Saturday, October 31, 2009

Foxes at the Government Guarding Your Henhouse?

Kudos to Jonathan Safran Foer for his opinion piece on the CNN website this week. He carefully describes the environment between the FDA, charged with regulating our food stuffs, and the food manufacturer's and special interest groups.

Basically, the Government agencies responsible for creating policy and guidelines about what we eat have a very cozy relationship with the very organizations working very hard to protect their own interests.

We need a truly independent organization without the pressures of special interests, profitability and status quo. The question is how do we get there?

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Friend on the Bandwagon

Dear Mark,
Thank you so much for your article on the new, mini-cans of coke. We couldn't agree with you more and enjoy your sense of humor.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hassle, Rules and Policies

I wonder why retail establishments which we frequent make it so very difficult to do business with them? An incredibly long and frustrating story cut short because I only wish it to serve as background. My iPhone is not working. I went into the Apple Store (Columbia, Maryland) and simply wanted to buy a new phone. I didn't have the time to stand in the store while the "helpful" staff took me through the activation process. They would not sell me a phone unless I had it activated in the store. Apparently they would rather not have the sale than give a customer what they want. I refused and went home to order it online (which Tony in the store fully admitted would come to me non-activated). The online AT&T store only has 2-3 day shipping. My choices are to go without a phone for 2-3 days or agree to the retail store's inane policy.

This experience made me wonder about bricks-and-mortar gym memberships. I remember reading this article recently about someone two months into a two-year contract with Bally's when the gym declared bankruptcy. He had some difficulty getting his money back. Does anyone else think this is ridiculous? I would think by this time we'd be living in a refined world where we treated each other kindly and with respect.

When we were setting membership prices for Cybercise we decided on $10 a month and $120 per year. We had much discussion about giving a discount for a one-year membership and, for now, have opted to keep the pricing consistent. What does this do for you, our customer? You can join on a monthly basis and don't have to worry about a long-term contract. We want to make you happy and let's face it, $10 a month for unlimited workouts delivered directly to you, is quite a bargain. You don't have to drive to the gym, you don't have to put up with silly long-term contracts and you can workout as much as you want. And, we're so sure you're going to love us that we're comfortable with our month-to-month relationship.

If, for some inexplicable reason that I can't imagine at the moment, you are not satisfied with the customer service you get as a Cybercise member, just invoke the "Apple Store Insanity" defense. We'll make you happy.

P.S. - And we are working on an iPhone app so all of your favorite Cybercise workouts will be available to you anywhere!

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Stretch in Time Saves Nine

One of the best things about being a member of Cybercise is the number of exercise videos we have that are 15 minutes and shorter. The whole idea behind this very purposeful (and brilliant!) approach was to help our members fit fitness into their lives.

Hello! *jumps up and down and waves at you* You don't need to spend an hour in the gym to improve your level of health. The CDC even says "10 minutes at a time is fine." If you are not working out because you don't have an hour in your day to stop what you're doing and go to the gym, try us.

During my travels this week, several people have asked me what a "typical" week of Cybercise could look like. I've put together the following schedule to give you an idea of the how easy it is to get all of your exercise (and more) into your week. And, as a member of Cybercise, we even give you a handy calendar feature so you can plan your workouts in by week to be sure you're covering all the bases.

Here goes:
Monday -
AM - Morning Yoga (10 m)
Noon - Upper Body I (15 m)
After work - Abs I (10 m)
Bedtime - Upper Body Stretch (10 m)

Tuesday -
AM - Total Body Stretch (15 m)
Noon - Walk (10 m)
After work - Lower Body I (15 m)
Bedtime - Lower Body Stretch (10 m)

Wednesday -
AM - Morning Yoga (10 m)
Noon - Arms I (5 m) and Chest I (5 m)
After work - Abs I (10 m)
Bedtime - Upper Body Stretch (10 m)

Thursday -
AM - Total Body Stretch (15 m)
Noon - Walk (10 m)
After work - Glutes and Hams I (5 m)
Bedtime - Lower Body Stretch (10 m)

Friday -
AM - Morning Yoga (10 m)
Noon - Arms I (5 m) and Back I (5 m)
After work - Abs I (10 m)
Bedtime - Upper Body Stretch (10 m)

Saturday -

Sunday -
AM - Total Body Stretch (15 m)
Noon - Walk (10 m)
Bedtime - Bedtime Yoga (15 m)

There you go! When you follow this schedule, believe it or not , you'll have done some kind of exercise for a total of 270 minutes! Awesome, well done! *roars from the crowd* Notice, I included walking which you would do outside of Cybercise. You can add walking (and all other non-Cybercise activities) into your workout calendar on our site.

The idea is to show you how much flexibility you have as a member. If you know one day of your week will be particularly busy (say a PTA meeting at school on Wednesday night), simply schedule that day as your rest day or schedule a 10 minute stretch routine. If you want more heart pumping exercise schedule more cardio and reduce the schedule of strength training.

To make this all possible, you simply have sign on to Cybercise and follow along with the videos. You don't have to think, plan, ponder, consider, worry or fret. I challenge you to follow this schedule for 2 weeks. Two tiny small weeks out of your fabulous life. At the end of those two weeks, you'll feel better.

Join us. Let's get to health together a few moments as a time.
You can do it.
We're here for you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mini Soda + Mini Snacks = Mini Me?

Coca-Cola announced today it will produce 90-calorie mini-cans of soda. This follows the trend of 100 calorie snack packs started a few years ago. Good idea? Let us consider...

A can of classic Coke is 12 ounces and 140 calories, or 11.68 calories per ounce. On Coca-Cola's website the nutrition information says 8 ounces of classic Coke is 97 calories, or 12.125 calories per ounce. First of all, I'm confused about the discrepancy. Secondly, the can sitting in front of me claims the serving size is 1 can. Why is the nutrition information on the website stated in terms of 8 ounces? And, why are the numbers different? Classic Coke is classic Coke. Yes, or no? Who remembers the "New Coke" debacle? And, I digress...

Let us average the calories per ounce from these two data points and presume an ounce of Coke classic is 11.89 calories per ounce. Therefore, the new "mini-cans" of Coke will be roughly 7.5 ounces.

I'm presented with so many thoughts here, which to cover first???

  1. Is 12 ounces of Coke classic actually considered one serving?
  2. If 12 ounces is one serving, why is the nutrition information on their website posted based on 8 ounces?
  3. Why would they produce a new product only 1/2 ounce less than the nutrition information included on the website?
  4. Is Coca-Cola merely attempting to get "credit" for being concerned about the health of their consumers?
  5. Is this in response to PepsiCo's announcement it is joining the "Healthy Weight Community Foundation"? Coca-Cola had to do something, after all!
  6. Is this simply a marketing ploy to get the Coke name in the press?
  7. Is this a brilliant strategy to increase revenue and make stockholders happy?
To round out the discussion, let's peer into a little history. This website has a great look back at the creation of 100 calorie snack packs. Some highlights:
  • Started in 2004 by Kraft
  • Within three years, the sales of 100 calorie packs was more than $200 million
  • Sales grew 28% in one year alone
  • The consumer pays between 16 and 279 percent more by buying 100 calorie packs


I believe we all will support things to make it easier to make better food choices. Yes, it is tough to take one cookie out of the pack and leave the rest of the row intact. It is harder to eat one chip. In some ways, the 100 calorie packs are good for us. We have to make a more conscious choice to open another 100 calorie pack; it is much less obvious to take another handful from a big bag (who will notice, anyway?).

And, yet, I'm left with a little tickle of doubt. Is Coca-Cola only really creating mini-cans to make it easier for their devoted fans to enjoy a Coke without over-indulging? Or, would they like sales to increase by 20-plus percent this year and would they like their consumers to pay over 15 percent more for the product?

A greater number of smaller cans, just like a greater number of smaller calorie packs, are not good for our Earth. More manufacturing cost, more waste, more energy to create and distribute, more trash. Why are we creating and supporting (with our purchasing power) products that undermine our own willpower and strength to make good choices while they are damaging the environment?

Isn't it better to spend the time, money and energy educating each other (and our kids) about real nutrition? Coca-Cola is an American institution and sometimes there is nothing better than a ice-cold glass of Coke. And, for our health, only sometimes (have you read the ingredient label?)!

Perhaps it would make more sense if Coca-Cola spent their valuable time and resources by sending each person in America one 12-ounce can of Coke every three months to enjoy at will. We could look forward to our quarterly can of Coke, enjoy it without guilt and feel good about our health and our concern for the environment. Or, we can fool ourselves into thinking the people making money from us are really only creating new products for our benefit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rome Was Built in a Day

Okay, in truth, Rome was built in a series of days. A series of "one day" periods all running together and tada - Rome! It started with one day, however. It started with the one day when someone said, "Hey, let's build the most magnificent city ever!" Then a bunch of other people decided they had nothing better to do on that one very specific day and that was the start of Rome. One day.

What does Rome have to do with Cybercise? A great deal, actually. Many people tell me they don't have time to get to the gym. They don't have time to workout for an hour. They don't have time to get healthy and be well. And, I understand. The irony of starting a wellness company is I have less time for my own exercise and wellness. And, I'm passionate enough about my mission to keep going.

What is my mission? To help each of you (yes, you!) realize starting small is worth everything. Sure, I'd love everyone to workout for an hour every day. And, I know this is unlikely for many. We are parents, we are spouses, we are employees, we volunteer, we supervise the nightly homework and train the dog and make a healthy dinner and do laundry and clean up and.... Egad, who has the time, not to mention the energy, to workout?

And, we each have a little voice inside telling us how much better we'll feel. We like to be in our skinny jeans. We enjoy chasing the kids and not being exhausted. We know, each of us, know that exercise is good for us. And, we also know it is so intimidating.

I'm proposing that we each start with one day. Just one day where you promise to exercise for a mere 10 minutes. Sure, I'd love you to be a Cybercise member and workout with us - we make it so easy for you - join us and follow along. And, I really only ask you to workout for 10 minutes tomorrow. Take a walk for 10 minutes, do some stretching, do some sit-ups. It doesn't matter what you do - do something. Something for you, for your spouse, for your kids and for all of us.

Start small and think big. You're not going to lose 10 pounds tomorrow and you're not going to have six pack abs by the end of the day and the skinny jeans won't fit quite yet. And, they will. They will because you'll be on the road to Rome. You'll be having the one day that made all the difference in the world.

Join me, won't you?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Speaking or Hearing?

An article in the LA Times today reports 1 in 3 overweight adults said they were of normal weight and 82% of obese people thought they were merely overweight. What is going on here?

The article puts some of the blame on doctors for not adequately or accurately telling their patients they are overweight. I wonder if this is because our physicians have been forced, due to insurance company intervention, to only spend an average of 7 minutes with each patient. Who has time in 7 minutes to discuss the issue the patient presented for along with BMI and weight loss concerns? And, then what do doctors tell their patients? Eat less and exercise more. What does that mean, exactly? Our doctors haven't been trained in such things - astounding and true!

I would suspect every overweight person knows, somewhere in the depths of their soul, something is just not right. Does everyone know their BMI? Probably not. Is it easy to figure out? Yes - go here. Is BMI perfect? Certainly not. Is is a good place to start? Yes. If your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 you are considered of normal weight.

And, I wonder even more if this article is continuing the trend of blame push? Have we really gotten to a place where none of us knows anything about our bodies unless our doctor tells us it is so? None of should really need a doctor or a calculator to know that we should lose a few pounds (most women can tell you when they walk into their closet to choose something to wear).

We are each responsible for ourselves and we should watch out for our loved ones. Do you need to lose a few pounds? What about your spouse or kids? We need to listen to our bodies and hear the voice inside. Is it easier to eat a brownie in front of the television or take a walk after dinner? The sofa, brownie and television are calling. Don't answer... be too busy moving your body. You know. You only need to hear.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Health! It's the law!

Can we legislate health? Even as I write the question, it seems a bit silly. And yet, some places are trying. An article in the LA Times today discusses a study published by The Rand Corporation which shows a ban on fast-food restaurants will not curb obesity rates. Not shocking, I realize. And, it makes me wonder. Do our elected officials believe passing new laws will help us find our way out of the obesity epidemic?

Yes, many areas of this country are over burdened with fast food establishments (here is a pretty impressive map of McDonald's locations). But I think we have a different problem. The places where people eat aren't as much of an issue as what they eat. At nearly all places to eat you can find some choices that aren't too bad for you. So, do laws that ban fast food restaurants have any impact?

Maybe we can tax "bad" food and ban "bad" restaurants. That is sure to legislate our way out of trouble. As if...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Foxes and Houses of Hen

We here at Cybercise are all about helping people to make better food choices. And, we're not particularly concerned with who is delivering the message as long as the message is unbiased. When people begin to publish messages without altruistic intent, we can all get in trouble, especially when the innocent reader is unaware of the bias.
The LA Times reported in this blog yesterday that several of the very large processed food manufacturers have started a new foundation called the "Healthy Weight Communities Foundation." As a person who has spent a great deal of time in other arenas thinking up names for things, they get a kudos for this name. One could even start to believe that they are committed to ensuring people in communities are of healthy weight.
I am not one to impugn something before it happens, but I will admit being a bit of a skeptic here. The contributors to this foundation are publicly traded companies that create processed foods. Just about everything on the grocery store shelves in the aisles in the middle of the store is produced by these companies. Do they (and their stockholders) really want us to stop eating the things that caused the unhealthy weight in the first place? I suspect some public relations folks suggested they had to do something before they were accused (or sued) for causing these problems to begin with. Starting a foundation, forking over several million dollars and releasing some press about how they care. Yeah! That's the ticket - then we'll look like the good guys.
I think if they were really committed to ensuring our communities were of healthy weight they would stop producing processed foods and use their muscle and money to figure out how to get affordable, whole, natural and non-processed food to all Americans.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I went into a new sandwich, salad and soup shop for lunch today. It was a pretty small place, maybe 15 tables and most of them were full. This was my first time visiting this particular establishment so I was unsure of what to expect. In front of me snaked a line of 5 or 6 people and a full place - I was encouraged. After deciding on mixed greens topped with couscous and chickpeas, I started to look around at what other people were eating. Most of them were having sandwichs - the bread looked really good.

And, then I looked at the people. Every single patron was overweight. Literally, every single one of the 30 or 40 people in there could have lost at least 20 pounds. At least half of them would be considered obese. What is happening?

We know the statistics from the CDC say that more than one-third of the adults in the U.S. are obese. We know that nearly two-thirds are considered overweight. I'm baffled why the trends are not getting better - and they are not. Virtually no improvement in obesity rates in the last few years. The good news is that it is not really getting worse, but the long term impact on the all of us is frightening.

Obesity is expensive (from the CDC):
  • In 2000, obesity-related health care costs totaled an estimated $117 billion.
  • Between 1987 and 2001, diseases associated with obesity account for 27% of the increases in medical costs.
  • Medical expenditures for obese workers, depending on severity of obesity and sex, are between 29%–117% greater than expenditures for workers with normal weight.
  • From 1979–1981 to 1997–1999, annual hospital costs related to obesity among children and adolescents increased, rising from $35 million to $127 million.

Perhaps the first step in solving this problem is awareness. Look at the people around you. Not in judgement or disdain. Simply be aware. How many of your family members need to lose some weight? How about friends and co-workers?

We can all make changes. Small steps, each day. Give up soda tomorrow. Have a piece of fruit instead of a sugary snack for dessert. Take a walk around the block this evening after dinner. If you are in shape and at a healthy weight, keep up the good work to set an example for others. Invite a friend along. We can make improvements and even have some fun at it if we work on it together. Take a walk with me... won't you?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fruits and Veggies

A discouraging report from the CDC - no state meets the recommended consumption for fruits and vegetables. Healthy People 2010 set objectives that at least 75% of Americans would eat 2 or more fruit servings a day and 50% would eat 3 or more veggie servings a day. Our results? Only 33% get the recommended fruits and only 27% are eating their veggie servings.

The impact of this behavior is pretty signficiant. First of all, not getting enough fruits and veggies is bad for your body. These foods reduce your risk for stroke, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. They contain fiber and important nutrients. They are also more calorie-friendly that other snacks. Read more on why they are good for you.

As if that is not bad enough, each of our choices impact all of us. Contrary to what you might think, we are all really in the same health care system. Yes, we may have different insurance and we may go to different places to receive care. However, there are limited resources in our health care system, and they are shrinking. If each of us keeps ourselves and our families more healthy, it will reduce the burden on our health care system.

The bottom line? Fruits and veggies are good for you. They're good for your loved ones. They're good for your neighbors. And, they're good for America. Come on, people! Peel a banana, bite into an apple, eat some salad greens or broccoli.