December 19, 2011

What Sucked This Year: Health & Fitness Edition

So we're heading into the holidays, and soon it will be a new year. It's supposed to be the time even grumps and Grinches manage to turn those frowns upside down, right?

'Tis the season for reflection and heart-felt appreciation. Doesn't it just make you wanna dive into a big gooey vat of love, gratitude, and joy and splash around in it for a while?

Wait, some of you aren't feeling it yet? What's wrong with you?!

Well I say nothing's wrong that a little pre-holiday griping won't cure.

Because at least for some of us, it's important to get our accumulated year-end complaints properly whined about before there can be any talk about looking on the bright side, or transforming ourselves with a sparkling new collection of Uplifting and Virtuous New Year's resolutions.

So yeah, this will be the first in a brief series of too lazy to do any actual research "Get Ready for the New Year" posts, and I promise we'll get to the joy and gratitude and redemption stuff soon enough.  But meanwhile, let's turn those frowns Right Side Up and rest our smiley muscles, shall we?  (How else will we have the strength to muster up enough forced smiles to negotiate awkward holiday office parties and extended family gatherings?)  Instead, let's take a few moments to piss all over that "Happy Holiday Spirit."

And hey, I'll go first! Here's a quick list of my health and fitness annoyances, both personal and societal.  But I'm hoping some of you have some fresh new grievances so I can join you and add some cross-training to my grumbling routine.

1. Contradictory research studies: This is a perennial complaint here at Cranky Fitness. As it happens, I am one of those neurotic freaks who will actually alter their behavior based on what "current research" says is healthiest.

But what if "current research" is sometimes a psychotic duplicitous asshole with a bad memory?

Should I take calcium supplements or multivitamins or will they shorten my life? Should I eat more dairy, or avoid it altogether? Is it better to have an "optimistic" or a "realistic" cognitive style? Is hormone therapy for women in their 50's dangerous or beneficial? Should I eat more resistant starches, or avoid eating any starches? Should I do more cardio to burn fat, or skip it entirely and just do High Intensity Intervals? Should I stand up to work at my computer, or is that bad for me too? Should I be trying to get more saturated fats from grass-fed animals, or should I avoid animal fat completely and become a vegan? Which is more important, getting enough sleep or working out?  Should I eat more or less fruit? Beans? Whole grains?

The good news: experts armed with "current research" have answered all these important questions! The bad news? They all have different answers.

2. Hormonal Havoc: Having a hysterectomy last fall meant the onset of menopause, and boy howdy, is that loads o' fun! While the hot flashes get all the publicity, changing hormone levels can mess with you in all kinds of fascinating ways, from sudden post-menopausal weight gain to ass-kicking insomnia. (And those are just the "G" rated highlights.)

3. Health Clubs and Exercise Equipment Designed by Aliens: Do you ever get the feeling that some products and workout spaces are designed by people who either (a) have never exercised in their lives or (b) are trying to squeeze every last nickel out of their costs and don't give a crap about quality control?

Examples are numerous even in expensive gyms and high-end products. When you go cheaper it gets even worse. Some personal low-lights: a Bowflex scale that we bought and returned twice (so much for optimism!) from Costco. It promised an impressive range of measurements, from bone density and muscle mass to BMI and daily calorie allotment. Too bad no one at Bowflex ever stepped on one and noticed that the ornery gizmo will randomly add 5 pounds just for fun, or refuse to let more than one user set their data.

Other gripes: gyms that keep cardio areas hot and stretching areas cool; exercise equipment designed and sized for men even if used mainly by women; broken squeaky cardio machines; and not enough equipment or classes given membership numbers. Sadly, there seems to be a nationwide shortage of fitness instructors willing to work for free!  And God forbid gyms might actually consider paying enough of them to keep class sizes reasonable.

4. Wear and Tear and other Bodily Breakdowns: Injuries and illnesses suck, whether they are acute and excruciating or chronic and disabling. There is nothing more frustrating that having to scale back or give up activities that are otherwise good for you and that you may have spent years trying to learn to like.  I have whined about my specifics enough and will spare you, but I'd love to hear about yours.

5. The "Skinny" Imperative: Yes, obesity is a health risk, but the relentless message that Women Should Be Thin and Look Hot Because Nothing Else About Them Matters makes me crazy. It's bad enough that every entertainment form, from video games to Hollywood movies sends this message. But the hypocrisy of "health" magazines that do nothing but make false promises and promote eating disorders gets me the most riled up.

6. That Inflexible "24 Hours" in a Day Thing:  Seriously, we need way more than 24.  Even if you're not a parent, not working multiple jobs, not commuting for huge distances, and not otherwise dealing with Huge Responsibilities, it seems like there's no possible way to get to everything you're supposed to do.  I don't know how some of you who juggle so much in life manage to get to anything healthy done at all.

And doesn't it seem like every year there are even more things we're supposed to stay on top of? Cooking from scratch, cardio, maintaining friendships, cleaning with green (yet not very effective) products, finding healthy substitutes for everything we used to love to eat but now know will kill us, strength training, being grateful, HIIT, meditation, balance work, getting enough sleep, functional fitness, nurturing our marriages and family relationships, stretching, working on our crappy posture, "mental" gymnastics to keep us sharp, volunteering, kegels, drinking a ton of water everyday, and, oh yeah, stopping to smell the f@#cking roses.

7. Having My Own Health Compromised By Other People's Stupid Choices. Despite being obsessive-compulsive and insanely opinionated having some ideas about what might be healthy, I try  to take a "whatever" attitude to other people's decisions whenever possible. But sometimes other people's choices seem not only kinda selfish, lazy, self-indulgent, stupid, manipulative or reckless, but
worse, they affect me too!

So "whatever" kinda goes out the window when it comes to: second hand smoke; dangerous drivers; the vast majority of "normal" consumers who eat exclusively junk and thereby ensure that there is little room in stores or restaurants for healthy offerings; city planners who disdain bike paths, parks, sidewalks, and pedestrian crossings; the politically expedient squelching of local and organic farms in favor of huge corn-fed agribusiness; the proliferation of pesticides and other contaminants; our national obsession with firearms... I could go on for another 10 paragraphs or so but I'll spare you.

Are these my only gripes?  Of course not!  But see #6, the arbitrary "Only 24 Hours in a Day" problem.   How 'bout you guys, got any complaints? Or are already neck-deep in gratitude, celebration, and self-improvement?


  1. I agree with your gripes, Crabby, especially the obsession with women must be skinny. I think my biggest gripe with humanity is we let others do our thinking for us. If we gave critical thought to the contradictions of life we'd be healthier.
    Meanwhile, I cope by ignoring the greater world around me.

  2. You're looking at the glass as 90% empty but I'm seeing it as 10% full! Oh wait... is that a crack in the glass? Who cracked my favorite glass?

  3. I have to agree with everything. I have to keep a positive attitude, and plug along. Or chug a long, depending on what is in my hand to drink at the time.

  4. Many valid and worthy gripes. I have to agree with most of what you said and would love to live by Leah's attitude. Maybe I'll work on it for 2012..

  5. I hear ya. Since starting back to grad school I"ve had to reset my priorities to actually fit in sleep and sanity...and I've found that a lot of things people worry about just seem annoyingly silly when you take a step back.
    My rant of the year has been how at gatherings or things where I see people who haven't seen me lately, there are always people asking me what I've done to get in shape...and when I say eat healthy and exercise 5 days a week they look disappointed and go "oh, I couldn't do that" and wander off sadly...
    There is so much to see and do and learn...I'm looking forward to so much this year! And just think - when I finish my thesis this summer I'll have the time to do it in again :)

  6. A fabulous post when I am about to go to work and pretend to be "perky" about the holidays.
    We all need a little more realism!!
    Thanks for being the real deal.

  7. Kegels. Damn, forgot about those. I'll put them on my to do list. Before making shortbread from home churned butter and after crocheting this years doily's.
    I had to jump on a trampoline at my 23 month olds gymnastics class last week, almost needed a change of pants for mommy!

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  9. Contradictory research simply means that every person is different, and what works for one doesn't work for another all of the time. My gripe is doctors who forget that and use the cookie cutter approach.

    Oh, and i've been campaigning for the 36 hour day for years now, but it hasn't done any good.

  10. I'm totally trying to stay positive but I feel like I keep getting the blows pushing me back down, I keep swimming and hoping for the best. This years biggest gripe is being laid off after 9 years of working for a company under very shady circumstances from said company, and the 400 applicants vying for the same position everytime I ACTUALLY get an interview. *sigh* Keep after eating copious amounts of Nutella I am really trying to end the year by doing something positive for myself and my body and getting myself back into working out.

  11. "the vast majority of "normal" consumers who eat exclusively junk and thereby ensure that there is little room in stores or restaurants for healthy offerings"

    No kidding...was thinking about this just the other night at restaurant. Aren't we supposed to be more evolved?

    Thank you for talking about some of the realities of your hysterectomy by the way.

  12. what DID happen to STRONG being the new skinny?

    That's already over?

  13. LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    So you know I am with you on the age & hormone crap - 7+++ years of that sh*t.. be gone I say!!!

    Research 0 I am afraid to follow any of it for fear 5 years down road I did & it is going to kill me now! :-)

    Yes, the wear & tear of the bod & feeling this with age & having to NOT do things my mind wants to like HIIT cause my feet & hip are not going to let me right now due to age & all the years of this.. I still try though!

    YES, our cardio area is hot as hell & stretching cold - WTF!!!

    As for 2nd hand smoke & the rest - I best keep my mouth shut cause once I get started! ;-)

  14. Well I certainly agree with plenty of that sh#t!

    Yeah, we also need less clean language!

    See new study on low dose over the counter DHEA for menopause and beyond as information.

    Also my poem on how I feel about the holidays :-)

  15. Rant ON, Crabby!
    (Wait, you mean optimistic and realistic aren't the same?)
    I'm with Leah; I'm great at ignoring the world.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  16. The contradictory studies are really getting me down. Reminding me that the medical establishment STILL pays way too little attention to women's health. Otherwise, they'dve figured out the right answers by now.


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