General Mills Might Be Going Off The Rails With Yoplait Yogurt

I love yogurt and typically eat one cup every day.  I’ve not hopped aboard the Greek yogurt bandwagon, as I really don’t care much for the texture and taste, but I still stick with ‘regular’ yogurt.

A year or two ago, as part of an effort to eliminate the consumption of artificial sweeteners in my diet, I switched from the low calorie (100 calories in most varieties) to the regular version.

By and large, I stuck with three different brands that I enjoyed the most.  Yoplait, plus two store brands (Meijer’s Purple Cow brand, and Aldi’s house brand).  My wife usually got me whatever brand out of the three that was the best price for the week between sale prices, coupons, etc.

It’s been a good system, but just in the past few weeks, the Yoplait brands have made some significant changes:

  • Lower Sugar – Yoplait regular yogurt (red cups) now have 25% less sugar than they did before.  This reduces the calories in a cup (on average going from 170 to 150 calories in a cup).  To offset, they increased the amount of milk in order to attempt to keep the same texture.
  • New Advertising Campaign –  To go along with their new formulations, they seem to be making a push to more TV and print advertising.

On the surface, both of these things seem like pretty good movements.  After all, more healthy options seems to benefit all, and getting the word out has to be a good idea, right?

My Impressions

However, having seen both firsthand, I feel that either one could blow up in their face, and the combination could be catastrophic.  Let me explain:

  • The new taste – I tried out a few cups of the new formula and I was not overly impressed.  You can definitely tell the lower sugar content as it’s not as sweet.  If this was the only change, I’d probably be OK as I could use a little less sugar in my diet, but the problem is that texture seems off.  It seems more chalky and thicker at the same time.  Honestly, it seems they sacrificed quite a bit just to offer a healthier option and cut 20 calories from their offering.
  • The new ad campaign – The TV spots are hard to miss.  They feature a young, pixie-type woman talking in a very heavy French accent about Yoplait.   The colors and general theme can only be described as loud and bouncy.  The first time my wife and I saw one of the commercials, we both looked at each other with an expression wondering if this was for real.  I said: “I don’t get it.” She asked, “Are they making fun of European people?”  I’m not quite sure what message they’re intending to send, but I’m pretty sure it’s not being very well received.

Social Media As A Gauge

mb-2015-07-signMany times, when I have opinions like this, I am not sure if I’m in the minority.  Maybe people love the new flavors or think that the commercials are fantastic.  Who knows?  So, in order to get a read, I’ll head over to Facebook and check out their product page.  Looking at the Facebook page for Yoplat, it appears that my concerns about both the product change and the advertising are well shared.  People think the product change is too drastic (New Coke, anyone?) and wish they hadn’t changed it or offered the new formula as an alternative instead of a replacement.  Many people don’t understand the commercials and turn the channel or fast forward through them as soon as they come on.

It seems the changes are not being well received at all.  Yikes!

I love yogurt and I’d hate to see my number of favorable options reduce from three to two options, but the way things are looking for Yoplait, I’m not convinced they’ll stay in  my rotation.

 

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Taking An Unwanted Break From Running

Everything has been going great with my running program, so it was bound to happen that something would step in and throw a monkey wrench in things.  Sure enough, I started getting some heel pain and after doing some research, I’ve determined that I likely have a mild bout of plantar fasciitis.  I’m not one to often self-diagnose, but this one is pretty apparent based on the two things that make this an almost certainty:

  1. Pain in my heelmb-2015-06-running
  2. The worst pain occurs in the morning when I step out of bed

I’ve done a lot of research, and long story short, the plantar fascia is kind of like a rubber band that runs along the bottom of your foot.  When one gets affected, small, microscopic tears appear.  This is likely caused by some combination of:

  • Improper stretching of the Achille’s tendon and other surrounding areas – Looking at my routine, I probably skimp and this could definitely be a cause
  • Poor arch support – I seem to remember having to get specialized shoes for arch support as a kid, though neither my dad nor I can remember the specifics
  • Worn out shoes – I recently replaced my shoes, but it’s likely that my old shoes could have been a contributing factor
  • Increase in running intensity and length – I have been increasing the lengths of my run and trying to improve my pace.  The progress has been nice, but it’s possible I went with a little too much steam.

Good News & Bad News

The good news is that most cases of plantar fasciitis resolve over time and with treatment that I can do by myself.  Some of the recommended methods to address the condition, which I’ve started include:

  • Icing the affected area 2-3 times per day
  • Stretching out the foot before getting of bed in the morning
  • Stretching out the foot throughout the day
  • Trying to sleep with my foot more bent.  Most people bend their foot out while sleeping, which loosens the plantar fascia.  When you start walking, you tighten it back up and this pulls on all the areas that have been healing overnight.  By keeping the foot bent, you allow healing to take place in the tighter position.
  • Wearing shoes even when in the house.  Typically, I would go barefoot or in socks, but healing requires additional support.

So far the results have been noticeable in that I don’t feel the sharp pain in the morning.  I still do feel some pain which leads to the bad news.

The bad news is that the healing process takes time.  The plantar fascia is more like a tendon, and not a muscle.  Muscles heal quickly by increasing bloodflow to the area, whereas tendons and such have no direct bloodflow, and simply need time.

Short Term Plans

So far, I’ve shut my running down for about two weeks.  As noted above, I have seen results but I know that it’s important to allow things to get fully healed, otherwise I’d just reaggravate it as soon as I started it again.

One other thing that I may do is purchase inserts for my shoes, which would provide additional arch support.

In the meantime, I still plan on exercising, but I just have to do work that doesn’t create impact to the area.  I plan on doing more work on the stationary bikes and will also look at the elliptical, so long as my form is such that I’m not putting too much pressure on the area.

Lucky for me, I caught it before it got really bad, but I knew that I had to address the issue, as I could tell by getting out of bed in the morning that the pain was getting progressively worse, and not better.

Many people say that it can take months to fully heal.  I’m going to take it a few weeks at a time and see how things look.

Long Term Plans

While I’m on ‘running down time’, I’ll have to do more digging to see if I can come up with ways that address the root cause.  There was certainly a reason that I was getting the condition, and unfortunately, even if I let it heal completely, if I don’t correct whatever it was that caused it, I’ll eventually end up right back in the same position.  For now, I’m thinking:

  • Stop skimping on the stretches
  • Run outdoors more as the hard surface of a treadmill creates a lot more impact than running on a dirt trail or track
  • Mix running with other exercises.  I’ve started lifting weights over the past few months, but all of my cardio was running and this might have to change.
  • Strengthen my foot.  Many say that if you add strength to the muscles around the affected areas, you’ll naturally take pressure off the plantar fascia.  I’ve not concentrated on my feet during my weight lifting because I figured the running was building the muscles, but I’m thinking that this might have been backward logic.

Readers, anybody out there ever had to deal with plantar fasciitis?  Share your stories in the comments below.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

I Almost Lost My Fitbit…Twice!

I’ve been really happy with my Fitbit now that I’ve had it for a little over six months.  For the most part, it’s worked flawlessly.  I had an issue where it stopped syncing to both my smartphone and laptop, but doing a quick reset with a paperclip took care of that.  I also had an issue where it stopped ‘buzzing’ when I hit my step goal for the day, but I found that modifying the goal to a different number fixed that.  Other than that, it’s been great.

Except for the two times I almost lost it.

Putting Away The Camper

We recently got back from a quick weekend trip and after getting the camper cleaned out, I headed back to the storage place on Sunday evening to put it away until its next journey.  One thing that I had to do was empty out the dirty tanks, as the place we were leaving tends to have a line, and our storage place has a hookup to dump out the contents of the dirty tanks.

I pulled up and put on a pair of disposable gloves, and took note that I wanted to make sure they covered my Fitbit.  This ended up being very critical.

I did what needed to be done with the tanks, drove it over to the spot and got it all settled in, and then went home to get cleaned up for dinner.  As I was getting ready to jump in the shower, I looked at my wrist, and there was no Fitbit.

Ugh.  I did a quick look around the house to make sure that I hadn’t taken it off, but it wasn’t anywhere obvious. mb-2015-02-oops Lucky I had the memory of covering it up with the gloves, so I knew that I had to have lost it during the brief window from when I put on the gloves until getting home and in the shower.  I still had the gloves in a plastic bag ready to be thrown out, and since the Fitbit wasn’t there, I was able to narrow it down further.

I had dinner, and then drove over to the storage place.  Lo and behold, sitting right next to the camper was my Fitbit.  It was a twenty minute round trip, but I was still, as I told my wife, a little “Fitbit to be tied”.  Get it?

Yardwork

Not more than a couple of weeks later, my wrist came up empty again.  This time, my memory stretched a lot further back from when I last remembered having it.  In the interm, I’d done a full cutting of the grass, edging, trimming, and a bunch of cleaning in the garage.  I’d also repotted a couple of plants.

Yikes.

Lucky for me, I had armed myself with a bit of advice that ended up proving very helpful.  After the first false alarm, my wife told me that she thought that if someone lost their Fitbit, that Fitbit would give me a new one.  I was a bit skeptical of that so I went online to look it up.  It turns out that I had reason to be skeptical, because they will not replace a lost Fitbit as a general rule.  But, in my lookup, I found a couple of tip sheets on what to do if you happened to misplace it.

One piece of advice was to use a device that you have it synced with as a mechanism to find it. Brilliant!  Since I sync it to my smart phone, I pulled that out, fired up the Fitbit app, and told it to sync.  I was in the kitchen and sure enough, within a few seconds, it told me that it was connected and had completed a sync.  Cool!

I walked around the house and noted that it stayed synced.  I went outside into the garage and in the yard and started walking around.  It would not sync in either place.  So, this told me that the device was inside the house, and that thankfully I did not have to comb through the entire yard looking for it, and it also took away the fear that I would have to dig through the re-potted tomato plants looking for the buried Fitbit.  That would have not been fun.

Going back into the house, I started retracking my steps.  It occurred to me that before I went outside, I’d changed into my work shorts.  I went over to where the pair of shorts were that I’d worn earlier, and sure enough, there was the Fitbit in the pocket of the shorts.

The biggest bummer in all of this was that I didn’t get credit for any of the steps I’d taken while cutting the grass and working outdoors!

Lessons From Nearly Losing My Fitbit

After having this happen more than once, there are a couple of things that I regularly do.

  • Keep it in sight –  My Fitbit has a wrist band.  This is great because I can almost always see it. Some people, even with devices that are wearable, prefer to keep it in their pockets or hooked around their belt loop.  This gets it out of the way, but if you lose it, you’ll have a harder time remembering when you last had it.
  • Take notice of it – Both times that I lost my Fitbit, I was able to remember a recent time that I last saw it.  Anytime you lose it, you’ll end up having to retrace your steps, but the less time you have from when you last saw it can mean a lot less steps to retrace
  • Sync it – If you have a mobile device, install the app and keep it synced.  As worked with me, this will help you at least know if it’s in the area where you think it might be.
  • Consider a label – I haven’t figured out a way to do this, but I’m trying to think of a way to label either the device or the band. The device is tiny and the little crevice that it slides into often gets damp, so trying to put paper in there would be a mess.  I’ve considered trying to scratch in some info into the inside of the stretchy band, but I’m afraid of slicing through it or creating a weak point that would cause the band to fail.

Readers, have you ever lost or known someone to lose a Fitbit or other wearable technology?  What tips can you think of to keep your stuff from going missing?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Thoughts As I Followed The Ambulance To My House

My wife often calls me at work a couple of times throughout the day, so when the phone rang on Monday morning, I thought nothing of it as I picked up.  But this was a different call than I’ve ever received, and one that I hope I don’t have to hear again.

She was frantic and told me that our daughter had swallowed what she thought was a coin and that it was stuck in her throat.  My mind snapped to attention and I instantly heard that our daughter was crying, which was a good thing to hear given the circumstances.

Still, you could tell that she was in distress and my wife told me that she couldn’t get it out, either up or down.  It was lodged.

The Biggest Risk Was Panic

Our daughter was upset.  I heard her crying but she was also trying hard to catch her breath, which was made more difficult by the fact that she was crying.  She’s always been one, even as a little baby, that would often throw up when she got really upset.  This would be a very, very bad thing to happen in this case.  If she kept getting more upset and struggling, she could throw up, which could then fully block her airway or cause her to inhale the vomit into her lungs.

It’s Getting Worse, I Have To Go

All of the things I just outlined in the paragraphs since I picked up the phone were thoughts that went through my head in just a couple of seconds.  My wife confirmed that she was breathing and wanted to know what she should do.  Before I even had a chance to answer, she said “It’s getting worse, I’m calling 9….”

And the phone cut out.

Working Close To Home

I’d already gotten up from my desk and walked out over toward the corner of the building.  After this, I went back to my desk and grabbed my keys.  I tried calling my wife a couple of times in hopes that things had somehow gotten better, but it went right to voicemail each time.

mb-2015-06-ambuI got in the car and started home.  I tried to drive calm.  The fact that I’d heard our daughter crying on the phone told me that at least she was breathing.  If there was to be any type of an emergency with not breathing, I knew that the clock hadn’t started yet.

It’s only about a six minute drive for me, and most of it was as a normal drive would be except that it was during mid-morning.  When I turned off one road and onto the main road where our subdivision entered, that’s when I saw how real it was.  About a half mile in front of me was a fire truck and ambulance with sirens and lights on.

I see emergency trucks all the time, but this was different.  I knew exactly where they were going.

I was about a minute behind and so when I pulled up, they were just getting out of their trucks.  Since they grabbed equipment, I was able to get to our front door before they did.  My wife was standing there holding our daughter, who now seemed much better.

It Finally Went Down

Somewhere in the minutes between when my wife hung up with me and when I (and the emergency trucks) got to our house, the coin had finally gotten unlodged and went the rest of the way down.

The emergency responders were great.  They quickly assessed that she wasn’t in immediate distress.  They talked to my wife to find out what had happened.  They got down on the same level as my daughter and talked to her and made sure she was answering questions and that she was OK.  They took her blood pressure and listened to her lungs to make sure that there were no signs that she had inhaled it and when everything was all said and done, they explained that she still needed to get checked out and get an x-ray to make sure of the location and such of what she’d swallowed, and gave us the choice of whether they took her in the ambulance or we took her.

We chose to take her.  They still took her over to the ambulance and gave her a stuffed animal (and one for her brother, who was very brave during the ordeal, watching from inside the house until he saw that everything was going to be OK).

In The End

By the time it was all said and done, a second ambulance had arrived as well as a police car.  Our street was pretty well full of emergency vehicles, and I’m sure any neighbors that happened to be home were curious, though with the time of day, we didn’t attract any sort of crowd.

My wife did take her to the emergency room (a post for another day) and they checked her out and determined that she had swallowed a small coin (we think a dime) and that it should naturally pass.

We’ve talked to our kids multiple times about not putting things in their mouth, and while they often listen, they’re both stubborn and often learn lessons the hard way.  I have a feeling that she might have finally learned her lesson.

At the end of the day, we all said a little extra prayer and gave a few extra hugs.  While it ended up not being a true emergency, it was still a scary and humbling experience.  To see how quickly things can change is truly incredible and something that no parent should forget.  Our daughter went from playing with toys to switching to a coin and putting it in her mouth, in a matter of moments.  She had an angel watching over her, and I hope it stays next to her!

Readers,hopefully you’ve never had to go through anything so scary, but if you have, please share your experiences in the comments below.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.