March 29, 2012

Disclaimers: Useful Stress-Reduction Tool, or Pathetic Crutch?

So the other night I announced a sincere intention to go the gym the next morning, and do a kick-ass workout. (And yes, I'm indeed that annoying sort of person who constantly narrates even the most boring details of my day to anyone within earshot.  "I know I put my sunglasses in my backpack, where the hell did they go?"  "Oh my god that was the most awesome smoothie ever!" "Eww, these sneakers are starting to smell really funky, and they're making my socks smell all gross too!"  Be glad you are not my patient spouse, known here as "the Lobster.")

Anyway, on waking the next morning, I realized I had a humongous list of other things that needed to get done and the gym was the only thing on the list I could postpone.  I decided I'd better skip it. On changing my plans, naturally I made another announcement.  But I didn't just leave it at: "Oops, no time today for the gym after all, guess I won't go."

No, instead I felt compelled to explain my reasoning to the Lobster about priorities, and re-emphasize my intention to go to the gym next day. Then I put my gym absenteeism into perspective by pointing out how often I've been going lately. And finally, I outlined my alternative non-gym exercise strategy for the day.  All in excruciating detail.

Does the Lobster give a crap whether I go to the gym? No she does not!

In fact, I believe she is of the opinion that if I became a bit less obsessive about health and fitness, that could be a good thing.  She is not going to be thinking "What's up with Crabby bailing on her workout?  She better have a pretty darn good explanation!"

So why did I feel compelled to make this lengthy preemptive disclaimer? And it's not just me: I hear lots of other people (women in particular), issuing disclaimers all the time.

Is this a good thing? Or a bad thing? What do you guys think?

I do believe that sometimes disclaimers can be a very useful stress-management tool.  Lowering expectations other people might have of us when things get crazy makes a lot more sense than scurrying around trying to do things that just create extra stress.  An announcement like:  "Sorry, I know it's my night to cook, but I'm afraid it's gonna be takeout Thai or toaster waffles, your choice, because I have a big deadline at work" can save a lot of angst.  Especially if your family is fond of toaster waffles.

But what's with this need to say "I know I'm falling short" to people who don't really care if we're meeting our own, often quirky, expectations of ourselves?

"I really shouldn't have this cheeseburger, but on the other hand, I did run a marathon yesterday..." (coming from a person who has 11% bodyfat and rarely eats anything that isn't an organic vegetable or a sprouted seed), or, "I know this tv show is trashy and you must think I'm so lame but  for some reason I just have to watch it" (from a person who has just finished defending a dissertation on chiral thermodynamics and has an IQ of 189).

There's a part of me that wonders if there's something wrong with us for doing this. Aren't we all supposed to have grown mature and self-confident enough that we don't care what other people think?  Why don't we just lower our standards, smile, stop with the rationalizing and figure if anyone thinks badly of us it's their own damn problem?

However, another part of me says... well f-ck it.  Disclaimers make ME feel better!  Being able to say to some sort of audience, even one that doesn't care, "I know my performance looks lazy/rushed/crappy, but there's a reason" somehow allows me to give myself a break when I need one.

So, at least for now, disclaimers will remain part of my stress-reduction repertoire. Unless some smarty-pants scientist discovers that people who used to issue disclaimers but stopped are then 57% less likely to grind their teeth at night and 67% more likely to remember their own cell phone numbers. Then I might take another look at it.

And by now, a few long time readers have probably guessed what's coming... 

Yep, a combination of a computer gone bad, an upcoming website transition, and some other interesting but time-consuming endeavors means that my web presence (and especially commenting, twitter, Facebook etc) will be below even my usual spotty and half-assed levels for a while. And I know I say this periodically, and due to my usually low standards, nothing ever looks all that different. The only time posting and commenting was ever frequent and thoughtful was when I had clever co-bloggers helping me.

And I also know that you guys don't really care all that much what shows up on the blog when!  Or whether I ever find my way to your comments section if you have a blog, or if I thank you for RT's in a timely manner or whatever.  I know you've got plenty of other places to hang at say, some of the Best Weight Loss Blogs on the web!

But it makes me feel so much better to announce that I'm going to be working on some other stuff and it may affect my posting here a little. I'm going to experiment with shorter posts... but then I've said that a hundred times before and yet I never seem to be able to shut the hell up. So we'll see.

Whew! Wow, that feels... great!

Hmm... if disclaimers are crutches, maybe crutches aren't such a bad thing after all?

Anyone else feel the need to explain themselves? Is this something you're working on doing less of, or do you feel ok about it?

March 26, 2012

Best Weight Loss Blogs: 2012

The votes have finally been tallied in the "Best Weight Loss Blogs" poll, and we have some winners!

Contest rules, many of which are arbitrary and unfair, can be found back at the nomination post. Among other minutia, there is an explanation as to why the latest nomination post comments were not the only source of blog votes. There were also prizes offered to encourage participation generously donated by BodyLogicMDSmartForLife, Popcorn, Indiana Chip’insLife Coach Tim Brownson, and Shakeology Meal Replacement shakes.

Top Weight Loss Blogs

In a nod to the time honored tradition of "being polite to the hostess," so many sweet folks mentioned Cranky Fitness that it placed first, but it seemed a bit tacky to include it. But thanks so much!

The top vote getter of actual serious votes was DK FitSolutions. Congrats DK FitSolutions, you motivated people, sent out the troops, and won a $50 gift certificate and a first place finish!

And here are the other top vote-getters, broken into clumps by popularity (but within a clump, votes were similar or tied):

Top 3 blogs:
DK FitSolutions
The Great Fitness Experiment

Also very popular:
Tippy Toe Diet
Fit to the Finish
Truth 2 Being Fit
Bitch Cakes
Health Breaks Loose
Carb Tripper
KCL Anderson: Before & After
Ryan D. Sullivan (No More Bacon)
Calorie Lab: Dr. J
Nerd Fitness
Oh She Glows
Waisting Time
The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl
A Weight  Lifted
Fit Bottomed Girls

[Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Would this be an opportune time to mention that if you want a funny but sneakily informative ebook to help you on your fitness and weight loss journey, Cranky Fitness: Exercise Your Ass Off is available as a PDF, or for Kindle, Nook or iPad for $3.99? What, it's actually a totally stupid time to interrupt? Oops, sorry! I'll let you get back to the list.]

More Multiple-Vote Blogs:
Feed Me, I'm Cranky
Roni's weigh
Marks Daily Apple
Finding Radiance
My Journey to Fit
Debby Weighs In
Peanut Butter Fingers
Eat Move Write
Loretta's Journey
Jack Sh*t Getting Fit
The Sassy Pear
Starving Bitch
Escape from Obesity

Other Nominated Blogs:
(And note: there are some GREAT ones in here, and they're listed in no particular order, so it's worth at least skimming to the end to see what titles might appeal to you:

Diet Blog 
The Token Fat Girl
Scale Junkie
Chocolate Covered Katie
Healthy Tipping Point
Carbie Girl
Fat to Fit Mommy
Runs for Cookies
Iowa Girl Eats
Coach Vance
Beth's Journey
Flab Mountain-From Cow to Wow
Fat Girl in a Skinny World
Running with Perseverance
Strong is the New Skinny
Ugly Finish
Illusion Free Fitness
Livin' La Vida Low Carb
Keeping the Pounds Off
Happy Texans
Tom Corson-Knowles
My Fitness Pal
Doing a 180
Live for Food
Eden Eats Everything
Freakin' Fitness
The Fitnessista
Eighty Twenty
Journey to Fitville
The Skinny Chronicles
Goals for the week
The Health Guru
Runs for Cookies
My Sumo Weight Loss Blog
The Lighter Perspective
Diet Schmiet
A Life Changing Journey
Big Girl Bombshell
Evil Cyber
Can You Stay For Dinner
Healthful Pursuit
The World According to EggFace
Healthy is Hot
Banana Buzzbomb
Man Bicep
Fit Mommy
Kelly Olexa
I Am Woman Hear Me Run
Wellness Mama
Fit and Feminist
Girl Heroes
Why the Weight?
Peas And Thank You
Carrots and Cake
The Kim Challenge
Tricia Minnick (formerly Endurance Isn't Only Physical)
My Bizzy Kitchen
Katie J is On Her Way
Miss Zippy
Something Brilliant is Brewing
From Fat to Fab
Skinny Hollie
Outsmart the Fat
My Journey To Fit
I'm Just Puffy

Is Your Favorite Blog Missing Or Underrated? Discover a Broken Link? Looking for More Ideas? Stop by the Comments!

It would be great to get more recommendations, hear additional praise for favorites, or discover errors or broken links. This post may be updated occasionally and stuff from the comments incorporated into the list.

Note: suggestions for sites that are not really sincerely trying to blogs but are aimed at selling a weight loss services or product, even if these products/services are legitimate and not total crap may, at my discretion, be deleted anyway.

And now that we're done and your head is reeling and you may be more susceptible to brainwashing attempts by struggling bloggers, would anyone care to hear about that ebook again?

Click on it... if you dare!

Thanks for stopping by!

Note: Lipton Cup Photo: Cape Cod Times

March 22, 2012

Creating "Win-Win" Situations

What the heck is a "Win-Win," anyway?

The term is frequently used by salespeople, managers, politicians, and earnest self-improvement types, which is reason enough to be suspicious. It's a concept especially likely to be introduced when you're about to get screwed over somehow.

And yet... there are true "win-win" situations in life! It is sometimes possible to have outcomes that don't involve ugly trade offs, concessions, or compromises.

In a health and fitness context, a "win-win" occurs when something that is Really Good for You also happens to be Enjoyable, and these instances are rare enough to deserve celebration. (More on that in a minute; there is actually a "real" blog post here if you persevere through the announcements).

But another example of a "Win-Win" is... when lazy bloggers who seek more interaction with readers find Sponsors with nifty Products who donate them for Giveaways which Readers can then win if they Leave Comments on the lazy bloggers giveaway posts!  (And in the case of a "best weight loss blog" poll, for instance, it's also win for the blogs that rank highly. Weirdly enough, Cranky Fitness gets tons of googlers hunting here for them).

And then there's even more of a WIN for Crabby if she can accomplish all of these goals in one relatively brief post:

1.  Announce that the Best Weight Loss Blog contest is about to close!

Go to the Best Weight Loss Blog Nomination post and comment by end the of day tomorrow (Friday, March 23rd).  If you haven't picked 10 yet, you can come back and vote for more!  And please think about (a) nominating your own blog if it's good and (b) telling your nominated blogger friends to send some fans over ASAP, because right now only one blog is doing that... and yet I have a strong sense there are other favorites among Cranky Fitness readers. The winning blog gets $50 bucks in the form of an American Express gift certificate donated by BodyLogicMD.  (And you could win one too!)

2.  Tell you about more Prizes!  

In addition to the two $50 Am Ex gift certificates, the 3 bags of Popcorn, Indiana Chip’ins and the 4 SmartForLife Protein Bars, you could also win:

eBooks that could change your life!

Tim Brownson, is, like me, a life coach, only unlike me he's gotten off his butt and gone beyond blogging to write some great ebooks.  He's a witty writer, he has tons of sage advice, and he has magnanimously agreed to offer up a copy of some ebooks. He's got a new one just out: "Aligning with Your Core Values" which will show you how to "get unstuck in life, work, and relationships." Some really helpful stuff in there! He's also offering a self-development combo pack or two of previous titles: "Don’t Ask Stupid Questions," "Don’t Panic," and "16 Ways to De-Stress Your Life."

A 24-package box of vegan strawberry Shakeolgy meal replacement/nutritional supplement shakes. 

Shakeology hails from Beachbody, the P90X people. These shakes "contain natural extracts and nutrients found in exotic plants in the most remote locations around the world."  Apparently some "strapping, 40-something Tarzan look-alike" dude named Darin Olien is responsible, and there's even a Shakeology video if you'd like to learn more.

3.  And finally, what was that about Health and Fitness "win-wins?"

In my mind, here are the 3 crucial principles for finding more healthy pursuits that you don't just put up with, but actually love.

Of course, longtime readers (or those who've wandered over to the "about" page) already know that this blog was founded on the principle that Healthy Living is a Pain in the Ass.  And if scientists were to finally invent a pill that I could simply swallow once a day to give me a healthy strong slim limber body...I'd be eating a lot more chocolate cake and logging a hell of a lot less time in the gym.

But by discovering enough golden gleaming "win-win" health and fitness options, I've managed to arrive at a state where I mostly enjoy, and am actually sometimes ludicrously ecstatic about, my mostly-healthy lifestyle. Plus, combining pleasure with "good" behavior is a source of one my favorite all time emotional states: that of smugness.

But here's what it took (for me):

1. Experimentation

I am obviously not the first person to note that you have to wander out of your comfort zone sometimes, but many of us seem to wired to resist change or at least be suspicious of it. (On the plus side, we make loyal mates and employees and rarely do impulsive things that land us in hospitals or jail cells).  But to find more and more of those enjoyable health and fitness win-wins, you gotta mix things up!  So, wander out of your comfort zone, endure awkwardness, risk embarrassment, and put up with periods of not liking something for a while until you get used to it.  Of course if you still hate it after a reasonable trial period, then by all means bail.

I could bore you with dozens and dozens of personal examples, but two off the top of my head: I now love roasted brussels sprouts and doing 10-15 minutes of my elliptical workout with no hands and eyes closed in order to practice balance and mental focus.  (Wait, what was that I said about not ending up in the hospital?) Neither of these came naturally for me.

2. Make a Substantial Investment--in time, money, and energy.

I absolutely love my playlists filled with awesome motivating songs playing at exactly the right beat for my workouts, my big-ass salads and smoothies and stir-fries full of wholesome, usually organic, and shockingly expensive ingredients, my ability to do unassisted pull-ups and chin-ups and intervals, my many and varied and beautiful walking and biking and hiking routes, my self mental self-improvement schemes and rituals designed to rewire my worrywart brain into a place of tranquility punctuated only by eager anticipation and euphoria...  none of these just "happened."  They all took time, thought, willpower and sometimes money.

The part that most "get fit and healthy" articles forget to mention:  this is all  time, thought, willpower and money that has to come from somewhere else.  THAT is the tricky part.  So, um, sometimes Win-Wins are really Win-Win-(lose) but that makes for a much less cheerful blog post, doesn't it?  So, um, just forget you read this paragraph.

3. The Willingness to Look Like A Total Ass in Front of Other People

Most people in modern society are not willing to prioritize and personalize their health and fitness goals at the expense of their social comfort.  So if you tote along your own snacks, do bizarre variations of exercises at the gym, sneak in some stretches in line at the post office, ask detailed questions about food preparation to eye-rolling waiters at snooty restaurants, describe with great enthusiasm your opinions on veganism or nutritional supplements or Zumba classes at cocktail parties... you risk looking like a weirdo.

Here's a tip: my middle age, it will seem much more obvious that (a) people are thinking more about themselves than about you and (b) those who might make judgments about how "weird" you are for caring about your health, or otherwise being true to your own values...  aren't much worth worrying about.  So save yourself a few decades of angst and inhibition and self-censorship, and just claim your own weirdness now and learn to love it!  Being "normal" is highly over-rated.

So, does anyone else have examples of stuff you love that is also good for you?  Any other ideas on how folks might discover more of these in life?

March 19, 2012

Stand-Up Workstations, Revisited

Remember those scary studies about how sitting too many hours a day can kill you, even if you try to make up for it by running ultra marathons or cross-fitting your body into a state of exhaustion or zumba-ing your ass off all week?

And if disease and early death weren't incentive enough to get your butt out of your chair, all kinds of experts have cited studies saying that calories burned from standing versus sitting was some awesomely huge number, leading to incredible weight loss results.

Inspired by these statistics, I decided this summer to try the switch to a stand-up workstation. I wrote a blog post about it back then (which, I've now linked to twice with two different keywords, for those of you noting what a shameless googlewhore I am), but since then it's been 7 months and one cross-country relocation. So now I have some further experience, complaints and suggestions about the whole issue.

Curious about the benefits and pitfalls of stand-up desk arrangements, and up for some trouble-shooting ideas from my own trials and tribulations?


Well when has that ever stopped me from explaining something before?!?

Stand Up Desk FAILs and how to fix them.

1. Cost

There are plenty of nifty stand-up workstation options if you want to fork over hundreds or even thousands of dollars for them.

However, if you lack a lucrative source of income or a wealthy benefactor, there are cheaper options!

You basically need to create a surface higher than a normal desk to put your keyboard on, and a place even higher than that, at eye level, to stick a screen.

How many bazillion different ways are there to approach this?  Many bazillions!  You can raise a normal desk up, or you can create additional shelves, monitor holders, etc by various means.  If you are handy and know your way around a search engine and a hardware store, there are lots of DIY resources, like this $40 Standup Desk or this more elaborate stand up workstation.

There are also cheap and cheapish pre-built options which pop up as ads when you google; I have no idea how good they are.

Then there's the really low-tech approach that I started with:

Or you can use the "find a weird ugly adjustable shelf left by the side of the road conveniently built to tuck in above a desk" method, the one I bored you with documented in last summer's blog post.

Do you happen to have a TV screen mounted on a wall somewhere in your house that can be used as a monitor, and don't have any entertainment-starved family members competing for it?  In that case you can put a desk under the tv screen, plug your computer into it (if it has the right sort of connections), and raise your keyboard with whatever you can find.  This is the method I am currently using.

Wait, what's that square thing on the floor?
Patience, Grasshopper!

The general notion is: find what's lying around anyway or cheap to obtain, and improvise a temporary solution until you figure out if you like standing up or not.

2. Acclimation/distraction

It may take a while to get used to concentrating on work while your body is in a whole new configuration, and this may feel icky.  So don't be stupid and try to go instantly from sitting down all day to standing up all day. (And in fact, it's not even a good idea for you to stand up all the time, as discussed below). 

Try your stand up experiment when you have mindless or even entertaining work to do, and build up gradually from a few minutes to longer stretches of time.  In other words, don't do anything rash about your workspace arrangements just yet.

Ungrateful ass... after all I've done for you!
Photo: bondidwhat

3. Standing For Hours at a Time is Also Bad for your Health.

After reading countless studies on why I should stop sitting down and start standing up, and then dutifully going out and doing that... then I start reading that standing all day has negative health repercussions too! According to a study in "Hazards Magazine" (which, as a recovering whiny worrywart, totally sounds like my kind of publication), health problems linked to standing all day can include "varicose veins, poor circulation and swelling in the feet and legs, foot problems, joint damage, heart and circulatory problems and pregnancy difficulties."

WTF?  These all seem like kind of a crappy reward for all that stand-up virtue.  (And like another standing desk experimenter, I discovered I was getting a few more spider veins on my legs than I used have.  True, I am also getting older, but the timing seems mighty coincidental).

So, I wondered, what am I supposed to do if I'm not supposed to sit all day or stand all day?  Just refuse to get out of bed at all? 

Well, duh, Crabby--rather than just stand there, I realized I should vary my position throughout the day.   Sit down sometimes, walk around, rock back and forth, get a step stool to raise a leg at a time and shift weight back and forth, do headstands or the hula or whatever I can think of rather than maintaining the same rigid position for hours at a time.

However, once I got comfortable standing and felt so smug doing it, it took me a long time to put this "mix it up" notion into practice. Not only do I not know how to hula, I find that even pulling over a nearby chair or a stability ball for an arbitrary sitting break feels like an annoying interruption when I'm immersed in something.  Go figure! But now I do try to check in with my body more often, to see what it wants (though it usually says "a hot fudge sundae and a nap, please" which is not actually all that helpful). But a brief walk, some squats, a client call taken sitting down, some calf raises... the variety thing is starting to become more of a habit.

And just the other idea I had an flash of inspiration and "invented" a partial solution to this problem!  Which leads us to another Standup Desk issue which my invention helps a little with, which is... 

4. Those Calorie Burn Statistics Are Apparently Totally Bogus!

I got so excited by the claims around the calorie burning aspects of getting out of my chair that I couldn't wait to see the pounds drop off once I started standing and moving around more!

But I didn't notice any difference at all.  @#$%!  Sadly, I had to start counting calories and stop eating so f--king much for any actual weight loss to happen. Theoretically there's got to be some increased metabolic activity when your muscles are working against gravity to hold you upright, don't you think? I can only conclude that I have gravity-defying superpowers.  So I just had to content myself with the fact I wouldn't die prematurely from sitting down so much. Which is actually more awesome, but in that boring mature long term way and not as fun as quick effortless weight loss.

So... if you are like me and standing up, on it's own, is not a big factor in your metabolism, is there any way to take advantage of the standing position to get a little movement in that isn't too distracting to the work you're trying to accomplish?

A treadmill desk is the obvious answer, but not having one handy now I was contemplating other options. (Also, a brief experiment on the East Coast wasn't success as I found walking more distracting, but I want to try it again).  One option  I was sort of tempted by was a cheapo mini stepper thingy, but I don't know anyone that has one and whether they're any good or not.  Anyone know?

Hi! Anyone recognize me?
Am I loud and rickety or smooth and fun?

Crabby's new invention: the TeeterStation!

Like the Crabitron and other cheap DIY exercise equipment, this is an improvised gadget that is optimally obtained for free or well under $10.  You take a board (we had an extra shelf) and put some sort of stick or dowel under it.


Note: this dowel was a bit too thin and has been replaced by one just a bit thicker, but I wouldn't suggest going too thick if you want to keep this a mindless background activity.  Losing your balance entirely and doing a faceplant into your desk, or landing with a loud thud on your ass could indeed be distracting to yourself and others.

No adhesives or anything else seem to be necessary to construct your TeeterStation, at least not if you're on carpet.  You could also go out and buy a fancy balance board, but not only would that cost more, it might be a bit too challenging for all-day use.

You can balance, rock back and forth from foot to foot, switch to a horizontal orientation and rock from toes to heel (which is handy to do one leg at a time to build foot, ankle and calf strength). 

If you keep the height short and mellow, it's pretty unobtrusive. You can rock and rest and rock again.  I've been tipping and rocking my way THROugh thIS WHOLe post cOULD YOu tell?

It's still important to sit and walk too, but this just adds another option--and it's especially good for people who like to rock and fidget anyway.

Has anyone else been trying to work standing up?  Any other ideas for getting asses out of chairs in relatively comfortable ways?

March 16, 2012

Prizes, Links, And More Freakin' Gratitude

Presents! Everybody loves presents!

Yep, this another end-of-the-week random slopped-together blog post, the kind likely to scare off new readers with its weirdness, lack of theme, and announcements only regular Cranky Fitness visitors (all 3 of them), could possibly care about.

Which is bad timing! Because a few new folks might be coming in to check out the blog over the next day or two, thanks to my personal development Hero/Guru/Geekcrush/Idol Rick Hanson who mentioned me in his newsletter. (Which you should totally sign up for. It's free!)

So are some of you getting tired of hearing about how awesome I think Rick is? Well, sorry but I can't quite shut up about him just yet.  The dude has kinda changed my life, and I'm getting more annoyingly happy every day, so I've sort of imprinted on him like one of those Konrad Lorenz ducks back from Psych 1 and I go following him around from place to place.

  Webinar? Sure, Rick!

So Rick's got a new book called Just One Thing, (which has a Facebook page) and he's also adding helpful commentary on this cool series of online neuroplasticity lectures (most of which are the free if you don't buy the fancy package. That's how I'm watching them). And he does all kinds of other stuff like one-minute videos that his newsletter will keep you posted about. Why am I so smitten?  Maybe it's something about his personal warmth and humor, all his helpful research-supported tips about rewiring your brain, and the inspiring-without-being-sappy encouragement to "take in the good." Anyway, somehow he really got through to this Cranky Crab.

But I'll stop now!  That way you can use your limited Friday attention spans to find out what loot you could win for yourself or your favorite bloggers by voting in the Best Weight Loss Blog Nomination Post. Or to get the scoop on back fat, parasites, and other weird health news on the web.

Now On To Them Thar Prizes!

We've got a few prizes to announce for the Best Weight Loss Blog contest giveaway to start off with, and more are in the works. 

The top vote/nomination getting blog will get a $50 American Express Gift Card, and so will one randomly selected reader.  These two gift cards were generously donated by BodyLogicMD. That's pretty much as good as cash!

Who wants some?
Photo: 410k

Now to help your favorite blogger get the fifty bucks, you may want to stop by and mention the contest to them.  Each nomination from a different reader counts as a vote. Right now, the folks at DKFitness Solutions seem to be the only ones rallying their troops, but there's still another week or so left.

And don't be shy; if you've got a great blog yourself then self-nominate! For example, I don't see Starving Bitch's blog listed yet, or many other of your fine blogs.  Being on the list when it comes out may well get you a few new readers down the road!

Anyway, another prize is 3 bags of Popcorn, Indiana Chip’ins. I haven't tried these but I have tried their Kettle Corn and it is awesome, especially when the calorie count relative to other snacks is factored in. The Chip'in thingies are billed as "a healthy, yet delicious alternative" sort of snack, and they're gluten-free, have zero trans fats, are lower calorie and sodium than regular chips. They "come in a range of savory flavors."

Still hungry?  We've got 4 SmartForLife Protein Bars. To quote their promotional stuff: "With 18 grams of protein per bar, these ultra chic bars will keep hunger at bay and keep that bod beach ready for the summer! Women’s Health Magazine named these the 'Best of the Bunch' in a protein bar taste test." You can find more information at

And there should be more to come--At least I hope so.  Otherwise I'll have to start rummaging around the closets and cupboards at home and that could get really ugly.  (Six month old freezer-burned gluten-free bread left over from a house guest, anyone? Anyone?)

Other Miscellaneous Stuff:

If you're a fitness blogger, check out FitFluential!  I only just joined as an ambassador, and due to being extremely lazy busy have done nothing but sign forms yet, but it seems to be a group with a lot of potential.  All your favorite bloggers are already members, and I'm hoping together we can bend corporate sponsors to our will and extort large sums of money explore mutually beneficial promotional partnerships with the brands we already love!

Healthy St Patricks Day Foods? They do indeed exist! The FBG's have a round up.

Birth Control Options: Thought about an IUD? The College Candy kids have some thoughts.

Wondering Why I Link to the Same Sites so Often? I'm notoriously slothful about making the blog rounds, and some folks send me their links with URLs. So if you know of a great post you want to share, email me and if it looks reasonably compatible I'll try to remember to include it in the next round-up.

Recent WTF Search Terms Leading to Cranky Fitness:
man dragged through a freezer cartoon
did you grab my ass?
what does a lug like to do?
word nipples barbells

Stuff From My Twitter Stream, Some of Which is Ancient Because I Haven't Updated in Centuries, But Whatever.

Note to self: less reading studies about it, more DOING IT: Evidence builds that meditation strengthens the brain.

Vindication! 'Brain fog' of menopause confirmed:

Love ya Prevention Magazine, but "back fat" seems a weird thing to worry about, and how can any exercise target it anyway?

Aw shucks, breaks my heart. Who doesn't love 'em? Guidelines: No more annual Pap smears?

What?!? Chocolate chip cookies aren't a superfood? See which 3 superfoods can lengthen your life.

Yay, more good news on dark chocolate: may improve exercise capacity in diabetics and heart failure patients.

Handy tips to block evil effects of sugar, for those of us who aren't ever gonna give it up, via @joycecherrier.

Why You Shouldn’t Have More Than 354 Facebook Friends.

Creepy but fascinating research: does your cat harbor parasites that can seriously mess with your personality?

Study: chocolate may limit calorie absorption? Yay! I don't even CARE if Hersheys is behind it.

Holy Crap, if this study is true I have just died and gone to heaven: chocolate cake for breakfast leads to weight loss.

Gosh, that's motivating, thanks scientists! RT@weightloss: Spin class looks a lot like a heart attack biochemically.

Ha! UK study: Women are better at parking than men:  "The Female Shuffle" and "Pose Parking" are also explained.

Suburbs = "the good life?" Yikes, not for me. Turns out, not so hot for health either.

Sadly, not unless you use it to glue your refrigerator shut: RT @MarshaHudnall: Can chewing gum help you lose weight?

Study of low fat vs low carb? Oops, subjects had their own ideas. Conclusion: adherence most crucial factor.

Hard working folks (11+ hrs a day) twice as likely to be depressed. Embrace Slackitude!

Warning: what your brain is doing NOW may affect Alzheimer's risk later:  And, yikes... you're reading Cranky Fitness!

Any thoughts on a lazy Friday?

March 12, 2012

Turn a Crappy Day Into an Awesome One

 Photo origin unknown; if it's yours let me know!

So here's a multiple choice quiz, with only one (admittedly long-ass) question:

Knowing how annoying it is to send readers elsewhere to read blog posts, requiring the strangely abhorrent task of clicking on a link, waiting for a page to load, and ending up who-the-hell-knows-where, why would Crabby send you to another page to read today's post about dealing with horrible days? It's because:

1.  Last night aliens invaded the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, picked a residence at random, abducted Crabby and informed her that unless she made readers click on an extra link they would vaporize all the humans on earth;

2.  Crabby tries to include at least a few posts about personal development every now and then over at her life coaching website and it's been awhile and she's too lazy to write a different post for each blog;

3.  A slick multi-media publishing conglomerate offered Crabby 7.5 million dollars for the rights to Cranky Fitness, but they told her to get rid of her existing readers because they're too clever and sensible to buy overpriced products;

4.  Crabby is discovering (despite some initial skepticism) that life coaching actually works, and is trying to lure in a few more awesome clients of the kind who come from reading Cranky Fitness. Thus she'd like to remind anyone who is remotely considering hiring her or recommending her to a friend that if you buy a 4 session package, her life coaching rates are a relatively cheap option in the otherwise costly market for such services;

5.  The extra finger movements and irritation you experience changing venues burns 17.5 calories, and Crabby wants you all to earn an extra tasty bite of something today;

6.  Crabby can reply to each comment individually on the other blog, and it gives her an excuse to hang out more in the comments--which she'd rather do anyway instead of the unappealing chores she's got lined up to do over the next few days;

7.  All the Odd Numbered answers are true.

8.  All the Even numbered answers are true.

And yes, 8 is the right answer...did you guess correctly? Hooray!

Still don't want to click an extra link for the turning around a bad day post? No worries! Just stay here and visit or revisit the last post on the Best Weight Loss Blog Nominations, which could use still use some more ideas and votes... plus you could win prizes! The nomination process is also the voting process, so the more mentions a blog gets the higher it will rank in the final list.

Also, I've noticed that many of you with awesome blogs of your own are avoiding self-promotion and not mentioning them. Or you're overly concerned with the definition of a "weight loss blog" and are afraid yours isn't. But if your blog helps or inspires people to lose weight and get in shape, then you can call it a weight loss blog... even if the focus is fitness or cooking or healthy living or whatever. So please go back and self-nominate and include the names and URLs--consider it a favor to me because I want your blogs on the list and it will save me a couple of steps when I vote for you!

Anyway, thanks for your patience with the extra link, and hope you're all having a great Monday.

March 08, 2012

Best Weight Loss Blog Update: Nominate Your Favorites and Win Prizes!

Do you have a favorite weight loss or fitness blog and feel it deserves some recognition?

Would you like to win one of several lovely giveaway prizes for yourself and possibly your favorite blogger?

Yep, as threatened promised many months ago, it's time to update the musty old Best Weight Loss Blog list that Cranky Fitness readers compiled back in 2009. Weirdly enough, the thing remains an extremely popular destination for googlers on the web! Yet I feel terrible knowing hundreds and hundreds of poor innocent folks arrive here every day looking to find the best weight loss blogs... and instead find themselves wading through a bunch of abandoned blogs and broken links.

(Oh, and another favor I have of readers: I'm on the hunt for affordable web development help and looking for advice!)

So here's the scoop:

The Best Weight Loss Blogs-- 2012 Edition:

Quick summary, for those in a hurry:

Get To The Freakin' Point for Once, Crabby!

 1.  Vote for up to 10 of your favorite weight loss blogs in the comments below. Define "weight loss blog" however the hell you want.  You could win something for doing this.

2.  Don't wait forever; nominations will close in a couple weeks or so to allow time to evaluate and compile winning blogs.

3. Best blogs and reader giveaway winners will be announced on March 26 to allow me to compile results.

4.  If you don't check back later, you could lose out on a prize you won.

Longer FAQ Version, For Those Avoiding Actual Work:

1. So Just What Are the Fabulous Prizes?

OK, so here's the funny part... I don't know yet!

My guess is there will be a thing or two that is Big and quite a few other prizes that are Smallish.

For some unknown and illogical reason, I suddenly decided NOW, RIGHT THIS MINUTE was the time to have this thing... just after I'd said "no" to about a million product review pitches.  However, several great possibilities for prizes arrived in my inbox just hours after I decided to do this, and I suspect I can drum up other stuff over the next few weeks.  Worst case, I'll re-purpose products and books etc that I already have, pay for a few new things and hope the Lobster is not reading this sentence, as well as do a lot of unattractive behind the scenes groveling to round up prizes. But wouldn't it be fantastic if sponsors with vaguely health/fitness related stuff were to spontaneously offer up their very fine wares or services in exchange for the chance to inform Cranky Fitness readers of their incredible benefits?

2. How Will The Top Blogs Be Chosen?

Reader nominations will be counted, plus, unlike last time, I get to nominate and vote too. And I'm not capped at 10 because hell, it's my blog.  Many great and popular blogs got left off last time because people assumed of course someone else would nominate them, and I don't want that to happen again.   There are also some prior nominations from an earlier post; see below if you give a crap.

At the end there may be a runoff of some sort, especially if there turns out to be a good prize for the blog winner.  Or if I get lazy, we may just leave it as a big-ass list with the highest vote-getters on top.

3. Why Would A Well Written and Popular Weight Loss Blog Give a Shit What Cranky Fitness Readers Have to Say?

For whatever weird reason, the old Cranky Fitness poll brings in tons of new readers googling to find weight loss blogs.  Blogs that end up high on the list get clicked on a lot, and not only does this bring them direct traffic, I believe it helps the blog's search engine rankings. The new 2012 poll will take a little while to build up the same awesome powers, but it will be greatly aided by the drastically edited old version directing people straight to the new post.  I even feel comfortable saying I PROMISE that top ranked blogs will eventually get a lot of new readers from this silly thing, especially if they are small blogs right now.

Plus I'm hoping to have a nice prize for the top weight loss blog.

And hey, remember how a few months Crabby went scrambling around debasing herself in order to hustle up votes when she got nominated as one of Shape Magazine's Best Fitness Bloggers?  Well, that's because she herself likes the new readers that popularity contests can bring.

4. What Can I Do to Increase My Chances of Winning a Prize?

Prizes will be chosen semi-randomly. Some randomness will be definitely be involved, but preference will be given to entrants who:
  •  leave nominations complete with blog names and urls to make compiling easier;
  •  mention this contest to others (and let me know via comment or email that you've done so); or
  •  are nice humans who aren't spammers or folks just stopping by to nominate their own blogs and no one else's (although you're quite welcome to do so).

5. How Can I Rig This Thing To Make MY Favorite Blog Rank Higher?

 Image swiped from here.

Besides nominating your favorite blog, you can tell me and others WHY it's awesome so we may want to vote for it too.  You can also go to the blog itself and let the blogger and/or the readers know about the nomination, so that those who would like to see the blog get more reader and SEO recognition can help it out.

6. Wait, This All Sounds Vaguely Familiar...

Yep, if you were here over the summer when Cranky Fitness first emerged from its slumber (the blog was pretty much abandoned for about a year and a half) and you voted in the pre-poll, those votes and nominations will definitely be counted as explained earlier.  However, to be eligible to win a giveaway prize this round, please comment and vote again.  And yes, this means the early birds get two worms!

Another Reader Blog Poll You May Want to Check Out

Tim at A Daring Adventure, who like Crabby is also a Life Coach and GoogleWhore, has just compiled a list of the 20 of the Greatest Self-Improvement Posts Ever Written.  A great resource, and if you're still avoiding actual work, go check 'em out.

And Now, Crabby's Desperate Plea for Web Help:

It's time.  I'd really like to move Cranky Fitness and my coaching website to a new blogging platform without losing readers!  I'd also like to upgrade the look a bit, learn enough to be able to tweak things myself once it's up, and maybe even get some graphics help on headers and banner ads.  I'm eyeing the Wordpress Thesis theme but don't know anything about how wordpress works.

The thing is, I need affordable help, and could offer a little bit of money and a LOT of promotional exposure for someone who knows their way around blog transfer & set up, and who might be looking to expand their web design business.  An on-going banner ad, a blog post all about the amazing transformation, some carefully crafted SEO key-word rich endorsements... you get the idea.

Anyone know of someone who might fit the bill?  Please email me at crabbymcslacker at g mail dot com.

So, what are some of your favorite Weight Loss Blogs?  And thanks, awesome readers, for all your help, past present and future!

March 05, 2012

I Used to Weigh Five Hundred Pounds


Well ok, I never literally topped the scale at 500 pounds.  In fact I'm one of those boring fitness bloggers who completely lacks a triumphant story of dramatic weight loss. At most I was maybe 20 pounds heavier than I am now, so I'm talking metaphorical obesity.

But it occurred to me the other day as I flailing around on the elliptical, grinning like a deranged person from the endorphin rush, that I've actually been losing a lot of emotional "weight" over the last few months.  Is it possible for a lifelong pessimistic worrywart to transform herself into a happy, hopeful, live-in-the-moment, greet-each-day-with-gratitude sort of optimist?

Well, I ain't completely there yet, but I've been on a crash "happiness" regime, and it's really working!  I'd say on the emotional obesity scale, I've already shed well over half my excess worry and negativity.  And I'm totally psyched to keep working hard on all this sappy self-improvement crap until I'm so blissed out that I'm completely insufferable to be around!

So what combination of lifestyle changes and self-help initiatives has created this bizarre change in my outlook and mood?

Well, there are lots of components, some of which have to do with awesome life and career changes.  Life Coaching and bicoastal living really agree with me. And on the self-help front, it's been a lot of different things, which of course means there will be a ton of blog posts about it all coming up. (Lucky readers!)

But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Rick Hanson from the get-go, since he was the inspiration for this whole Rewiring Crabby's brain project. His book Buddha's Brain led to my doing the Enlightened Brain review, and his wise advice is a big part of my new and possibly irritating positive outlook. So blame him if one day you come here and the blog has been rechristened Perky Fitness. Oh, and FYI, he's just starting a new telecourse on "Taking In the Good" in mid-March which I suspect will be quite worthwhile.

But anyway, whatever the reason for this sudden self-improvement orgy, it strikes me how similar my Personal Development journey is to the stories I hear on so many great weight loss blogs.  So many of you have been down that road and reached your "happy ever after" goals, so I figure there are some lessons I can learn in my quest to make life one big freakin' all-you-can-eat cupcake buffet.

Note: your version of paradise may include slightly fewer carbs.
Photo: rosebengal

Overcoming Denial About Health Consequences

I was born a worrywart, and I suspect even in my crib I was anxiously conjuring up possible worst case scenarios.  (Is that spoonful of baby food infested with worms and spiders? What if the vacuum cleaner escapes from the closet and sucks me up?  Will the cat chew my leg off while I'm asleep?)

Photo swiped from learnvest

Over the years I've tried lots of stuff: deep breathing, progressive relaxation, meditation, self-hypnosis, positive self-talk, yada yada yada.  But after a while I'd usually give up again and I'd spend all my energy focused on the healthy eating and exercise part, which came naturally, and ignored the psychological stuff, which felt way harder to deal with. (And yes, I am a licensed psychotherapist, and yes, this does serve to further reinforce the notion that therapists can be every bit as f-cked up as the clients they treat. Sorry, non-neurotic therapists of the world).

So many folks who have struggled with weight issues finally get serious when they allow themselves to face the health risks, and it was the same for me: I think my first post-menopausal physical was a bit of a wake-up call.  Numbers were not what I was hoping, despite eating boatloads of veggies and working out religiously.  (And my crappy family medical history doesn't help either--my father and maternal grandparents all died in their early 50's, and at least two of these early departures probably could have been prevented with lifestyle changes). It's not exactly a big secret that stress is bad for your health.

Though now that I'm sufficiently motivated, I'm forgetting all about medical threats and concentrating more on all the positive benefits I'm seeing. Somehow worrying about what will happen if I start worrying again strikes me as a bit counterproductive.

Not Giving Up When Results Aren't Instant

Some tricks I've tried have helped me quickly and dramatically; others takes weeks and weeks to have any impact.  Still others that research says will be helpful eventually now just seem like hopeless tedious time-sucks. I still can't meditate to save my life, unless I do the easier guided kind that is isn't really building up my brain's ability to focus the same way as the hard kind.  Whatever.  This time I'm going to experiment with lots of different kinds of meditation, and try to do something every day, and keep at it even when I continue to suck.  I notice that almost all tales of successful weight loss seem to involve fits and starts and slippage and stuckness, so why should I be any different?

But Getting Excited About Incremental Progress

Another trick I'm stealing from weight loss champions is to borrow some of the energy and excitement these folks bring with them all the way through the journey.  They don't wait until some final ultimate "goal" weight is reached to celebrate success; success happens every time a thought or behavior is different and a tentative new habit gets carved deeper into the brain.  I've been taking the time to notice the many ways I'm thinking and behaving differently than I used to, and examples are everywhere! I can't help noticing that I'm happier than I've ever been in my life.

Ditching Perfectionism

I know that the struggle to be perfect is the Worst Weight Loss Mistake one can make. So I'm hoping to take some inspiration from all of you who've mastered the art of staying positive and not giving yourselves a hard time whenever you screw up.

Finding Your Own Path

Holy crap, the need to customize your approach to what works for YOU and not someone else is absolutely crucial to either losing weight or finding bliss.  The same way that "primal" or "vegan" diets don't suit everyone, approaches to finding happiness are not one size fits all.
In fact, most psychological self-help literature is wildly enthusiastic in tone, dismissive of potential obstacles, and tends to promise amazing changes with ease if you only follow a few simple steps. Self-help literature is basically designed for sunny suggestible optimists who don't need self help!   If you are a skeptical cranky pessimist like me, you need to tailor an approach that is research-based, realistic, and sensible in tone and content.

Again, more detail later, but I've been finally finding the "right" kind of self help resources, and learning how to sift out the helpful nuggets from books and CD's that might otherwise make me feel barfy. 

Becoming a Proselytizing Pain in the Ass

Yes, this is the unfortunate side effect of experiencing powerful personal change.  Like the formerly obese person who is now fit and trim and goes around lecturing helpless bystanders about the wonders of kale and egg-whites and interval training, it's hard not to find myself preaching the happiness gospel.  I have to resist the temptation to run around sharing "helpful" insights with people who really don't give a crap. However, I believe that's why they invented blogging--to keep those of us prone to climbing up on soap boxes far away from the general public!

Anyway, does anyone else work on psychological self-improvement?  Got any other lessons from the weight loss or fitness arena that may help me on quest for perpetual bliss?

March 02, 2012

Best Budget Vacation: Hawaii for Fitness Freaks

Yep, it's pretty there!

So sure, the title of this post is just the usual pathetic scrambling around for googleable catch-phrases, as this is really just a recap of a recent Hawaii trip with beloved spouse and mother-in-law.

But please don't wander away just yet!  Because there are indeed 5 handy tips for health and fitness enthusiasts looking for a cheap Hawaii vacation. Plus, bonus: view an unflattering picture of Crabby lounging stark naked in a hot tub! And gosh, with that inducement, how can you resist accompanying us on our Affordable Hawaiian Holiday?

Top Five Budget Hawaii Fitness Vacation Tips

1. Sponge Off The Rich People

While we stayed in an extremely affordable condo, we happened to be within reasonable walking and driving distance from a number of Big-Ass Fancy Resorts. The resorts were sitting right on lovely beaches, many of which were accessible to low lives like us the general public if you knew where to park.

If there's anything better than whiling away a few hours at a tropical beach practicing your surfing, swimming, snorkeling, barefoot running, or napping skills--it's knowing that most of the other folks nearby were willing to fork over huge buckets of money in order to plop their affluent asses on the very same stretch of sand.  

Not Ejected Yet!

There were no riff-raff detectors in the resort's restrooms, bars, lobby, lounges, landscaped grounds, or hiking paths. So by forgoing the 10,000 threadcount Egyptian cotton sheets or whatever the hell the resorts are luring people in with these days, we got the same awesome pampered feeling. For free!

And not only that, the resort we were closest to had a great fitness center that cost only $15 bucks a day if you bought a shareable package of 10 visits. (And yes, I am neurotic and somewhat exercise-addicted. But $75 for 5 visits was way cheaper than the expensive therapy I'd need to treat my problem. Plus, I figure it's a public service!  A good workout in the morning makes me far less of a pain in the ass for the world to deal with).

But here's the very best part: besides a good selection of cardio and strength equipment and fitness classes, the fitness center day pass included FREE ACCESS TO THE LOVELY SPA!!

It was the kind of upscale place where everything smells good and they give you robes and slippers and big fluffy towels, and you can help yourself to free fruit and tea, enjoy the outdoor lava hot tub or the sauna or the steam room and scare other people away by giggling inappropriately. Even just taking a leisurely shower with pleasantly scented shampoos and soaps was heavenly.  And again, you can luxuriate in the fact that other people are booking hundreds of dollars in spa services to support the whole enterprise while you rub your own darn feet!

Rectangular red swimsuit tops will be all the rage soon, I swear.

Note: if you're curious enough to inquire in the comments, and plan to vacation on the Big Island, I'll pop down and let you know which particular fancy resort spa deal I'm talking about.

2. Create Your Own Excursions

Hiking down to Waipio Valley with the adventurous Lobster: Free!
(And no extra charge for the blisters. That's one steep-ass hike.)

There are great swimming and sightseeing and hiking opportunities on all the islands, and if you've already rented a vehicle (or in some cases, a bike) there's almost too much to enjoy for free.

Try some new fitness activity, or at least try something familiar in a totally new environment. Hiking up a steep mountain, swimming in an ocean, or biking through a lava field are very different experiences than the treadmill, lap pool, or spin class.   And sure, if you're coming for the 19th time, then go ahead and spring for tours and rides and various expensive excursions, some of which are probably wonderful.  But if you want to pare down costs, investing in a guide book (or checking one out at the library, or using the web) will help you discover all kinds of options to keep you and your family active and entertained without having to sell one of the kids into slavery.  (Well, unless it's a particularly obnoxious kid, in which case a cool helicopter ride to peek at rivers of molten lava might be kinda tempting.)

3. Hit the Grocery Store and Eat Out Strategically


Yes, many areas in Hawaii actually have real live grocery stores, and even natural food specialty places selling all kinds of healthy consumables at a small fraction the price you'd pay at a restaurant or snack bar for junky guilt-inducing meals. Setting is everything, and if you can bring some of your own healthy meals to a scenic location, you can have the twice the relaxing atmosphere of a swanky restaurant for a lot less money. If you don't have a place with a kitchen, a big cheap styrofoam cooler might be a very worthwhile investment.

But, hell, you're on vacation! Who wants to spend the whole time shopping and cooking and doing dishes or obsessing over whether the bell peppers in your salad are organic?

So don't be a total tightwad/healthfreak/martyr and prepare every meal yourself with only the purest ingredients.  Have fun too!

Mai Tai's have fruit in 'em... gotta be full of antioxidants!

4. Screw the Souvenirs

So what's up with the idea that you need more than a few photos, a sunburn, and a slightly used cocktail umbrella to remember your awesome vacation?  Do you really need matching Muu-Muus and Aloha shirts for the whole family? And will you come to regret the anatomically correct tiki wood carving of the naked male deity once he's back from his native island and sitting in your living room strutting his stuff?

You may want to skip the shopping, or, if you find something  truly unique and special, make sure it's fairly priced and something you could still appreciate without having swilled a few exotic libations first.

5. Marry Someone With a Crapload of Frequent Flyer Miles.

If this seems impractical for whatever odd reason (perhaps your current spouse is not 100% on board with the plan?) then I believe there are ways to secure good deals on flights.  This probably involves either clever advance planning or the ability to drop everything and wing off on a moment's notice. But what the heck do I know? If you googled into a blog called Cranky Fitness expecting to get the latest hot tip on airline deals I am terribly, terribly sorry to disappoint you. But just think how how those people googling "big bouncy breasts" feel when they get to an old post on sports bras?  It could be way worse.

So How Did Crabby Do On Her Plan Not to F--- Up Her Vacation By Excessive Worrying?

Pretty darn awesome!  Well, aside from a minor tantrum or two over not having internet access.  The inspiring scenery and warm breezes, plus the foresight to pack some meditation tapes and a whole new slew of self-improvement books, seemed to have had a salutary effect.

Next self-development task for Crabby: to deal with an overflowing inbox, laundry basket, and other daunting re-entry tasks without letting real life totally harsh the Hawaiian mellow.

How about you folks, any tips on saving money on vacations? Or staying fit while traveling? Or handling vacation re-entry? Or heck, just let me know what I missed while I was gone!