October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat: Plus-Size Workout Wear Giveaway




A Not-Very-Scary Giveaway


I suppose this post really should have more of a Halloween theme. True, I threw the words "trick or treat" in the title, 'cause we're giving something away like you do when trick-or-treaters come to the door. But that's kind of a lame comparison, isn't it? If you were to dress up in a costume tonight and go door-to-door shouting "trick-or-treat," what are the chances someone would hand you a $100 gift certificate for Plus Sized workout wear?


Not bloody likely.

But true Halloween-themed giveaways are hard to come by, unless they're candy. And as you may have discovered, if someone offers me candy, I tend to Eat It Myself.

Maybe next year we'll try harder to stick with the holiday theme.


Wicking Washable Witch Workout Wear?

Okay, maybe not.

Women Come in All Sizes


So workout clothes should too, right?

I'm a fairly averaged sized person, and I've noticed that the majority of workout clothes on display at a typical sporting goods store are Too Damn Small for me. I couldn't imagine what it would be like for Plus Sized women shopping for athletic clothes.

So I went to the awesome Big Fat Deal to find out. And sure enough, they led me to an interesting post by Harmony at Pair Up, Pare Down, describing a trip to REI.

Harmony wrote:

"I don’t feel actively discriminated against, but I do feel out of place, and really visible. The truth is that there is not a single item of clothing in that store that would fit me. And, while it is also true that I am not the world’s most outdoorsy person, I still think it’s weird that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t buy a pair of running shorts or a sports bra at one of the world’s best outdoors/sports stores. It’s like fat people don’t even exist in the outdoors world. Admittedly, I am a short fat woman. But I wear the same sizes that a very tall broadly built woman might wear, and I guess those women don’t want to work out either? Or if they do, they apparently do not want state of the art wicking material to wear while they do it."

Now I love REI, because I like to prowl around all the sporty and outdoorsy stuff, but I'd never seen it from the eyes of a bigger customer. And I also couldn't help but notice that the last time we gave away athletic wear here at Cranky Fitness, it seemed quite a few of you were looking for stylish and functional workout clothes in larger sizes, and were having trouble finding some.

Junonia To The Rescue!


But guess what? It turns out there's a company called Junonia that has a nice selection of workout and active wear for women sized 14 and up. And they've very kindly offered to donate a $100 gift certificate to the winner of our random giveaway.

And Good news: You Do Not Need to Be a U.S. Resident to win!!!

Just leave a comment on this post with the word "active" in it by Tuesday night, November 4th. (Also, remember to VOTE too!). Crabby or Merry will announce the winner sometime Wednesday the 5th; and the winner should be sure to email us by Friday the 7th with their name, email address and mailing address to claim the prize. (Email: crabby mcslacker @ gmail dot com)

Want Discounts?

It's not required for entry, but if you're interested in getting discounts and updates on Junonia active, swim and casual wear, you can sign up at the Junonia sign up list.

They will of course keep your information private.

(Plus, if you sign up, not only might you receive a nice discount, you'll help give the impression that Cranky Fitness is the kind of blog that can actually motivate people to do things! We'd love for giveaway donors and sponsors to think we're Influential and not just Cranky.)

More Treats!


I keep meaning to mention these three very entertaining fitness blogs, but haven't found a good occasion to work them into a particular post. So rather than risk forgetting while waiting for the perfect opportunity, I'll just say "the heck with it" and put the links out there even though the have absolutely nothing to do with Plus Size clothes or Halloween.

So if you haven't discovered Fit Bottomed Girls, or Gazelles on Crack, or Grounded Fitness yet, you should definitely check 'em out!

And have a great Halloween!

October 30, 2008

Starbucks, Smoothies, and Perfection


Image: bbaunach

I really envy people with the ability to 'just do it,' as the Nike phrase goes. When I try it, I find myself placing obstacles in my path.
- I can't go exercise until I find my shoes is a simple one, but there's also
- Wait a minute, I need to hit the bathroom first or
- I really should pay that bill before they cut off the electricity instead of after or ... the list goes on and on.

Sometimes, my subconscious gets sneaky about the obstacles.

For example, when Starbucks said "hey, take this smoothie coupon and review this product," I thought it was a good idea. There's a big S on the route to the light rail. I saw this as a step forward in the quest to walk more, drive the car less. Didn't see it as an obstacle, but it was.

Since I had firmly tied the Starbucks trip with walking to the light rail, I refused to go check out the smoothies unless I went car-less. And then of course the boss staged several early morning meetings that I had to get to on time, and then I had to pick up a package that was heavy, and then... are you bored yet? I sure am. Yet this went on for over... well, longer than I care to remember. It got to the point where I gave up even trying to Be Good and just drove the damn car every day.


Thankfully, I remembered something Crabby once wrote....


It was a post about the Worst Exercise Mistake.

I quote:

This is something you already know, but perhaps you need reminding:

In order to succeed at any worthwhile long-term health goal (exercise, diet, stress reduction, whatever) you have to Give up on Being Perfect.


So I did. Instead of stopping into Starbucks for some caffeine on my way to work, I (radical concept) dropped into one near my work.

Yeah, yeah, I can see you yawning over there, but this is a Big Deal. I did three things I usually avoid:

1 - Went out and got food for lunch

2 - Took a damn lunch break in the first place

3 - Went for a walk at lunch. Haven't done that in months, and it's the last of the incredible fall weather right now.




Moral: It's really stupid to put work first all the time.


Not your mother's Starbucks


Gotta tell you, even if they did give me a coupon, I was impressed with Starbucks.

I always associated Starbucks with coffee and pastries. Nice, but really both are on my To Be Avoided list. So when I ventured into this House of Caffeine, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they have food that is on my To Eat list. I mean healthy stuff. Incidentally, the Orange Mango Banana smoothie? Quite tasty, though perhaps not something to drink while you're walking back to work on a chilly day.

But wait! There's more...

When did Starbucks change? Now they've got really healthy food.
- For lunch, I picked up fresh fruit and bread-with-fruit-in-it.
- The breakfast menu has oatmeal. Whole grain. It looks good. I've heard it tastes good too. (Starbucks New "Perfect Oatmeal" Loved By Cat.) I'm going to check it out.
- The breakfast muffins are also whole grain, with fruit.
- They also offer a "Power Protein Plate: an on-the-go snack of Cheddar cheese, fresh fruit, hard-boiled cage-free egg, whole-wheat bagel and peanut butter" which sounds good for days when I really want that protein fix.

Fast food that's actually healthy?


I don't want to sound like I've been blindly drinking the Starbucks kool-aid, but I think this is really cool. Yes, these are items that I could make myself, but on days when I am rushing out the door and it's a choice between Starbucks and McD's... that's not a choice. If this were an election issue, I would be one of those standing up on the podium cheering. 'Fast Food' that's actually healthy, without preservatives? additives? trans fats? Woo hoo!

On the down side, this also means one more excuse to eat 'bad' just went out the door. Damn.

October 29, 2008

Gender, Lifestyle, Money, and Weird Web Statistics



Lies, damned lies, and statistics


I found a new statistical resource recently--and longtime readers know I've always been easily distracted by shiny statistical toys. This new thingy not only purports to measure the number of visitors to a website, but also tries to tell you who those visitors are. (Plus it's public, allowing readers to snoop around and see most of the stats without passwords or permissions or anything).

It's called Quantcast and it gives you demographic information for many popular websites. Last I looked, it said, for example that: nfl.com skews male (surprise!) and that npr.org skews well-educated (what a shock!). But it also says that bargain-hunting sites like Nextag.com and Overstock.com attract an affluent readership (really)? And according to their numbers, HuffingtonPost.com gets more men visiting than women, while Netflix gets more women than men. (If I were to guess, I might have reversed those two).

Note: I have no idea how Quantcast gets this information. Nor do I know how accurate it is. Be especially careful when look at a site that hasn't been directly measured or "Quantified," because their guesses on readership can be way off.

Of course I don't really care much about all those other sites--the most interesting statistics to me are all about Cranky Fitness readers! And while you're mostly who I thought you were... there were some surprises.


So, Who The Heck Are You People?


According to the Cranky Fitness quantcast profile, last time I checked you folks reading this were mostly:

Female;
Over 35 years old;
Caucasian;
Childless;
Middle income;
and Incredibly, Ridiculously Well-Educated.

Seriously, the education stats were off the scale compared to the average website. (And no, I have no idea whether the folks who end up here googling "big bouncy breasts" or "big fat ass" are included. If so, then these statistics are even more impressive).

You Are People, Not Numbers


A quick glance at the comments section of our posts or the profiles of our friendly "followers" reveals that there are plenty of you that don't fit this description at all. We get men, and parents, and people just starting off in college, and folks of many colors. Incomes range from Almost Nothing to Very Well Off. So these are just averages. The numbers are also based in large part on lurkers and googlers and folks you never get to meet down in the comments section.

But Two Statistics Surprised Me


The first surprise: I thought a lot more of you had kids! Are moms just more sociable and more likely to comment on posts? Because last I looked at the Quantcast numbers, only about a quarter of you were parents. I would have thought it was way higher.

The other thing that struck me as odd: the income numbers. Given that Cranky Fitness readers are older (than average websites), childless, and extremely well educated... one might predict higher income. Instead, readers are slightly underrepresented among the higher income ranges, not overrepresented.

Generally, it's my impression that over-35, well-educated childless folks often have slightly higher incomes than less educated, younger, child-full folks.

So what's the deal?

Well... the education/affluence link is a generalization from average populations. You folks aren't "average"--you're mostly women! And I can't help but wonder if there's a connection.

Why the Income/Education Disparity?

Maybe it's not a sexist conspiracy that on average, you're making less money than similarly well-educated readers of Macho Meaty-Man Fitness.Com. There could be plenty of innocent explanations for this that have nothing to do with gender discrimination.

Among the possibilities:

1. Quantcast has its pointy head up it's ass and the statistics are just plain wrong;

2. My assumptions about more education leading to higher income are fundamentally screwed up; or

3. People willing to read posts by an author named "Crabby McSlacker" may be less career-oriented than the general web surfing population.

Gender Wage Gap, or Healthy Balanced Lifestyle?


Unfortunately, there is still a stubborn wage gap between men and women. And women, when they do have kids, are more likely to cut back on working hours and stay home with them, whereas men tend to keep on earning.

But I'm kinda hoping it's something else.

I read the comments here, and I read many of your blogs, and I have at least an illusion that I have a sense of who some of you are. Here's my optimistic hypothesis:

It seems to me that many of you strive for a balanced approach between work and life; between time and material possessions; between human values and financial ones. I sense a tendency to choose careers that involve helping people or creating things versus more lucrative pursuits. You folks also seem more likely to take time off to take care of a family member, or work for the Peace Corps, or go back to school to pursue a whole new endeavor.

Sure, with all those advanced degrees some of you could be pulling in bigger paychecks if you were working 80 hour weeks at law firms, or short-selling stock or performing liposuction on movie stars. And perhaps some of you are doing just that. But for most of you who are apparently not raking in big paychecks: I'm hoping you are choosing to use your education in ways that are more important to you than earning larger salaries.

But I'm just an over-educated under-earner named Crabby McSlacker, what the hell do I know?

Do These Statistics Mean Anything at All?


There's a good chance that these statistics were based on such a small sample that they don't mean bupkus. Maybe next week they'll be totally different. But it did make me realize that the question of who comes here is very intriguing! And I'm always curious about the whole "equal rights for women" issue that we were supposed to have solved decades ago--how is actually playing out in real life?

So if any of you feel liking checking in:

Do you fall within any of these "typical Cranky Fitness" demographics yourself?

Are you a highly-educated person who is not earning the Big Bucks, and if so, was that a choice?

If you're a gal, do you think your options or choices or paycheck would have been different had you been male? Or vice versa if you're a guy?

Do you care at all/believe in demographic statistics?

Bollywood DVD Winner

The Random Number Generator has named Clickmom the winner of the Bollywood Dance Workout DVD!

Clickmom, to claim your prize, please email us at Crabby McSlacker @ gmail dot com with your name and mailing address by Friday night.

Thanks for playing, folks!

October 28, 2008

Crisis? What crisis? It's an oppor -- oh, screw it

You can look on the current economical climate as a terrible crisis or a wonderful opportunity. Or both simultaneously. Financial experts such as Warren Buffet or Motley Fool are saying this is a great time to buy stocks. That's probably true, though it doesn't help much if you've just lost your job because some idiot higher up the food chain has decided to panic and shut down your whole division.


Similarly, with all this cold weather, shorter days, longer nights, the northern hemisphere is getting into Summer-recession mode. It's more challenging to run around outside and exercise in the evening after work. There must be ways around this.

I've thought up a couple of ways to make sure I don't lose my exercise momentum.



What, I can't use a teaser like that? I'm trying to be more like Crabby. It works when she does it...




Trouble getting up in the morning?


Have trouble getting up in the morning? Try a light alarm like the bio-brite. The one I have, 15 minutes before the alarm time, the light starts to come on. (According to their website, it's not just an alarm clock, it's a "Quality Dawn Stimulator." So there.) The light gradually gets brighter, until at alarm time, it is bright enough to wake me up. At least in theory. Unless I'm really tired. If all else fails, an audio alarm will go off.

Other light alarms come with a scent feature, where a pre-selected scent such as cinnamon or coffee will progress from a faint whiff to a full-fledged smell. I think I'd feel cheated if I woke up smelling coffee and then had to go make it.

Too dark to go outside and run?


Not to get too cheerful or anything like that, but this blogger found she quite enjoyed running in the dark. Maybe once I get over my twisted-ankleophobia, I might try it.

Have you tried a headlamp? I've been looking into getting one of these. I figure that I might look like a geek, but at least I'd be a highly visible geek. Presumably the drivers won't get so distracted that they veer off the road when they pass by. There are a lot of brands, so it's hard to know which one to choose. However, the charmingly named Running with Slugs was quite impressed with his headlamp.

And if your dog is up for it, you can get your pet a pup-light, so that the other dogs and humans can see you coming. (I think this is a really practical idea for people who have to walk their pups at night in a non-streetlight environment. All the same, I think my dog would find it embarrassing. I tried to get her to wear a coat once; she was mortified. Things like this don't fit into her view of Proper Dog Attire.)

I looked to see if there were any good winter exercise tips out there. There's a lot of stuff about making sure to wear layers yeah, yeah but not much else.

One website recommended that if you want to exercise outdoors in the winter, move closer to a ski resort. Not especially helpful advice if I want to keep my job. (I wouldn't think most people could ski after work. How many ski resorts are close to major population sites? Any Denverites out there looking to brag?)

It also recommended not taking your clothes off after exercising. That's going to make the post-run shower a little strange, and it won't do much for my social life, but it will certainly avoid post-exercise hypothermia.

Probably once the weather gets positively Canadian I'll start to rethink my stand on exercising outdoors. Until then, please don't laugh when you pass me on the side of the road, little headlamp bobbing up and down as I go. (The Merry bobblehead! Latest offering from the Cranky Fitness store. Get yours before they're all gone!)

Seriously, or as seriously as I ever get, anyone planning any devious ways to fit outdoor exercise into the upcoming season?

October 27, 2008

Lucid Dreaming for Slackers



Have any of you ever played around in the amazing, free, kick-ass fantasy world that is Lucid Dreaming?

With a bit of practice it's something many people can learn. Even I did. Then of course I got lazy and got out of the habit. Now I'm just starting to get back into it, and I have to say: totally worth the trouble! I'd forgotten how much fun it is.

What the Heck is Lucid Dreaming?

It's just a fancy name for realizing in the middle of a dream that you're... well, dreaming. It dawns on you that your current "reality" is not actually "real," and this awareness can then lead to the ability to control your dreams. And boy howdy, that's where the fun starts.

The cool thing: it's a learnable skill. There's a set of steps to follow, and if you do them, there's a good chance you'll eventually start having dreams where you're aware you're in a dream and you even get to control what happens.

If you recall your dreams easily, or if you already have occasional spontaneous lucid dreams, you'll have an easier time of it. But all kinds of folks who hardly ever remembered their dreams before they started practicing have learned how to do this.

The not-so-cool thing: it takes some time and attention--something you may not exactly have in abundance. But the more you put into it, the better results you'll have and the faster you'll start having them.

Fortunately, however, it's not a huge amount of time, so it's the perfect Personal Growth Project for Slackers. And this being Cranky Fitness, we will of course discuss Shortcuts.

Why Bother Having Lucid Dreams?


Serious lucid dreaming advocates always give these sort of pragmatic reasons for learning to have lucid dreams:

1. Reducing nightmares.

2. Creative problem-solving.

3. Practicing life-skills you find difficult.

4. Working through personal issues by interacting with significant people in your life in a non-threatening, no-consequences environment.

Blah blah blah.

Let's look at a slightly different list, shall we? Here are some things you can do when you get good at it:

1. You can eat any damn thing you want, totally enjoy it as though it were the real thing, knowing there are no calories or carcinogens or transfats.

2. You can fly.

3. You can explore intricate, intense, fantasy worlds with the smug realization that somehow your humble little brain created and imagined them all by itself.

4. You can have sex with your favorite celebrity, or your best friend's spouse, or that hot yoga instructor at the gym, or hell, all three at once--with no horrible guilt or divorce papers or awkward morning-after conversations.

It's your world, and it feels totally real, and there are absolutely no rules or repercussions. Sound like fun?

Here's what you gotta do to get there.

1. Start Remembering More of Your Dreams


Easier said than done, right? Is there anything slipperier than a half-remembered dream? But increasing dream recall is a necessary step in the process. You get better and better the more you try to do it.

How?

  • Get in the habit of reminding yourself as you fall asleep that you want to remember your dreams.

  • Also get in the habit of checking, whenever you wake up for any reason, to see if you can catch any dream fragments floating by. Stay with them, gently and without getting frustrated if possible, and see if you can pull out any more images or feelings or voices or sensations from the dream.

  • Keep a dream journal by your bed and jot down notes whenever you remember anything.

  • Linger in bed for a few moments in the morning and try to ease gently into remembering your dreams. Don't immediately leap into thoughts about the upcoming day. Analytical thinking, planning, and worrying seem to be real dream-memory killers.

Bonus: you spend all this time every night dreaming, it's nice to reclaim some it! Unremembered dreams seem like a waste, while remembered dreams can add up to a fuller, if weirder, life.

Slacker Short Cut: While you really SHOULD keep a dream journal, I'm too lazy myself. I discovered I can increase dream recall by reminding myself, obsessively, to try to remember my dreams whenever I wake up.

2. Recognize Dream Signs


As you've probably already noticed, there are themes and situations that seem to come up in dreams a lot. Some recurring themes are personal; others seem to be more common. (How many of us have found ourselves semi-naked at work, or faced with a final exam in a class we've never been to because we forgot we'd signed up?)

Anyway, it helps to know what you frequently dream about, because your personal dream signs will help you recognize that you're not in waking reality. Phones or light switches that don't work are very common; as is the inability to scream or run; the ability to float or fly; teeth falling out or other bizarre body problems; dead people showing up to chat, etc.

However, you probably have your own personal recurring situations or themes. If I'm in an elevator and the whole thing starts to tip sideways, for example, or if I'm a passenger in a plane that seems to be driving along the freeway instead of flying, those are both pretty good signs I'm dreaming.

3. Test Waking Reality


This is probably the strangest step.

Are you dreaming now? Of course you're not! It's rare that we get confused about this when we're actually awake. So it will probably feel totally stupid to get in the habit of asking yourself, many times a day: am I dreaming right now?

Of course you're not--you're reading Cranky Fitness!

But these inane periodic check-ins makes a huge difference. Eventually, as they becomes a habit, you'll start doing them at night in your dreams too.

And sometimes the answer to: am I dreaming right now?

Will be: um, you know what? I think I am!

If you have a recurring dream sign that relates to something that you do frequently in real life (i.e., weird things happen when you dial a phone or start your car or use a public restroom), then try to use these ordinary experiences as cues to ask if you're dreaming. But even just checking at random times is good too.

Dedicated approach: set a timer on your watch or computer or add a bunch of entries to your daily schedule to remind you to ask yourself if you're dreaming. Even though the answer seems like it's obviously "No," perform a test: read some text and then go back to read it again to see if it changes. Notice if anything impossible is going on. See if you can float. Turn on a light switch and see if the light goes on.

Slacker Shortcut: If you are damn sure you're awake, you don't actually have to perform the tests. But do remind yourself that you would totally check things out if you were on a spaceship to mars, or if your computer just turned into a pink refrigerator stocked with olive jars and paper clips and headless Barbie Dolls.

Additional Slacker Tip: Is there some other annoying thing you're already been trying to remember to do several times a day? Improve your posture, get up to stretch, take deep breaths, drink more water, etc? Then every time you nag yourself to do one of other things, throw in the additional question: am I dreaming?

4. Get Lucid


There are lots of fancy wake/sleep manipulations and gadgets and rituals you can try to hasten the process (see resources below), but basically, if you keep up with the first three steps with a fair amount of dedication, you will most likely (eventually) catch yourself dreaming.

It may start with a vague suspicion, or you may notice a dream sign, or you might suddenly recall that you are long past elementary school so what are you doing back in Mrs. Benjamin's classroom again? And it will finally occur to you to ask yourself whether you are dreaming when you are actually dreaming.

If you answer "yes, I AM dreaming," congratulations! You've had a lucid dream.

And if you are like most people you'll get all excited and wake up almost immediately. Crap.

5. Stay Lucid


This is one of the huge challenges of lucid dreaming. It's really a tricky balance to stay aware enough to enjoy the lucid experience, but not so aware and conscious that you wake yourself up.

Helpful hints to staying lucid:

a. Stay calm.

b. Notice the physical details of your surroundings. Look at your hands; rub them together; try to increase the sensual aspects of the experience.

c. If you feel yourself waking up, try spinning around and around. (No idea why this often works, but it seems to help many folks stay in a dream state).

d. But, try to stay mindful you are dreaming. It's also easy to float back into accepting everything and forgetting that this is not real life.

Once you start having more lucid dreams, you may discover that some end quickly but others will linger. Or that you'll start to wake up but will find yourself in another lucid dream later the same night. Keep it playful; try not to get too frustrated. Unless you've discovered a way to make sleep optional, you'll have every night for the rest of your life to play with this.

6. Start Messing With Your Dreams


Controlling your dreams is a blast when it works, but alas, it's unreliable. Sometimes it happens easily and you can order up your favorite fantasy and experience it in intense detail. Other times, it seems impossible to have any input and all you can do is watch things unfold, and appreciate that you get to experience a dream from a conscious, aware perspective.

See that landscape in front of you? Well, maybe you can't fly through it tonight, but you created it! Every leaf on that tree, you put there. It's pretty cool.

Cultivate a relaxed but hopeful approach. Don't try to force it, but imagine that what you'd like to happen is gradually coming to pass. You're about to walk into the next room, and inside will be... what? Some nights, it may be George Clooney in the all-together; other nights, it could be your next door neighbor's pet iguana Iggy; and who the hell wants to party with Iggy?

But perhaps Iggy will offer you the key to another room, and you can open the door and discover that inside... there's a huge all-you-can-eat cupcake buffet in progress!

7. Read More About It

This is obviously just a quick and quirky summary; there are books and websites and discussion forums and workshops and all kinds of further information if you'd like to become a well-traveled oneironaut. Here's a link to one fairly well thought out lucid dreaming website. And you may want to check out the venerable Lucidity Institute founded by Dr. Stephen LaBerge, a dude from Stanford University who's been studying this stuff for decades. These sites contain further links, or hell, you can just start googling!

Anyone else have lucid dreams? Or do your dreams contain any weird recurring themes you're willing to share?

October 24, 2008

Marshmallows, Pink Patches, and DVD Giveaway



You may be curious: how are Marshmallows, Pink Weight Loss Patches, and "Bollywood Booty" Dance Workout DVD's related?

Answer: they're not!

Blame Blogger for breaking down in the middle of what was going to be a scholarly post about impulse control and neuroscience. (It was going to be incisive and informative and amusing, you betcha!)

Alas, I got distracted when our Blog Host went down for no reason, and then an email about a DVD giveaway came in distracting me further, and one thing led to another... By the time the blogger post editor was working again, whatever profound thoughts I'd had about the role of the anterior prefrontal cortext in impulse control went "poof!" And my brain had been replaced by a giant marshmallow.

So stay tuned for 3 unrelated items, one of which is a giveaway of a cool Bollywood Dance Workout DVD, as demonstrated by the always adorable Ellen Degeneres. Ellen's a huge fan of Cranky Fitness, did you know that? Well, actually, that's a big fat lie. But we're fans of hers, which is almost the same thing, especially if you don't read things very carefully and are easily confused.


1. The Marshmallow Experiments Go High Tech

So, do any of you remember the famous Mischel experiments from the 60's about pre-schoolers and impulse control?

This was the one where a 4 year old was put alone in a room with a marshmallow. The kid could either choose to eat the marshmallow, or could resist temptation and wait until an adult returned, in which case the reward was two marshmallows.

Some kids were able to wait up to 20 minutes for their reward; others caved and ate the marshmallow in front of them in less than a minute.

(You probably know which kid you would have been).

The fascinating thing was: they followed these kids, and the ones who could Master the Marshmallow? They were way more successful in other areas of life as they grew older. The longer a kid could hold out, the better his or her grades, SAT scores, social skills, etc. were.

Marshmallow Mastery skills are very important in life, apparently, and science is hard at work figuring out how to improve them.

Because now, according to a fascinating article in the Boston Globe, they're getting neuroscientists involved and using brain imaging techniques to examine these "kids"--now in their 40's. They can actually see particular areas of the brain light up when people hold out or give in to temptation, and they want to figure out how to train people to be disciplined, successful Two-Marshmallow Achievers instead of lame, impulsive, One-Marshmallow Losers.

Lots of interesting stuff in the article, including "cool brain, hot brain" theory, and a link to an intriguing website, stickk. It helps you work on your long term goals by giving you short-term incentives. How does it work? You put up your own money to achieve your goals. You only get the money back if you do what you're supposed to. If you slack off? You may lose some or all of it! You do, however, get to designate Cranky Fitness a beneficiary of your choice to receive any money you lose.

2. Appalling Pink Patches for Teen Girls

I'll send you directly to the awesome Kelly at Fitness Fixation for this one. She has a disturbing post on the marketing of pink "weight loss patches" directly to teen girls on sites like Facebook.

A sample testimonial:

“I spent most of high school being teased for my weight. The popular girls seemed to have everything: the gorgeous bodies, the cutest boys. I was not going to feel that way in college too! The summer before I left, I tried the Pink Patch. I lost 15 lbs! It changed my life completely. Now I’m in my sophomore year and I’M the popular girl. Thank you Pink Patch!”

Healthy eating? Exercise? Not nearly as cute as a little pink patch. And it's never too early to cultivate a cute little f*cked-up attitude about body image!

3. And now the DVD Giveaway!


So our fine friends at Acacia have another dance workout video up for grabs that they've kindly donated for a giveaway. It's the Hemalayaa: Bollywood Booty dance workout DVD!


Unfortunately, this can only be shipped to a winner with a U.S. mailing address; sorry. (But if you have a U.S. friend whose booty needs a shakin', Bollywood-style, you can always enter on their behalf).

I have not personally Bollywoodized my own Booty, but here's what the website says about it:

"Join fitness star and yogini Hemalayaa for vibrant, liberating Indian dance moves set to infectious Bollywood beats. These four quick dance workouts will help you get fit, firm, and flirty in no time. But more than that, they’re the perfect way to release inhibitions, embrace your body, and fall in love with your booty!"

And our frequent booty-shaking friend Ellen, whom we are sure visits Cranky Fitness all the time but is just to shy to comment, is a big fan of Hemalayaa too!





To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment with the word "booty" or "Bollywood" in it by Tuesday night Oct 28th, and a Random Number Generator will choose a winner. Check back Wednesday the 29th, and claim your prize by Friday the 31st (if you're the winner) by emailing us at Crabby McSlacker at gmail dot com. (No spaces).

Have a great weekend, and Mind your Marshmallows!

October 23, 2008

Coping with Halloween: Tricks for Treats

Photo: Daveynin

It's a conspiracy, I tell you

Among the vast conspiracies & cabals that dominate our world (Who decides whether hemlines should be up or down? Who decided capri pants were fashionable? Who on earth thought up the idea of going to work on a Monday, anyway?), there's a small group concerned with deciding how many small scary costumed rugrats will show up at my door demanding candy.

I mean, some years I'm swamped, run out of chocolate early, and have to spend the rest of the night with the lights turned off, pretending that I'm not at home. Other years, I'll end up with 3 or 4 unopened packages of candy -- calling to me, tempting me, luring me to fall into evil ways. And somehow, I can never simply Throw Chocolate Away -- it's wasteful! Yes, I know eating the stuff is waist-ful, but I can't just throw it out.

The ideal would be to run out of candy with the very last child who shows up at my door. Probably there are people who pre-determine who the last child will be, even if that means they give 345 pieces of chocolate to a child and then spend the rest of the night hiding. (Hiding for Halloween! The latest adult coping strategy!)

Another problem with Halloween is that it encourages kids (and, um, adults) to eat 'bad' food. Used to be you could give a child an apple or something like that. Now it has to be something in a package. It makes me irked, irked I tell you!

I sometimes wish we could outlaw Halloween, but I'd miss all the cute outfits.
Dogzilla!

Healthy Halloween?

Does anyone have any 'healthy' treats that they give?

- iVillage put up a short list of healthy halloween candy, but that's all stuff that you make and put into baggies.

Not to sound paranoid, but if people are afraid of razor blades in apples, wouldn't they also be leery of any homemade treats? I hate to go to all the trouble of making something and then have it thrown out by an understandably cautious parent. (Actually, I'd hate to go to the trouble of making something, period. Queen of Laziness, moi.)

- WebMD tries to avoid the problem of adult-snacking by suggesting you go out and make healthy stuff for you to eat, so that you're not tempted by the chocolate lying around.

It's well-meant advice, but I gotta tell you -- if chocolate is calling, it tends to have a louder voice than cheese-and-olives-on-crackers (which is actually quite soft-spoken). And it would be nice to give children something that's not going to contribute to the rise in childhood obesity.

- Thriftyfun suggests little boxes of raisins or peanuts.

That might actually be the best bet. Some children (and adults) are allergic to peanuts, but if so I'm sure that they (or their parents) are into reading labels of the treats that they get. And dogs should not eat raisins, but really dogs shouldn't eat chocolate either, so if you're worried about Phydeaux you might want to encourage the children to eat the treats quickly. (Yeah, like they need the urging.)

- Reader's Digest adds pumpkin seeds to the list of healthy treats.

I kinda like this one, since pumpkins are associated with Halloween anyway. But I'm not sure how I'd feel about receiving pumpkin seeds if I were a child. Any children out there who can respond? Would you feel gypped?

- The American Dietetic Association suggests giving stickers.

Again, this sounds like something that might or might not be appealing to a child. (Sounds like fun, but is it a treat?)

The race is starting up again...

Halloween is the first hurdle in the race (or waddle) toward the holidays. I plan to get off to a good start this year, however I finish up. Raisins and peanuts and stuff like that. That way, if there are any leftovers, at least they're vaguely sorta kinda healthy leftovers.

Anyone else have any good ideas for healthy treats to give?




Whoops... how did that picture of Saddle Mountain get in here? Well, it is scary in a way. The scary part of this picture is ... that peak you see there? That's not the high point of the hike.

October 22, 2008

Dealing With Workout Ups & Downs

Photo: left-hand



When the Numbers Don't Add Up


Sometimes the "Ups and Downs" of working out are purely about motivation. And other times the might be about injuries, or busy schedules, or whatever.

But there's also a form of "Up and Down" that I find really mysterious: when out of the blue your level of performance changes.

Sound familiar?

Perhaps you go to the gym or the running trail with no particular ambitions, or even a vague sense of dread. Yet you have an awesome workout where you are bursting with energy! You run faster, lift heavier things, bend further, balance longer, bounce higher, smile more enthusiastically--even your hair is shinier! You kick ass the entire time and revel in what an awesome physical specimen you are.

Other days? You don your workout wear innocently enough, get your ass out the door like you're supposed to, and proceed to have a totally wretched time of it. You're tired, draggy, weak, slow, tight, clumsy. Your times go up; your reps go down; your normal weights are suddenly too heavy. You're trying, but you just can't do what you normally would and every minute of workout miserableness seems to last an eternity.

There are two things about this kind of workout variability that make no sense to me.

1. There is often NO REASON IN THE WORLD for either the good or the crappy workout. If fact, often there's almost an inverse relationship between how I expect I'll feel exercising and how it actually goes.

2. After many decades of regular physical activity, with the same unpredictable results, every single time I have a terrible workout or two I'm still totally shocked by the phenomenon.

What difference does it make? At least for me, I've discovered there are smart ways and not-so-smart ways to handle these strange workouts so they don't turn in to sneaky motivation killers.

Do You Let it Get To You?


Some people are psychologically well-balanced and evolved. They try hard every time, but remain cheerfully unaffected by their performance ups and downs because they don't judge themselves. They're just really happy to have the opportunity to exercise at all!

Others of us are not so evolved. We care what we lift and how fast we go--even slackers like me who are not willing to put enormous amounts of effort into getting better. Thus these little ups and downs can really be demotivating unless handled properly.

One Important Thing I've Learned About Awesome Workouts


An awesome workout can actually be more demotivating than a lousy one. How can this be? Well, it sort of depends on how you react to it.

Smart way to think about it: "Wow, did someone slip crack in my water bottle? Where the hell did that come from?! That was amazing, but WTF?"

Looking for trouble: "Gosh, I must be working out harder and more consistently than I'd realized! I'm really getting in great shape. Next time, I'll try for even heavier weights and a longer run and a faster time!"

That second approach, in which you decide your most amazing day ever is the "real" you? That's a recipe for days or even weeks of feeling ripped off and frustrated because you can't replicate your amazingness again.

Bottom Line: attribute good workouts to astrological events, fairy dust, voodoo spells, whatever--just not your own physical prowess. Wait until you get a bunch of great workouts in a row, then celebrate your achievements.

Handling awful workouts is a bit more complicated though:

Five Steps to Mastering the Craptastic Workout


1. First Line of Defense: Shrug it Off.

It can feel like a slap in the face to have a totally wretched workout when you're not expecting one. After the initial swearing, pouting, and disbelief, the first impulse may be to troubleshoot and analyze the hell out of the experience.

Eh... I'd say hold off a bit. There may be no use running around changing everything about your exercise program or your diet or whatever based on just one or two lousy workouts. Give it a week. Chances are, whatever was wrong will mysteriously right itself.

2. If it doesn't get better after a week or so: look for clues

Are you over-training? Eating too much crap? Not hydrated enough? Depressed? Not sleeping enough? Fighting off a bug everyone else has gotten? Going through a funky part of your hormonal cycle? Pretending you've been going "regularly" to the gym when you went once in the last 3 weeks? Are you depressed? Is it time for a medical check-up?

If there's something that will go away on it's own; be patient. But if there's an obvious problem to correct, then now perhaps you might want to get serious about fixing it.

3. In particular, if you've been over-training, CHILL.

Sometimes less really is more. Rest days and knowing when to back the hell off can be really helpful to long term progress.

4. If there's nothing obvious to correct: do what you CAN.

Then give yourself tremendous credit for it. Don't measure your workouts by conventional standards; try a more subjective workout measurement tool.

Lots of currently slothful people "used to" work out. The difference between the slugs and the lifelong fit people is that the slugs gave up when they couldn't be perfect. Go ahead and do less than your full workout; take more rest days; whatever it takes to feel like you're still at least kind of on track. Even a half-assed workout is an incredible accomplishment when you're feeling discouraged. In the long haul, it "counts" even more than a great workout done when you're feeling all fit and perky.

6.Don't Quit; Shake Things Up.

If performance issues are tempting you to bail entirely from exercising, maybe it's time to focus your energy into remotivating yourself. This may involve making major changes to your routine or perhaps switching to an entirely different kind of exercise.

(Note: if your performance slump drags on for months with no obvious cause, it really may be time to get your ass into the doctor's office.)

7. Eventually, it will get better.

Often, as suddenly and mysteriously as it got worse in the first place. That is, if you don't give up.

Struggling Myself a Bit Lately


So the reason I decided to post about the topic in the first place is that after making steady progress over the last few months on some recent workout goals, suddenly I've been backsliding. I go to the gym in a semi-consistent manner like I always have, but instead of doing more than my previous accomplishments, the last few workouts I've been doing less.

I haven't been over-training or under-training or doing anything out of the ordinary... So what gives? It seems so unfair!

Am I just getting too old for this? Why should I go to the gym at all if it makes no difference!!??

Er... it might be time to remind myself that the same thing has happened before... about a zillion times. Even as recently as a few months ago. And after a draggy week or two I came back even stronger than before.

So. I'm gonna hang in there, and keep trying, and just hope for a generous sprinkling of magic fairy dust sometime soon.

Anyone else ever struggle with a Sudden Onslaught of Workout Crapitude?

October 21, 2008

The Raw (food) Deal

Raw food is all the rage, according to Psychology Today.

(Note the use of the word 'rage' in that statement. Its significance will shortly become apparent.)

I know that this diet has the advantage of having been around for a long time. Since before humans discovered fire, if I'm not mistaken. And it does have the advantage of being the fastest fast food possible. Grab and chew is as good as it gets. But why is it such a big deal now?

I was curious, so I thought I would look into it.

I've been following the standard PGD, or Pretty Good Diet. You know the sort of thing -- making sure I've eating 5 daily servings of fruit and veggies -- well, 3 or 4 servings is still pretty good, and hey I'll eat more fruit on the weekends to make up. It's kind of like the Pretty Good exercise plan. Doesn't really hurt you, though it's not going to help you lose weight or get into good shape.

The trouble I've found with this diet is that it's too easy for it to degrade into the PAD, or Pretty Awful Diet. You find yourself rationalizing all kinds of bad food decisions "just this once." (No, Merry, carrot cake does not count as a daily veg serving.)


So I figured I'd give this raw deal a try. I went cold carrot: eating whole-grain stuff and green leafy things and some fruit thrown in for dessert.

The main problem at work was all the eyebrow-raising that went on. "You're going to eat all that?" was a typical comment. But if you've ever tried it you'll agree that even after eating a whole cup o' green leafy things, you can still be hungry.

Very hungry.
Every day, I dutifully chomped my way through several cups of salad, bell peppers, oatmeal-with-fruit-and-flaxseed, the works. And invariably, by 4 o'clock in the afternoon, I was so hungry I was ready to chew plastic. Felt like a junkie needing a fix. (Um... I'm assuming this is how a junkie would feel. Not talking from experience.) I was irritable enough to kick innocent little kittens. I was angry.

Really angry.

The 'fix' for this problem was a quick piece of chicken. Within 20 minutes I had resumed my placid, agreeable demeanor. Or as close as I get, anyway.

How the heck am I supposed to be good when eating right makes me want to tell the world to go screw itself?


It's been a long time since my ancestors lived in caves and had names like Ungh. My ancestors have been in America long enough for the intestinal flora to adapt to a diet of hamburgers and fries. After pretty faithfully following this raw diet for a month (i.e. 90% of my diet = raw vegetables), my innards let me know how they felt about it.

- I felt much lighter. Apart from some ground up flax seed, I ate almost no fats. (90% of my diet was fat free.) As a result, I never felt weighed down.

- Since I was eating food that my innards weren't prepared for, I was also generating enough gas to make me a subject of interest to Exxon Mobil. (TMI? What TMI? That's just another TLA, isn't it?)

- In the evening, I inevitably had a dinner with some lean beef, chicken or fish. Not a lot, percentage-wise, but a couple ounces. I couldn't go all day and night without 'food.' (Somehow vegetables do not equal food, at least not to my subconscious.)

- I'd never heard that raw vegetables were like Chinese food, but it's true. Even though I ate veggies almost every hour on the hour, I was always hungry 30 minutes later. (I totaled up the number of calories I was consuming on a daily basis, and by late afternoon I usually ended up consuming about 900 calories.)

I don't care what they say about roughage and fiber, you have to eat a lot to equal the amount of calorie-satiation found in one hamburger or one Krispy Kreme. The trouble is that now I can't go back: just the thought of a fast-food burger makes me feel greasy.

I would have thought my body would have become accustomed to this diet after a month, but noooo. I'm screwed either way: good food makes me ravenous and bad food makes me sick.

Has anyone out there, a fellow confirmed carnivore, ever tried going cold carrot? If so, how long did it take? Enquiring minds (and innards) want to know!


Note: These pictures have absolutely nothing to do with raw food. (Oregon aficionados might recognize Cape Perpetua and Cannon Beach.) I wanted to keep alive the spirit of the Cranky Fitness photo competition. (This week: east coast vs. west coast.)

October 20, 2008

Healthy Living on a Budget

At least they're better for you than Twinkies!
Photo: Flikr

Last week I wrote a post speculating on how a tough economy might affect health and fitness choices. And then I asked readers for help with suggestions on how to eat healthy and exercise on a budget.

Thankfully, many of you sent me handy tips and links!

But before we get to the specifics, perhaps I'll make just a few general observations and caveats:

1. Many of these tips may be things you may already know--but don't do. I know I found it helpful to be reminded of ways to save money that I was familiar with but had gotten too freakin' lazy to bother with out of the habit of doing.

2. People who make suggestions are coming from various levels of income and frugality. Some of you have already cut back expenses to the bare bones and have been doing all these things for years. So I imagine reading suggestions aimed at those more carefree about money could be annoying. ("Tell your butler to take your golf sweaters to the discount dry cleaners. And don't forget to ask your chauffeur to use your old recycled gym clothes when waxing the limo!") Well, we don't have any quite like that. But for those of you who are already really thrifty, sorry if we may not exactly be breaking new ground here.

3. There is often a trade-off between time and money. Some money-saving tips that are practical for one person who has time may be completely asinine for another person who doesn't have a spare second. No one should feel "lazy" if realistically they just don't have the same flexibility to make some of those trade-offs.

And so, in the spirit of "Take it for whatever it's worth," here are some Tips and Links for you to check out.


Saving Money on Your Workout


Over at Diet Blog, our friend Ali (from the Office Diet) assembled Seven Ways to Exercise on a Budget.

Three of those suggestions:

1. Go running--outside, where it's free.

2. Buy used exercise equipment instead of expensive new stuff; and

3. Find an exercise buddy to work out with instead of paying a personal trainer. (And Bunnygirl suggests using Craigslist to find one in your area.)

Buffgeek advises:

4. If you have a personal trainer but really don't want to quit, see if he or she will offer a discount for semi-private sessions.

5. Look for a local boot camp.

6. Try body weight training instead of expensive gym equipment: Lunge, squat, push-up, climb hills, etc.

7. Many of you, like readers Jane and Charise The Great and Leslie at The Weighting Game, have noticed that you can save money AND get a good workout by biking or walking instead of driving on your errands.

8. And to save on childcare expenses, SeaBreeze suggested doing group runs and rotating babysitting duty.

9. Crabby says: don't forget your local library as a source of exercise dvds and books on fitness, weight training, etc.

10. And the Crab also reminds you to check out public playgrounds, parks, tennis courts, city rec departments etc. Often there are cheap adult leagues and classes, or even free weekend or evening pickup games if you like soccer or basketball etc.

Home Exercise on the Cheap


Some bloggers have observed that home gyms don't necessarily have to be expensive, and can save mega bucks over the long run in gym fees.

11. Shauna, the Amazing Diet Girl, has some really good suggestions on setting up a home gym, including tips on equipment and exercise dvds.

12 Reader Little Keebler tipped us off to another great nearly free home workout plan, including tips on equipment and lots of free web resources to guide you through your workout.

13. Bunnygirl suggested that for those who have a bike, purchasing a bike trainer is cheaper than buying a whole separate exercise bike.

14. And of course we're big fans of hiking here at Cranky Fitness. It's a great way to combine entertainment and exercise, and unless you choose to do it in the Swiss Alps, it's usually either cheap or free.

Shopping, Cooking, and Eating on a Budget


1. Many of you suggested buying food in bulk. For example, Brenda buys "frozen chicken breasts in 5 lb. bags, lean ground chuck in 5 lb. cartons to divide into 1-2 lb. sections, frozen fish in large bags or prebreaded in large boxes, generic cans of tuna and salmon, and variations of brats to freeze."

(Note: we're going to assume she means the meaty kind of "brats" and not the human kind. Freezing your children, even for brief periods of time, is illegal and not advised no matter how obnoxious they're being.)

2. Several of you, like Gabrielle and Bunnygirl, suggested gardening as a way to save money on food, as well as get some exercise.

3. Geosomin reminds us you can can your own food. Wait. We don't mean form chorus lines and start kicking--although that would be a good one for our previous list on exercise. Er, you could can your own food.

4. Another popular suggestion is to make soups, stews, casseroles and other large pot meals, and freeze the rest for later. Like the Bag Lady says in her post on cutting expenses, you can use cheap cuts of meat or go meatless.

Like the number Seven? Ali has some more great suggestions over at these Diet Blog Posts: Seven tips for healthy food shopping, and Seven Ways to Eat Out Healthily on a Budget, and Seven Tips for Free Diet Support and Advice. Among the suggestions:

5. Buy produce in season;

6. Skip the expensive "diet" foods;

7. Go out for lunch rather than dinner; and

8. Rather than paying for books or memberships, read free blogs for nutritional advice and support (We're fans of this one!)

9. Mystery Girl Terrie is careful to watch the expiration dates on her food and uses it even if she doesn't want to before it expires. She also keeps an eye on contents of her produce drawers and tries to use everything before it turns green and soggy. She relies more on eggs and less on meat for protein.

10. TK recommends we cut out sodas, lattes and sports drinks, and she even roasts her own coffee!

11. The folks at Ecosalon have a post on Ten Ways to Eat Well on a Budget, including this one: "Assemble snacks at home in small baggies using foods like nuts and seeds, dried whole grain cereal, cheese, dried fruit, and fresh vegetables and fruits rather than buying less healthy, more expensive, pre-packaged and processed snacks."

12. Ecosalon and the Bag Lady also suggest drinking filtered tap water instead of bottled water--a practice endorsed by the Crab as well.

13. Leslie has a post over at Pink Spandex on Eating While Impoverished which includes great tips, including filling up on the Budget Miracle Food that is Lentils.

14. Kim from the awesome Elastic Waist has a great series on eating cheaply; here's the first Destitution Diet post. One suggestion is to used dried legumes which are much cheaper than canned, and it includes a recipe for Lentil Soup! More miracle Lentils! The second Destitution diet post is all about Homemade Convenience Foods, and there are couple more in the series after that too.

Amy Hendel at healthgal.com had some great suggestions too, some of which we already covered. But she reminds us:

15. Make a shopping list and stick to it.

16. Supermarket bargains are usually located on the highest and lowest shelves rather than found in the middle or on the ends of aisles.

17. Avoid pre-cut, pre-packaged fruits and vegetables and meat.

18. Take advantage of buy one, get one free deals and freeze the rest.

19. Crabby adds that she never knew you could freeze milk but she found out you can! This info comes in handy if you've overbought or are leaving on a trip and don't want to toss it all out.

20. And there's a blog called Simple Dollar, that's all about saving money. They've got a food category with lots of posts about eating cheaply. (Thanks, Melissa!)

21. Mark's Daily Apple also has recommendations for eating healthy on a budget. For example, even the anti-processing Primal folks don't hate modern conveniences like packaged salad greens--if the alternative is buying leaf lettuce and letting it all rot before you get to it.

22. Of course no budget list would be complete without mention of sales, discounts, coupons, and warehouse stores. Bargains are everywhere! You can apparently even get grocery coupons online now.

Thoughts or Further Suggestions? We'd Love to Hear 'em!

October 19, 2008

Call for Guest Posts!

So the Crab and Lobster spent a lovely spring and summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts.




And now it is fall and that's wonderful too.




(Wish I had better pictures. For awesome fall photography Hilary's your gal).

However from what we understand, winter is not quite as wonderful on the Cape. Plus we have family back in California, and we miss them. So we plan to return soon to free-load off of them spend valuable time with them during the holidays and the colder winter months.

This means that come early November, the Crab will be on the road for two or three weeks, making a somewhat indirect journey across the country. (Yep, for those who have read the "Crabby McSlacker" info page, the Lobster and the Moo will accompany the Crab in Fran the Van).

Fear not, Cranky Fitness isn't going anywhere! Merry will still be here. And there may be a few random on-the-road posts from the Crab as well.

But it would be really cool if we could fill in for some of the Crab's slackitude with guest posts. We've had some great contributions in the past. We know we can't always count on your generosity, but we can sure keep our fingers crossed.

Unfortunately we can't pay anything, but we will certainly link to your fine blog or website or your favorite charity or whatever else you'd like to promote as long as it's not something sleazy. (Well, if it's sleazy in the sense there are many pictures of semi-naked men there as a Feminist Statement, that's fine. But no other sleaze, please.)

So if you are interested in writing a guest post for Cranky Fitness on a health and fitness related topic, we'd be very grateful! Email your post to us at the cleverly disguised (not) email address: Crabby McSlacker at Gmail dot com. (no spaces)

The Fine Print:
Posts may be edited for length or based on whim. Also, as I'm getting increasingly fond of the Dreaded "Read More," posts may be broken into two pieces unless they're really short.

And we can't guarantee we'll run every single one, without knowing ahead of time what kind of posts or might get submitted or how many might be coming, but we'll certainly try.

Also, sometimes my gmail account eats things; if you don't hear some sort of acknowledgment within a few days of submitting a guest post, please try again!

October 17, 2008

100 Calorie Packs Cut Snacking? Reeallly?



So it wasn't long ago I wrote a post about reduced calorie, portion controlled snacks. And here I am talking about it again. What gives?

Well, it's partly because I just came across some actual research on the subject!

Study Says Portion Controlled Snacks Cut Calorie Consumption


Yep, a recent study of 100-calorie snack packages found that people consume about 120 fewer calories a day when they're eating from the little 100 cal guys than when they're given the same snacks in normal-sized packages.

Hooray for research! So now those of you who like to buy and eat 100-calorie packs of your favorite junk foods can feel somewhat vindicated. You may well be eating less than if you were buying the regular versions.

Yet oddly enough, some folks are reluctant to have these little snack packs in the house.


People like, for example... me.

Shh... Are We All By Ourselves Here?


Not long ago Cranky Fitness hosted a giveaway featuring coupons redeemable for some low-calorie, portion controlled snack food. Many of you had mixed feelings about these 100 calorie (or less) treats, and expressed these feelings in a very entertaining manner. (And how cool is it that we now have a compilation of poems about snack foods? )

I said in the post that I have been known to eat these foods on occasion--which is true. I also said I thought they were a perfectly legitimate thing to snack on sometimes, which is also true. Especially if someone's actually done a study saying they help folks with portion control.

However, I won't personally have the little f*ckers in the house.

It did not seem sporting of me, however, to go into great detail about this at the time. Not when someone was giving us some 100 calorie thingies to try for free.

But now, after an unfortunate incident involving a wayward box of Golden Sponge Cake Twinkie-Like Snacks not even meant for me, I feel compelled to share my feelings about these portion controlled treats.

But What About the Giveaway? Where's the Beef?


Ah yes, a brief digression before I start whining about snacks:

As you may have noticed, it's Friday but yet again, this is not a giveaway post. Sorry.

It's looking like these won't be happening every Friday, but we hope that on many or at least some Fridays we may have Free Things for you to win. It sort of depends on whether anyone knocks on the blog's front door and says, "Hi ya Crabby, want some free stuff to give out?"

When they do, I'll say, "hell yeah!" unless it's for something way too weird. I have actually turned down offers before. You don't even want to know what you missed.

Of course sometimes, lacking free things to offer up, we may offer pictures of semi-naked men as a cheap appeasement gesture.


Photo by Nàlez

(Actually, it's not just a cheap gesture, it's principled feminist statement. Because at Cranky Fitness, we are still trying mightily to correct the appalling discrepancy between sexy-women images and sexy-men images in the media. We support women being Subjects sometimes and not just Objects. Wait... what does this have to do with 100 calorie snacks? Er... never mind).

So here is my brief list of reasons why I think...

100 Calorie Snack Packs Are Actually Instruments of the Devil.



Heh heh heh. One of my better ideas.
(Photo by zoomar)

1. They're Too Damn Small

I know, they're supposed to be small. But c'mon!

I think food manufacturers used to spend more time messing with the ingredients, rather than the portion sizes, of diet foods. They'd make normal sized stuff, but they'd use weirder constituent parts. That’s why diet junk food used to taste pretty much like artificial sweeteners, petroleum derivatives, insecticide, and cardboard.

Now the lower cal versions don't taste nearly as vile as they used to. Because they’re just as calorie-packed as the original! You just get less to eat.

Fair enough, I suppose. But so often the manufacturers try to disguise the fact you're only getting a couple of bites by hiding itty bitty portions in great big wrappers and boxes. And then they put freakishly exaggerated pictures on the front so you think you're getting an actual serving.

This works fine in the store—-the first time. "Wow, look what I get for 100 calories, that's a miracle! Hallelujah !" But this approach can backfire when the snack is taken home and opened. "THOSE are supposed to be cupcakes? Surely not for humans? Maybe they're marketing directly to ants now?"

I know we Americans are accustomed to gigantic serving sizes, but still. Even you sensible Europeans would be appalled at how miniscule some of these things are.


2. They're Expensive!

Portion control comes at a price. And it's not just the actual cost of those little wrappers and boxes; I'm sure of it. There's an additional "You're Afraid You Can't Control Yourself" penalty tax assessed on these items, paid for mainly by women. (Men who can't control themselves seem more likely not to give a crap and be perfectly happy with normal size packages). If you put all those tiny little servings together you might find you're paying $15 for the equivalent of a candy bar or $ 25 for normal sized bag of regular cookies.

3. They're Not Real Food

Readers of Cranky Fitness are very smart and are under no illusions that Light Donuts or 100 calorie Chocolate Chip Cookies or Potato chips, etc, are real food.

However, have you ever noticed that friends, relatives, and coworkers can get confused about this? They treat these things like they are real food and they eat a boatload of it because it's "low-cal." Their days start with reduced calorie toaster pastry for breakfast and then they have the "lite" choice at the fast food place for lunch and the 100 calorie snack item from the vending machine in the afternoon and a frozen reduced calorie tv dinner at night followed by a reduced calorie frozen treat for dessert, or three, because they're tiny. And these people think they're being incredibly virtuous! Yikes.

4. They come in boxes

Alas, I am not the least bit fooled by individual wrappers. You can call something a "serving size" and put some sealed plastic around it, but if you sell those little servings in boxes along with other little servings, folks like me will figure out that we can always open up more wrappers. We keep doing that until we are satisfied or the whole damn box is gone, and guess which usually comes first?

So I recently received, by mistake, a box of faux twinkies that I suspect was meant for another blogger--one who had not already cashed in on the faux twinkie giveaway by giving away snack coupons.

I didn't want the twinkies in my house; that's why I'd done the promotion as a giveaway in the first place and not as a review.

There were six teeny tiny twinkies in the box at 80 calories a pop. Two days later, all six were gone. (Or wait, could there have been 8? Oh Lord... lets hope it was six.) Actual calories per "serving" came to 240, unless it was 320. Crap. Alas, I don't think I burned many extra calories opening up those additional wrappers.


5. They're Tasty!

I know that many of you do not find processed portion controlled snack food to be the least bit tempting.

I do.

Those damn fake twinkies? They totally rocked. Sure, they tasted a bit plasticky, but I grew up eating synthetic food like that. Desserts that are super sweet and artificially moist have a special place in my heart.

Just not in my cupboard.


I know many of you already shared your feelings about these things, but feel free to do so again, or comment on whatever the heck you want. Got a fun weekend coming up? Are you registered to vote yet? Read any good books or seen any good movies lately? We're easy!

October 16, 2008

Advice for the out-of-shape hiker



This weekend, I went hiking in the Columbia gorge. Even fairly fit people find some of these hikes to be a bit strenuous -- at least, I noticed even athletic people were breathing heavily. Also, the faces of the people going up the hill (okay, cliff) were invariably serious and fairly quiet. People coming down again were smiling and chattering.

Taking lots of small breaks gives you a lot of time to think about things. In particular, I found myself thinking of ways to deal with the issues of being an out-of-shape hiker going up a hill with fit companions.

Some ideas:

1. Nag your friends to keep up. If you do this right, with a finely tuned combination of seriousness and sarcasm, they won't feel guilty about forging ahead while you catch your breath. It's awful to be the one holding the group up.

2. When going up the trail, get behind a slow poke. You're not going to get there faster by pushing yourself. (Unless it's a realllly small hill.) Out-of-shape hikers are usually much worse at pacing themselves than in-shape hikers.
I'd like to hike behind these guys
Photo credit: aussiegal

3. Bring a camera. That way, it's not a break, "I'm just stopping a moment to take this shot." (The drawback here is that if you're panting really hard, your hands might shake. Blame any blurry photos on very minor earthquakes.)
(You get extra points for unusual shots, such as shooting a waterfall from above.)


3a. In particular, take pictures that show how steep the path was. This tends to impress the sedentary folk back home. Tales about hiking are like tales about the fish that got away. No one tends to believe you without evidence.



4. Don't stress. Everybody has somebody faster than they are. In particular, it's pretty likely that your husband/wife/partner will have different views in regards to fast/slow. (It's a written-in-stone rule of the universe that couples will disagree in some fundamental area of life, such as hot/cold, budget/splurge, tastes great/less filling.)

5. Enjoy yourself. Hiking provides its own rewards.

6. Also, it's a good idea to develop an interest in botany or geology. Or any other damn thing that gives you a reason to catch your breath.

7. Write a blog post about hiking. That way, you can take a break to scribble notes on the hike, which gives you a chance to catch your breath.


Serious note: After the hike, when I got to the bottom again, I saw an ambulance and paramedics. In this case, they were there because of injuries caused by rock falls, but it is true that not everyone who goes up these hills is in shape to do so. In a way, exercise-induced asthma can be quite helpful -- long before my heart gets overworked, I have to stop to breathe. Be careful.

Are there any other out-of-shape hikers who have some hard-won advice they could share? Or any in-fit hikers who could share what it's like to be a fit hiker with a slug companion? When it comes to this topic, I have a lot to learn.