May 29, 2009

Do You Get High?

So this is not a post about illegal drug use, though goodness knows I have some opinions*** about that.

Nope, sorry, this post is not about that kind of getting high. It's mostly about the wholesome, socially acceptable, completely legal "exercise" kind of high.

When I first started running, I was only 17 years old. So naturally the prospect of a "runners high" was quite intriguing! As I recall I got there sometimes--nothing earth-shattering at first, but definitely a bit of a dreamy, buzzy, euphoric feeling.

Now, more than 30 years later, I still find myself chasing and sometimes achieving the "high." While often it's not all that different from a slighty trippy "very good mood," other times it can be downright intense.

In fact a couple of days ago I had one of those "OMG I am SO HIGHHH!!!! episodes at the gym, and I'm sure people nearby must have thought I'd spiked my water bottle with Ecstasy--I was grinning like an idiot, dancing around on my elliptical machine, and even giggling a little because I sometimes I just couldn't help it.

Is there a secret formula for achieving an endorphin high from exercise? Well, I don't know if it would work for everyone, but I've found that for me: yes there is!

And in some ways the secret is sort of like the "one rule for a flat stomach": it involves cheating.

Can Everyone Get High From Exercise?
My sense is that perhaps not everyone is wired to achieve this, or at least not easily. I was surprised, for example, reading this New York Times article about "Runner's High," that there has always been a bunch of skepticism about it, and scientists have only recently even managed to prove that a "high" exists. And all the examples they cited tended to be of people doing something incredibly intense, or exercising for really long periods of time (like hours), running marathons or whatever.

Note: I do not perform aerobic exercise for hours at a time. Nor do I achieve the sort of intensity they're talking about with the half-assed interval training I make myself do. So I suspect most people's brains need more coaxing than mine does.

Crabby's Secret Recipes For an Exercise High
These will of course will not work for many of you, due to health, religious, or logistical reasons, or because your brains work differently. I have two different recipes for two different kind of "highs."

Even following the recipe, I don't get results every single time--otherwise, I wouldn't have any problem motivating to get to the gym. Also, the "highs" rarely hit more for more than a few minutes at a time, maybe two or three times during a lucky workout.

Intense Body-Slammin' Recipe:

1. I drink coffee beforehand. (This is the cheaty part). However, I drink a big cup of coffee every morning and yet do not wander around in a constant state of euphoria, so it's clearly only part of the process.

2. I choose a reliable high-inducing form of exercise. For the intense kind of high, I need something bouncy that allows me to propel my whole body up and down--like a step aerobic class or an elliptical machine. Dancing is good too. A bicycle ride, while fun, will not get me high.

3. I bring tunes. Music, for me, is critical. I must have a playlist with at least a few songs I absolutely LOVE, going at exactly the right speed.

4. Helpful hormones. Ladies, you know that part of the cycle where you're a bit amped anyway? This seems to be the best time for getting high.

5. Decent Mood. Being a cranky sort, it's easy to let myself get irritated by crowded gyms, hot temperatures, badly maintained equipment, etc. If I want to get high, I have to consciously remind myself that while I can't necessary control the thing that's annoying me, I can control my own feelings about it and choose to let it go. If I choose to stay annoyed, I won't get a buzz.

6. I start moving to the music, and hope for the best!

Like I said, it doesn't happen every time. But if the caffeine peaks at the right time, and the songs sound extra good, and I'm flying around to the rhythm (bobbing my head seems to help...) it can happen any time, usually after 10 or 15 minutes. A frequent trigger is a tune where the music is building and building towards a chorus and I know it's coming and I know how much I love it and I feel this gathering energy getting more and more powerful...

And then WHAM.

Seriously, for me it's an incredible rush. It's a burst of energy and joy--but also a weird liquid feeling somewhere in the base of my skull... I can actually feel it spreading upwards, seeping into the rest of my brain. I smile almost involuntarily, (and sometimes giggle) and squint my eyes together, and I just feel so GOOD! I just keep pounding away and dancing a bit and try to gather up all my senses and enjoy it while it lasts. Alas, eventually it fades but it usually fades into a pretty darned good mood. And on a good day it will often come back a couple more times before I'm done.


Mellower Trippy Recipe
This second variation is also enjoyable, though not as intense. However, I find it easier to achieve and it's what makes me eager to go running even though I know I'm trashing what I have left of the cartilage in my knees. Heck, it's worth it.

1. Coffee beforehand. (Always)

2. Choose appropriate exercise: this time, running or hiking--something aerobic that can be performed outdoors.

3. Good music. Beat is important, but "mood" is also a crucial issue for this kind of high. The goal is a more trancey feeling, so music that's intricate and beautiful and puts me in an energetic but contemplative frame of mind works better than mindless pop. Unless it's unusually awesome mindless pop.

4. A beautiful outdoor trail.

5. Weather that's not hot and miserable. (However, I've had some running highs in cold and rainy weather... go figure).

6. Start running and hope for the best!

This kind of high sneaks up gradually and is more mellow. Colors seem extra crisp and bright, and things seem a bit dreamy and unreal--I often have to double-check that I'm not asleep and dreaming. There is a feeling of well-being and peace that's noticeably more intense than I get when I'm not exercising. This "high" usually takes longer to achieve, but lasts longer as well.

(***And yes, I do have opinions about illegal drugs! Here's one: fer goodness sake, how could it be that we baby boomers have made it all the way to middle age and should be in control now and yet people still get put in JAIL for smoking pot? WTF is up with that? Does anyone else think it might finally be time to legalize marijuana, tax it, and free up some much needed law enforcement resources for actual bad guys? Sure, some folks will abuse marijuana and cause themselves harm, much like other people abuse alcohol and tobacco and prescription pain killers and Twinkies to their own detriment. I'm just not sure the answer is to ban such potentially dangerous substances for everyone. It doesn't stop determined users anyway. Instead, how about using some portion of the new Pot Tax Revenue to fund treatment programs for those who need help? And just leave the medical and moderate users the hell alone since they're not bothering anyone?)

So do any of you like to get high, and if so, how do you get there?

May 28, 2009

Of Mice and Exercise

Photo courtesy of Jason Cartwright

Warning: this post contains dangerously low levels of Italian soccer players, flat stomach links, skanky fitness or cupcake flowcharts. It is a serious, mature post about health and research studies and that sort of grown up stuff.

Well, it's as close as I get to serious and grown up, anyway.

I've noticed people tend to dismiss studies that don't agree with their own personal philosophy. (In this case, "people" includes the blogger I see in the mirror each morning.) Up to a point, I'm cool with saying "Hey, I don't like this study so I'm going to ignore it." But even if I don't like the results, I tend to believe studies that are a) well-designed b) clearly described and c) have very impressive numbers. Like this one study I read that showed a dramatic change in the health of the subjects.

These guys took a bunch of mice, got them to work out every day, then took away their exercise equipment. Then they sat back and watched what happened, which was dramatic.

(Notice how I'm not saying what the results are? This is called being really annoying piquing the reader's interest so that they'll be tempted to slap me upside the head read more.)

Did it work?

Yay! You're still reading. Feel free to slap me then.

Yes, this study was performed on mice, which is to say that Your Mileage May Vary. (One study I read once had the immortal line: "mice are not people." Ooh. Good to know.) All the same, a lot can be learned from studying how mice react to situations.

In this study, I was interested to read that they used fat mice, i.e. mice bred to be obese. The mice were able to keep healthy, 'fit and fat' as it were, through steadily exercising.

One difference between mice and humans is that in the first part of the study, these mice did not have to be forced (nagged, heavily encouraged, guilted, or dragged kicking and screaming) to exercise. They did it anyway. (Probably because their cages didn't have cable.) To stop them from exercising, the researchers had to fix the exercise wheel so that it wouldn't move.

The results

Finally! Sheesh, Merry...

For a week after they stopped exercising, the mice stayed healthy. But then their health went downhill faster than a slalom racer who just remembered he left the stove on back home and has to go turn it off before the house burns down.

The researchers were surprised at how quickly signs of fatty liver started to happen to these poor mice. [Ceasing to exercise] "activates a subgroup of precursors and processes known to initiate hepatic steatosis, including decreased hepatic mitochondrial oxidative capacity, increased hepatic expression of de novo lipogenesis proteins, and increased hepatic malonyl CoA levels; each probably increasing the susceptibility to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. "

And they were even more astonished at the night-and-day difference between the mice who exercised and the ones who did not. To quote one white-coated guy (more formally known as professor Frank Booth, a cardiovascular researcher) "Physical activity prevented fatty liver disease by 100 percent in an animal model of fatty liver disease.... In contrast, 100 percent of the group that did not have physical activity had fatty liver disease. This is a remarkable event. It is rare in medicine for any treatment to prevent any disease by 100 percent."


I mean, unless a research study is based on one lone person mouse, this is an impressive statistic. Really. Also impressive that the results start to go downhill after one friggin' week.

Oh, I can't help it. I can't stand the nagging feeling that this post needs a chart. Okay, I will include one chart, but a very mature and adult one.

Everybody has days when they say @!$# and slack off. I think the key here is not to give up whole weeks to slacktitude. And be glad you're not a mouse!

And yes, I suppose I should include one photo of Enrique...

Okay, so Enrique might not be his real name...

What do you think? Am I crazy to get so enthused about one study? There are others that suggest similar conclusions, but this is the only study I've come across that is so 100% cut-and-dried in its conclusion that everybody needs to get out there and exercise. Or else.

May 27, 2009

Oh Boy, Another Exciting Vitamin D Lecture!

So since the last post I wrote was about dead whales, I'm thinking it's probably time to return to a health-related topic. Perhaps even remind you about a crucial nutrient you may not be getting enough of?

But useful information is so boring! So at the end of this post I'll be sure to educate you about one method of getting Vitamin D post a beefcake photo of a nearly nude Italian mens soccer team. Because that's just the kind of informative public service pathetic pandering you've probably come to expect here at Cranky Fitness!

And yeah, I know we've posted about Vitamin D many times before, because, well, it's good for you. But lately the research on just HOW good it is for you keeps piling up. (Or put, another way, the evidence about how screwed you are if you don't get enough D is getting scary). Yet unfortunately, most people either haven't gotten the message about how crucial Vitamin D is, or they've blown it off because we get 97,000 other health warnings every week and it gets hard to pay attention to them all.

However, as it happens, both Women's Health and Health Magazine, two magazines I like to steal information from read, did round-ups on Vitamin D this month. So I thought, heck, with so much information on hand, I'd stick a bunch of it all in one place.

Because as the Women's Health folks point out, over 2,000 genes are regulated by vitamin D. Apparently D is one bossy vitamin! Michael Holick, a Vitamin D expert from Boston University, adds that "it affects cell death and proliferation, insulin production, and even the immune system."

Here are some specifics; most of it comes from the Health Magazine Vitamin D article. (And sorry I don't have links here to the actual studies. That would require a lot of additional googling and I'm too busy because I have, like, 6 glasses of milk to drink and a big honking plate of salmon to eat! And I better hurry because I think I need to do work in a few hours of nude sunbathing before it gets too dark. Or something like that. I may have read it all a little too fast. But anyway, Health Magazine is pretty reliable about fact-checking their research, so I'm trusting 'em on this.)

So why should you try hard to get enough vitamin D? Because it can:

Lower Your Heart Disease Risk
People with the highest D levels had up to a 50% lower risk of heart disease, while those with the lowest had a 62% increased risk of heart attacks or strokes. It's thought that vitamin D helps lower blood pressure and regulates hormones affecting blood vessels and heart muscles.

Help Prevent Cancer
A vitamin D researcher at UCSD, Cedric Garland, says “we could prevent 150,000 cases of cancer annually if we could just increase vitamin D to optimal levels.” Research suggests sufficient vitamin D reduces risk of breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancers. For example, women with high D blood levels had a 50% lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest blood levels.

Cut Risk of Multiple Sclerosis and other Autoimmune Disorders
In a study out of Harvard University, researchers found a 40% lower risk of MS in women who took a daily supplement of at least 400 IU of vitamin D. There is also research to suggest that vitamin D might lower risk of other autoimmune disorders too, like rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn’s disease. And vitamin D might even lower inflammation in healthy folks as well.

Fight Colds and Flu
One study indicated that women who took 800 IU of vitamin D daily were three times less likely to develop colds or the flu. And women who got 2,000 IU reported even fewer symptoms.

Improve Mental Health and Brain Function
Raising vitamin D levels seems to increase serotonin, which helps regulate mood and fights seasonal affective disorder. It also seems to help neurological function, keeping your brain sharp as you age as opposed to a big mushy mess.

Assist with Appetite Regulation
Low levels of D mess with leptin levels, which in turn screw up your "I'm full" signals--which can lead to Serious Cupcake Abuse. It's somewhat of a vicious cycle, because overweight folks have more difficulty using vitamin D, because excess fat can absorb vitamin D, making it unavailable.

Build Strong Bones
You need vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which will help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. And you don't want either of those or you're going to have to go on TV like poor Sally Field and talk up medications like Boniva. (Perhaps if she'd been the "Walking Nun" or the "Running Nun" or the "Jumping Nun" instead of the "Flying Nun" she'd have higher bone density? OK, now all the young folks who never watched Sally Field in the Flying Nun probably think I'm having a psychotic break from insufficient vitamin D. But I swear, it was a real show.)

See? I didn't make it up.

So, You Think You're Getting Enough D?

Most people aren't getting enough for optimal health, especially those living in northern latitudes who can't get enough from sunshine.

Sure, the RDA is only something like 200-400 IU, depending on how old you are. But the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 400 to 800 IU if you're under 50, and 800 to 1,000 IU if you're older. But many experts are raising the bar even for younger folks, and suggesting up to 2,000 IU for optimal health. (On the other hand, other sources like the Mayo Clinic consider 2,000 as an upper limit, because taking too much Vitamin D can cause health problems).

Probably the best thing to do is get your blood levels measured and find out if your levels are low, normal, or awesome. Apparently more than 75% of us lack the awesome amounts that help fight disease. Then once you know where you stand, adjust accordingly.

Apparently those of us who live at latitudes above 37 (hello, Minneapolis, Boston, and San Francisco!) are at more risk of deficiency. However, the UCSD expert guy interviewed in Health thinks “every woman should consider getting checked.” (Why not men? I missed that part. Perhaps because the expert figured all the men were off reading Men's Health instead?)

So How Do You Get More Vitamin D?

Good natural food sources are oily fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna. There are also lots of fortified foods like milk, fruit juices, soy milk, and some cereals and yogurts.

Take a supplement
Normally, experts are all "Don't take pills, just get all your nutrients from real food" but in this case, the advice seems to be much more supplement friendly. Perhaps because lack of D is such a big deal. Make sure it's D-3, which is metabolized much more easily than D-2.

Get some sun
Yeah, skin cancer is definitely a concern. But more experts seem to be suggesting that the health trade-offs might favor a bit of sun exposure, especially if you're careful. So you should go easy, avoiding midday sun, and keep it to 10 minutes or less per day.

And, um, sunscreen or clothing will interfere with the process, so you may want to bare some skin!

(And yeah, this Italian soccer team is in the locker room where it's hard to absorb much vitamin D... but let's just pretend they're going outside dressed like that, ok?)

Does Crabby Get Enough D?
I don't know! I sometimes skip the sunscreen on my legs on early morning runs (even though that exceeds the recommended 10 minutes, but whatever). I also drink a lot of milk and take a Vitamin D supplement. So I hope I'm ok.

Do you folks worry about D, and if so, do you do anything about it?

May 26, 2009

How to Survive Swimsuit Season

fail owned pwned pictures
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Oh, you're sooooo not here right now.

Well, your body's here, but the mind is still on Weekend Time. It's nice outside. It's after Memorial Day. Heck, it's summer. That means it's time to get out of the stuffy office and... oh crap, that means it's swimsuit time and you're not prepared!!!
Image: oddsocks

Damn! What good was it to promise to be good and "get around to" exercise? Now it's too late!

Self magazine has a list of tips to get flat abs fast, but their definition of 'fast' is 30 days. Who has that time? You've got to take the kids to the pool! Everybody will be watching! Even if you've got instant tan for the paler-than-white skin, where's the instant lipo-suction-in-a-can when you need it?

Swimsuit season is a time for serious angst. I mean, come on. Even if you are in really good shape, a bikini isn't always flattering:
Photo: Mike Baird

The worst pain centers around two areas: trying on the suit and having someone insist on taking your photo while you're wearing the suit. We've* put together some tips on how to cope with Swimsuit Season.

*Okay, that should be I've put together some tips. Don't blame Crabby.

Top ten things not to say to someone who's trying on a swimsuit

10. Oh. It's very... interesting.
9. It's not just you. Polka dots make everyone's hips look wide.
8. Gosh, I didn't know they came in that size.
7. Y'know, one piece suits are much more... slimming.
6. Hey, splashing about in the water isn't all that fun anyway.
5. Gee, you look just like Kirstie Allie.
4. Wow, I didn't know you were expecting.
3. Does a girdle come with that suit?
2. It's the lighting. Fluorescent lights add weight.
1. Can I take your picture?

Top ten ways to ease the pain of getting your picture taken while wearing a swimsuit

10. Get some children to stand in front of you.
9. No, infants don't count.
8. Yes, check with the parents first, or at least make sure you know the parents.
7. Because that's the kind of lawsuit you never want to have to deal with.
6. Preferably children who are rather tall and fidget a lot.
5. Besides, blurry photos can look quite artistic.
4. Especially if you're wearing a floppy hat and sunglasses.
3. Hey, all the celebrities wear that stuff.
2. Well, who cares what the photographer thinks?
1. Look, if they're going to get all huffy, take their picture instead. So there.

If you decide to go the no-suit route (no, not nekkid, clothed)...

If you decide to just wear regular clothes to the beach, remember these tips:

1. Don't wear parachute pants. Baggy pants only make you look thinner if the waist is really loose.
2. You can look thinner if you suck in your gut:

Excellent! Just keep that up until Labor Day, and no worries.

(Jeans photos courtesy of Melting Mama)

For a more serious treatment of this subject, check out the Back in Skinny Jeans post about Bikini Torment. I'm not in a serious frame of mind. Probably because I haven't tried on any swimsuits yet.

Well, how are you going to cope with swimsuit season? Total denial? A what-the-hell attitude? Something in between?

May 25, 2009

Holidays and Wild Pictures

It's Memorial Day, which is supposed to be a somber day of remembrance. So let's do take at least a moment or two for some gratitude and reflection.

See, that wasn't so hard, was it?

However, Memorial day is also a great excuse to celebrate sunshine and friends and family and food and playing outside. This means there's a good chance many of you are out having fun, and not sitting inside at your computer reading health blogs. At least that's what I'm counting on! Because I've been out having fun as well and was too lazy to write an actual serious blog post for today.

But I do have some pretty wild pictures to share!

Now it happens to be baby dyke weekend here in Provincetown, but that's not the source of the wild pictures. (Though someday I will have to blog about it because it really is a fascinating sociological phenomenon. Huge numbers of college-age lesbians arrive and take over the town and do some serious, serious partying. And the nomenclature is not meant to be offensive--that's just what it's called. If you tried to refer to it as "young lesbian weekend" no one would know what the heck you were talking about.)

But anyway, these are pictures are of a different kind of "wild life."

Sadness warning: They're of a dead finback whale we saw this weekend on Herring Cove beach.

Gosh, who says health blogs can't be fun!!!

But heck, it's not very often you get to view a large whale up close from several angles, so I thought I'd share a few shots for those of you who are curious and can get past the "dead animal" part. If it's any help, local whale researchers were really excited because they think they can get a lot of useful information from the poor guy. We were not, however, intrepid enough to stick around to photograph the autopsy.

(And maybe next year, in an effort to boost male readership, I'll try to post some pictures of inebriated topless lesbians brawling in the streets. But in the meantime, enjoy Dead Whale Day here at Cranky Fitness!)

Note: I know it's a hassle, but for some reason the pictures are a lot more interesting if you click on them.

In case this next one's difficult to figure out--the whale's tongue has for some reason swollen to enormous proportions.

And, um, yeah--it does appear to be a male whale.

So does anyone have any large dead animals to report? Or any fun, offbeat, silly, frustrating, unexpected, and/or relaxing events to relate from your holiday weekend? Or did you even get a holiday weekend?

May 22, 2009

Are Pets Good for Your Health?

So there's good news and bad news to report about the effects of pet ownership on your health.

Now would it make you want to run out and adopt a pet if a study said it was good for you? Or give up a pet if a study said it was bad? As it happens, I have some opinions on that subject (surprise!) which I'll get into in a moment.

But first, the bad news:

According to the New York Times, our cats and dogs are sending us to emergency rooms at alarming rates. Is it because they're all of a sudden attacking us? Should you take the quiz to discover if your cat is plotting to kill you?

Nah, this article wasn't about animal attacks. It turns out that we humans don't just fall for our pets, we actually fall over them. Yes, falls caused by pets send more than 86,000 people a year to the emergency room, which is five times as many as are hurt by unintentional gunshots. Dogs were involved in 88% of the accidents, though goodness knows cats try their darndest to be underfoot when you least expect them. (They may indeed be conspiring to kill us, but they're not all that good at it yet).

Now the good news!

So a few weeks ago, the Boston Globe ran an article collecting some of the recent research on the health benefits of pet ownership.

And the latest one was good news for cat owners--apparently people who own (or, more accurately, are owned by) cats are 40% less likely to die of heart attacks than other folks. Which seems like a big number! And the researchers took into account other risk factors like age, weight, gender, race, smoking, and cholesterol.

(Um, dog owners? Sorry, in this study, they didn't get the benefits).

But in other studies of pet ownership and health benefits, dogs came out ahead. Dog owners had lower blood pressure and cholesterol, fewer minor physical ailments and were less likely to have more serious medical problems both psychological and physical, than other folks, while cat-owning benefits were not as pronounced. Oh, and since dogs need walking, dog owners get more exercise than other people. Which common sense says is a good thing.

The Problem With Pet-Ownership Studies
As a pet owner, I love these studies! I love any study that says something I'm already doing is good for me. And intuitively, it does seem that pets can confer so many psychological benefits that this could really positively impact physical health as well.

But... I don't actually put too much stock in them. Why not? Because researchers can't just take a big group of people and randomly force half of them to go petless, and then force the other half to care for pets whether they want them or not. So instead, researchers will probably always be looking at people who choose to have pets, versus people who don't. And who knows how much difference is due to having the pets, versus the kind of personalities and lifestyles that drive these choices?

But heck, as a cat owner: yay!

Pets as Medicine
So even if it is the pet ownership causing the health benefits, I think studies like these are a dumb reason for people to run out and get a pet. (And yeah, I also wrote a post about this over at Diet Blog a long time ago). It's just that I worry whenever there's an article like this that people will think about buying a pet like it's a health supplement--some new high-antioxidant acai berry drink or something. (And just in case that analogy was too confusing: You should not attempt to eat or drink your pet! Ingesting your pet will not grant you any health benefits at all!)

Yes, I'm one of those sentimental softies who thinks we should not view pets as just "things" we own. There are already too many people who see them solely as decorative accessories, status symbols, or burglar alarms. We do not need to add a whole bunch more pet owners who view their pets as furry exercise equipment or purring blood pressure medication.

So sure, if you love animals and want one anyway and are weighing the pros and cons, these possible health benefits are a good "pro" for the list. But the best reason to get a pet because it's an incredibly rewarding relationship and it's worth all the considerable trouble.

Trouble? Why, yes, at least a little. Pets are complicated, amazing, frustrating, hilarious, loving, obstinate, unpredictable creatures. They have needs and they must be cared for, and this is sometimes involves a significant amount of work. (Cats way less than dogs, thank goodness).

But in the normal course of events, the amount of pleasure an animal gives totally outweighs the amount of hassle it takes to care for them. But there are gonna be hair-pulling stressful days as well as joyous ones. Someone who is looking for a prescription rather than a companion may not be prepared to deal with the "side effects": vet bills, barking, hairballs, cat boxes, dog poop where you least expect it, the need for obedience training if you have a dog, the need to be trained if you have a cat, fleas, the threat of lawsuits, the limits on traveling or after-work activities, the curtailment of dinner parties if it turns out that 80% of your friends are allergic to your cat... the list goes on and on.

This subject has been on my mind a bit lately, as we have an 18 year old cat whom we love very much. Alas, her health is beginning to decline, and we don't know how much longer we'll get to share our days with her. (And yes, this is the same cat who went through something of an artistic phase, but fortunately she moved on to other forms of self-expression after we changed her cat food. Now instead of "scooting," she stages cat operas at 3 or 4 in the morning. These come complete with dramatic entrances, exits, and lots and lots of bellowing.)

Has her ownership of us for the last eighteen years lessened our chances of a heart attack? Who the heck knows! She's a wonderful cat and has been an entertaining and loving companion. (And I'm not going to write a eulogy yet 'cause there's a good chance she'll rally and be around for many years to come.) We wouldn't trade our time with her for anything, even if it didn't do a thing for our health. And at least she hasn't sent us to the emergency room...

... yet.

What about you folks, do you think having pets or not having pets has an impact on your health? What do you like about having them around (or not)?

May 21, 2009

Nattering Nablogs of Negativism

Image credit: Mike Licht

The fitness is cranky around here, but the people aren't. Or at least, the commenters aren't.

I love the comments on Cranky Fitness. Not only are the comments intelligent, but they make me think or they make me laugh. Sometimes both. And the comments are almost uniformly positive, which is not the case with all blogs. (Some blogs, you'd think they recruited their commenters from Rent-a-mob, complete with pitchforks and torches.)

So that's probably why I remember so clearly that we got one semi-negative comment a couple months ago. By the standards of most blogs it barely registered on the neg-o-meter, but it stands out in my memory because it was so rare.

And it got me thinking. (Yes, that does happen occasionally.) But don't panic!

For some reason, when I do this:
Photo: Euthman

People react thusly:

Image: Oddsock

So I'll keep this brief. Here's my thought: I don't see the point of leaving a negative comment on a blog.

If I read something that isn't as interesting as I thought it was going to be, I move on. I don't stop and tell the person that I don't like what they're writing. (Please believe me, the comment that started this train of thought wasn't all that terribly negative a comment. It just got me thinking.)

I have a little blog (Sheesh) that I use to track daily exercise. It's not wildly exciting to read, but I find it a useful way to guilt myself into exercising. About a year ago, someone left a comment to tell me that they had just wasted three minutes of their time reading one of my posts. I calculated that he or she also wasted an additional minute, or even two, to write that comment and send it in. Was it really worth their time? Why bother?

I follow the blog written by an expatriate Britisher now living in San Francisco. One day, someone wrote in to say, "Your blog is still boring." Somehow, I can't seem to forget that comment. I mean, someone came to her blog, read it, found it boring and went away. Fine so far. Why did they come back? And when they came back, why did they feel it necessary to tell the woman that they found her boring?

I can't imagine any scenario in which they thought this could be considered a helpful comment, or any way in which this could be construed as an attempt to start a constructive debate. The only conclusion I can reach is that it felt good on their part to express their contempt.

Why go to someone else's blog to do that? Seriously, this I don't get. You want to write about things that bother you, create your own blog. Fill it with all the things that irritate you. Maybe it will become popular and lots of people will flock to your blog to read about everything you hate. Hey, the man who wrote the blog Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About went on to write an entire book on the subject.

I mean, there are loads of things you can do:

And if all else fails, write a comedy sketch about how to irritate people:

Am I overreacting here? Why do people leave non-constructive negative comments on a blog? Is it fun? Does it ease the frustration of reading something that you didn't enjoy? Is there a secret society out there that goes around leaving negative comments in an attempt to destabilize modern society? What gives?

Apologies to William Safire for twisting his words to suit my title.

May 20, 2009

Why Not Cook More Often?

Photo credit: Plan 59

So if you want to eat healthy at every meal, you have a number of handy options.

You can:

1. Invent something amazing like a car that flies, or maybe an iPod that can read minds and play people's secret thoughts like they were music videos (with an optional porn filter, I'm thinking, though I wouldn't use the filter myself because that would be the most amusing part), then with all that money from your invention you could pay a personal chef!

2. Find someone who cares about health and nutrition as much as you do and who is also a really good cook, and then force that person to marry you; or,

3. Learn to cook!

Yes, relying solely on convenience foods and restaurant meals certainly seems like a tempting option, given the difficulty of the three choices mentioned above. But that option doesn't always work out so well.

Why not?

Because sadly, most frozen, canned, or boxed meals are really crappy for you, and taste like flavored newsprint, with the "flavor" being some combination of salt, sugar, aluminum, chalky preservatives, and melted plastic. And most restaurants don't even try all that hard to offer healthy choices. When you finally find one that does? It's usually just lying.

And what about that nice "health food" aisle we're seeing more often in stores now?

Well, sometimes there are a few good options there, but there are still lots of compromises when it comes to taste and nutrition. Like say you find a natural frozen pizza made with 100% whole wheat flour and organic tomatoes and it contains no HFCS or carcinogenic cured meat. Hooray!

But then you look at the label and discover a "serving" is the size of a graham cracker and it contains 14,732 grams of sodium.

(And yeah, I'd probably buy the pizza anyway, plop a big salad next to it, and hope the two just canceled each other out.)

Yes, as much as I know I should avoid it, I still end up eating more convenience food than is good for me. Of course I do have a few standard healthy dishes I like to make. But whenever I resolve to start searching for new recipes, there's always a really good excuse frustrating reason that prevents me from actually making any of them!

Take this example: I just saw a healthy, tasty-sounding recipe from Women's Health Magazine for Apple and Sweet Potato Hash Browns.

It looked so promising--only 5 ingredients, none of which are hard to find in a store, and I like all of them. Best of all, it sounds like an awesome way to sneak in a vegetable before 6pm--they're hash browns, which is breakfast! And while the cooking time is 18 minutes, the prep time is only 10 minutes.

So what's the problem?

Well, it's actually problem I run across frequently: the people who figure out "prep time" for magazine recipes are smoking crack!

(Although please don't be mad, Women's Health Magazine people, I'm just teasing. I totally don't think you actually smoke crack over there. Or if you do, it's probably organic, super-high antioxidant crack that slices minutes off your 10K times and makes your circuit training workouts triple efficient. We actually really, really like you here at Cranky Fitness and wouldn't care even if you did sometimes smoke crack because once you mentioned our blog in your magazine and then it got picked up on the Early Show and even mentioned by Jillian Michaels on her radio show! And while Jillian is kinda scary she's scary in a really good way. So even though I'm such a slacker that I'd start crying and probably even wet my pants if I ever had to go on the Biggest Loser and get trained by her, I totally think she's awesome).

Anyway. Where were we?

Sweet potato hashbrowns and "ten minute" prep time, that's right!

So during this 10 minutes, aside from gathering the all ingredients and utensils, and (presumably, though they didn't mention this) washing the apples and sweet potatoes, then chopping the onions... one is supposed to cut three raw sweet potatoes and an apple into "thin matchsticks."

That's right. Like regular matchsticks aren't even thin enough for these hashbrowns?

So part of my problem is that our kitchen knives are rarely in state of professionally-honed sharpness. (They don't often need to be, since my culinary specialty is peanut butter and banana sandwiches). But even with the sharpest knife in the world I don't think I have the dexterity to carve a piece of apple or sweet potato so that it resembles a thin matchstick. So how could I possibly sculpt hundreds of tiny little fruit and vegetable matchsticks in less than 10 minutes?

Ain't gonna happen!

Now I'm sure some other potato and apple configurations besides matchstick replicas would probably work for the recipe. But it's the principle of the thing! The recipe has already either lied to me about how long it takes, or accused me of being a hopeless loser with its demanding sweet potato carving expectations.

(Note: I have no idea if the matchstick problem is easily solved with a food processor. We actually own one and the Lobster loves it but I have some weird aversion to it. Probably due to a combined fear of reading instructions, cleaning a bunch of little parts, and potentially losing a digit on the sharp blades. So you food processor people are probably all laughing at my dilemma, thinking what a dope! All she needs to do is use the Matchstick Attachment! But go ahead and snicker. I still have all my fingers and that makes me very happy.)

So besides overly optimistic food preparation estimates, there are a number of other things that discourage me from trying new recipes as well. Does anything like this hold you guys back, or do you take it in stride?

1. Too many ingredients to buy that you only use a small part of for the recipe.

I hate waste, I'm a pessimist, and I'm cheap. So if it's some obscure ingredient and I've never used it before, I am not going to just assume that this recipe is going to taste so fantastic that of course I'll eventually use up the $47 worth of exotic oils, herbs, vinegars, and spices required. I especially hate when a recipe calls for 5 different perishable fresh herbs, each of which you only need a teaspoon of. Great if you have an herb garden and it's the right time of year! Not so great if each is only available by the bunch for $5 at the store.

2. Cheaty "ingredients" that are recipes themselves.

Often these are complicated home made sauces or stocks with a simple name--that have their own page if you follow the link or refer to a different page in your cookbook. If you quickly scan the main recipe, it can look like a quick easy meal! Then you discover there's a whole other stealth recipe hiding behind there which requires 18 different ingredients and hours of simmering.

3. Cookware requirements beyond "Pot," and "Pan."

We don't have much fancy stuff to cook in, because we're realists. If it's not a pot or a pan, we'd probably use it exactly once and then forget we had it.

4. "Faux" healthy recipes.

Have you ever noticed that a lot of "light" cooking resources act like you can take any old recipe your grandmother used to make, no matter how rich and delicious and decadent, and then just substitute a couple of "low fat" products, and magically end up with a "healthy" meal?

Not that there's anything wrong with modifying recipes to make them healthier! But I can't quite fool myself into thinking that a meal that contains almost nothing in the way of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats, or lean protein, and that still mainly resorts to white flour, salt, and butter, and fatty meat for flavor, is a good candidate for heavy rotation in our meal planning. Plus the light versions rarely taste as good as the originals.

5. Ingredients that more "selective" family members won't eat.

Alas, the Lobster tries hard to be flexible, but she was not raised to like most vegetables, seafood, or grains other than wheat or corn. Many McSlacker cooking adventures thus happen when she's out of town.

6. Laziness!

(This is probably the "real" reason the other 5 seem like such huge obstacles).

What about you guys, what keeps you from making recipes that otherwise sound like a good idea? Have you found any hints or shortcuts that make healthy cooking easier?

Giveaways Over at Fit Bottomed Girls!

Just a quick note, for those of you who like to Win Free Stuff: The Fit Bottomed Girls are having daily giveaways all this week in celebration of their first birthday. (Really, it's only been a year??!!) They've also got some great birthday celebration posts this week, including an interview with Dara Torres.

We swear we're not jealous. ( Gahhh! How did they score such an awesome fitness celebrity interview! Curse those clever FBGs!!) Congrats Fit Bottomed Girls on a great year!

You still have time to enter all the giveaways, which you can do by going to the individual giveaway posts and leaving a comment, or you can enter by email. Further instructions await over at the FBG's, which is always fun to visit even when they're not giving stuff away or interviewing famous people!

May 19, 2009

You'll Never Guess the Secret SuperPower of This Veggie

Whoa. Seriously.

If you thought I was enthusiastic about dandelions, check out this site about asparagus. Apparently it does everything but mow the lawn for you. (Or maybe they just forgot to list that part.) All the properties listed were quite impressive. Some were a bit ... unusual. (When they claimed "It helps fight off high blood pressure" I got the mental image of an asparagus stalk, sword in hand, dueling with the evil High Blood Pressure Monster.)

This website caught my attention not just because of its extravagant claims. Some of the comments were also interesting to read, if a bit sad. I don't believe eating any one vegetable is going to cause a complete cure to terminally ill cancer patients. (Not by the time they get to be referred to as "terminally ill" anyway.)

On the other hand, some of the comments weren't sad. I especially loved the comment below. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Really? Asparagus helps with SQL database administration? All righty then. That's not a claim I've heard made about any other vegetable, ever.

Scary thought: there are people out there stranger than I am! And funnier, too.

Seriously, what bothers me about some websites is not what they write, or how it is written, but the lack of citations. I don't give a flying fajita how strange the claim is, so long as the site provides me with references that I can check out and make up my own mind about. For example, this other website's claims about dandelions? They sound a bit extreme, but I liked this site because it included references for the claims that it made. (Gasp!)

I love that the Trying Fitness blog includes her sources so I can see where she's coming from, even when I don't always agree with the sources. That earns an Ethical Blogger stamp of approval in my opinion.

Surely you're not suggesting you and Crabby aren't trustworthy?

I mean, naturally you can always believe everything that Crabby or I write... "Crabby! Quick! Look honest." But with everyone else, it really helps to see the source material referenced.

Trustworthy nutritional data sites

I like the WH foods site. It's not a complete list, but it has nutritional information about the 129 "most healthy" foods out there. I like this site because it has nice, straightforward charts that show the most valuable nutrients in any particular veg.

The NutritionData site also has charts, but honestly they look a little intimidating to me. I like charts that are easily graspable, not charts that are some kind of cryptic message I have to puzzle out.

Actually, my favorite kind of chart looks something like this:

On the other hand, in the "a bit more reliable" category is the US government's site USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory. Dull, but probably useful data on food stuffs. I suppose dull isn't the worst thing to be, when it comes to data. I mean, not all nutritional information needs to be presented in a snappy, sexy way.

Note: It might sound inconsistent, but I trust the government's tables, if not their graphics. In other words, I trust the government's nutritional data about foods, though the food pyramids are heavily influenced by the food industries.

Tangent: Did you know the government had a personalized My Pyramid site? It calculates your food requirements based on height, weight, age and activity level. Based on these criteria, it tells you how much of each food group you should eat. It's not as much fun as a virtual My Pony website, and it's not all that specific, but it's a starting place.

Yes, I know Conspiracy Theorists will say that I'm a fool to believe anything the government says. Sorry, can't stop to debate that now. Got to go find some asparagus to stuff into my computer so the database runs right.

Is there a trusty nutritional data website that you go to? And what's the weirdest claim you've ever read about a vegetable's SuperPowers? (Yes, you can point to my dandelion post. I'll understand.)

Fun link du jour: apparently, I'm not the only flow chartist in town.
Check out the Bacon Flow Chart.

May 18, 2009

Stand Up or Die?

So have you ever fantasized about taking your computer and tossing it out the window?

Oops, so Sorry!
Photo: youngthousands

No? I sure have.

This usually occurs after I've installed new software that doesn't work, or have lost internet coverage for no reason, or broken the blog with some bone-headed move or another.

Instead of spending hours listening to customer service hold music or searching through internet help forums, wouldn't it be much more fun to just hurl all those misbehaving megatbytes into the air and wait for the lovely smashing sound as the stupid machine hits the ground?

(Helpful Tip: Better check first to make sure no one is outside right below the window, otherwise: awkward!)

Well, now it turns out there's a very good scientific reason to indulge in my defenestration fantasies--and while I'm at it, chuck my desk chair as well!

(Although if my chair were this cute and scrappy, I'd probably let it back in).

Anyway, a recent study of sitting and mortality found that the longer you sit each day, the more likely you are to croak.

This was a big study (of 17,013 Canadians) and followed subjects for an average of twelve years. Folks were grouped by by daily sitting time (almost none of the time, one fourth of the time, half of the time, three fourths of the time, almost all of the time). Turns out, "there was a progressively higher risk of mortality across higher levels of sitting time from all causes."

And this was true even though they took into account other factors that might affect the results, like like leisure time physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, sex, age, and BMI.

So apparently it's not just a matter of getting enough exercise. You still need to do that. But even if you do, you have less chance of dying if you don't spend all day sitting down.

As you may recall, there are already a bunch of good reasons to not sit for long periods of times. Remember Cranky Fitness recently reminded you why you should try to get off your ass?

Even if it's a very cute ass.
Photo credit: coscurro

To review: "Sitting puts nearly twice the stress on the spine as standing; slouching while you sit increases the pressure even more." Also, "when we're locked in one position, we're starving the disks of nutrients...there's no vascular or nerve supply to the disks; they get their nutrition through movement." And then there was the blood clots and flabby butts and all.

But this new study is even more creepy, if you're a desk-sitter like I am. Because dying is even worse than starving vertebrae and flabby butts!

Plus, this study suggests that it's not just a matter of standing up every now and then (which you still should do, though if you're like me you already totally spaced out last month's reminder). It's a question of what percentage of the day you spend on your keister, and none is best.

So as I read this study, the only sensible course of action is to Quit Your Job, Abandon Your Family, and Spend the Rest of Your Life Roaming the World so that You Never, Ever, Assume a Seated Position Again!

Voila, no tempting chairs, couches, or barstools!
Photo:steve phillips

Er... but you may not find that entirely practical.

Also, the only time I'm willing to make major changes in my life based on one study is if it says something I want to hear. As soon as any study, even if it's conducted by Mr. Throckmorton's Fourth Grade Science class, says cupcakes prevent cancer I'm heading out for a big pink bakery box.

Anyway. Don't want to quit your job to become a full-time desert nomad? Well, you could try a treadmill desk, or create a stand-up work station, or at least pace while you're on phone calls.

And summer is approaching! Instead of sitting down after dinner for an evening of reality shows or web surfing, you could try Crabby's favorite evening activity or get out your Wii Fit thingy or take up juggling or...

Well, you folks probably have better, more creative ideas than I do for reducing sitting time, if indeed it's now a Deadly Killer!

May 15, 2009

Women and "Beauty"-- I Just Don't Get It

Surprise: This Is Not Crabby McSlacker!
Image: Vogue Magazine

How To Lose Friends and Alienate Readers

So this is one of those ill-advised posts that I will probably regret soon after I hit "Publish." But as a female health blogger, there is a nagging question that comes up for me all the time: why do women seem to be so obsessed with physical appearance?

This is not just a rhetorical question. For those of you who do care a whole heck of lot about your appearance, and the appearance of other women, I really am curious about why that is.

I know it's weird to question something so ubiquitous in our culture. But it seems to me that is still often considered the most important thing about a woman, or at least one of the most important things: how does she look?

Lurking behind nearly every mainstream media women's "health" magazine or website is a not-so-secret agenda: tell women what they need to do to lose weight and become more attractive. "Health" in the conventional sense is almost kind of a side note: oh yeah, and here's how not to end up with diabetes or die of cancer.

(That's why I especially like fitness bloggers who focus on health and empowerment, rather than pant size, like Kelly at Fitness Fixation or the inimitable MizFit).

So What's With All This "You" Stuff?

So here's part of the reason for my confusion, and part of the reason this post may seem really irritating: I may be a woman, but I think more like a guy when it comes to this beauty stuff.

Sure, I'd rather be attractive than unattractive, but it's not something I'm willing to spend a whole lot of time or thought on. Like with a car: it might be fun some days to drive around in a gleaming vintage Jaguar convertible instead of a dented station wagon.

(Bringing More Boys to The Yard
Than Milkshakes Since 1935
Photo: Jigmi

But who has the time, money, and patience for a Jag? That dented station wagon gets me to the grocery store just fine, even if it doesn't turn any heads along the way. And I don't have to throw a bunch of time, money, and emotional energy into maintaining it. And as long as it runs great I'm happy!

It really does seem to me that the average woman spends a LOT of time, money and energy maintaining that Jaguar. Is there a cost associated with that? Are there other things that are being sacrificed in life to keep those heads turning when you drive by? Or are the benefits so totally worth it it's not even a question?

What's Wrong With Crabby?

I just don't think like a normal woman! I see a typical shoe store display full of designer stiletto shoes and I wonder: Why do these even exist? Why would a woman put these on her feet when sneakers are so much easier to get around in?

My pragmatic stance on such matters is certainly not because I've pondered the issue and meditated over it and sought spiritual guidance and decided there are more important things in life than how I look.

It's just that truly I don't care that much! I seem to be missing the normal girly genes that make fashion, hairstyles, footwear, skinny jeans, makeup, etc, etc, etc, subjects of so much interest. I don't even find highly "feminine" styles attractive--I like a more androgynous look, on both men and women. I just seem to have been born with a different set of operating instructions than most females.

(So I realize that while plenty of straight women can probably relate, and plenty of lesbians are totally feminine, girly, and devoted to their physical appearance... I don't think it's entirely a coincidence that so many of us with female partners instead of male ones started of as "tomboys." It wouldn't surprise me at all if there were something genetic that goes into gender role development as well as sexual orientation, and that's why I think more like a guy on all this).

Help! I Really Do Want To Know!

So, girly girls, can you help me understand? I have several questions, and I'd really like to know what you think. Just consider me like a clueless alien from another planet, or perhaps, a guy.

1. Do You Want to be Pretty Mostly For Yourself Or Because That's What Men Demand?

In my younger days, I used to think it was all men's fault that so often, women were judged solely on their appearance. (And back then, I think there was a lot more societal pressure on women to just "shut up and look pretty"). But now, I can't help noticing that women themselves seem to drive a lot of this focus. I don't think it's men who are clamoring to know where Michelle Obama buys her sweaters or how many pounds Valerie Bertinelli has lost and kept off. Would the editors of women's magazines keep putting waifs on their covers and promising miracle beauty solutions if that wasn't what women wanted?

So I'm starting to wonder if this focus on women's physical appearance is actually driven more by women's interest and their standards, not men's? But I actually have no idea.

2. Is the quest for physical attractiveness pragmatic, recreational, or is it a major source of self-esteem for you?

I'm guessing that women who look like beauty pageant contestants are treated differently than women who do not. They probably have an easier time getting promoted and catching a cab at rush hour and finding husbands. But I sense there's something more than practical and financial benefits at stake behind the quest for the perfect shade of eyeshadow or the skinniest rear end. What does being beautiful mean to you?

3. Does your fear of not looking slim or attractive enough ever cause you stress?

The nice thing about driving an old dented station wagon is that when the runaway shopping cart slams into your passenger side door? Meh, not such a big deal. Not quite the same thing if you're driving a Jag? Or are you pretty content with your appearance regardless of how close it is to fashion model standards?

4. Does this whole blog post make you extremely irritated with me? If so, that's cool, feel free to share your annoyance in the comments!

May 14, 2009

Ask Cranky Fitness: Sabotage, Husbands & Party Girls

Some blogs get so many questions from readers that they have to devote whole posts to answering their mail. Not Cranky Fitness. (At Cranky Fitness, we get emails from people who want to sell us amazing things like genuine Rolex watches and these pills that enhance body parts we don't even possess, which is a pretty neat trick in my opinion.) So we've decided we should simply assume that our readers are too shy to ask these questions, but would like us to ask the questions as well as supply the answers.

Or at least, that's our story.

Dear Cranky Fitness,

I'm really trying hard to keep my family and myself fit and healthy, but my efforts are being undermined by a certain individual, whom I shall refer to by a pseudonym to protect his identity.

Every time I decide to serve a nutritious salad and a yummy vegetarian casserole for dinner, "Hubby"(not his real name) brings home pizza or cheeseburgers. While this strikes me as far too coincidental to pass as anything but deliberate sabotage, he insists it is merely "a curious statistical anomaly." What are the odds of this "accidentally" happening Every Single Time? I'm not very good at statistical anomalies.

Frustrated English Major

Dear F.E.M.,

Either you're leaving tell-tale clues about the place like tacking a "Buy Lettuce" note to the refrigerator door, or else "Hubby" is an alien with mind-reading capabilities. Suggest in the future you bury the lettuce beneath a thin layer of cheese and serve it in a tostada shell, so that it looks to your family like they're eating something high-caloric -- until they get past that first layer. Then you can unleash a sinister laugh and insist they eat their dinner before they get dessert.

P.S. Putting the dessert somewhere in plain sight might speed this process up a bit.


Off with his head!

Oh, okay, perhaps that's not a practical solution. At least not if you are somewhat fond of the big doof, or if you prefer not to deal with the criminal justice system.

Just as you can't physically force him to eat healthy nutritious food, he can not make you eat hamburgers and pizza. I like Merry's suggestion of stealth and trickery! But if he is not easily fooled, and is seriously unwilling to eat the healthy stuff, seems like you're stuck. Short of a marital boycott (if ya know what I mean (nudge nudge, wink wink)), you may just have to admit you're not always going to eat the same things for dinner.

If you can get him to at least openly acknowledge that he's being a stubborn ass and trying to avoid eating healthy food, you might save some money on those duplicate meals. Which can then go for extra life insurance for hubby, since he's going to be croaking a lot earlier than you are.

Here's a good rule: if you have kids, then they get to eat the healthy stuff with you in the dining room, while he has to suck down his hamburger out in the garage away from their impressionable eyes. Seems fair, right? And then he can join you all when it's time for dessert, which he doesn't get any of, because he hasn't had his vegetables. But he can sit at the table and do the requisite fatherly things like belch and ask how school is going and break up food fights.


Dear Cranky Fitness,

Help! During the week I am really good at staying on my diet and working out regularly. Then come Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday: two and a half days of decadent feasting, wild bacchanalian parties, and exercising only my ability to appreciate wine, men, and song.

I don't want to give up my friends or stop having fun, but I'm not losing any weight here. Shouldn't five days of being good entitle me to a couple days of fun?

Party Girl

Dear P.G.,

The short answer to your question is: no.


Nothing wrong with wild bacchanalian parties! I'm all for 'em. Problem is, your ratio of Virtue to Reward is out of calibration. If you are not getting results, you need to suffer a little bit more and party a bit less. Otherwise, if your weekday sacrifices aren't paying off, you might be too tempted to say "screw this stupid healthy living stuff" and stop being virtuous altogether!

You may want to try cutting back to one weekend day of "whatever," and then finding less self-indulgent ways of being social the other day. A bike ride in the park with friends on Saturday, followed by catered bacchanalian orgy on Sunday! Then you can still look forward to the weekends without totally undoing all your good behavior the rest of the week.

Plus, of the "wine, men, and song" combo, two of the three are arguably exercise! Crank up the men and the singing, and see if your results improve.


Dear Cranky Fitness,

I keep seeing commercials on TV for a weight loss system where they make all the food for you and send it right to your house. It looks like delicious stuff, too--meals like spaghetti and chicken and pizza and meatloaf, plus there are desserts like chocolate cake and cookies and even ice cream! Lots of people have lost a ton of weight on these programs, you should see the before and after pictures. My best friend says these programs are a scam, but what does she know, she's never tried one! I think she's just being too negative. I love her but she's always such a buzzkill.

Anyway, the only downside I can see is that the meals cost a lot of money. But isn't my health a good investment? Don't you think I should sign up right now? I can totally tell that if I had all this great food to eat I would succeed in my weight loss goals and be slim and beautiful and a rich man would ask me to marry him and so the extra credit card debt would be no big deal in the long run anyway!

But what do you guys think?

Thinking Positive in Pawtucket!

Dear Thinking Positive,

I think you will probably do whatever you want no matter what we think because that's what people do when they ask for advice! (At least that's what I do.)

Anyway, congratulations for finding this incredible resource on TV. Isn't it amazing that all those food manufacturers who fill the grocery stores shelves with reduced-calorie foods haven't figured out their secret yet? Because surely if pre-made low cal convenience food at the grocery store was this tasty and healthy and satisfying, everyone who wanted to lose weight would be successful! Then there'd be no need to sign up for expensive programs marketed relentlessly on cable TV that force you to buy your convenience food all from one supplier for every meal for 28 days straight.

And what's even more amazing about the plan you've found, is that somehow if you get this particular kind of convenience food, with it arrives the willpower you need to eat nothing else except what's on your plan! With regular diet food, this special packet of willpower is generally not included.

We love Positive Thinkers here at Cranky Fitness! As a special offer just for you, please send us $100 now and we'll set aside $200 worth of our Cranky Fitness Miracle Weight Loss-Cupcakes© for delivery right to your doorstep... just as soon as we invent them!


P.S. If you want a list of rich men who are looking for debt-ridden women to marry, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope and $4,382.07 (cash only) and we'll send you the list along with the cupcakes.

-- Merry

What, you think you could come up with better answers? Enquiring minds want to know!

For that matter, if you have any questions you'd like Cranky Fitness to tackle, send them to crabbymcslacker at gmail dot com.

May 13, 2009

Weird Study: Antioxidant Vitamins Mess With Exercise?

This is just quick research note without even an attempt at any humor.

But don't worry, there is also a "100% research-free" item just below, with no useful information in it at all!

So for your recommended daily allowance of Cranky Fitness silliness, simply take both these together with a large glass of water, and you should get all the benefits of a "normal" post! Warning: do not attempt to drive your car or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of Cranky Fitness. May cause extreme drowsiness, skepticism, stomach irritation, and/or high blood pressure.

Anyway, so did anyone see the WTF headline in the New York Times health section yesterday: Vitamins Found to Curb Exercise Benefits?

More specifically, taking antioxidants (in this case vitamins C and E) seemed to interfere with the benefits you get from exercise. These pills apparently eliminate the improved insulin sensitivity you're supposed to get from doing the huffy-puff stuffy. And the supplements also seemed to mess with the body’s natural defenses to oxidative damage.

“If you exercise to promote health, you shouldn’t take large amounts of antioxidants,” one of the study's authors, Michael Ristow, said. The effect of vitamins on exercise and glucose metabolism “is really quite significant.”

Fortunately, the study author said this is just the case with antioxidant supplements, and does not mean you have to choose between your cauliflower and your cardio. You can still get antioxidants from fruits and vegetables because "the many other substances they contain presumably outweigh any negative effect."

A write-up of the vitamin and exercise study over at WebMd offers a bit more helpful detail: half of the men took 500 milligrams of vitamin C twice daily and 400 international units of vitamin E daily. The other guys got placebo pills.

Of course a spokesman for the supplement industry cautioned that one shouldn't take any one study too seriously!

Which is true, but also kinda funny, because they never seem to emphasize that point when it's a study saying that some supplement does some fantastic thing for your health.

While I don't take specific C or E supplements, this does make me wonder about my daily low-dose, cover-all-the-bases multi-vitamin. I still haven't decided what to do. Give it up? Just take it less often? Wait for another study to clarify if this effect is even real?

What about you folks, would this study result change anything you're doing or have you already ditched the pills?