December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve: Have Fun! (Or Not).

Keeping an Eye on the Clock Tonight?
Flickr photo credit

Let's finish out the year at Cranky Fitness with a post that's a little bit Cranky, shall we?

What with Merry Sunshine spreading optimism and cheer and brightening up the blog with Reindogs and such, it's time for some balance! Yep, the Crab half of the blog is overdue to crawl out from under its favorite rock, snap its claws a few times, and supply the requisite grousing.

Sure, I could try to be helpful and make suggestions as to how to have a safe, sane, and sensible New Years Eve, but what fun is that?

Instead, let's address a more fundamental question:

New Year's Eve: Best Night of the Year, or Holiday from Hell?

It all depends on your perspective, I suppose. Some people love New Year's Eve! They always have a grand time no matter what. I don't know any these people myself, but I do know they exist. Because every year the newscasters interview folks in Times Square who are freezing their asses off, waiting around in a crowd full of drunken strangers for some stupid ball to drop, and they all claim they are having an absolute blast and that it's the highlight of their entire year! Go figure.

What's my take on New Years Eve? Well, I think it's overrated. But even crabby types can find a few positive things to say about it:

So What's Good About New Year's Eve?

1. It's a late-night celebration that comes specially equipped with it's own day off to recover from it. Because the only real point to New Year's day is to do... nothing! Sure, for some, there is football to watch. Or if you're a shopper, there are sometimes super-discounted one-day sales to go to. (A great option for those of you who have always wanted to be chased by angry bulls in Pamplona but find yourself short on airfare). But for most folks, New Year's Day is a holiday without any holiday obligations. There are no presents to buy, eggs to hide, costumes to don, or anything else you have to do but nap on the couch.

2. There are sometimes fireworks.

(Personally, I think I'll wait for a warm evening in July to watch fireworks).

3. New Year's Eve comes a week after Christmas. Why is this handy? Well, by then many people have totally overdosed on the whole Sentimental, Wholesome Family Togetherness thing. It's the perfect time time for a rowdy, naughty, late-night, adult holiday! If there is ever a time and place for drinking too much, staying out too late, flirting with or even hooking up with someone inappropriate who will not remember who you are the next morning--New Year's Eve is the night for it.

4. New Year's Eve is a great Resolution motivator. If you were planning to tackle a bunch of tough resolutions requiring you to get tons of punishing exercise and refrain from any fun indulgences, then going way too nuts on New Year's Eve is a great send-off. With any luck, you can stockpile enough guilt and self-loathing to power right through the first day or two of the New Improved You! (After that, you're probably on your own again.)

5. How sad is it that I can't even think of Five Good things? Oh wait. Champagne is very tasty. There we go!

What's Lame About New Year's Eve?

1. There is nothing all that exciting about the pinnacle of the New Year's Eve celebration: Wow, the clock goes from 11:59 to 12:00! Yes, there are the obligatory screams of "Happy New Year," and the sound of those weird horns outside that people always seem to blow (you know the ones, they sound kind of like walrus mating calls). Otherwise, it's pretty much the same thing as a clock going from 2: 16 to 2:17 p.m. People seem to get all excited and invest a bunch of significance in it, but I've never managed to care much and always have to fake it. Anyone else?

A notable exception: if midnight comes and you get a passionate and unexpected kiss from someone you fancy, that's pretty awesome. But that would be awesome any night of the year! You do not need to be at a party wearing a silly hat to enjoy that scenario.

2. You're supposed to stay up at least until midnight in order to celebrate New Year's Eve. (I know, you young folks are saying to yourself, so what? But just give it a few decades...) Actually, midnight won't do it either, since it's considered poor form to brush and floss your teeth, put on your pajamas and go to sleep in the middle of a party, whether it's your own or someone else's.

3. Got babysitter? I haven't had to deal with this one personally. But I imagine if you've got kids and you found yourself invited to an Adult party that actually sounded like fun--what a terribly convenient thing that everyone else in the entire world needs a sitter the same night!

4. Drunk people drive on New Years Eve. Be very, very afraid.

5. There is way too much pressure to "do something" or "be somewhere." If you don't have anywhere to go on New Year's Eve, there is often the fear of being seen as a loser. Oddly enough, even people who don't want to go to out can still end up feeling self-conscious about enjoying a perfectly pleasant evening at home.

Are you are one of those people feeling pressure to find something to do? Cranky Fitness (noted authority on matters of Coolness, Lameness, and Threats to Self-Esteem) hereby declares:

Staying home and Not Doing Anything Special on New Year's Eve does not make you a Loser; it is instead a sign of Mature Self-Confidence.

So it's official! Grab a good book, slip in to your slanket, hunker down in your most comfortable chair or couch--and enjoy your New Year's Eve!

So what will the Crab be doing tonight?

There are two possible scenarios. First, the fun scenario:

1. This post was pre-written and she is already off with the Lobster camping somewhere on the coast of Northern California. They will enjoy a bit of champagne and will no doubt turn out the lights well before midnight.

The Not So Fun Scenario:

2. As I write this a few days before our scheduled departure, the poor Lobster is sick with the stomach flu. It is so sad to watch a loved one suffer a nasty bug! She is starting to get better (hooray!) but...

Unfortunately, the only type of virus I ever seem to catch is, you guessed it, the stomach flu. If so, my New Year's eve celebration might be taking place in the fetal position, curled up next to the toilet. This makes that whole freezing-ass Times Square Ball-Drop thing suddenly sound like a lot more fun!

So have a great New Year's Eve, however you choose to celebrate it (or not).

And what do you guys like or hate about New Years Eve?

December 30, 2008

The Best of Cranky Fitness

It was the best of posts, it was the worst of posts... Okay, maybe not the 'worst' of posts.

I'm feeling all traditional today. Since this is the Sixth Day of Christmas, I was expecting a gift from my true love, but unfortunately he seems to have his eye on someone else.

Hugh? That camel's just not into you. Trust me.

Leaving aside the question of my love life, the other year-end tradition that I'd like to observe is the usual Best Of feature.

I asked Crabby for her favorite blog posts, and combined her list with my own. Turns out that we both chose posts that for the most part weren't in the Typical Crankiness column on the left-hand side. There are some fun things in here -- this is the kind of research that I like to do!

In no particular order, here are our Ten Best Posts of 2008:

Why can't you stick to your plan? -- well, maybe there is a particular order, at least as far as this particular post is concerned. I think this is about the best post Crabby's written. Yes, I know I'm cheating here, since this one is in the Typical Crankiness column, but for some reason, this post about feeling entitled to slack off and pig out hit a nerve.

The Flat Belly diet -- Crabby vs. Prevention magazine. Another classic.

The Lazy Woman's Guide to a Healthy Diet -- Who needs Prevention magazine when you could have weight-loss assistance from ... Enrique?

This wasn't really a diet post, honest. I just titled it The Okefenokee Diet to get people's attention. It was a cheap trick, and I'm very, very sorry. Sort of.

Tortoises and barbells -- Tips for Slackers on Keeping Up a Life-long Strength Training Program.

Advice for the Out of Shape Hiker -- Turns out there are other O.O.S.H.s out there. We should form a union.

Fanning the flames at the gym -- I love the way Crabby can take an annoying incident at the gym and turn it into a post that makes me laugh and ponder human nature at the same time.

I think Crabby should've charged an entrance fee for people to read this one: Secrets to Success Revealed!

And it's silly, but I have a fond memory of Skanky Fitness. Though I would like to apologize to all those people who searched Google for pole dancing peep shows and landed on this post. Which is a parody. Really. Sorry guys.

The other classic post along those lines was the Porn for Women post. Shocking to see so many fantasies summed up so concisely.

Each of these posts were chosen by the highly scientific criterion of WLI (We Liked It). Were there some that we missed that should have been on the list? Please let us know.

December 29, 2008

Boyfriends and Husbands: Health Hazards?

However Can A Gal Resist?
Photo: Plan59

Talk about a subject I know very little about.

But has my complete ignorance ever stopped my from blogging about a topic before? Of course not!

As I have a same-sex spouse, I'd been only vaguely aware of the impact that having a boyfriend or husband could have on a woman's efforts to meet her health and fitness goals.

However, I recently got a chance to peruse a book by Jenna Bergen, called: "Your Big Fat Boyfriend: How to Stay Thin When Dating a Diet Disaster." It's a cute little volume, sort of gifty-sized, combining humor with practical tips for how to stick to your own goals while dating a guy with a terrible diet. (And if you click on the link above, it comes complete with a blog.)

How clueless am I? It never occurred to me that heterosexual dating and relationships could pose such a health hazard! Or at least, according to the book, a dieting hazard. But I tend to mentally translate words like "diet" or "weight loss" into my own goals: "eating healthy" and "getting exercise," since they involve similar challenges.

So while I have a few general thoughts, I thought I'd take the issue to the smart readers of Cranky Fitness, many of whom are real live heterosexuals with actual experience in these matters. Are guys a Help or a Hazard when it comes to women's health and fitness goals?

But first, who is Jenna Bergen? Well, she's a fitness fiend and a writer whose articles have appeared in lots of great magazines. Including an article in Women's Health that mentioned Cranky Fitness--so we like Jenna 'round these parts.

She's got lots of practical tips for dealing with the phenomena that many women apparently experience: they fall for guys who are "diet disasters." (Her boyfriend, for example, went blithely through his adult life thinking that number of recommended calories a day was 20,000.) One of the fundamental messages of the book: if you are a woman, "you can't eat like a man and still fit in your pants."

Having any kind of romantic partner, male or female, can be a strong influence on behavior. (I bet there are studies, and I could look 'em up, but really, does anyone dispute this?)

This influence can be quite positive! I went from a cheeseburger-scarfing meat hog to a near-vegetarian in my early twenties, because my girlfriend at the time was a vegetarian. I learned to enjoy tofu and bean sprouts and kefir and all kinds of "exotic" (for back then) food that I never would have even tried if I'd been with someone more like myself.

And, even now, I can't stand not working out if the Lobster is heading off to the gym, even if I'd already given myself the day off. It just doesn't feel right to be slothful while someone else is sweating. So that's good, right?

But, on the negative side, I also find it extremely difficult to pass up an ice cream cone if the Lobster is having one. Suddenly, I feel entitled to that cone, even if ice cream had been the furthest thing from my mind. (Note: this is just an expression! There is never a time when Delicious Food is the furthest thing from my mind. What about quantum physics, or pre-cambrian flying insects, or Scandinavian love poetry? There is always something further from my mind than food.)

Ever fritter away some time people-watching at an airport or a mall, and notice how frequently couples end up roughly the same size? Do people choose partners who look like them, or do they influence each other into gaining or not gaining weight together? A bit of both, I suspect.

However, I do wonder whether the whole boy/girl thing does complicate matters for women.

I can kind of see how it might be a challenge dating or marrying one of those XY types who can eat an entire extra large pizza in one sitting. Or who can, if motivated, can get slim and buffed in a fraction of the time it takes an XX due to the wonders of testosterone. Or who, if not motivated, doesn't really give a damn what he looks like in a bathing suit.

And is it just a stereotype that women are generally more interested in preventive health than men? It sure seems like one gender is more likely to scrutinize food labels and make appointments for checkups than the other.

My own intuitive guess is that I'd have a harder time sticking to my healthy-eating goals if I were with a guy than with a gal. If he could have a double cheeseburger, I'd want one too.

But wait! Here's a curious fact: Compared to straight women, lesbians are more than twice as likely to be obese. So while being with a guy may seem like a challenge to healthy eating, maybe his guyness is not really the issue?

This brings up the question: why do lesbians get fat? This study said for the same reasons straight women do, which wasn't much help.

Personally, I think on average, lesbians care far less about looking like the current cultural and media ideal--ultra feminine and super skinny. (In the age of The L-Word, I know it may be shocking to hear that many of us gay gals are still old-school and have entirely different standards of attractiveness than straight folks do!) But in rejecting these images as irrelevant, many lesbians also lose the powerful weight-loss motivation that comes with appearance-based goals.

So now I'm more confused than ever. It sure seems like being with a guy could present some healthy-eating challenges--what do you folks find? And if you have one of those exotic opposite-sex partners, what accommodations do you make to stay healthy?

December 25, 2008

Have a Merry AND Crabby Christmas!

My Christmas list included peace on earth, goodwill among men, and a pony of my very own, but I'm probably going to have to settle for a basket of bath salts and some goofy reindeer socks. Hope your holidays are happy wherever you are and whatever you celebrate.

The Cranky Fitness Reindog wants to say:

Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Good Yule
Joyous Solstice
Good Festivus
Happy Kwanzaa
Happy New Year
and an Excellent Epiphany to you all!

And to all a good night

"There had better be a treat involved in this somewhere," Tanji thinks to herself.

December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve, Blender Winners, and Poetry

Photo credit: Plan 59

On the night before Christmas
Cranky Fitness went quiet.
No posts about fitness,
Or improving your diet.

The Crab must confess
She's a holiday shirker.
But y'all knew already,
She's not much of a worker.

Is she off buying presents,
Instead of manning the blog?
Busy trimming the tree?
Or just sneaking egg-nog?

Thinking further ahead,
She could've penned enough prose
To plan for the holidays.
But whoops! That's how it goes.

For bloggers have families,
After all, 'tis the season.
Crabby hates to be missing,
But she's gone for a reason.

Please have a great Christmas
If it's a holiday for you,
Or if not, let this Thursday,
Be an awesome day too!


Oh dear. There's a reason I leave the poetry to our creative readers instead of attempting it myself!

And speaking of which, no, I haven't forgotten to announce the two winners of the Vita-Mix Blenders.

The random winner was: Lillian's Mom.

And the Poetry/Haiku winner was Liz Turtle!

Here was her entry:

Lite margarita
Splenda, lime, and self-pity
Martyr's bitter cup!

There were SO many great poems and haikus it was hard to narrow it down to three. Here are just some of the finalists I chose from to get the final three, which I then handed off to the Random Number Generator. But there were many, many, other worthy contenders. It really frustrates me that we can't give a humongous prize to all the great poets out there! Do go back to the poetry contest post to check out the rest.

Here are just a few of the many clever entries that readers submitted:

Rhymey Poems:

Here is my best answer.
I read those cure cancer.

Blender, blender whirring might,
in the kitchens day and night
what eager cooking with hand and eye
could master thy fearful energy?

O VitaMix! O VitaMix!
How many are your functions!
You give me lovely smoothies bright,
To tempt and please my appetite.
O VitaMix! O VitaMix!
How many are your functions!

O VitaMix! O VitaMix!
How grand are your concoctions!
With yummy soups and ice cream fun,
You really can please anyone.
O VitaMix! O VitaMix!
How grand are your concoctions!

This Vita-Mix giveaway's splendid
But the outcome may be unintended
Because if I won
The blades would be spun
'Til each thing that I own had been blended

We're not a blended nation,
And never shall we be.
At best, we're individuals
Who work towards unity.

Just look at Cranky Fitness:
There's happy Merry Sunshine--
On the other hand, there's Crabby-
And all SHE does is WHINE.

But her whining is SO CHARMING :-)
I'll cherish and defend her.
Why sucking up so much, you ask?


Monica went on a bender
Put everything into her blender
Went one step too far
With puree of new car
But relished her relish of fender

Heck yeah, I need me that blender!
Two months I'd be nothing but slender.
A frenzy of smoothies -
It would all be so groovy!
And without even being a big spender!

Oh Vita-mix, Oh Vita-mix,
How I want to win thee!

Oh Vita-mix, Oh Vita-mix,
Please Crabby pick me!

You'll crush my ice,
You'll kneed my dough.
I'll use you twice,
A day you know!

Oh Vita-mix, Oh Vita-mix,
How I want to win thee!

Mixes fast, mixes well.
Will I win it? None can tell.
If I do, I will not sell.
Those who lost can go to ...


Made some fudge; got soup.
Recipe said five ounce can milk,
Not fourteen ounce. Damn.
-- Jackie B

Purring like a kitten,
Or roaring like a lion in heat,
Wish I had a Vita-Mix!

The cookies are burned
I need to be supervised
This habit costs lots.

I last blended soup
And sadly melted my hand
Now, my blender sleeps.

My Vitamix brings
All the boys to the yard, so
Suck on that, milkshake

Yesterday with old blender
Strawberry explosion
Cleaning now is endless

Making smooth soup is
Easier if the blender
Still has a bottom.

A summer yard sale
Vitamix calling to me
Woe. I didn't hear.

Slayer of blenders
Three have fallen before me
Stop me, Vita Mix
--Smoni Smo

blue margarita
like absent sun in winter
blender to rescue

Thank you, all who entered!

Lillian's mom and Liz Turtle, please email us at Crabby McSlacker at gmail dot com with your name and mailing address by midnight EST of January 2nd to claim your prize.

Thanks everyone for your wonderful poems on a tough topic--I laughed out loud too many times to count.

And have a great holiday or a great rest of the week! Peace and Joy and All kinds of good stuff to you and your loved ones. Cranky Fitness readers are THE BEST.

December 23, 2008

The CF Holiday party: Yule be surprised

Remember last year's Cranky Fitness Christmas party? Crabby rented this snowbound outhouse cabin in the woods. Very scenic, but a bit cramped for space.

This year, I put my foot down and insisted on a proper party. Unfortunately, due to a sad but understandable homonym mixup, the plan for a Yule celebration resulted in ...
a Euell celebration. We had hickory nuts in addition to the more traditional rum balls. Still a good party. And I think I can write this post without being affected at all by all those rum balls and the festive atmosphere. Probably.

(Euell Gibbons was the author of Stalking the Wild Asparagus, a book about harvesting food from nature. Also he did a commercial about Grape Nuts, if your memory goes back that far.)

Tis the season? Bah humbug

In addition to rum balls, 'tis the season to be thinking about stuffing yourself with stuffing and pecan pie and turkey and pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes and mince pie and sundry similar high calories foods (including more pie). Something about this Season of Excessive Calories makes me yearn for plain fresh green vegetable type foods. (And no, that damn green bean casserole does not count! Get it away!)

Eat, Drink, and be Vegan has a pretty tasty recipe for a Greens smoothie. What I especially liked about her recipe was that the green mentioned was kale, which is a winter vegetable. And probably much healthier than this rum ball that I'm about to consume. At this time of year, I need to focus on eating vegetables, just to balance out all the fa-la-la indulgence.

Greens are important: internally and externally

A study in England suggests that having access to nature, "green space," had a noticeable effect on health even after other health factors had been taken into account.

"When the records of more than 366,000 people who died between 2001 and 2005 were analysed, it revealed that even tiny green spaces in the areas in which they lived made a big difference to their risk of fatal diseases. "

This makes sense to me. As a species, we've spent thousands if not millions of years living out of doors most of the time. We can't expect to adapt to an all-indoors environment of fluorescent lights, anonymous cubicles, wall-to-wall carpeting and whatnot in just a few generations.

The rum balls start to take effect

Hmmmn... what was I talking about? I can't remember. I bet it was about procrastination. Did you see that an academic published a report that reduced procrastination to a mathematical formula? It took him 10 years to figure the formula out. (10 years? What an amateur. Why, it would've taken me at least 20 years.)

The equation is U=EV/ID.

The 'U' stands for utility, or the desire to complete a given task. It is equal to the product of E, the expectation of success, and V the value of completion, divided by the product of I, the immediacy of the task, and D, the personal sensitivity to delay.

According to the researcher, people who procrastinate (about 20% of the population) are into short-term gain rather than long-term satisfaction.

Seems to me that the percentage is a lot higher than 20%. And that took him 10 years to figure out? Why thank you, I will have another rum ball.

Researchers say we're either Homer or Mr. Spock

Another study that made me wonder if the researchers had been nibbling at the rum balls was one about the two types of travelers. According to a study published by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Technology Strategy Board in the U.K., few people "bother to check train times or consult websites to see if there are problems on the motorways. We often ignore overhead warnings on the roads because we think we know best." The study claims that people can be classified as either a Mr. Spock or a Homer Simpson type.

A Mr. Spock type personality is logical and proactive. He or she will check out websites ahead of time, call 511 for roadside information, ritually slaughter the oracular chicken and examine its entrails for information about the future of the roads over the next few days.

A Homer Simpson type, on the other hand, adopts a more happy-go-lucky approach. "As long as things work out he has many other things on his mind besides 'optimising' his travel."

Can't there be an in-between approach? Am I the only one who consults the websites, slaughters the oracular chicken, then goes off on the road hoping things will work out okay?

Stressed out seaweed affects the weather? What?

I think I might have overdone the rum balls. This study sounds too bizarre. Apparently, stressing out seaweed results in gloomy weather. According to the researchers, this only applies to areas that are near the kelp, i.e. I can't blame Portland's seven days of snow on stressed out kelp beds an hour away on the coast. Pity. I would like to find something or someone to blame the weather on. It's very satisfactory to have someone (else) to blame.

Hmmmn.... is the room supposed to be spinning now? It looks like Crabby has lit up that huge glittering disco ball again. (I thought I got rid of that last year.) I'd better go make sure there's no disco inappropriate music in the CD player.

To sum up: you can blame the bad weather on the kelp, the happy-go-lucky drivers out there on the Simpsons, and any extremely random holiday blogs on rum balls. Hope your holidays are fun!

December 22, 2008

Children and Body Image: Uh Oh.

Image courtesy of: chicks57

Since I don't have kids myself, I am sometimes naive about how things have changed since I was a little tyke.

I was gobsmacked to find out, via Sagan of Living Healthy in the Real World, that doctors are discovering that not just adolescents, but children as young as five, are binging and purging.

I hope this is just one of those "get people all riled up" articles, like the reports about little girls taking pole dancing classes. You know, where rare cases are made to seem like a shocking new trend we need to worry about, so that experts can get their names in the paper and we bloggers can all climb up on our soapboxes and scream: "How Terrible!"

Sadly though, it sounds like it's more than a few isolated kids. The researchers are only just starting to look into how prevalent the problem is. But it blew me away that this was even happening in Canada, where I always imagined things were more sane and reasonable than in the United States.

Little Canadian kids are gorging themselves on french fries and doughnuts poutine and timbits and then barfing it back up so they won't be seen as fat?

Holy hell, things are worse than I thought.

Not freaked out yet? Well, another recent study of kids and eating disorders followed kids 9-15 years old and found that more than ten percent of the girls were binging or purging at least weekly. And purging was more common than binging.

Is it just me, or is anyone else shocked by this?

Part of my naivete has to do with my own upbringing. I don't think I even had a "body image" as a kid. Okay, I knew I was short. But it didn't bother me.

I got lots of exercise, because when I was little it was called "playing" and it was fun and there was plenty of time for it. (I went on an extended rant about this, in full turbo-charged Grumpy Old Fart mode, when writing about Elliptical Trainers for kids.)

There was no obesity epidemic yet, and getting fat was a fate that befell an unlucky few. It wasn't on the radar for "normal" kids. As far as I remember, it wasn't until high school that some girls started dieting.

So for me, it seems shocking that children in elementary school are already worried about what their bodies look like enough to have actual eating disorders. But I'm sure some of you who struggled early with your own weight--who grew up in a different climate, or with a genetic propensity to put on pounds easily--are not nearly as shocked.

And I suspect that many of you parents, particularly parents of girls, are saddened but not that surprised. You're in the trenches with your kids and are hip to what they see and hear and read. Accck! I don't know how you grapple with this, and am hoping some of you will share what you've learned in the comments.

So I could go off on another rant about the media images we see constantly of impossibly skinny women, right next to ads for triple-bacon-cheeseburgers and Blizzards and Double-stuffed Oreos. But you guys already know that we live in a profoundly screwed-up culture when it comes to food and fat and fitness and body image. And it's not a surprise that kids soak up all that poison just like we do.

Instead, I want to ask: how do we fight this?

There's a Web MD article on children and body image that has some basic advice for parents (of girls), for what it's worth:

Look for signs of an unhealthy body image:

  • Does your child view herself only in terms of her physical appearance?
  • What language does she use to describe herself and her physical development and attractiveness?
  • Is there excessive dieting?
  • Are there frequent comments about the weight of other girls?
  • Does she worry about sexual attractiveness?
  • Does she suffer depression or low self-esteem?

Help boost a poor body image by:

  • Helping children understand that their bodies will change and grow and that there is not one "ideal" body shape;
  • Watching what they say about their own bodies or other people's bodies;
  • Avoiding stereotypes, prejudices, and words like "ugly" or "fat";
  • Helping children focus on their abilities and personalities rather than physical appearance;
  • Promoting physical activity and exercise;
  • Discouraging children from weighing themselves.

Watch for symptoms of anorexia which may include:

  • Losing lots of weight;
  • Denying feeling hungry;
  • Exercising excessively;
  • Saying that she "feels fat";
  • Withdrawing from social activities;

Or symptoms of bulimia which may include:

  • Making excuses to go to the bathroom immediately after meals;
  • Eating huge amounts of food without weight gain;
  • Using laxatives or diuretics;
  • Withdrawing from social activities.

But How Do You Encourage Healthy Behavior?

So how do you remain sensitive to a kid's body image while still encouraging healthy eating and exercise?

I can't imagine how modern parents manage to balance this. In my day, these weren't such loaded concepts. A parent could say "Go outside and play!" or, "No cookies for dessert until you finish your cauliflower!" There wasn't quite the same danger it would be construed as: "whatever you do, don't get fat or no one will ever love you!"

Some Hope for Eating Disorders: A recent study of eating disorders and psychotherapy showed that a specific, more enhanced version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be extremely helpful in working with eating disorders. (Though the study was of adults, not kids). In any event, if your child is showing signs of an eating disorder, seeking help seems a much better strategy than pretending it isn't happening.

So what do you parents do to try to keep your kids from hating their bodies while at the same time encouraging healthy habits? What can the rest of us do to help? And was anyone else as shocked as I was to see how early these problems start?

December 19, 2008

Vita-Mix Blender Giveaway

First the good news:

We're giving away TWO Vita Mix Super 5200 High Performance blenders this week!

And these aren't the cheapo kind of blenders you get at the drugstore that get all panicky at the first sight of a big chunk of ice.

No, these are fancy-pants, high-end, state of the art, do-everything-but-change-the oil-in-your-car kind of machines. The kind real chefs use. ConsumerSearch, which compiles product reviews from folks like Consumer Reports and Cook's illustrated, rated the Vita-Mix 5200 the Best Multi-Function blender out there.

This thing can cook soup and make ice cream, grind grains into flour, knead dough, make a dress out of a feedbag and make a man out of... oh wait. You may need Peggy Lee for those last two. But the blender can do at least 52 things besides tackling simplest smoothie recipe ever. (For more info check it out here).

The (Possibly) Bad News:

We're afraid that due to shipping issues, the nifty 5200's can only be sent to U.S. and Canadian addresses. But Canadians, you're in this time!

And, due to my tendency to be disorganized about scheduling things, I'm going to stop even pretending that Fridays are giveaway days. It just got a little boring to have so many posts start off with: the reason we don't have a giveaway this week is...

So enough of that! From now on Fridays are not giveaway days, they could be anything! And giveaways can happen any old day. So, it's bad news if you like predictability, but good news if you were tired of whiny excuses.

And so how can you enter to win one of these kick-ass food pulverizing gizmos for your very own kitchen?

Two Ways to Win a Vita-Mix Blender!

Enter with a comment saying you'd like to win this thing, and your comment will be included in a Random Number Drawing for one of the Vita-Mixes. (First comment only, in case you stop by more than once).

However, if you choose to write a poem or haiku about blenders, cooking, cooking disasters, margarita's, or anything remotely related to the giveaway item, you will, in addition to being entered in the Random Drawing for the first Vita-Mix, be among the much smaller pool of folks eligible to win the second Vita-Mix as well.

I will pick my Three Favorite Poems/Haiku's/Limericks and use the Random Number Generator to choose randomly among the three finalists. (This means, if somehow you don't win, that you can console yourself by knowing that I actually thought yours was the very best, but the RNG picked the wrong entry).


Winner will be chosen as of Midnight, EST Tuesday the 23rd, and announced Wednesday, the 24th. (Holy crap, that's Christmas eve! Where's the time going?!?!) If you win, please email us to claim your prize by... oh heck, it's the holidays... please claim you're prize by January 2nd, even if you're still hungover or whatever. But earlier is better!

I just found out MizFit is doing a charitable comment drive over at her place. Every comment you make will result in a donation of ten cents to a domestic violence shelter! (What does this have to do with blenders? Nothing! But I thought it was cool and hope you can go over and check it out.)

Another Important Update:

So sorry, but the contest is over and the winners have claimed their blenders. Maybe next giveaway you'll be luckier! However, if you want to do some shopping, here's a similar one...

Judith Beck Book Winner

Congratulations to Whobody! The random number generator has declared you the winner of The Complete Beck Diet for Life. Please email us by Monday night to claim your prize!

And thanks, everyone, for reading our interview with Judith Beck and participating in the giveaway.

Note: I recently recalled that Cranky Fitness is actually an Amazon affiliate! So for those who didn't win but would still like a copy, it's coming out December 23rd and you can pre-order it here.

December 18, 2008

Exercising with lubricant: me and Manuel

Does that title sound naughty? I can't help it; when I discuss non-motorized treadmills, it's hard to avoid the smutty humor.

The inestimable Mizfit wrote a post about ... well, a bunch of good stuff, including cupcakes, but that's a side issue at the moment. What I'm concerned with is her request for more information about non-motorized treadmills. It made me realize that I never followed up with a description of my relationship with my manual treadmill, Orlando Manuel.

Good points about a manual treadmill:

  • It's quiet. I can listen to the television or the iPod without blasting the volume while using Manuel.
  • It's lightweight. Without all that hefty motorized stuffing, I can fold it up and put it away quite easily.
  • It's tiny. My living room is not the size of a grand ballroom, so it's handy that I can fit Manuel in without having to climb over him to get to the television or something.
  • It's easily 1/3 the price of a motorized treadmill.
  • You can get a workout even when the power's off!

  • It's always at an angle. That's a pain, but the more level the manual treadmill is, the harder it is to get it to move.
  • Manuel needs lots of lubricant. WD-40 is a requirement.
  • There are no pre-programmed programs (pardon my redundancy) for running hills or intervals.
  • With Manuel, at least, you have to hold on to the rails to have something to push against. Otherwise the treadmill belt will stick, no matter how liberal you were with the lubricant.
  • I swear on all the cupcakes in the pantry that the speedometer is delusional. This is probably just an issue with Manuel, but the rate it claims I'm going is not, cannot be my current speed. It must calculate this by some average that I can't figure out. (Or, it's demented.)

On the other hand, a treadmill is a treadmill. I mean, whether motorized or self-propelled, the dang thing will get your blood pumping and your heart rate elevated. Despite all the references to lubricant, Manuel is useful. I think any piece of exercise equipment is useful, so long as the human is willing to actually use it.

Have you ever bought a piece of exercise equipment only to end up using it as an extra coat rack?

Photo credit: celesth

December 17, 2008

Being All Flexible and S.H.I.I.T.

Photo Credit: Theremina

At some point a while back, I first posted about High Intensity Interval Training, (H.I.I.T) and how doing intervals is really good for your health. I started doing them myself, and it really is a great way to pump up your workout in a minimum amount of time.

But intervals are kind of a pain! The whole point of them is to work hard enough to get uncomfortable, over and over and over.

So later I wrote a post about a new Cranky Fitness exercise invention, S.H.I.I.T., which stands for Somewhat High Intensity Interval Training. It's really just a mellower approach to H.I.I.T., but it still involves a fair amount of being uncomfortable.

Anyway, for those of you are interested in intervals and their awesome health benefits, and who want to know more about how to get started, I have a handy new resource to tell you about below. But for others who have no intention of ever, ever doing this crazy S.H.I.I.T.-- don't worry, this post is not really about that.

It's more about the pro's and con's of being Flexible. And not in that can-you-wrap-your-ankles-around-your-neck-way.

Flexibility is Great!

Generally, the more flexible I can be about how I work out, the better. I tend to get too stuck in a routine, too attached to my favorite exercises and routes. I grow to hate them, and it often takes something like moving across country to shake things up and make things interesting again. I'm always happy when I discover new options, yet I'm stubbornly reluctant to seek them out unless I absolutely have to. I need to get better about this!

However, one way in which I AM awfully flexible is in my exercise goals. Alert readers may notice that Cranky Fitness is not as Hardcore and Ambitious as many other fitness blogs. I never seem to be charting my progress towards some impressive goal like running a marathon, or doing 100 pushups, or climbing a mountain or whatever. And if I do actually set some little goal, I never put a time limit on it or berate myself for backing off if it gets too hard.

This flexible approach means I've never "failed," and keeps me from getting discouraged. Overall, it's been working pretty well for me.

However, back to the Interval Training...

The Disadvantages of Being Flexible

I'm still doing interval training, in my usual half-assed way. And I've been feeling pretty darn pleased with myself when I do it. Hooray for me!

Here I am, a middle-aged slacker of no great ambition, sprinting up fake treadmill hills, gaining all these tremendous health benefits and getting stronger and faster and....

Hey. Wait a minute. I'm really not getting all that much stronger, or faster.

Sure, I'll make a bunch of progress for a little while, and then I start hating intervals too much. I find myself doing 'em a little less often, and then even a less, and then pretty soon I have to dial the speed back down and the incline back down too and take longer rests. But then I'll get tired of my lack of progress, get all determined again, and ramp back up.

I thought I'd been doing intervals maybe six months or so... til I looked at the date of my first interval post. Sure, it was only back in June--June of 2007! That's like a year and a half of intervals, and I'm probably still pretty much doing what I was doing 3 or 4 months after I started. (I think. To tell you the truth I don't track it all that closely).

And it's not just intervals, either. Strength training and regular cardio are the same way--bursts of diligence and progress, followed by grumpiness, slacking and skipped workouts.

I never quit entirely, but I never get a whole lot further along either. I started messing around with fitness, and got real serious for a year or two, let's see.. oh, about 25 years ago! And before that I did sports in school. So it's really been pretty much a lifetime of physical activity.

That's a lot of years without making a hell of a lot of progress.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Yet I still have no plans to start getting out charts and graphs and stopwatches, or setting the date for my 10K or marathon.

I really admire you folks who do that. It's so inspiring! But it's just not me.

I keep hoping a benevolent Exercise Fairy will wave a magic wand and make me fitter and stronger without doing an extra work. And I do keep trying... just not hard enough to make continuous gains. As much as I'm sometimes jealous of you folks who run 7 minute miles or bench press 200lbs or whatever, I just don't seem to be willing to devote the time and determination and energy it takes to get there.

So I pick little goals along the way, and then I backslide, and then I pick other little goals, and I keep at it, year after year. Compared to most folks my age, I'm in pretty good shape. I'm strong and fit and I'm gaining all the great health benefits, both immediate and long-term, that regular exercise gets you. I think, for me, had I not developed a flexible approach to goals I would have gotten discouraged and given up.

The best thing, though, is the older I get, the more "credit" I get for doing the same things I did when I was in my twenties. And as I may have said before, while temporary goals come and go, my bottom-line goal is to stay at the same level of fitness I was as an in-shape twenty-something... until I'm an Eighty Something. (Once I hit ninety, I figure--screw it). And so far, so good. I got into fairly decent shape in my twenties, and now, with only a couple years until I reach 50, I've managed to cling on to it--whining and griping the entire time of course.

Want to Know More About H.I.I.T?

Over at Experience Life Magazine, they have a good article about H.I.I.T., including research on why it's so good for you, as well as plan to get started. And unlike some resources, they emphasize balance and don't get all extreme and hardcore about it.

Anyone else struggle with the issues of flexibility and setting goals and making progress? Do you keep getting fitter every year, or is it sometimes tough just to keep from backsliding?

December 16, 2008

The Guilt-Free Procrastinators Club

Let me guess. You've all finished your shopping and written holiday cards and done all the holiday decorating, right?


Okay then, you can keep reading.

I read once about a Procrastinators' Club. Apparently if you remembered to pay your dues, you were automatically ejected from the group. Last I heard, they were protesting the War of 1812.

That's kind of my approach to holiday shopping. However, this year I have a plan.

Anyone want some... Hannukah Squash?

Okay, that's not the plan. The plan is to do my shopping at the last minute. And I feel good about it.

No longer guilty about doing things at the last minute

Right now, Christmas shopping feels like one more straw on my camel's back. (Yes, I just compared myself with a camel. Except I've got a slightly nicer personality.) Work is going into overtime overdrive, weekends included, and I'm supposed to go shopping? Bah humbug.

Actually, I do have time to shop. I don't need to sleep a full 8 hours a day... well, I'll catch up in the New Year. But I'd have to give up something else.

Going shopping would have cut into the time I need for exercising, and I'm not giving that up. I'll shop next week, after all the work deadlines have been made. I'm not going to shortchange my exercising. For once I'm heading into the holidays prepared to deal with pie, stuffing, turkey, stuffing, cupcakes, more stuffing. Instead of starting the workout resolution after the parties, I'm looking ahead.

Need last minute ideas?

In case you're still looking for something for that special blogger someone in your life, here are some of the more unusual ideas out there.

Thanks to, I bring you a Sweater dryer with fan. Somehow, the fan amuses me. Possibly because it looks like a tentacled reject from an episode of Dr. Who.

No doubt many people already know about this, but for those who don't, this is a site where you can buy and sell handmade items. (I can do the buying part, anyway.)

When all else fails, there's always ... yes, you know this is coming, but wait for it...

The Slanket!

Yes, the infamous Slanket, Crabby's favorite gift. Ideal for lounging around the house eating cupcakes, this robe cozy blanket with built-in sleeves is also recommended wear for sitting by the fire watching all those crazy joggers running in the snow. It feels really good to do this -- especially if you've already done your workout that day.

December 15, 2008

Interview With Judith Beck (and Giveaway)

So I'm very excited that today we have an interview with Dr. Judith Beck!

Hi there, Dr. Judith Beck!

Her previous weight loss book, The Beck Diet Solution, was a New York Times Best Seller. And unlike some best selling self-help books that shall remain nameless, it was actually a realistic and sensible plan for losing weight. (Java Chick, for example, documented some of her experiences with it).

Now Dr. Beck has a new book coming out, The Complete Beck Diet for Life.

I got a chance to read it, and I definitely recommend it for people who've been trying to lose weight but have had trouble succeeding. It's based on techniques that have solid research behind them, and it deals with all the common mental pitfalls one encounters when trying to move to a healthier lifestyle. The book includes an eating plan, but also teaches a set of skills, so that you can have a shot at maintaining weight loss over the long haul.

So I'm pleased I got to ask Judith some questions, as though I were an actual journalist and not just a lazy blogger. And we've got a copy of her new book available to send to a Randomly Selected commenter! (Instructions below).

Crabby: So I notice that The Complete Beck Diet for Life has the word "diet" in the title... but you seem to have forgotten to include any gimmicks! There are no juice fasts, no stringent food combinations, no eating bananas all day long, no "detox" potions to drink. Nor do I see the words "miracle" or "magic" anywhere. What gives? Is that any way to market a diet book? Why no extravagant promises or "easy" solutions?

Judith: I’m sorry to say that there is no magic solution to weight loss; there are no magic foods or combinations of foods or supplements. If there were, someone would be a billionaire.

Crabby: Dang! We'd really like to be billionaires. We were thinking maybe "The Cupcake Diet" might sell a few books...

Judith: The truth is that if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. There is a solution, though, to losing weight permanently.

Crabby: "Permanent" is the tricky part, isn't it? I tried to make some suggestions once, but somehow I got off track and ended up talking about Eleanor Roosevelt and Mr. Rogers instead. What's the real solution to losing weight and make it stick?

Judith: First you need to learn a specific set of thinking and behavioral skills, such as how to motivate yourself every day, how to get yourself to use good eating habits, how to cope with craving and negative emotions without eating, and so on.

Second, you need a highly nutritious diet you can stay on for life. That means it has to have a sufficient number of calories and be very healthy so your body doesn’t rebel. It also means it has to include your favorite foods—as often as every day—so your mind won’t rebel.

The Complete Beck Diet for Life fills these requirements, and you can individualize it so you can stay on it for life.

Crabby: "For Life" sounds so darn long. Personally, I'm still hoping the scientists invent a way to turn broccoli, tofu, and lentils into tasty chocolate chip cookies, but you're right--in the meantime, we need a healthy diet and a way to stick to it.

Crabby Again: OK, new question. So your approach is based on Cognitive therapy, which I'm a fan of, because research shows it actually works.

If I were to try to summarize Cognitive therapy, I might say it's the process of learning to substitute more realistic thoughts for ridiculous ones. Like: "Crabby, a half hour on the elliptical machine DOES NOT burn off the calorie equivalent of a full pint of Chocolate Peanut Butter Haagen Dazs ice cream. Put down that spoon!"

But perhaps you have a better description of it, and an explanation of how it helps in the weight loss struggle?

Judith: Cognitive therapy helps you make changes in your thinking so you can make permanent changes in your eating behavior. You need to know exactly what to tell yourself when you have thoughts such as, “That looks so good. It’s okay to eat it, even though it’s not on my plan, because....I’m hungry/ I’m tired/ I’m upset/ I’m happy....Everyone else is eating it...No one is watching.....It’s only a little piece....It’s free....I can’t waste food...I hardly ever get to have it.....I’ll make up for it later....I’ve already exercised today....I’ll exercise’s a special occasion.....I can’t resist.... and so on and so on and so on.

Crabby: I think I've used every one of those. Plus the ever-popular "Oh well, chocolate has tons of anti-oxidants in it."

Judith: You need to remind yourself, “If I want to lose weight permanently, I have to follow my plan. Every time I eat something I’m not supposed to, I build up my “giving in muscle” which makes it more likely that I’ll give in next time and the time after that and the time after that."

Crabby: I've never seen a machine at the gym for exercising the "giving in" muscle. Oh wait, yes I have... the vending machine! But it doesn't sound like a muscle you really want to work to hard to develop.

Judith: It's better to tell yourself "If I resist, I’ll build up my resistance muscle, which makes it more likely that the next time I’ll resist and the time after that and the time after that. The truth is that every bite matters; it’s not just the calories, it’s the habit.”

Dieters also need to remind themselves, “I can either eat whatever I want, whenever I want OR I can lose weight permanently. I can’t have it both ways.”

In addition, they need to change their thoughts about hunger. Many dieters mix up hunger with the desire to eat. And they think that hunger is abnormal, should be avoided, and that it will get worse and worse until they can’t tolerate it. But by doing some experiments, they can see that hunger is okay, it’s only mildly uncomfortable compared to other discomfort they’ve tolerated, and that hunger comes and goes.

These are just a few of the changes in thinking that dieters need to learn. And they need to learn how to motivate themselves to read these reminders daily (and sometimes throughout the day).

Crabby: There are some similarities between The Complete Beck Diet For Life and your previous book, The Beck Diet Solution, in terms of theory and techniques. But The Complete Beck Diet For Life builds on the previous one, adding features like recipes, for example. What else is new or improved?

Judith: The Beck Diet Solution suggested that dieters pick any healthy diet they want, then use the skills in the book to learn how to stick to the diet. Since I wrote the book, I found that few dieters actually eat in a healthy, hunger-satiating way. Diets tend to have too few calories, are unbalanced, and don’t include favorite foods. No wonder a lot of dieters can’t sustain the eating plan they’ve chosen.

So I decided to work with a registered dietician to create a sensible, healthy diet. Basically, you calculate an appropriate calorie level and then choose a protein from a list, vegetables from another list, a grain or starch from a third list, and so on. So it’s very flexible. You also get either 150 or 200 calories a day to spend any way you want. You can even have a candy bar every day. Like the first book, you learn—and master--certain essential thinking and behavioral skills before you change your eating because it’s too difficult to stick to a plan and master these skills at the same time.

The program in the book gives you a choice about changing just one meal at a time, changing all your meals at once, or changing all your meals and snacks at the same time. It also contains a formula and strategies for eating when you’re not home and it teaches you not only how to motivate yourself, but also how to keep up your motivation for life.

Crabby: You used a great analogy when talking about how dieters will compound one slip by going on to make many more, when they'd never do the same thing in other areas of their lives. You pointed out that if a cop stops you and gives you a ticket for running a red light, you wouldn't then think, "Oh, well I might as well run as many red lights as I can for the rest of the day and start fresh again tomorrow!" But that's exactly the kind of thinking dieters often do. What do you think it is about food, dieting, or weight loss that makes rational thought so difficult?

Judith: I think dieters are frequently overly optimistic.

Crabby: That's a coincidence, I think pretty much everyone but me is overly optimistic! But that's why they call me Crabby. In what way are dieters too optimistic?

Judith: They think it won’t matter if they restrict their calories severely, if they spend calories on simple carbohydrates instead of protein and healthy fats, if they decide at the last moment what to eat instead of following a plan, if they eat quickly or while standing up, if they cheat and wait until tomorrow to restart their diet. But it does matter.

And I think at some level, they just don’t understand how essential it is to learn how to follow a highly nutritious diet, without making exceptions. In The Complete Beck Diet for Life, I teach dieters how to get themselves to follow a plan inflexibly at first. After they’ve learned this skill, I teach them how to create a flexible plan that can incorporate last minute exceptions.

Crabby: One possible drawback some might see to the Cognitive therapy approach you describe in your book is that it involves a lot of preparation and practice. Changing the way one thinks seems to involve (gulp) homework! There are lists to check off and experiments to try and decks of cards to create. When I was reading through this, I kept envisioning how tempted I'd be to skip a lot of steps, even though I could totally see why that would be counter-productive.

If someone were say, hypothetically, something of a slacker, what would you suggest they do to keep the skimming and skipping to a minimum and not be too half-assed about it?

Judith: When dieters have the sabotaging thought, “Oh, I don’t need to do all this,” I ask them, “What has your experience been in the past? Has NOT doing all these things led you to permanent weight loss? What makes you think you can get away with not doing them?” I’m honest with dieters. I tell them that I’m certain they can lose weight without doing all the tasks; they have all lost at least some weight in the past without mastering these skills. I also tell them I’m certain that they won’t be able to keep off the weight they lose, not unless they master each skill. But sometimes dieters just have to learn the hard way. They skip some tasks, they gain weight back—and then they’re ready to commit to the whole program.

Crabby: What do you think is the most common mistake most dieters make?

Judith: Not effectively responding to the thought, “It won’t matter if I eat this food I haven’t planned.”

Crabby: As this is a book about dieting, exercise is not the main focus. How important do you think exercise is for weight loss? What sort of exercise do you do?

Judith: Exercise helps weight loss and it’s essential for good health, so everyone needs to exercise, whether or not they’re trying to lose weight. I encourage dieters to follow a set eating plan which is independent of their exercise program. So you don’t get to eat more if you exercise but you don’t have to eat less if you don’t exercise on any given day. Research shows that people who eat pretty consistently from day to day are more likely to lose weight and maintain their weight loss, so I don’t tie food intake with exercise. I go to the gym 2-3 times a week and try to walk on other days.

Crabby: From your books it seems like you have a cheerful, can-do, positive attitude. But since this is a blog called Cranky Fitness, I have to ask: is there anything health and fitness related you'd like to complain about? Any obstacles, attitudes, bone-headed institutional policies, media issues, anything at all?

Judith: I really am disheartened by how so many women (and some men), regardless of their weight, base so much of their sense of self on how they think their bodies look. Appearance is so superficial! Yet they often feel so badly about themselves when the number on the scale is higher than they’d like it to be. They become obsessed with food, diet, exercise, and how they look. It starts to take over their lives. They feel self-conscious and inhibited and don’t enjoy daily activities and their lives in general as much as they could. I wish they could learn how to accept themselves and lead better lives.

Crabby: Anything else you'd like to share about your book, future plans, philosophy of life?

Judith: A strong theme in my books is “no wonder.” No wonder people have had difficulty losing weight and keeping it off. They just didn’t know how. It’s funny; people wouldn’t expect to be able to sit down at the piano and play a concerto without taking lessons. Even after they can play a concerto, they expect that their skills will get rusty and their musical prowess will decline if they don’t continue to practice. It’s really the same with dieting. People need to learn a specific set of thinking and behavioral skills, and then they need to practice them, over and over, so they can not only lose weight but maintain their weight loss. It’s not their fault that they’ve gained weight back in the past. They never learned how to keep it off.

Crabby: Thank you so much Judith! And good luck with your book, it sounds like it will help a lot of people.

So Would You Like to Win a Copy of The Complete Beck Diet For Life?

Just let us know in the comments below that you'd like a chance at a copy of the book, so the Random Number Generator doesn't pick someone who's already ordered one or isn't looking to lose weight or whatever. We'll pick a winner as of midnight (EST) Thursday night, Dec 18th and post who the winner is sometime on Friday December 19th. So don't forget to check back! If you win, please email us with your name and mailing address by Monday night, Dec 22 to claim your copy.

Or, you can order one here (available Dec 23), if Crabby can still remember how to do Amazon links. Let's see:

So, have any of you had any interesting experiences with Diets or Diet Books?

December 12, 2008

Slightly Irregular Friday

Photo Credit: Larry

So this was supposed to be a product giveaway post, which we sometimes have on Fridays. But I'm afraid we had some... technical difficulties. A major "technical difficulty" was of course my tiny little brain. One giveaway had to be postponed because I totally screwed up on logistics.

And then another possible giveaway didn't work out because the sponsor suddenly realized, after we'd traded about a dozen emails, that they didn't want to give out any more Free Things after all. Whoops!

However, the P.R. person wondered: would we still like to write a blog post about the fabulous product that they weren't willing to give us anymore?

Well, sure! We'll get right on that! And, um, in the meantime, could we please have some of whatever it is you're smoking?

Fortunately for giveaway fans: MizFit is in the Zone, so to speak, and has a great giveaway going. But since MizFit is the most inspiring and generous blogger on the planet, you've probably already been by there and know that already. Also, if you like the chance to win free stuff, don't forget that Healthbolt has a giveaway going every darn day in December.

So what have we got lined up here at Cranky Fitness? Well, we've got info on how to be a more successful blogger; a brief product review of something I actually liked; an item about a promising low-cal natural sweetener; some silly animals; and of course some totally tacky bathroom humor!

How could you possibly resist?

The Everyday Blogger

Our health blogger pal Steph from Back in Skinny Jeans and Noshtopia has started a new blog about... Blogging! Check out her newest venture, The Everyday Blogger.

For those of us who who blog and want to do a better job of it, or even Make Some Money One Day While Not Going Totally Insane In The Process, it's really nice to get some inside advice. Steph's been there, and has persevered, and she's not just "one of the boys" giving us advice that isn't geared towards our audience or our priorities. Her emphasis is "Lifestyle Blogging," which is not addressed much by most traditional techy "pro" bloggers.

And with absolutely no transition at all, let's talk about...

LightFull Satiety Smoothies!

Recently I got an offer to try some "Satiety Smoothies," and I thought, "what the heck."

There was something appealing about the idea of a little 90 calorie smoothie with 5 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and at least a few healthy ingredients in it like fruit puree and yogurt. Because the stuff has fiber and protein in it, it's supposed to keep you full for 2-3 hours.

It's not billed as meal replacement, just a snack. And there are times when I wouldn't mind having additional snack options--especially something sweet and convenient and not too evil. However, I figured there was a really good chance if it was a low-cal fiber enhanced protein smoothie, it would taste like crap.

But I liked the little guys! I'd actually buy them.

Warning: the first one I tried was the chocolate flavor, and frankly, blechhh. Too sweet and dark and syrupy. Would have been fine blended with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but wouldn't that kinda defeat the point?

But the strawberry, peach, mango, and latte flavors all tasted great! Some folks might not like the slightly sour yogurty flavor, or might find the smoothies too sweet, but to me the sweet/sour balance worked perfectly.

Now no 90 calorie snack can keep me full for 2-3 hours, so it failed on that count. But it did seem filling compared to most things I'd eat for less than 100 calories. And again, it's a convenience food, not a whole food, so just put it in your "convenience/compromise" allotment, if you have one, and enjoy it knowing it's got some good things going for it nutritionally.

LightFull smoothies are billed as "all natural." I'll let you guys be the judge of that: here's their nutritional information. At least it seems they made a sincere effort to limit the junk factor.

But I suppose that depends on what you think of their main sweetening ingredient, erythritol...

Erythritol, a Promising Sweetener?

I'm late to the party; I hadn't heard of this yet. Anyone have any experience with erythritol yet? It also goes by the brand name "Zerose". All I know is that it seemed to taste pretty darn good in the smoothie. According to Wikipedia, (sorry, no time to google extensively today) it's found naturally in fruit juices; it's about 70 percent as sweet as sugar; it has almost no calories; it's Generally Recognized as Safe; and it's OK for diabetics. Also, for whatever it's worth, the folks at Whole Foods have decided it's "natural" enough to sit on their hallowed shelves.

It's a sugar alcohol, but unlike most of them it's digested differently and so is not likely to cause "gastric distress" (i.e., gas and diarrhea). Apparently it does have some taste and texture issues, depending on what you use it with, but since it seemed to work pretty well in the smoothie, I'm finding myself curious to see where else I can use it.

If anyone has looked into this stuff or baked with it or put it in coffee or whatever, please let us know in the comments what you think!

Speaking of Fiber

So the LightFull Smoothies, like many products these days, brag that they have extra fiber. Silly me, I was totally taken in by the health/satiety angle and didn't even realize that "Fiber!" is often just a code word for "Laxative!"

I'm lucky enough not to have "regularity" issues, so the whole issue is just not on my radar. However, I got hip when I went to visit Charlotte at The Great Fitness Experiment. She has, as usual, a thoughtful and amusing take on the whole "adding fiber to your diet" question. I was surprised at how many women not only make the food-fiber-laxative connection, but then go on to use the laxative aspect to purge for weight control!

I feel so naive.

Do read Charlotte's post, because it's really fascinating. However, I'm going to steal the hilarious video she discovered and post it here too, because after all I promised some Friday Bathroom Humor and I am not above stealing from friends.

Animals Not Exercising.

At times in the past, we have run funny videos of animals exercising, trying to pretend that the "exercise" part lends some relevance to a health and fitness blog. But as Merry recently reminded us, sometimes sleep is more important for your health than exercise!

I don't know why this cracked me up.

Oh wait, maybe I do know why.

(Our energetic cat Maile ("the Moo") sends her regards and wishes you a Most Happy Friday. And yeah, I do know I've posted this picture at least three times now. I can't help it; it's makes me giggle. It's one of her favorite sleeping positions.)

December 11, 2008

Coping with the downturn: a quiz

Guess what? The experts have decided that it's official: we're in a recession.

Gee whiz, really?

Being an economic forecaster is something like being a weatherman reporting on yesterday's news. It's much more interesting to be a blogger, especially on a blog like this one.

How's your economic attitude?

Rather than writing a serious, perceptive, and intellectually challenging post about the economy, it seems like a much better idea to present you with a pop quiz. You've read all about the economy -- if you haven't experienced a layoff, you've probably felt the chill breeze of one pass nearby. Are you prepared, attitudinally, for this economic climate?

The Quiz

A) Your boss calls you into her office and says that you're being downsized.
Your response is to:

1 - Go home, curl up in a dark room, and whimper.

2 - Go out and eat a dozen brownies. (Sugar is good for shock, yeah, that's the ticket.)

3 - Ask her, "Does 'downsize' mean I'll fit into my skinny jeans?"

4 - Put on your running shoes and do a long run... as far from work as possible.

B) The company has decided to enforce time off during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holiday weeks. In other words, you're taking the time off whether you have vacation time saved up or not. You decide to:

1 - Buy a bunch of stuff at the mall to cheer yourself up.

2 - Eat your way steadily through all the Thanksgiving leftovers, chocolate Advent calendars, and even aunt Agnes' deadly annual fruitcake. It's wasteful to throw away food, plus there's less clutter that way.

3 - Decide to use the time to finish your Great American Novel (or Great Canadian Novel, Great Peruvian Novel, you get the idea). That way, when the company actually does go under, you'll have a book ready to be published.

4 - Spend the time off working out three or four hours a day. Hey, it worked for Madonna.

C) Because of the relatively low cost of gas, your grandmother, mother-in-law, and your aunt Fanny each expect you to drive to their house for a holiday dinner ... on the same day. Do you:

1 - Forge a doctor's note and try to convince the relatives that you're suffering from lethargy, lumbago, and leprosy.

2 - Drive from one house to the next and eat three full dinners.

3 - Delegate the blame decision and let your significant other decide.

4 - Annoy all three by deciding to do what you want to do instead.

Add up the numbers to determine how prepared you are, attitude-wise, for the recession.

3 points. You have a sensitive soul, which in this economy means you're probably going to be toast. Need to try the emotional equivalent of boot camp to toughen up -- or else marry a billionaire until the recession is over.

4 - 6 points. Using food as an emotional band-aid is a bad idea when you're supposed to be tightening your belt. Can you try another approach for dealing with turmoil? (And if so, could you let me know what it is?)

7 - 9 points. You have a nice combination of optimism and sneakiness. If you can find a way to throw in some ruthless cunning and guile, you might make it through this downturn relatively unscathed.

10 - 12 points. Given the fact that people who are obese encounter more job discrimination than people who are fit, you're probably in pretty good shape in both senses of the phrase. Of course, you're going to feel pretty silly about all that exercising when the sensitive soul goes out and marries a billionaire, but that's life.

Well, how did you do? Should I do a post on the number of single billionaires in the world today, or do you think you'll get through this okay?

Graphic: Azrainman