July 31, 2009

Achy Breaky Knees and Giveaway!

So the Random Number Generator got all riled up after we pulled it out of the Cranky Fitness basement last week, and it made such a ruckus about being locked up again that we felt we had no choice but to do another giveaway this week.

This one will be of special interest to anyone (like me) who has knee issues. I'm often complaining about how my knees are trashed and I can't run nearly as often or as far as I want to. So I was curious to try a product designed to help with this problem, called a "Moji."

"Moji" sounds sort of sweet and cuddly, doesn't it, like a dog's name? ("C'mere Moji; stop rolling in that dead skunk!") Or maybe Moji sounds more like a tropical fruit, now available in an antioxidant-rich beverage blend. ("Try new Cranberry flavored Moji, now with 50% more Vitamin C!)

But no, as it turns out, Moji is not a dog, nor is it a beverage.

Want to know more about Moji? Like what the heck it is, how well I liked it, and how you could win one? Well, please follow me over to the Cranky Fitness Product Page, where all shall be revealed. That's where today's main post is. Plus, the giveaway is open to international folks too!

Back already? Well, I've also got a few other random items to tell you about.

Over at The Juice, they've still got the $200 Patagonia gift card giveaway going ('til August 3rd) and your chances look mighty good because they don't have a ton of entries yet. Also, this week I diagnosed myself with a debilitating mental illness, called SNAD. Perhaps some of you suffer from it too and don't even realize it!

And over at Half-Fast, clever Vanilla has discovered a new exercise gadget that is unintentionally and hilariously X-Rated. How many of you ladies would purchase the Shake Weight?

July 30, 2009

Don't want to get shorted? Then exercise!

This is a short post. Probably because I'm short.
(Height, attention span, patience...)

Do you realize that tall people get to weigh more? When you're short, you can't carry off a few extra pounds they way tall people can.

That's another reason to exercise. So that you don't get any shorter.

Don't look at me like that. I can back that up.

To quote the illustrious Dr. Mirkin, "the bones of your spine are separated by pads called discs. As you age, these discs dry out and become smaller. However, regular exercise compresses and relaxes these discs as you move up and down. This helps to keep the discs from shrinking and maintains your height.

"Regular exercise also helps to strengthen bones and keep them from bending or being crushed. One study from Israel showed that men who exercise regularly lose only half as much height as men who never exercise -- just 2.6 centimeters compared with 5.5 centimeters."

As Crabby pointed out yesterday, the older you are, the more perilous your sense of balance. This is not the time of life to start learning how to wear platform shoes. Plus, if they're out of fashion you're going to look pretty silly.

Yes, one day even this will be out of fashion...

Do you feel shorted by a short post? The long and the short of it is that this study encourages me to get moving, and I hoped it might encourage you too.

Do you feel more motivated to work out now?

Would that be 'stretch'-ing the truth?

Or do you merely 'long' for me to stop with the bad puns?


July 29, 2009

Unfair and Unbalanced? The Real Age Balance Test

Photo: hojusaram

Think you have good balance? Well, wanna take a quick test and find out? MizFit alerted me to one a while back that tells you how "old" you are in terms of your balance.

I know I don't have great balance, but compared with others my age I figured it should be pretty decent. I get a lot of exercise and don't just sit in a chair all day, and that's gotta count for something, right?

So I took it, and here's how I scored:

Seriously. I can't say that I'm entirely pleased with the results.

So what exactly is the test, and is it accurate? And what should I do about my apparently crappy balance?

Here's How You Test Yourself:

Note: this is from the Real Age folks, and I'm already pretty darn skeptical of them. This does NOT make me like them any better than I did before.

Stand barefoot on a flat, hard surface. Ask a partner to hold a watch and try not to laugh at you stand close by in case you start to fall.

Close your eyes, lift one foot about 6 inches off the floor, bending your knee at a 45-degree angle. Ask your partner to start timing.

Now hold this position "without jiggling or teetering, falling, cursing like an inebriated sailor on shore leave or opening your eyes."

Stop timing "when the raised foot begins to lower or touch the ground, if you begin to sway, if you hit the ground with a big ugly splat or if you open your eyes."

Repeat the test three times and average the times.


4 seconds means you're the equivalent of 70 years old;
5 seconds means 65 years old;
7 seconds-- 60;
8 seconds-- 55;
9 seconds-- 50;
12 seconds-- 45;
16 seconds-- 40;
22 seconds-- 30-35;
28 seconds-- 25-30;

And presumably after 28 seconds people explode or something because the values just stop at that point.

Now of course this would a good place to rebut the test results with some scholarly article on how to really measure average functional balance, but unfortunately I couldn't find anything like that. So instead, you get an opinionated tirade on:

Why I Think This Test Is Complete Horsesh*t:

Three words: "Close Your Eyes."

This renders the test nearly impossible for me and others like me.

I am one of those humans who is very visual. I like to see things. I'm crap on the phone, for instance, and I hate when someone reads me instructions out loud. I don't trust any of my senses nearly as much as my visual sense.

When I can see, I can stand on one foot forever. Or at least until it gets really really boring. When I can see, I can do the elliptical at high speed with no hands, forward or backwards, or jump from rock to rock when hiking. I rarely fall down for no reason at all. In brief: I am not nearly as spastic and uncoordinated as this test would have you believe because you have to perform it with your eyes closed.

And I know the "close your eyes" thing makes it harder for everyone; that's on purpose. But some of us get more discombobulated than others when we close our eyes.

Even if I know I'm closing my eyes intentionally, this is how my brain processes it:




Needless to say, it is hard to calmly balance under these conditions. And since the test equates flailing with failing, I'm usually out within a few quick seconds. Even if I don't put my foot down right away, I'm teetering and swaying like a palm tree in a hurricane.

Since I'm not blind, nor do I live in a world without electric lighting when it is dark, there is no practical need for me to stand on one foot with my eyes closed. Other than to score better on a stupid test.

Which means: next time I'm balancing on one leg anyway to do quad stretches, I'm gonna start practicing doing it with my eyes closed. Because I hate flunking tests, even stupid ones!

Balance Exercises:

Motivated to improve your balance? Well, there's always yoga and Tai Chi and bosu balls and balance boards. But here are some balance exercises from the LiveStrong site; there are pages and pages of them, all accompanied by short animations. Warning: it appears that performing these exercises may make you extremely muscular and bald.

Video courtesy of LIVESTRONG.COM

Wanting to improve your balance? Think it's just fine as is? Doing anything to improve it?

Fitness Magazine Prize Pack Winner

So the Random Number Generator chose Beanie as the winner in the Fitness Magazine Giveaway. Congrats, Beanie! Just email us at Crabby McSlacker at gmail dot com with your mailing info and we'll get you set up.

Thanks for the great comments everyone!

July 28, 2009

Evil Non-Dairy People

Okay, so I might sound a bit cranky today, but only because it's over 100 degrees out today and I had to work on the third floor of a stuffy office because the air conditioning broke down and the windows don't open and nobody loves me and everybody hates me and ... well, look, I'm just cranky.

It is completely unreasonable to expect a hot, cranky female to write a cheerful post. Forget Merry Sunshine, this is her evil twin cousin Merry Fix-the-friggin'-air-conditioning-NOW-psycho-beotch.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, People Who Don't Do Dairy (PWDDD).

You can't spot a non-dairy person on the street. Oddly enough, they look like everyone else, only more so.

And no, I don't care what your mother told you, you cannot catch non-dairy-itis by swimming in a community pool.

And yes, trust me, PWDDD have heard all the arguments about how dairy will take care of all your calcium needs as well as prove you're a red-blooded American/Canadian/Mesopotamian.

Some facts about PWDDD that you might not know:

- they do not have horns, a forked tail, and scales underneath their clothing
- they very rarely sacrifice live babies in arcane and mystic rituals
- they can and frequently do get adequate calcium from other sources

Honestly, you'd think it was an actual crime punishable by scorn, the way some people react. PWDDD are treated as if they were putting on airs or something.

Yes, I'll say it: dairy-airs.
(No, I have no shame. Too cranky.)

When confronted with a non-dairy person, some people get annoyed on a fundamental level. Especially if you're not eating cheese every 34.5 seconds. You'd think I'd smeared brie across the American flag and threatened to stomp on it. It's a fermented milk product, people! Not an icon! The Dairy marketing people have brain washed y'all. Sheesh.

Oh come on now. Be honest. You going to look me in the monitor and say, with a straight face and a clear conscience, that you've never looked askance at someone who embraces an alternative cow lifestyle?

Photo Credits:


July 27, 2009

Revenge of the Green Smoothie

Photo: Wootang01

Warning: this post contains mostly smoothie-related whining. However, if you hang in there, there is a bit of Actual Health Research at the end.

So I've written before about one of my favorite healthy beverages, the smoothie. And the way I used to make them, they were so pretty! They were either a mellow orangey-yellow (mango or peach); or a perky pink (strawberry or raspberry); or quite frequently, a jaunty purple (blueberry).

Then, like the rest of the health blog world, I discovered the Green Smoothie.

Oh joy! Full vegetable credit in a fruity, tasty drink! And it was still very pretty. My favorite recipe: a couple of cups of raw spinach, a cup of nonfat milk, a little yogurt, some sweetener, some frozen banana, the juice of a lime (which tastes "green" but in a good way), and voila! Tasty, lovely to look at, and it has a vegetable in it, hooray! I quickly became addicted.

But then one day I peeked into my freezer and saw the lonely bags of forgotten blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries staring up at me. They looked so sad and abandoned!

Oh dear.

I think of myself as someone who eats a lot of berries, blueberries in particular. They're so damn healthy, right? But I realized that it had been ages since I'd gotten around to having blueberries. I was no longer an actual healthy blueberry eater, just a blueberry poseur. How could I write blog posts exhorting others to eat blueberries to fight cancer and improve memory and fight belly fat, but not bother to do it very often myself?

Intending to remedy this terrible lapse, I threw some blueberries in my next smoothie, along with all the other ingredients. And sure enough, it tasted great!

The problem: it looked like some sort of toxic industrial sludge. Certainly not like a fruity beverage someone would drink on purpose. The hideous brownish gray color just screamed: "Don't drink this, it's gonna make you barf!"

Whoops. I'd forgotten those kindergarten lessons about primary colors: mix them all together and you get a big mess. It slipped my mind that Green=Blue + Yellow, and that Purple (the actual color of blueberries, despite the name) contains Red as well as Blue. Thus if you mix Purple and Green, you are combining Blue + Red + Yellow and that equals: Yecchhh.

So here's the dilemma: I now feel like it's a "waste" of a smoothie if I don't get vegetable credit, since I can so easily add spinach and not really taste it. But if I want to return to blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, I'm gonna have to learn to like a grayish brown beverage that scares the bejeesus out of me in the morning. What to do?

And yes, I fully understand that this is a ridiculous problem, especially in a world where people are starving and dying of awful diseases etc. I swear I will not be trying to set up a Save the Pretty Smoothie Foundation to fund research into this distressing aesthetic problem and asking you to contribute. But I did wonder, since the Green Smoothie movement seems to be sweeping the health blog world, what other folks are doing about red and purple produce problem. Is there some secret that allows Green and Purple to live together in harmony in a smoothie glass? Or is always gonna get ugly when they show up in a blender together?

"My antioxidants are way better than yours!"
"Says who? You suck!"
Pascal Vuylsteker

In Other Beverage News Oh, and I did promise some health research, didn't I? And it's even kind of related, at least if you are like me and use milk in your smoothies.

(Although I realize most people don't use milk in green smoothies, at least if you google "green smoothie recipes." Perhaps because raw food vegans are the source of a lot of collections of green smoothie recipes?)

Anyway, so a study just came out linking milk-drinking and longevity. And the summary is short on details, but it doesn't look as though they were looking at nonfat or lowfat milk in particular. Which seems kinda weird, given all the stuff we hear about saturated fats. (I go for nonfat myself). The only risk milk seemed to increase was prostate cancer, while it lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

And then that milk study led me to another one listed nearby from a couple years ago that said drinking milk helps you gain muscle and lose fat. Which sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

I know lots of folks steer clear of milk because of digestive issues or because of a vegan diet or whatever. But being lazy, I find milk to be a quick easy source of calcium and protein, and I drink a lot of it. So I have to confess I didn't have a lot of incentive to go chase down the particulars of the research and argue with them. But other actual scientists with access to the full study might have more helpful things to say about it.

So does anyone else struggle with foods that are good for you but look funny? Or have any magic solutions to my Green + Red = Brown problem?

July 24, 2009

Return of the Friday Giveaway!

Yes, it's time to haul out the rusty-dusty random number generator out of the Cranky Fitness basement, and put it to good use. This week, we have a subscription to Fitness Magazine and an accompanying Prize Pack to give away!

If something about that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because our pal MizFit just did the exact same giveaway. So if you didn't win over there, perhaps it was because you were really meant to win over here!

And speaking of the awesome MizFit, she is part of a panel today at the Blogher conference in Chicago. If you are lucky enough to be at the conference, and silly enough to be reading Cranky Fitness when you could be off stalking your favorite bloggers and scoring free swag, networking and learning, then close up your laptop right now and scoot on over to hear her! It's called “Blogs and Body Image: What Are We Teaching Our Kids?” and it happens Friday (today) from 1:15-2:30.

But if you, like me, are at home feeling insanely jealous instead of hanging out with the cool kids in Chicago, then check this out: you can still benefit from the panel's awesomeness, because they are forming a new blog about body image issues. It's called "We Are The Real Deal." Besides Carla (MizFit), they've got Kate Harding, Heather from MamaVision, Roni from Roni's Weigh, and Claire Mysko! Talk about an all-star lineup.

Oh and speaking of giveaways, the Juice has a $200 Patagonia gift card up for grabs. And while you're over there, Kyra Sedgwick talks about Going Green, Org Junkie tells you how to greenify your makeup, as well as how to bring order into the chaos of recycling. And what did I whine about this week? Camping trips!

Anyway, so another reason Fitness Magazine might sound familiar is that the one of our favorite fitness role models, Jody over at Truth 2 Being Fit, posted what I thought was one the cleverest quick-but-tough workouts ever. She combines just two exercises into an intense routine that works pretty much every muscle in your body in just a few minutes. And that's where I discovered that the Fitness magazine website has exercise demonstration videos!

For more on the magazine and how you can win a subscription and other goodies, please join us for the giveaway over at the Cranky Fitness Product Page!

July 23, 2009

The Ultimate in Cranky Fitness

Sometimes you really just need to let your anger out.

Please note that, as advised by the Cranky Fitness Legal Department, we are not recommending this practice unless you're a) rich, b) a celebrity or c) acquainted with a really good lawyer.

So what's an angry person to do?

Punching someone out when you're angry can be really satisfying. Then again, getting sued... not so satisfying. That's why I like kickboxing. I mean, the other person doesn't need to be physically present when you swing the punch or kick at them. You might bruise a knuckle or something. Also, they might hit you back. No, much safer to do it this way. It's the ultimate in Cranky Fitness.

And besides, the other person might not deserve all that anger. They could be innocent. (Yes, you're still pissed off, but do they deserve that?)

Once you've got all the anger out of your system and you're nice and sweaty, you can go egg their house deal with the issue in a calm, sane, adult fashion. (Or else you can call them up and scream at them, but at least you'll have burned some calories first.)

You don't have to be the high-energy lean, lithe, and mean type to get a kick out of kickboxing. It can be fun.

Okay, maybe not this much fun. Stop giggling, dude!

And it turns out that kickboxing doesn't require a box filled with rocks.

In case you do not have a kickboxing class handy when you've got steam coming out of both ears, I recommend this Kickboxing DVD: Cardio Burn Kickbox.

What struck me about this (newbie-level) video, in addition to the fact that I was able to release a lot of anger by following along, was that the instructor, Patricia Moreno, talked a lot during the workout, but it wasn't annoying. Even when she wasn't cueing you up for the next move, her talk was remarkably helpful. I tend to zone out everyone instructors when they talk on and on, but in this case I found myself jerking back to attention and focusing on what she had to say.

Lots of comments about patience, practice, aiming for precision and power.(Not only does she use alliteration, she uses alliteration that's exactly the mot juste, which is a neat trick while you're dancing around kicking things.)

The DVD has two sessions: one 30 and another 50 minutes long.
She throws in some yoga moves at the beginning and end for warm up/cool down. Overall, the DVD is high energy,* but not overwhelming. I liked her energy.

*At least, from the point of view of someone who's a newbie when it comes to kickboxing (though not to being cranky).

Have you tried other kickboxing DVDs that you'd recommend? Or do you prefer sitting on the couch watching Uma Thurman or somebody get angry instead?

July 22, 2009

Oh Goody, a New Health Horror!

Important Legal Disclaimer: there are no actual Zombie-Prevention tips in this post. You will still be at the same risk level for Zombie attack after reading the Other Important Health Warnings below. Plan accordingly.

So as longtime Cranky Fitness readers may have noticed, I have a love/hate relationship with health studies. But one thing I always love about them, even when I'm busy hating them, is that they give me something to write about. Hooray for actual health-related subjects!

Fortunately, while I was busy taking a break from serious health reporting in order to frolic with friends, the Research Factories did not shut down and stop production. In fact, a bright shiny Annoying Study came off the assembly line recently just made to order for Cranky Fitness!

But rather than just whine about the study and warn you about the awful health hazard that's going to give you a bunch of horrible fatal diseases, wanna have a little fun with it? How about we look at this latest warning as sort of a personality test. A Research Rorschach, if you will.

Test? What test? You mean not everyone sees two
pesky beavers pulling on a skeleton-lady's pigtails?

Here's The Research.

According to a report in Medical News Today, a new study found "a substantial link" between the nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines we ingest, and death rates from scary diseases like Alzheimer's, diabetes, and Parkinson's. The authors said, "not only do we consume them in processed foods, but they get into our food supply by leeching from the soil and contaminating water supplies used for crop irrigation, food processing and drinking."

According to the article, nitrites and nitrates are generally carcinogenic, and are found in lots of foods, like cured meats, cheese, beer and water.

So What's Your Reaction?

Don't worry, it's just a one question personality test.

After reading this study:

a. I am now going to drink only water that's purified and tested for nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines. I gave up processed foods long ago, but now I'm going to stop buying produce from any source that does not have data on the purity of its water supply, even if it means I have to live solely on beets and alfalfa sprouts and rutabagas grown in my own basement.

b. I don't give a crap. Nitrates, schmytrates, we're all gonna die someday. Pass the bacon!

c. I'm really afraid of Alzheimer's and those other diseases so I'm going to stay up all night worrying about this. And the next night. And probably the next too, unless I read some other study that's even worse. But how can I not panic about this if the poison is already in our water supply? We're all doomed! Doomed!

d. I already try to limit my intake of processed foods. But if I see more studies like this, perhaps I'll try to investigate the safety of my local water supply and consider a filtration system or bottled alternative if it turns out it's especially funky. Otherwise, there's not much I can do!

e. What kind of a horsesh*t study is this? I clicked on the link and looked at the methodology. They looked at the timelines for increase in fertilizer use, and the increasing death rates, and then concluded that there's a cause and effect relationship? Aren't there a million other lifestyle changes during this period that could also be responsible?

f. Nitrates? Did you just say something about nitrates? I thought this was supposed to be about Zombies.

What's Your Coping Style for dealing with Annoying Research?

Note: it is quite possible to combine strategies, so you may have more than one answer.

If you answered a, you may be an Extreme Health Activist! To prevent anxiety and/or premature death, you do every freakin' thing you can think of to limit your health risks. Upside: to the extent these studies are right, you may actually live longer. Downside: with all the time-consuming, pain-in-the-ass precautions you take, you need extra years just to come out even!

If you answered b, you may be a Devil-May-Care Hedonist! To prevent Annoying Health studies from spoiling your fun, you just ignore them. Who cares what a bunch of bespectacled lab geeks say is good or bad for you? Upside: Fun! Fun! Fun! Downside: sometimes, the studies all say the same things and if you ignore them you may croak early.

If you answered c, you may be a Professional Worrier. It's not that you enjoy worrying exactly, but it's such a natural state you prefer to freak yourself out rather than take concrete action to minimize your risks. Upside: Well, not a whole lot, but it's treatable! See your local shrink or consult an anxiety self-help book. Downside: Worrying about your health is actually bad for your health. Which will make you worry more about your health which will...

If you answered d you may be a Lifestyle Pragmatist. You do what you can to minimize risks, but you're not going to spend a whole lot of time panicking over things you can't control. Upside: you maintain a good balance between virtue and Fun. Downside: You will rarely be a Trendsetter or an Amusing Nutball, and thus might never get your 15 minutes on Jerry Springer or Oprah.

If you answered e you may be a Perennial Research Skeptic. (D's and E's frequently occur together). You don't take the conclusion of a study or an "expert" seriously until you have some notion of how reliable the underlying data is. You may or may not have any clue what makes for reliable data (and may even think a peer-reviewed journal is something fisherman read), but you do know that you can't believe everything you read. Upside: less likely to worry about bogus health hazards. Downside: often over-analytical and kinda tedious at cocktail parties.

If you answered f you are... Normal! What are you doing reading Cranky Fitness? Instead of boring health news, you could be finding out which movie stars are cheating on each other and what Michelle Obama was wearing last night!

What's your coping style? Worried about nitrosamines or zombies attacks or do you take it all in stride?

July 21, 2009

Good excuses to be baaaaad

Ah yes, all the pieces are starting to fit together...
Photo credit: Max-B

Sometimes in my idle wandering through the Interwebs ceaseless search for Truth, I come across some disparate studies that seem related. It's some kind of synergistic convergence, if that means what I think it does. Everything comes together like pieces of a jigsaw, and it's serendipity doo dah, serendipity day.... Or something like that.

Here are three excellent studies that prove you can prove anything if you stage your study right prove exactly what I've wanted to hear: it's okay to give in and be baaad...

- fatty food improves memory
Yes, according to one white-coated researcher, "By helping mammals remember where and when they have eaten a fatty meal, OEA's memory-enhancing activity seems to have been an important evolutionary tool for early humans and other animals.

"Remembering the location and context of a fatty meal was probably an important survival mechanism for early humans."

However, don't go out and order several dozen extra large pizzas yet. The researchers also admit that eating too many fats can result in obesity. (Really? You think?) Maybe just one pizza.

- drinking coffee fends off Alzheimer's
Drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee daily in middle age can stave off developing Alzheimer's when you're older. Of course, the problem here is that I don't think I'm middle aged yet, even though I'm halfway to 90. (Gasp -- she's how old???) So when should I start hitting the coffee? When I feel middle aged? The study also noted that the group with the lowest rate of coffee consumption scored highest in depression, which might be significant. Sounds significant, even if it isn't.

- Strenuous exercise may be connected to memory loss
I stole leveraged this study from Healthbolt. Thankfully, the study dealt with people who did really strenuous exercise, which means you can still follow Crabby's patented S.H.I.I.T. method of keeping fit. You just don't have to do it for too long.

So, now you can wake yourself up with coffee in the morning, chow down at the barbecue, and go easy on the hardcore workout. (Well, so long as you believe these studies. I figure if you already believe these things, you'll find these studies useful and if you don't believe, these studies won't keep you awake nights.)

You just have to believe!

I'm still waiting for a study that says sitting around reading blogs causes people to get enormous raises at review time, and one that proves spending time in a hammock helps you fit into a skinnier bathing suit. I have a feeling these studies will be along shortly.

I did come across this study:

- blue eyed people are brainier

I really want this one to be true, in the same way that I want to read a study proving that short, round,Irish-American women are statistically more likely to win the lottery, marry George Clooney, and lose 20 pounds on the Chocolate Éclair diet. Except that my brother is also blue-eyed, so it doesn't settle the issue of which one of us is smarter. (He's probably off looking for a study that proves tall Irish-American men who are older than their sisters are smarter.) Even a quick read of the study raises so many questions that I wonder how the researchers could keep a straight face. I still want to believe.

And one last study, that I also want to believe in:

- Swearing is good for you
Apparently someone actually did a study to determine whether people felt better if they swore after hurting themselves. (Um... who funds these studies? 'Cause I'd really like to get going on studying the Chocolate Éclair diet, and I think they'd go for it.)

So, next time you hit your thumb with the hammer, don't hold back on the language. Let it out! You can tell any nearby kids you're doing it for your health. I'm sure they'll understand.

Maybe turn your face away first...

July 20, 2009

I Got Nothin'

So sorry!

I'm adding one more day to my "staycation" and will be back to regular health and fitness blogging Wednesday. I'm hoping my brain will accompany me. It seems to have gone missing.

Seen it? It looks sort of like this, only much messier.

I thought perhaps I would be back posting today, but without a brain it just didn't work! Somehow I seem have frittered away the short time I had to write an actual health and fitness post with a dozen false starts that were all complete crap.

Blog block! Blog block! Acck!!!

And now I have an actual job to show up to in the mornings, so if time runs out... time runs out.

I do sometimes worry that part of the problem is that I've said everything I have to say about health and fitness. Is there anything fresh left to gripe about? Perhaps it's getting to be time for Ol' Crabby to hang it up?

But then I remembered I went through almost the exact same thing last year and had a blog meltdown. But of course I didn't quit, because I am a narcissistic whiner who craves an audience I love blogging. And somehow, I still found plenty of things to whine about since then.

And while Cranky Fitness is still not much closer to becoming a book, or a Mega-blog, or a revenue-earning job as I'd hoped, I've still been mostly having a blast and I'm really glad I didn't quit back then. And I'm pretty darn sure I'm not ready to quit yet. But, well, I think I warned there might be some service interruptions this summer until the temporary jobs are over, and indeed that seems to be the case. Sorry! (Also, it was the Lobster's birthday celebration last night, and in the Grand Scheme of Things Lobsters always come first).

I did, however, manage to get a post up this morning at The Juice, because a deadline for someone else always seems to "count" more than one for yourself, doesn't it? So if you want a bit more crab today, stop by I'm rambling on about Kyra Sedgwick (of The Closer) and Green Things.

Anyway, I promise I'll get my act together Wednesday and get back to health and fitness. Thanks for your patience!

Do any other of you bloggers struggle with posting regularly, or does it always just flow?

July 17, 2009

You Gotta Have Friends

Photo: Loldogs

So as I've mentioned before, this week I've been taking time off from "normal" health blogging. (Which is why I've been throwing any old crap up here instead of health and fitness posts). Fortunately, clever and funny readers have come to the rescue with great observations about sucky jobs and manipulative pets! And again, thank goodness for Merry Sunshine on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

So why the blog-slacking? Well, it's because we have two sets of very good friends in town, as well as the Lobster's mom. Since some of these folks have traveled thousands of miles to be here, and they are all extremely fun to hang with, it seems a little silly for me to say "you guys go on without me, I have to blog." Most people are not all that familiar with the verb "to blog" anyway, and probably think I'm referring to some sort medical condition that requires me to gargle repeatedly or flush out my sinuses with saline or who knows what.

Yet the result is that by spending time with friends who are physically present, I'm missing my Internet Friends! I'm way behind on blog visits, and emails, and I hate being so lame. I'm one of those people who considers friendships with people I only know through pixels on a computer screen to be just as "real" as my friendships with physically-present people. You aren't all imaginary, are you? Please tell me you aren't!

My internet friendships have, over time, become an important part of my social network. There are too many to list them all, but, for example, I am absolutely certain I would not still be blogging without the behind-the-scenes support of Merry and Carla and Charlotte and the Bag Lady and POD and Dr. J. and Leah and Katieo. And I feel like I know so many of the people who regularly comment here! I wonder how people are doing with their new homes or lost jobs or gluten-free diets or medical recoveries or marathon training or Dorito cravings.

But sometimes it feels weird to admit this in the "real world." Anyone else? Like if you're talking to people "in real life," do you ever hesitate to bring up a story about a blog friend, even if it's totally relevant and hilarious, because you're afraid people will think you're socially retarded and don't get out enough? Plus, there's the name thing. "Oh, the exact same thing happened to this woman I know, the Bag Lady..."

Am I just weird, or do other people feel that online relationships are "real" and important too?

Oh, and speaking of "friends," I have to pass on this Sarah Haskins video, "Ladyfriends." Let the Madison Avenue folks show us women what our friendships are supposed to be about: products!

This Week at The Juice

Quick update: Over at The Juice, there is still a chance to win a year's free subscription to Netflix! (It's worth over $100 bucks and there still aren't a ton of entries yet). Hurry though: the giveaway expires July 19th. Also, there's a video about taking a stretch break, a discussion of romantic movies, and a great post from Org Junkie about jumping on the bandwagon to try Jillian's 30 day shred!

July 16, 2009

Magic Weight Loss Pill, take III

It's been awhile since we've had a post about a Magic Weight Loss Pill. (See here and here for earlier posts.) The Magic Weight Loss Pills crowd was feeling neglected.

Weight loss is simple arithmetic. Everyone says so.
Calories In = Calories Out.
Make sure your Calories Out are more than your Calories In and you'll lose weight.

What's so difficult? It's not le science rockette. Or... is it?

[Warning: post contains the words "Calculus" and "Weight Loss" and "Metabolism." Tomatoes might also be involved at some point.]

The tricky part about arithmetic like Calories In = Calories Out is that it doesn't always add up when you're talking about the human body.

[A horde of angry nay sayers rise up, pitch forks in hand, torches blazing, ready to dispute the previous sentence. Merry types faster to get her point in before the riot begins and people start throwing tomatoes.]

Rather than arithmetic, it's more like calculus.

Note: My definition of calculus does not really have much to do with asymptotes or any other kind of totes. Rather, it's shorthand for "any kind of math that I do not want to deal with, thankyouverymuch and please make all this math go away now."

Fail credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/themadlolscientist/ / CC BY 2.0

The Calories In = Calories Out equation can fall down when it comes to the Calories Out part.

[Some of the crowd stops, fruit/vegetable in hand, to consider this. Then from somewhere in the back of the crowd sails one tomato splat]

In other words, while number crunchers can weigh every infinitesimal spec of protein, fat, or carbohydrate that crosses your lips, physiologists are still trying to measure all the variables that explain why some humans burn off calories faster (or slower) than others.

Different people burn calories at different rates. You cannot simply look up "calories burned" on a chart and assume that that number applies to you.

[Another splat]

Some other possible reasons you might not have lost weight even if you've been limiting your calories and working out regularly:

- You've built muscle instead
- If a female between puberty and menopause, TOM
- You might have worked the muscles so hard that inflammation has set in, which would result in water retention
- Your thyroid might be out of whack

[Another splat]

Why yes, I do have a link at this point:

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh showed that overweight people who do not lose weight when they follow an exercise program are likely to suffer from low thyroid function, and therefore should be able to lose weight if they take thyroid hormones (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, February 2009).

Dr. Mirkin explains the science behind the study thusly:

"When you eat, blood sugar levels rise. Your pancreas responds by releasing insulin into your bloodstream which drives sugar into cells where it can be used for energy. As you gain weight, fat cells fill with fat. This blocks insulin receptors so your cells cannot respond adequately to insulin and blood sugar rises to higher levels. This causes your pancreas to release even more insulin....

"...muscles become extraordinarily responsive to insulin when you exercise so you need far less insulin to drive sugar from your bloodstream into cells. Insulin levels go way down with exercise, but the effect gradually tapers off in about 18 hours. So you have to exercise every day to maintain the benefit of lowered insulin levels, and overweight people who exercise every day usually lose weight.

"However, some overweight people cannot lose weight no matter how much they exercise. This study shows that many of these people have low thyroid function which prevents the cells from responding to insulin and drives both insulin and blood sugar to very high levels."

[The ellipses (...) are where I cut part of the article out. These tomatoes are getting pretty hard to dodge, and I want to finish this post and go clean up. Want to read the part that I snipped out? The link above has it in all its tomato-free glory. Duck! splat]

This is not to say that taking a magic hypothyroid pill will magically make the weight drop off. What the study suggests is that a thyroid pill can level the playing field (to mix a metaphor) and make your personal Calories Out closer to the average.

Is this a cheat, an excuse, or a possible solution?

Your thoughts?

July 15, 2009

You Versus Your Cat: Who's In Charge?

Remember how I warned y'all that we have visitors in town and I that I'm taking time off from health and fitness blogging? Well, I wasn't kidding!

Today's topic: Who calls the shots in your house, you or Fluffy?

As it happens, there's some new research relevant to the question, and some silly pictures, but I'm mainly curious about what you do about the whole training and discipline question. Do you let your pets boss you around?

(And note: while this post happens to feature cats, I'm very curious how this issue plays out for dog owners as well).

Cat's Rule

In our house, the cat is much more skilled at behavior modification than we are. She has trained us to feed her what she wants to eat; to wake up when she thinks we've had enough sleep; to carry her up and down the stairs when her arthritis is acting up--she can even get us to turn on water faucets and wait for her to finish drinking by boycotting the water dish. We, on the other hand, have trained her... to do absolutely nothing she doesn't feel like doing.

"Lie Down, Maile! ... What a Good Girl!"

How does get away with it? Well, for one, we are mere humans and she is a cat. However, one of our favorite commenters, Mary Anne from Kentucky (who blogs over at Solarity) sent in a study revealing how cats vocally manipulate us. One of a cat's secret weapons? It's called "solicitation purring." They apparently have a very specific purr they use to get our asses out of bed and do their bidding.

Is anyone surprised?

But Some Humans Fight Back!

Got a cat who jumps on counters? Here's one hilariously geeky solution: The Blender Defender. It's either really clever or really crazy. Probably both.

And I keep hearing that cats can be trained to use toilets,

Photo: trainedcat

and even to do circus tricks!

Photo: ehfisher

Alas, not in the Crab/Lobster household. Cuddling and purring, though, she's pretty good at. I guess we can't complain!

How about you folks? Is your pet in charge or are you? Any cute tricks or helpful tips?

July 14, 2009

Is yoga exercise?

Well, it looks pretty. But once people start practicing yoga, they seem to do it everywhere.
Is yoga exercise? You're just standing around striking a pose and breathing.

Seriously. Everywhere. Thankfully, yoga is good for your balance.

Looks pretty, good for your balance, but it's just standing around, right? I mean, I could do that at a mall. (Maybe not some of the poses... they might call Security...)

Why is it considered exercise? I can see that it develops balance and can help with stress reduction. What I can't see is how it qualifies as exercise. I'm not trying to act like I'm wearing the CrankyPants; I just don't get it.

In fact, I think this calls for a chart. I figure if yoga's exercise, then it burns a respectable amount of calories. Let's see what the chart has to say about that:

The caloric estimates presume you have an average metabolism, weigh 70 kg (154), and perform the exercise for 30 minutes.

According to the chart, yoga burns only slightly more calories than doing the dishes. To me, that's not a highly aerobic activity. (Plus, you still have a sink full of dirty dishes after you do the yoga.)

To an outsider, yoga looks mysterious and sometimes a little odd.

To someone well-versed in yoga, no doubt this pose makes sense.

Translating Yoga into English

Actually, this whole post is the fault of the Fit Bottomed Girls. They did a review of AM/PM Yoga for Beginners that was the most enthusiastic review I've ever read on their site, and I've read a lot of good reviews on their site. They got me curious enough to overcome my innate yogic inertia and check out the DVD myself.

The nice thing about trying something out on a DVD is that no one is going to kick you out of the class because you're such an obvious doofus who doesn't belong. (Actually, I really doubt people would kick you out of a beginner's class for being a beginner, but that's always the traditional long-rooted fear of the clueless newbie.)

I have to confess that I found some of the instructions confusing. "Hug my heels with my elbows... without moving the elbows"?? I'm presuming that this instruction is supposed to create an intuitive reaction, of the mind rather than the body, i.e. I'm supposed to encourage my elbows to feel huggy toward my heels. If it's anything more concrete than that, then I'm totally lost.

Is a plank a pose where I'm supposed to become stiff and rigid? (And apt to become warped if left out in the rain)?

I did feel energetic afterwards, but that might have been due to the 2 cups of coffee I drank beforehand. Note to self: try this pre-caffeine.

Seriously. People are doing yoga everywhere...

Look, I'm not saying yoga is evil. I can see that it would have some stress-relieving benefit, but shouldn't it be classified as therapy or something? Why is it grouped in with exercise classes? Taught at gyms? Dang it, people are even doing yoga at the mall. Why?

July 13, 2009


Photo: Awful Library Books
(More on that in a moment!)

So I have a crazy-busy week coming up (with friends and relatives in town and blah blah blah), and so will probably not be putting up "normal" Cranky Fitness posts until next week. It's sort of going to be like one of those weeks when I'm traveling and I put up guest posts to cover for me? Except, um, without the guest posts to cover for me.

I'll still try to put something up on "my" days (MWF), but it may be just a thought for the day, or a short item, or a video, or who knows, maybe a "previously aired" Cranky Fitness episode! Warning: content may have nothing whatever to do with health and fitness.

But things will return to normal shortly. We have some great giveaways coming up and I haven't forgotten about the list of Reader Favorite Weight loss blogs. Just maybe not this week. (And, yet again, thank goodness for Merry Sunshine!)

Anyway, today's experiment in non-standard Cranky Fitness blog topics: Is there anything about your job that drives you totally nuts? Because I came across some great in-the-trenches gripes from a flight attendant, a nurse, and a pair of librarians, and it occurred to me that probably a lot of you have stories to share as well! (Stay at home parents included, because that is one of the hardest jobs out there). So far, it's too early for me to hate anything about my new jobs yet, but I'll keep you posted.

The Friendly Skies?

Over at Lemondrop, a flight attendant shares a list of her top ten annoying-passenger gripes.

These include: "Leaving Your Headphones on While Ordering," and, my personal favorite (in that it would make me want to quit my job as an airline attendant that very minute, not that as a flight-phobic neurotic I would ever take such a job in the first place): "Handing Me Dirty Diapers."

Things That Would Make Me Nurse a Grudge

The blog "Head Nurse" has an awesome insider's take on the nursing life, and Jo is hilarious. Got a sick relative? She has some helpful guidelines for hospital visitors, including:

"Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not take out Mama's drains. Even if you are a physician." And, "the hospital is not the best place to have a bench-clearing brawl over who gets what out of Grandma's attic."

Got Awful Books in Your Library?

The blog Awful Library Books cracks me up. Since I just took a library job myself, I hear conversations about "weeding," and now I know why it's a really good idea! If you don't peruse the collection occasionally and throw stuff out, you end up with items like:

They take submissions of books that are still on library shelves, but they don't embarrass the particular libraries by naming names. I'm sure the Awesome Provincetown Public Library does not have anything amusingly hideous to submit, as they are very conscientious about "weeding," but I shall keep my eyes out just in case something has slipped through the cracks. (Thanks, A.S.).

So do you all love everything about your jobs? Or is there anything that makes you grouchy?

July 10, 2009

Positive Thinking: New Reasons to Say The Hell With It

At Cranky Fitness, we are not known for Excessive Optimism, Unrestrained Cheerfulness, or Gratuitous Positivity--unless there's an actual reason to be positive. And, um, how often does that tend to happen?

I've even been an advocate of Negative Thinking, if it's the sensible kind. (My philosophy, in brief: Anticipate the negative and plan for the worst, but appreciate the hell out of it when the bad things don't actually happen!)

Plus, if a blogger named Crabby McSlacker can't defend pessimism, then who the heck else will?

Well... it turns out that in the battle against relentless Positivity, I've got some new allies!

The folks at Time Magazine*** just did an article on the futility of positive thinking that contradicts everything you ever heard before. The article's title? "Yes, I Suck: Self-Help Through Negative Thinking."

Basically, it discusses research showing that "trying to get people to think more positively can actually have the opposite effect: it can simply highlight how unhappy they are." And it introduced me to a whole "third wave of therapy" based on accepting, rather than fighting negative thoughts.

Think that sounds totally backwards and crazy-assed?

Well, so do some of the more traditional cognitive psychologists! So it seems there's a little cognitive catfight going on.

Note: no Cognitive Psychologists
were harmed during this dramatization.

Photo: Icanhascheeseburger

Why Does Happy Talk Sometimes Backfire?

According to the Time Magazine roundup, research tends to show that when people hear an argument they don't believe, it makes them even more likely to cling to their original position.

Not buying it? Well, as an example, they ask you to picture a light-night bar debate in which someone claims that "Sarah Palin is brilliant," or that "Michael Jackson was not a freak." OK, now see how that works?

And a new positivity study suggests that this same obstinacy may kick in when it comes to positive self-talk. In particular, if a person with low self esteem tries to repeatedly tell themselves that they are lovable, it doesn't raise their self esteem--it lowers it!

Don't Fight the Feelings

So now there's a relatively new approach to therapy that incorporates research like this into the futility of changing negative thoughts. It's called "ACT," for "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy."

Spokes-shrink Steven Hayes says we should "acknowledge that negative thoughts recur throughout life," and instead of trying to challenge them, "we should concentrate on identifying and committing to our values."

What should we do with these negative thoughts? Instead of arguing with them, Hayes advocates observing them with mindfulness, defusing their power, and not getting entangled in them.

For example, instead of saying to yourself "I'm depressed," Hayes thinks you should say "I'm having the thought that I'm depressed."

You're also supposed to work on clarifying your values, and moving towards actually living them. Do you say you value your friends and community and physical well-being, but somehow spend every weekend sitting in front of the TV scarfing cheetos by yourself?


It All Get's Too F*cking Arcane and Tedious for Me, Though

I was initially intrigued, because while I believe in the efficacy of more traditional cognitive therapy in a LOT of situations, other times it just seems a little too fake and cheerleadery. Sometimes life just sucks, and the pessimistic view is not "irrational," and efforts to take a crappy situation and paint it over with falsely positive happy talk can indeed seem counterproductive.

However, my initial curiosity about ACT and this whole "third wave" thing was dampened a bit once I started reading more. "Relational frame theory" and "functional contextualism" and how is it different from "dialectical behavioral therapy," blah blah blah--it's the same kind of incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo psychological theories always seem to employ in order to sound scholarly and serious. Someday, with a bit more patience, I'll have to wade in and find out if there are good practical ideas for dealing with counter-productive thinking lurking behind the jargon.

(But then I also heard rumors from the Traditional Cognitive Therapy people that ACT people were just a big ol' new age cult and they and make people wear silly hats and use secret handshakes discourage dissent. What do I know? But check out the photo of their Leader-- it does indeed look kinda scary.)


Why Choose?

Here's what I think: if you have negative thoughts that are getting in your way and it helps to argue with them, then argue with them! Replace them with happier, more positive thoughts.

But if the negative thoughts persist despite your efforts, then accept them as thoughts and don't let them control you. Focus on your goals instead.

Whatever works!

Or, if all else fails, try Crabby's Home Remedy: whine a little, then go for a nice long walk, then come home and curl up with a comforting beverage and cuddle with a cat, dog, child, significant other, rabbit, pet rock, garden gnome, security blanket, or whatever makes you happy.

And if you still want to join a cult? Crankyism is always on the lookout for new recruits!

***Confidential Aside to Time Magazine:

OK, thanks very much for the research and all, but fer cryin' out loud, how is anyone supposed to take your online articles seriously when they're full of these ridiculous computer-generated links for totally unrelated crap? Like these two had "see pictures of couples in love," "see pictures of people mourning the death of Michael Jackson," and "see pictures of facial yoga." WTF???

So, how do you folks deal with negative thoughts? Fight them, accept them, obsess about them, defuse them, believe them, ignore them?