Wednesday, March 9, 2011

barbie meets pinocchio

We've probably all heard that Barbie's (TM) measurements are not just unattainable but dysfunctional. She's so top heavy that she'd tip over when she walked, her waist cavity is too small to support her internal organs, etc etc. A sophomore at Hamilton College, Galia Slayen, drives this home with a 6-foot tall doll of Barbie made to scale.

(Image from Hamilton College news story linked below.)

The accompanying story is about eating disorders. Although I think it's plausible that playing with Barbie affects girls' body image and later risk for eating disorders, we still lack convincing evidence of the causal link. Problem is, we may never get it. The most convincing research design would randomly assign a cohort of girls to two groups, one that plays with Barbies and one that doesn't. (Ideally, the researchers would be able to control access to images about Barble as well, e.g., on TV, but this would be virtually impossible from a practical and ethical standpoint.) The researchers would then track the girls as they grow up, and calculate whether the "Barbie" group is more likely to develop eating disorders. The sample would have to be fairly large in order to have enough power to derive meaningful probabilities, because eating disorders are still relatively low probability events. This study would be extraordinarily expensive, and somehow I don't see Mattel coughing up the bucks to fund it. So, we're left with correlations, at best.

To be fair, this wasn't Galia's point. Her goal was to raise awareness about eating disorders on her campus, and the life-size Barbie doll was a good "hook" to get people to listen. Major kudos to her and her friends for trying to make a difference.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


FYI, TMI, and WTFC (who the flip cares): The scale read 139.6 this morning. I *know* it will be up 1.8 pounds tomorrow because of today's carb-up. Not 1.6 pounds, not 2.0 pounds, but 1.8 pounds. My body is predictable in its unpredictability.

With back-to-normal eating on Friday and Saturday, these 1.8 pounds will be gone by Sunday.

I haven't had my body fat tested, and I probably won't have time before I go, so I can't say for sure that I hit my other goal of 14% body fat. I'm at least as "cut" as in the photo at the right, and it sure feels like I'm as lean as I want to be. And in the end, that's what matters.

I believe I will treat myself to a dancing carrot. Oh, wait, I can't do dancing carrots on this site.

As you were.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

food network, anyone?

Even though I seem to be spending plenty of time online commenting on fitness-related sites, I've been terrible about feeding the blog. I've decided to repost, sometimes with elaborations, comments I've made on these sites, in hopes of continuing the dialogue. This comment was sparked by a very thoughtful post by the incomparable Charlotte Hilton Anderson on how fat has become a worse epithet than promiscuity.

I'm always struck by the number of people -- usually but not exclusively women -- who watch the Food Network while they are climbing the stairs to nowhere or whatever their particular cardio poison of choice happens to be. Is it because it's more acceptable to be seen watching food porn than sex porn? (Not that the latter is on standard daytime TV, but soaps and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit certainly are.) Do we get a charge, in true Puritanical fashion, out of the self-righteousness of exercising while we watch others eat cake, consistent with our Puritanical national heritage? Are we all mental masochists who like torturing ourselves with reminders of what we have given up for the cause of fitness or, perhaps, thinness? Or, are we trying to remind ourselves of what we ate yesterday and want to burn off?

Or is it just that Paula Deen (who my young son calls the "buddah lady," not to be confused with the Buddha lady) rocks?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Long-time readers of this blog may remember the B. Strong Great Hoagie Roll Experiment of 2010. Since there aren't any long-time readers of this blog, let me recap: last January, I cleaned out the freezer as part of a get-healthy binge. One of the items I unearthed was a package of standard commercial hoagie rolls with a sell-by date of September of 2009. Rather than just throw them out, I fed half to the cute fuzzies outside, and kept the other half as an experiment in the efficacy of stay-fresh chemicals.

I put them in the back of a cupboard in March, and forgot about them.

Until today. Yes, it's time for the conclusion of the Great Hoagie Roll Experiment. I would take their picture, except they look exactly. the. same. They aren't soft and squishy anymore, but otherwise they appear to be undamaged from their year out of the freezer.

That's just wrong.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Today we mourn the passing of our dear friend and long-time companion, Scalus Homedicus. Homedicus was a simple soul. She came to us many, many years ago from the rescue shelter known as bedbathandbeyond. She sat quietly in our bathroom. Some weeks she would get daily attention. Other weeks, we ignored her. Other weeks, usually during the holidays, we actively avoided her.

When we did pay attention to her, it was to step on her. If we didn't like what she said, we'd step on her again. And again. And again.

Today, however, her juice ran out. No more lithium ions. And, when we tried to patch her up, she slipped out of our hands, her power center still in our hand, her body dashed on the cold hard floor.

We gave her a proper burial, amidst the wrappers from the chicken breasts that she so loved us to eat.

RIP, Scalus Homedicus.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

an open letter to new gym members

Dear New Gym Member,

I appreciate that you are including weight training as part of your strategy for meeting your health-related New Year's Resolution. You have made the right choice: being fit also means being strong, in both mind and body, and weight training will help you get there. I wish you the best of luck as you proceed on your journey, and hope that you stick with it.

However, on behalf of your fellow gym members, I respectfully ask the following:

1) Please don't camp out on a piece of equipment between sets. You can finish that "Self" or "ESPN" magazine article while you are on the elliptical. It's polite to allow people to work in (i.e., do a set on the equipment while you are resting), and it's even more polite to move off the equipment while you are resting so that they can don't have to ask you to move.

2) At the same time, it's polite to allow someone who is doing a timed workout to finish the sets they need to do on a piece of equipment. These lifters, often but not exclusively cross-fitters, are easy to recognize: they are the ones who rush from exercise to exercise -- usually free or body weight exercises -- without breaks and with purple faces. Some wear funny shoes that look like a cross between your kid's water shoes and a pair of gloves. Others are trailed by goats.

3) If you move a piece of equipment, please don't move it in the way of another lifter. For example, yesterday, that bench that you didn't want in your squat cage? It was rude to move it so close to my cage that I couldn't add plates to my bar or do a full squat without hitting the bench. It was just plain obnoxious, not to mention dangerous, to deposit it next to my cage *while* I was in the middle of a heavy set.

4) Please remember that other lifters need some space to complete their range of motion. If you casually saunter in front of the hanging leg raise station while you are fiddling with your ipod, you may disrupt someone's workout... or get kicked. Many seated leg press machines swing outward. People swing upward on back extensions. And so on. Do your own thing, but also be aware and attentive to what's going on around you.

5) Please don't sneeze on the equipment. And, wipe it down after you use it, sneeze or no sneeze. If you're sick, stay home.

6) Perfume / cologne intensifies when the wearer sweats. There is no need to reapply perfume in the locker room before you go work out. "Spicy" scents, in particular, smell about as attractive as the four-week old Indian food I forgot was in my fridge. Both induce strong gag reflexes.

7) If you are strong enough to lift a weight, you are strong enough to put it away. This goes for barbell plates as well as dumbbells.

8) Most gyms don't have enough space to accommodate lifters who travel in packs. If six of you are hanging around a bench while one lifts, the adjacent equipment is likely unusable. Besides, if there are more than three of you sharing a bench, you are resting too long between sets.

9) If your gym has a no cell-phone rule, respect it. If your gym doesn't have a cell phone rule, please respect it anyway.

10) You have just as much right to the equipment as other lifters, no matter their size or shape. You don't have more right to the equipment than other lifters. Take turns, share, and be considerate.

11) Tricep kickbacks are a waste of time. You're free to waste your time if you like, of course, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

I'll see you at the gym!

//b. strong

Sunday, January 2, 2011

resolution revolution

Like most Americans, last year I set a bunch of resolutions. Some were pipe dreams. (Write a letter a week? Please, who was I trying to kid?) Others weren't pipe dreams, but I didn't meet. (Get back to 14% body fat? Well, I didn't get there, but I did make some progress, which I'll write about in a different post.) And one, in particular, I met: no diet cola or other diet drinks.

Yes, it has now been 366 days since I gave up my beloved Fresca. No more grapefruity goodness. No more peach-flavored fizz. No more black cherry belches.

How do I feel? Frankly, healthwise I feel absolutely no different, or at least in ways that I can trace to diet soda. (Somehow I don't think that giving up soda made me a year older.) After an initial few days with nutrasweet withdrawal headaches, I didn't get headaches any more or less frequently than I used to. Etc.

Financially, I figured I probably had a $400/year habit. It's nice to have that money back, although I probably compensated a bit by drinking more coffee. (Yes, I used to drink soda in the morning.) It's also nice not to have to make so many trips to the recycling center, or have the embarrassment of dozens of cans lying around my office during busy and busy-drinking periods.

Do I miss it? Not really. Maybe my mouth feels a little dry writing this post, but beyond that I don't think I've thought about diet soda one way or the other for a few months. The most difficult time was during summertime car trips. Taking a break from the road to pick up a bottle of water just doesn't yield the same satisfaction as taking a break to pick up a bottle of soda. It makes no sense, I know, but most human social behavior doesn't.