cheap attempt at an attention-getting headline. Did it work?

Here's the scoop:

Turns out we've got competition in the advice department. No, I'm not talking about that woman whose name rhymes with Crabby; I'm talking about

It's a website that lets couples give their sides of an argument. People vote on which one is right, and leave comments giving advice. Not nearly as funny as the Ask Cranky Fitness posts, in my modest opinion but they get a whole lot of people writing in. There's something for everyone.

My latest favorite (favorite irritant) is the boyfriend who wrote in complaining that because his girlfriend was overweight, he was thinking of cheating on her. Her response was that she was 10 pounds over her ideal weight. (My own response would have been 'Get lost!', but maybe this guy had hidden depths that I can't appreciate. I mean, c'mon, 10 pounds over ideal makes him want to stray? If she were only 5 pounds over the ideal weight, would he flirt only half as much with other women?)

And how much does he weigh, hmmmn?
more animals

Please don't let this site stop you from sending in a question to Ask Cranky Fitness!

Weird Science about sex and the ultimate Catch-22

There was a story in the news about a woman who had a stroke, at 35, because of having sex. Geez, not only do you have to worry about smog, global warming, trans fats, and what to do with excess squash, now sex itself can be bad for your health.

If that wasn't bad enough, there's a study out that says having sex can help men to avoid ED (which in this case does not stand for eating disorder).

But... wait a minute. If you had ED, then you wouldn't be in a position (so to speak) to use the remedy that they're advocating for your condition. You're kinda... um, well, I have to say it... screwed. I suppose what they really mean is that you should practice preventative measures just in case the problem comes up. (I swear, there are times when every phrase I can think of seems to have a double meaning. Luckily, you are all too pure and innocent to recognize any double entendres ... oh, who am I kidding.)

Are your co-workers giving you the cold shoulder?

more animals

Social isolation makes people feel physically cold, find University of Toronto psychologists Chen-Bo Zhong, PhD, and Geoffrey J. Leonardelli, PhD.

Moreover, they find that making people feel left out makes them more likely to choose hot soup or coffee over warm or room-temperature foods and beverages.

"It's striking that people preferred hot coffee and soup more when socially excluded," Leonardelli says in a news release. "Our research suggests that warm chicken soup may be a literal coping mechanism for social isolation."

Gee... comfort food is a coping mechanism? Film at 11!

Is your boyfriend acting extremely cranky? Is he on a diet?

In the Depressing News department, a low-fat diet can also be detrimental to your health. Findings suggest a link between low cholesterol and violent death. "According to Dr. Beatrice Golomb, staff physician at San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center in California, it is possible that low cholesterol is accompanied by a reduction in the brain chemical serotonin, which is believed to control violent behavior. 'We know that low-serotonin people are more likely to commit suicide, especially by violent means, and homicide,' explained Golomb, who also works as a research professor of psychiatry at the University of Southern California."

I don't know how much faith to put in this finding, specifically the correlation between a low-fat diet and low-cholesterol & low-serotonin levels. I mean, yes, I can see that being on either extreme of the cholesterol range can be bad for you. A diet of 100% iceberg lettuce or 100% ice cream ditto. Being on the extreme of any range carries a risk. (Especially a firing range.) Doesn't mean I'm going to stop eating that oatmeal. I think I could live healthy & happy on the lower end of the low-fat diet, so long as I'm not on the edge.

The three Cs -- Carrots, Celery, and (the occasional) Cupcake!

Besides, if someone prone to anger went on a low-fat diet, would the first sign be an urge to grab an axe and go out looking for someone to harm? I would think that a person would first start with feelings of slight irritation, mild anger, moderate anger, working up to intense fury. This doesn't seem to me to be a reason to avoid low-fat diets. It seems like Yet Another Reason to practice that moderation stuff, the low-fat-with-the-occasional-treat diet.

Please tell me if you think differently about this. Or if you are on the side of the boyfriend of the woman who's 10 pounds overweight. Or if you have problems with the idea of cliff-hanging headlines. Or frankly, anything else. I promise, no cold shoulder.

September 22, 2008

Simplest Smoothie Recipe Ever

Want a better post about Smoothie Recipes? This one is a bit old and incomplete; I've got a new, bigger, better Smoothie Recipe post right here: Healthy Smoothie Recipes! (And sorry, googlers, for the extra click).

This post is not just a cynical attempt to discover if "Smoothie Recipe" is something people might google someday and suddenly find themselves at Cranky Fitness.

Well, OK, partly it is. As Merry mentioned in a previous post about squash, we find ourselves forever indebted to our reader Susan for her stuffed bell pepper recipe. It brings us almost as much traffic as some of our most popular search terms: "big fat ass," "flat belly diet," and "big bouncy breasts!" We don't know if it's something particular about stuffed peppers, or if it's just having "recipe" in the title. Whatever it is, we'd certainly like to encourage it.

But really, that's not the main reason for suddenly posting about smoothies.

It's just that lately I've rediscovered drinking smoothies for breakfast. Sometimes I go through smoothie phases, where nothing sounds better. Healthy and easy, but tasty too--it's like getting to drink a milkshake at 8 a.m., but with no guilt!

But then all of a sudden, for no particular reason I'm all: meh, no thanks. Done with smoothies. Buh bye. Catch ya' again in another 6 months or so.

As Easy as Pie! Wait, pie isn't easy...

Now there are different schools of thought on smoothies, and lots of people like complicated smoothies with all kinds of exotic and nutritious ingredients in them. You folks: sorry, this recipe will seem pathetic. There is nothing green or fermented or powdered or specially imported.

(I'm hoping you'll all share your smoothie tips with us in the comments, because smoothies are a personal thing--so the more options, the better.)

No, this recipe is probably better designed for people who end up buying the overpriced kind at the mall food court every now and then, hoping it's a relatively healthy choice. (Alas, not always. Unless, for example, a 560 calorie pina colada smoothie from Smoothie Factory with 105 grams of sugar sounds like a nutritional bargain). This super-simple recipe is to encourage you non-smoothie making folks to buy a blender, or if you have an old relic in the basement, to find it and resurrect it.

(Note: If it still smells like Cuervo, lime juice
and triple sec, you probably need to wash it).

If Crabby can do it, you certainly can. There's only one tricky part, which we'll get to in a moment.

Finally, The Recipe:

Ready? Here we go:

Easy Smoothie Recipe:

1 cup milk (I use nonfat)
1/2 cup frozen banana slices
1/2 cup Some Other Tasty Frozen Fruit
A small splash of vanilla (optional)
And maybe a little bit of sugar, honey or other sweetener to taste (also optional).

I usually pour the milk in first, since the lines on the blender measure it for me, then I dump in the frozen fruit, vanilla, and (gasp) a tiny bit of splenda. Next, I hit the "Frappe the hell out of it, baby," button.


It's basically just nonfat milk and fruit, but the frozen bananas magically transform it into something that tastes like it should be evil.

The tricky part I mentioned? It's having the damn sliced frozen bananas and some other kind of frozen fruit on hand. It just doesn't taste as good with ice and room temperature fruit.

So when you buy bananas and they start to go bad, you gotta cut 'em and freeze 'em. This is one of those annoying "think ahead" things. I usually use frozen blueberries for the other fruit, which is why I have such an awesome memory, but mango is also pretty tasty.

Do any of you drink smoothies? What do you like in 'em?

September 21, 2008

Caution: Construction Zone

Readers who have been around for a while may recall the day, many months ago, when Cranky Fitness embarked on a template redesign.

It was going to look mostly like the old design, but New And Improved! Complete with three whole columns!

After some sort of announcement or other, the redesigned site was launched. And...

It didn't go very well.

All the columns piled up on top of each other on many people's computers, so that the entire blog became one long skinny column that was only a few words wide.


But on other computers (like mine) it looked just fine. So it was impossible for me to figure out how to fix it.

The whole experience was quite frustrating--McSlackers are not known for their persistence in the face of obstacles. When Slacker meets Obstacle? Obstacle wins.

This time, we're getting some help. However, even with a Smart Web Design Guy, there are challenges to switching out a Blogger template with a new improved model. Blogger does not like change. It particularly doesn't like to see new widgets replace old widgets. Blogger expresses its displeasure by scattering things around, deleting things that it takes exception to, and randomly assigning mismatched titles to whatever's left.

So things may come and go this weekend in odd ways. If you catch us in the middle of the transition, the blog will look decidedly weird; please be patient. However, if things look like they're stable over several hours, but are still messed up on your computer? That's not good. Please let us know!

Humorous Pictures
(more cat pictures over here.)

September 19, 2008

30 Reasons to Walk (MBT Giveaway)

[By Crabby]

We are big fans of walking here at Cranky Fitness. What's not to like about walking? It's cheap, relatively easy, entertaining, and very healthy.

In fact, even though I'm generally a cranky ol' crab, I seem to get unusually cheerful when blogging about walking--whether it's my favorite place to walk in the whole world, or my strange summer night-time ramblings. (OK, so maybe not so cheerful when discussing how to pee outdoors when taking a walk in the woods. I can always find something to whine about.) But generally: we're huge fans of walking here.

So when I heard MBT was doing a campaign celebrating 30 Reasons to Walk, naturally my first thought was: "Give us some free shoes!" "What a great idea!"

But rather than go on again about why I like to walk, I thought I'd let you folks share some good reasons you have for walking. And give you a chance to maybe win some free shoes.

About The Giveaway

Yes, MBT did generously offer to donate a pair of shoes for us to give away. If you are a U.S. resident (or have a U.S. friend you want to play for) just leave a comment telling us a reason you walk. Winner will receive a pair of MBT shoes of their choosing (assuming the style/size is available; if not, we'll find something from MBT you like).

The winner will be chosen by the Random Number Generator. However, the "best" 20 entries will be given triple credit and will be assigned 3 numbers instead of one. ("Best" can mean funniest, most creative, most motivational--whatever.)

Want some inspiration? The 30 Reasons to Walk site has 30 ideas you can swipe for your comment. And they've also got a daily shoe giveaway contest of their own. (It's not clear about residency requirements, but I didn't see anything about nationality in the entry form). Plus, they've got 30 walking songs that are free to download. (And lots of them are actually really good ones; I was surprised!)

Note: If you are not a U.S. resident and are feeling grumpy about all these darn U.S. only giveaways, feel free to leave an aggrieved comment about the situation, or tell us why walking sucks, just to be contrary. Whatever. We love comments, and I can totally relate: because of our contract with Blogher, we can't get free MBT's either. And I'd love some).

Contest deadline: Tuesday, midnight EST, September 23rd;
Winner Announced: Wednesday, September 24th:
Winner needs to email Cranky Fitness by: Friday, Sept 26th, midnight EST in order to claim the prize; otherwise we'll redraw.

About the Shoes:

Check out the coolness of these shoes over at the anti-shoe site. A lot of technology has gone into them: according to the MBT folks, the shoes are "designed to limit harmful impact to joints, improve posture and tone muscles—including saving the back, lifting the butt, toning the thighs, and flattening abs. Wearing MBTs mimics walking barefoot in sand and engages core muscles... just by standing."

(However, we promise they won't turn you skin blue in the process).

September 18, 2008

You're worried, but you're cheerful about it. Huh?

[By a disgruntled Merry]
image: chrkl

Yes, this is another post that questions research. Or, to be more accurate, it questions the way researchers question.

[Warning: this post contains dangerously high levels of statistics and percentages and such-like nasty math things. Proceed at your own risk.]

The Reuters/Zogby Index, which "measures the mood of the country," went up 4.4%. Apparently, "Americans remain worried about the U.S. economy and their personal finances, but their outlook brightened for the second consecutive month..."

So people are worried, but they're also feeling more cheerful about it. Huh?

It sounds like something Harry Potter would read in his tea leaves.

The pollster says the following statistics are cheering:

- The number of Americans who believe the country is on the right track rose to 25 percent from 23 percent
In other words, only 75% of the population thinks we're all doomed, not 78%.
- The number who are confident about their children's future climbed to 68 percent from 64 percent.
An increase of 4% in a poll of a thousand people is relevant?
- 45 percent of Americans said they plan to spend a little less or a lot less on gifts during the upcoming holiday season.
But Santa, I've been good this year!

How can that be cheerful?

The pollster, John Zogby, figured this meant "There are a lot of reasons to still have the jitters, but maybe people are learning to deal with them."

To me, this maketh not sense.

I realize that someone who appreciates sadistics um, I mean statistics more than I do (which isn't hard to imagine) might feel that this is a relevant number of people and that this whole telephone poll idea is a good thing. I understand polling a small number of people can produce accurate results if you take a sample that's representative of the populace.

What makes the poll so droll is twofold:
- This month's telephone poll surveyed 1,008 likely voters.
- They called people on their landline phones.

The number of people with landline phones is roughly equivalent with the number of people who remember when Farrah Fawcett was one of Charlie's Angels.

In other words, there's a section of the population who isn't being asked how they feel.

Yes, I'm exaggerating a bit about Ms. Fawcett

According to government statistics from 2007, it's actually closer to 13% of the population that doesn't have a landline.

To quote Scott Keeter, from the Pew Research Center, "If people who can only be reached by cell phone were just like those with landlines, their absence from surveys would not create a problem for polling. But cell-only adults are very different. The National Health Interview Survey found them to be much younger, more likely to be African American or Hispanic, less likely to be married, and less likely to be a homeowner than adults with landline telephones. These demographic characteristics are correlated with a wide range of social and political behaviors."

I concede that there would be a lot of complaints if people were called on their cell phones, thereby paying for someone to ask them questions. But it's unrealistic to assume that this doesn't skew the poll. It's like when a poll predicted Roosevelt would lose the 1936 election, when he won by a good margin. The responses were not representative of the whole voting population.

Yes, I'd love to see some positive news. Some could argue that it's positive to mention the fact that there are 40 more people out there who think their children have a good future. Me, I figure it's not unlikely that some of these people just had progeny since the last poll, and some of the others are feeling more cheerful because little Cyril is doing better at math and little Cindy has just broken up with her crack-using boyfriend. Given the land vs. cell issue, I think there might be too few people in the poll for an increase of that size to indicate a trend one way or another.

Studies we'd like to see

I'd love to see studies that went something like this:

[Reuters] A far-reaching Swiss study, covering 47 countries over 49 years, has conclusively proven that tiramasu causes humans to live longer and fit into skinny jeans easier than a steady diet of broccoli.

[API] A poll of 4,632 shopping mall employees discovered that 97% of them think their future will be greatly improved once they're able to vote.

[Cranky Fitness] Research conclusively proves that eating chocolate doubles your IQ and makes people sexier.

I mean, if the polls are going to be glib, they might as well be fun.

September 17, 2008

Studies We Plan to Ignore

[By Crabby]

At Cranky Fitness, we generally prefer scientific studies over most other sources of health information. (Not that we don't appreciate late-night infomercials about the need to detoxify our feet, or suggestions from Annoying Bad Breath Neighbor Guy. (Leeches for migraines? Really?)

We especially love it when science tells us that our good healthy habits are paying off. Want to feel cheerful? There's a great round-up over at Mark's Daily Apple about the ways in which exercise and nutritious food choices are good for your brain.

However, while we believe in science, we have our issues with lots of research that goes on. So, we often bitch about these studies. Sometimes we even make up our own!

But mostly, if a study looks lame or it says something we don't want to hear, we just don't cover it. We're one small health blog in a huge blogosphere; we figure you can get your flawed conclusions or your bad news somewhere else.

Today though, for a change of pace, let's take a look at some recent studies and articles I was going to blow off because I didn't like what they said. But hey, changed my mind: they give me something to whine about!

More Things That Are Dirtier Than Your Toilet

The list of things that are dirtier than your toilet keeps growing. We've been told steering wheels, cell phones, and drinking fountains are all more germy and contaminated than toilets. And now, courtesy of Healthbolt comes a study scaring us with alarming news about how contaminated and dangerous and gross our kitchen sinks and sponges are. An environmental microbiology professor even said that according to his findings, "your post-flush toilet bowl is indeed cleaner than your kitchen sink."

But come on: you don't poop in your kitchen sink!

I don't care what the studies say, I refuse to believe that a cell phone or a kitchen sink is nastier than the toilet. If these benign-looking things I touch every day were really such a threat, why am I not good and dead now?

(And perhaps it was just a coincidence that the kitchen sink study was sponsored by Lysol?)

Thing You're Healthy? Weird Signs That You're at Risk

Prevention magazine recently published a compilation of several studies I'd been ignoring individually. The findings are intriguing, but depressing. A quick summary:

  • A weak sense of smell (if you are older) suggests you're at 5 times the risk of getting Parkinsons.
  • Women who have index fingers shorter than their ring fingers are more likely to get knee osteoarthritis. (They're also more likely to be gay).
  • Women taller than 5' 2" are less likely to have a longevity gene that aids in reaching one's 100th birthday.
  • Short women were more prone to having elevated enzymes indicative of liver disease.
  • Women with short arms were more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.
Weird, huh? But don't you kinda wish you hadn't read it?

When Doctors are Not Nice

We already know that doctors sometimes lie about giving you a placebo, or they make up insulting nicknames; but a new study also says doctors (or, in this case, medical residents) have also been known to laugh at you behind your back. A full seventeen percent confessed to having laughed at a patient. (More on this at Vitamin G).

Heh heh heh heh.

Is this supposed to be shocking? Actually, I'm shocked (and skeptical) that it's only 17%. Of course doctors laugh at their patients!

Gosh, next we'll find out that bank tellers sometimes laugh at their customers and cops sometimes laugh at crooks and ministers laugh at members of their congregations. You're not allowed to laugh, ever, at the nutty people you deal with in your job even when they're not there?

As long as the people I deal with are not laughing at me to my face, I'm cool.

It Doesn't Pay To Think Too Hard

Mary Anne in Kentucky sent me a link to this depressing study about eating and thinking a while ago, but then I procrastinated and Healthbolt beat me to it. Basically, it says that doing challenging mental tasks leads to greater calorie consumption than if you were just sitting around vegging out. And no, thinking hard doesn't burn any extra calories, even though it sure feels like it should.

Doesn't that suck? Let's all get off the internet and find something less fattening to do, shall we?

And finally:

Worship Celebrities, It's Good For Your Health!

I confess: I couldn't even make myself read this Time Magazine article on the mental health benefits of celebrity worship.

Enough. Someone else will just have to report back on how this could possibly be true. I have my limits!

Aetrex Shoe Winner and Call for Help!

[By Crabby]

First off, here's the call for help part. (I'll make it quick, 'cause I know what you really want to know is WHO WON THE SHOES??)

Is there a reader out there who uses Windows Vista who would be willing to help us test out the new template we're working on?

It could be either a really quick thing ("Yep, looks fine!") or a bit more of a pain if it turns out it's not Vista friendly and we need to make changes and retest.

I imagine we'll test a trial version first, and then after we go live, double check that the real version works too. Not sure exactly when this will all happen, but sometime in the next few days, so if we got more than one volunteer that would be cool so we had some scheduling flexibility.

If you're interested, please either email us at crabbymcslacker @ gmail. com (no spaces) or leave a comment on this post with your email address. Thanks!

Now on the the Shoe Winner!

The winner of the Aetrex shoe giveaway, selected by random number generator is: Rismom16!

Rismom16, please email us by Friday Sept 19th (midnight, EST) to claim your prize. Make sure to include your shoe size, mailing address, and your name (unless your postal carrier can deliver to Rismom16.)

Those of you who are you not Rismom16? So sorry! But we've got more great Friday giveaways coming up.

September 16, 2008

Great cholesterol, false sense of security

[By Merry]

Every time I get a checkup, the doctor enthuses about my cholesterol. (Probably because it's good to say something positive before going on to the lecture about the Importance of Eating Vegetables.)

more animals

But it's interesting that none of them have warned me that my great cholesterol levels have nothing to do with my doing something right in life, and that in another decade I might find the situation changing dramatically.

If you're of the male persuasion, you might want to read this section. If you feel like it.

Any guys reading this might want to skip the next section and go straight to the bottom of this post, at least if you're worried about prostate cancer, since lowering cholesterol levels can lead to lower PSA. (American Urological Association (2008, May 18). Low Cholesterol Leads To Lower PSA, Lower Prostate Cancer Risk, Study Suggests. ) Or unless you feel like reading about women's health which is very nice of you and I personally think you're a really neat guy who should come by more often.

If you're of the female persuasion, you might want to read this section. Just a thought.
If you're of the female persuasion, you've got a lot of estrogen running around in your system. If you're a female who's eaten a lot of saturated fats and is well padded, you've got a whole lot of estrogen running around in your system.

Estrogen affects your cholesterol levels. Even if you're Doing All the Wrong Things re cholesterol, you can still have a fab chol reading on the blood test because of the level of estrogen. Which is all well and good and fine and dandy until you hit this time of life called menopause. Then you're screwed.
(Or you could be.)

more animals

If you've spent 50-some years eating badly, and it hasn't caught up to you yet, it's going to start now. Bad enough you have to deal with hot flashes and all that fun stuff, you'll find your chol level rising up and you'll have to start making some major changes to avoid all the nasty stuff that high cholesterol levels can cause.

Things you can do to improve your cholesterol levels:
- Eat Oatmeal
Dr. James Anderson analyzed 15 years' worth of studies and came to the conclusion that oatmeal was a good deal. "Whole-grain products like oatmeal are among some of the best foods one can eat to improve cholesterol levels, in addition to other lifestyle choices," Anderson said. "Lifestyle choices, such as diet, should be the first line of therapy for most patients with moderate cholesterol risk given the expense, safety concerns, and intolerance related to cholesterol lowering drugs."

- Eat Chocolate
Yes, that is what you read. This study was partially funded by Mars, Inc., which by an amazing coincidence makes the particular (100 calorie) chocolate bars that were used in the study. Yeah, I know. And the research is based on 49 people with "slightly elevated" cholesterol levels. But on the other hand, it seems like common sense that if you faithfully follow the diet they were on (American Heart Association's "Eating Plan for Healthy Americans") then you probably can reduce your cholesterol even if you also eat a couple of 100 calorie chocolate bars a day.

- See a Registered Dietitian
Everybody goes to their doctor if they want help with cholesterol levels. But one study, based on data from 377 patients, indicates that seeing an RD can help. "175 patients who started the study with triglycerides less than 400 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL), and who had their cholesterol measured before they changed or added medication, 44.6 percent either reduced their levels of "bad" cholesterol by at least 15 percent, or reached their cholesterol goal."

I like it that being Good Cholesterol Woman largely involves eating, which is something that I'm quite good at and have been for years. And I like the idea that I can get a running jump on all the nasty cholesterol possibilities out there, or at least tell them to take a running jump.

September 15, 2008

Test Post

We're going to back-date this, but if you happen to catch it on a feed reader before we delete it: sorry, to disturb you! We're just fucking around to see if "read more" is still hosed.

And Should We Also See If Our Subhead Coding Works?

Why not! Let's try it.

We need a meaningless paragraph of text here, since it's only a test post. Sorry for those of you who actually keep coming here and reading this. Please feel free to go about your regularly scheduled blogging activities. (With any luck this parenthetical should display on summary page above "read more" but also after the jump so you can remember where you left off... so, are we feeling lucky?)

So sorry this post remains up here long after we promised to take it down. If you're extra bored, be sure to say something extra silly, as befits a garbage post put in just to find out if blogger is still screwing with our code.

Fitness "Bargains"

[By Crabby]
This is not about financial "bargains," although I'm sure you readers have some awesome suggestions for fitness activities and/or gear that could save us a lot of cash. A future post perhaps?

No, this time by "bargain," I mean: Ways To Get Better Fitness Results for The Same Effort. Or, how to get the Same Results Quicker, or With Somewhat Less Misery. Whatever.

We all look for those "bargains," right? Because unless you love every aspect of working out and have unlimited time, there's usually a trade-off. You don't typically get something for nothing.

In fact, there's kind of a math to it:

(Photo: A.A.)

Eeeek, math!!!

Actually, no need to panic, not that much math. In fact the formula is quite simple:

Results = (Time Spent Exercising) x (Intensity); where Intensity=Miserableness.

At least that's how that generally works for me. I get better results if I exercise longer or exercise harder; the more I loaf and slack and leave early, the less muscle I build, the less endurance I have, and the fewer calories I burn.

But then there are weird exceptions to the normal math! Sometimes (Miserable) + (Miserable) = 1.5(Miserable); not 2(Miserable), as you'd expect.

Exploiting these mathematical anomalies is often the key to a fitness bargain.

(Note: And speaking of equations that don't add up: check out how sometimes 0+0=2 at The Hungry Little Caterpillar. A great reminder for overly optimistic Weight Watchers).

What? You Call That a Bargain??!!

(Photo: Zabowski)

Ever go to a place like Costco and bring home four gallons of extra virgin olive oil for the price you'd normally pay for 1 gallon? You feel so clever and thrifty until you remember that you can't get through more than one gallon anyway before the stuff goes rancid. Whoops!

Likewise with with fitness bargains. Some tips that sound great in theory will suck when you actually try them out. They might get you in shape faster, but if they turn your workout from a pleasant or only mildly dreary experience into absolute torture, then these bargains aren't worth it.

This means that you need to hear about a lot of tricks and find out which ones work for you.

And since I only have a few that reliably work for me, and long-time readers have heard all these already... I'm hoping some of our clever and knowledgeable commenters will add theirs below!

Especially since I'm going to concentrate on tips that begin with the letter C, for absolutely no reason at all except that the first couple did and I thought I'd make it a thing.

Oh Boy, It's a "C" Thing.
(photo: cobalt123)

And again, these are some of my favorites--can't wait to hear yours.

1. Combined Stretches

Does anyone else invent their own stretches that combine a couple of things at once? I know yoga people do combinations, but theirs are elegant and tend to take a long time. Mine are home-made and doofy-looking and quick.

Here's just one example: the stairway/doorway shoulder and calf stretch. Note: doesn't work if you live in one story house or don't have a doorway at the top or bottom of the stairs.

Position yourself on the top or bottom step of your stairway, facing upstairs. Put out your arms and grab the doorway on each side and lean forward, so you're stretching your shoulders. Meanwhile, scooch your feet back a little so that you can lower your heels off the step and stretch your calves at the same time. WARNING: if you're doing this at the top, don't go scooch back too far or you'll tumble backwards down the entire flight of stairs and break your neck and this time-saver will be no bargain at all!

2. Caffeine & Cool Tunes

I talk about these all the time so I won't belabor it. But the pounding beat of a favorite song and good solid caffeine buzz really does give me more energy and I can go longer and harder and get more done for the same amount of subjective effort.

3. Circuit Training "Lite"

The standard version, wherein you proceed through a strength training workout fast enough to keep your heart rate in the aerobic zone throughout, is a classic, time-honored Workout Bargain. You get your cardio and your strength training all at the same time!

Slight problem: I loathe circuit training.

It is too much Miserableness all at once; thus, for me, no bargain.

However, back when I was lucky enough to have a home gym in the basement, I discovered I could do a little informal combining and I came up with a routine that saved some time but that I didn't hate.

This is taken pretty much verbatim from an older post, but we all know that recycling is good for the environment, right?

It's Good to be Green!

Here's how you do Circuit Training Lite:

At some point in your cardio workout, get off your treadmill/bike/elliptical/whatever, but keep it running if it's motorized, and give yourself full credit for any time you're away from it. Since you're still going to be keeping your heart rate up, you get to count this time as though you were still doing cardio. Rush off and do a set of some strength-training exercise in a quick but not too half-assed manner, then hustle back to the machine again. Slog some more. Wait until you get totally bored with the cardio again, then jump off the machine and do a different strength training exercise.

It's two-for-one! (But, alas, this only works in a home gym or fairly deserted fitness facility. Abandoning your treadmill at a busy gym is NOT recommended).

4. Cutting Out Multiple Sets

One set of really heavy weights seems, for me, to do about 80-90% of the job that 3 sets does. So most of the time, I just do one. I save multiple sets for one exercise at a time, when I'm feeling especially motivated, but otherwise: screw it.

5. Chores

If you have a partner, particularly a male or stronger partner, it can be very tempting to delegate the "heavy" stuff that involves lifting or mowing or digging or schlepping to your mate. Or pay some cute yard dude to do it. But if you're lucky enough to have the time, how 'bout doing more of it yourself and giving yourself get exercise "credit" in a non-exercise context? If it's hard and physical, it counts!!!

Note: this is one of those tips I believe in but rarely do myself. I hate chores.

6. Commuting

Like doing chores, walking or biking to work (or on errands) is an efficient way to get exercise while actually getting something accomplished. Duh, right? Yet so few people who could walk or bike to work actually do. What's up with that? Some places are obviously too impractical, but I'm often amazed at what a minuscule number of Americans even think about leaving their cars at home. Then after work they drive to the gym so they can walk on a treadmill for an hour.

7. Cardio Intervals

Another great bargain--you can do incredible things for your body in less than twenty minutes. Downside: it's hard and that blows. But as many of you know, it doesn't have to be totally gruesome. There's a better way!

Think these are lame? Help me out with some better suggestions!

If we get a few good ones in the comments, I'll update this post later in the week and include a link to your blog or website, if you've got one.

UPDATE--Great Reader Suggestions!

Wow, some really helpful suggestions in the comments! Here are some, condensed and combined, but I can see now I may not get to them all. Better, fuller explanations are available down in the comments.

Theresa suggests doing push ups against the countertop while waiting for the tea to boil.

Tokaiangel is all about Running Up the Stairs.

KatieP suggests contracting ALL your muscles while doing strength training exercises, and standing on wobbly things to make it even harder.

Always the practical ones, Mary Anne in Kentucky and the Bag Lady suggest choosing strenuous occupations of the sort where you get a workout whether you want one or not.

Combining Exercises is a great idea! Jenn suggests squats with military presses or lunges with bicep curls.

Our very own Merry sensibly advises that you enlist a friendly canine as a workout partner, and Terrie Farley Moran suggests that Grandchildren also work well.

Circuit training is popular among those more energetic than the Crab. The Lethological Gourmet even has an Olympic Boot Camp circuit workout for you to try. And Mrs. Jelly Belly has an enthusiastic (and amusing) circuit training recommendation if you can track down the DVD by "Sunshine"-- it sounds great.

Geosomin does lunges in the lab, and takes the stairs two at a time instead of waiting for elevators. And another fan of gratuitous stair climbing is nolafwug, who thinks multi-tasking is overrated.

Liz Rosenbaum suggests squats while brushing your teeth. Similarly Sagan does calf raises while brushing her teeth, and jumping jacks/pushups while waiting for food to cook. And NewMe does calf raises while cooking and doing dishes.

Monica fixes her bike and gets exercise at the same time.

Grounded Fitness was too high on crack to offer specific exercise suggestions, but those yoga/pilates people seem to have the combining thing down pretty well already.

Katieo is trying to run faster, which is much more efficient if you can stand all the huffing and puffing! Likewise Mizfit, who often claims to be a cardio slacker, is nothing of the sort, as she combines regular cardio with HIIT.

Alexia shares a sincere appreciation of caffeine with the Crab.

POD suggests a pedometer and walking all over the place, as well as counter-top stretches.

Deb suggest something called a "Scuper-Scet" which sounds really freakin' hard like quite a workout. The full explanation is below, but it involves combining stable weight training exercises with a similar unstable ones until you're ready to die done.

Dragonmamma makes a great point about isolation exercises being inferior to exercises that work multiple muscles at once.

And the always creative Workout Mommy suggests "Child curls." (Just like bicep curls, but with a baby!).

Be sure to check the comments for more great fitness bargains as they come in!