Part of my regular routine is to browse on over to Cranky Fitness for a daily dose of good humor and good sense. Crabby McSlacker, along with her blogging partner Merry Sunshine, provides refreshing insight into healthy eating and fitness, under the guiding principle that “Healthy Living is a Pain in the Ass.” Crabby kindly agreed to answer some of our questions, which may convince you to add Cranky Fitness to your daily routine, too!
We love reading your blog and are interested to learn more about what you’ve ascertained about women and fitness. Do you find that women exercise for fun, fitness or to rid themselves of fat?
I think there are as many reasons why women exercise as there are women!
However, in our fat-phobic society, I think a lot of women do it because they’re hoping to lose weight. And then some get really disappointed when they huff and they puff and they spend countless hours sweating at the gym and the results on the scale aren’t always all that dramatic. But on the bright side, exercise can actually be fun if you find something you like. And it’s incredibly rewarding once it’s a habit. So I think many women start exercising in order to lose weight, but keep going because of the mood lift, the sense of accomplishment, the strength gains, and all the great health benefits that come with exercise. (Plus, there’s nothing like the sense of smugness you get from being physically fit!)
We’ve heard you say that healthy living is a pain in the ass. So why do it? (We have our own reasons, but we want to hear it from you!)
Because unhealthy living is even MORE of a pain in the ass! Seriously—the lack of energy, poor health, low self-esteem, and general cruddy feeling you get when you eat nothing but junk and spend all day sitting around is far worse than the challenges of eating right and exercising.
You’ve said that in your formative years you were “scarfing cheeseburgers and cokes and cookies with complete abandon.” What got you interested in being healthy?
To get serious for a moment: my dad died of a heart attack (his fourth) when he was in his early fifties. After his first heart attack in his forties, he got plenty of good medical advice about healthy eating and getting enough exercise but he chose to ignore it. And both my mother’s parents died in their early fifties too. So genetically, I’m kind of screwed. I’ve been pretty health conscious since my early twenties because I’m really aware of how things can turn out badly if you don’t take care of yourself.
Do you have a fitness philosophy?
I have a million opinions and observations, but dang it, I realize I don’t have a good catchphrase that sums it all up! Maybe something that rhymes? “It’s ok to be a grouch, just don’t be a slouch?” “Cut yourself some slack, so you can stay on track?” Sheesh, those are awful. But it would be something about not aiming for perfection, but instead setting realistic goals for your health and trying your best to stay motivated even when it sucks, and celebrating your accomplishments, and forgiving yourself for your lapses. Oh, and not giving a crap what the celebrities say they’re doing. Because most of them are either crazy or lying.
What do you think is the biggest fitness faux pas?
I’d say doing or saying anything to belittle someone else’s fitness goals or accomplishments, or otherwise trying to make someone feel bad about the shape they’re in. I get the sense there are some snotty gyms and classes out there where people are less than welcoming and I think that’s obnoxious.
Exercise is not always going to be fun. What are some of the tricks you use to make it fun? Or do you just grin and bear it?
There are some forms of exercise I actually like—long walks or running outside on a pretty trail, for example. But I need to mix up my cardio and get some strength training, so some days I just have to force myself to do something I’m really not in the mood for.
Here are some tricks that have worked for me; your mileage may vary: 1. Dosing up on extra caffeine beforehand; 2. Spending a ridiculous number of hours assembling workout music playlists so I’m never without good music; 3. Bargaining with myself (i.e.—if I just get myself to the gym and do half a workout, that will be enough. Then usually (but not always) I do the whole thing anyway; 4. Making an exercise date with my spouse, because then I can’t back out; 5. Whining; 6. More whining; 7. Trying something new that I haven’t grown to hate yet. (This is a trick I should use a LOT more often but I’m lazy and stubborn and tend to stick with things long past the point when I’m tired of them).
You often speak out against health and fitness perfectionism. Why do you think it’s so hard for people to be kind to themselves and try their best. Essentially give themselves a break?
One reason is the idiotic messages we get from TV shows, magazines, and other media. Like it should be easy and fun to compete in our first triathlon, drop enough weight to become a fashion model, raise a passel of healthy, happy, over-achieving kids, do an hour of pilates or turbo kickboxing before work, bake whole-wheat bread from scratch, do push ups and pull ups just like the guys do, get 11 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, achieve professional success—oh yeah, and still carve out a balanced life with plenty of time for creative pursuits, social engagements, volunteer work, and daily meditation sessions.
If you add it all up, it’s impossible! No human being could do all that, let alone perfectly. But we’re surrounded by these manufactured media images and we keep reading all these self-help articles that make it sound so simple. Of course if we ever thought about all this consciously we’d realize it’s nuts, but we don’t—we just absorb it. So we subconsciously believe that perfection is not only possible, but that it’s “normal.” And then we feel like failures because we’re regular human beings who sometimes blow off a workout or eat Pop-tarts for breakfast.
What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to people’s perception about health?
I think extremes are annoying. Some experts act like it’s EASY to make healthy choices all the time, and so if you don’t, what the heck is wrong with you? But the opposite is equally discouraging: it’s impossible to resist temptation or put out any effort to get healthy, so why bother trying? Judging from the inactive lifestyles and self-indulgent food choices of many Americans, this attitude is not uncommon and is going to be a huge public health issue.
What’s your basic healthy-eating philosophy?
I follow a “Ninety percent” rule. I aim to eat healthy about 90 percent of the time, and for the remaining ten percent? I eat total junk if that’s what I feel like. And by “healthy” I mean as many whole foods as I can manage, or if I’m going to go with pre-made or convenience foods, I try to find them with healthy ingredients. I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein like chicken or fish or legumes, (I also drink a lot of nonfat milk for some reason), and I get plenty of healthy fats. Oh, and I was thrilled to discover that formerly frowned-upon foods like nuts, avocados, red wine, and dark chocolate are actually good for me! I figure the hell with the calories, I eat them and enjoy them as part of the “healthy” 90 %, not the “junky” 10%. I’m not a vegetarian, but I try to stay away from fatty red meats or processed meats. And generally, the less sugar, salt, white flour, saturated fats, and transfats, the better— but I do allow myself to have them. They just go into the “10% junk” category.
Are you really as cranky as you say?
Well, I’m definitely whiny and opinionated! But in actual real-life human interactions, I tend to be more easy-going. I don’t feel compelled so say every negative thing that occurs to me like I do on the blog. I’m actually pretty shy. That’s why blogging is such a great outlet for me!
What are some of your favorite sources (magazines, blogs, sites etc.) for info about health and fitness?
I roam all over the place on the internet, from serious peer-reviewed academic journals, to mainstream media sources, to fun health blogs. (I’d start naming them but then I’d get in trouble because I just know I’d leave one of my favorites out and then feel dumb about it).
The most pathetic thing is that I love reading women’s health magazines. Even though they’re terrible about trumpeting misleading weight-loss and health claims on their covers. Almost every issue they imply that you can spot-reduce with strength training, for example, and they totally obsess over weight loss and “beauty” issues at the expense of health. Yet there’s something about the glossy pictures and the physical feel of flipping magazine pages. And yes, I’ve I’m sometimes a sucker for those unrealistic promises of quick easy new health and fitness solutions. Is there really some simple new method to get stronger faster? Or some new tasty natural superfood that’s so nutritious it’s going to make me immortal? I want to find out all about it!
What’s your novel about?
My first novel was about a young journalism student who goes to see a psychotherapist with a made-up disorder in order to write about it. It was sort of a romantic comedy as well as an inside look at the therapy process. (Both the therapist and client had complicated love lives, but not with each other. I hate when that happens in books and movies!) As it happens, I was a psychotherapist in California for many years and discovered that while there is a lot that is moving and dramatic about the process, there can be a lot of humor too. So I tried to capture both aspects. I actually thought it turned out pretty well! Alas, my agent couldn’t sell it at the time, though I may try again someday. I’m a bit stalled on my second novel, which is also a comic novel with quirky characters. I was having a blast with it, but it’s competing for my writing attention with the blog. And I’m also working on a book based on the blog, tentatively titled: “Cranky Fitness: Getting Healthy When the Whole Damn World is Against You.” But as a slacker, I don’t seem to get all that much of anything done on an average day so it may be a while before any of my non-blog writing finds an audience.
What’s your favorite kind of cupcake and where do you get it?
My favorite cupcake dispensary is the famous Magnolia bakery in the West Village in New York, which we were lucky (or unlucky) enough to live near for a couple of years. But many bakeries put out excellent cupcakes. My favorite is actually two cupcakes: half of a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting, and half of a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. Can you tell I have trouble making decisions?
Can you see why we love Cranky Fitness so much?