Archive for December, 2010

December 30, 2010

Family and Fat

by Zen Gray

Wow. My parents can really push my buttons.

I just got back from the winter wonderland known as Chicago… and I’m totally exhausted from my vacation.

My parents met my fiance for the first time and I really wanted everything to go perfectly. But as we all know… there’s no such thing as perfect. I just forget to act like a rational human being when I’m around my parents sometimes. I don’t know what it is. Is it because they still think of  me as a kid? Is it because I revert back to some teenage rebellion phase? Is it some sibling rivalry thing that makes me crave more approval? I don’t really know.

I had high hopes for this trip. I pictured my parents embracing David and taking me aside to tell me how happy they were and what a great guy he is. I wanted my mom and my sister to be all giggly about wedding stuff and take me out dress shopping. But somehow, after several fun days of whirlwind Christmas stuff like wrapping presents for my sister’s kids, dessert eating, picture taking and sleep deprivation… there was a relationship meltdown. Not with David (they liked him a lot) but with me and my parents (my mom, in particular.)

I think back to how this fight happened. At the time I wasn’t feeling well. I had a headache, I was hormonal, I was tired and I had just gotten blown off by an old friend which made me really sensitive. But you know what? My diet was also crappy for a few days. (My favorite Chicago foods are Vienna Beef hot dogs and “oh, sure… I’ll have some more Fanny May fudge!”) And the only workout I had was to shovel the snow a couple times (Not that it isn’t hard work… but it’s not exactly ideal cardio.)

My mom and I had a misunderstanding and I let it get totally out of hand. We’re both pretty strong and stubborn. We hurt each other with words we didn’t mean. I love my parents more than anything and right now my mom isn’t even talking to me… which kills me because we’ve always been very close. But all I can do is say I’m sorry and that I love her and keep trying to mend that bridge. Giving up on that relationship is not an option.

What’s so sad is that I kept thinking about how my uncle just died and how his daughters would give anything to be able to talk to him again. I bet given the chance, they wouldn’t waste another moment over a silly argument.

So, even though I started the Love and Fat blog with the idea of intimate relationships affecting body weight… I can also see how family relationships can really affect it, too. And what’s more important… I can see how the lack of a healthy lifestyle (even for a few days) can hurt a relationship, too.

I bet if I had more sleep, better nutrition and a couple healthy workouts over those few days, I would have had the patience and understanding that my parents deserve. Instead I let my temper snap and I feel just awful. I should know better.

December 19, 2010

Love and Frustration

by Zen Gray

At the end of my last blog, I mentioned that we got a puppy named Tippy Longstocking. We have since renamed her “The Piddler”.

Ohhhh Emmmmm Geeeee.

How can a little thing pee this much? What’s awesome is that it’s raining buckets (thankfully NOT cats and dogs) outside and house training a new puppy in the rain is nothing short of excruciating torture for all those involved.

It’s been interesting to watch David (my fiancé… tee hee!) try to handle the following situation:

  • We take her out of the crate.
  • We put on our rain gear and walk her outside our place (down the wet tile stairs, past the puddles on the concrete walkway and then out to the grass.)
  • Tippy goes to the bathroom so we praise her and immediately give her a little treat.
  • We walk back through the rain to our door.
  • Towel off her body and wipe her toes.
  • We take off our boots, coats and hats and shake out the umbrella.
  • Then she immediately pees on the floor again.

What would you do? Perhaps you could remain calm after the first 10 times but soon you might let your patience give way to a frustrating exclamatory remark or two.

I’ve heard people say to couples that are considering having a baby to get a dog first. I think that’s pretty wise considering the above scenario. I haven’t really seen David in this kind of predicament before and it’s been enlightening. He definitely gets more upset than I do, but I think it’s because I’ve had devil dogs in the past and I’ve gone through house training before. This is all new for him. He never had a new puppy. What’s worse is that his parents sent away their dogs to be trained so when they came back, they immediately obeyed all commands. That’s a pretty awesome system, actually, but it doesn’t prepare a do-it-yourself-er for potty training.

I had to share with him, “Honey, you’re giving me a headache because you’re getting so stressed. Can we just accept that she’s going to pee all over the floor for a while and we’ll just have to take her out?”

He sighed and said he was sorry for getting so frustrated. After taking the dog out a few more times, I noticed that he grabbed a chocolate bar out of the freezer after our dinner. Ahh… I can so relate to that. A little treat to calm you down, right? In that moment I really wanted one, too, but David is fortunate in that he has a naturally lean build so chocolate bars won’t phase him in the least. I, however, can’t do sweets as much as I used to because not only will I put on weight but my skin will break out. Ugh… fabulous.

I used to eat more sugar when my life was stressful, but now I realize that I indulge more when I’m happy than when I’m frustrated. For example, I ate Cold Stone for two days AFTER the marathon just to celebrate while we were still in Honolulu. But I haven’t had any sweets since I’ve been back in LA. I’d love to be able to eat chocolate chip cookies all day every day but there are consequences to that choice. I also don’t want to eat just vegetables all day every day either. I try to practice moderation even though I LOVE excess! There are so many emotional associations with food, though. I’ve definitely had to become aware of how I was USING food to become aware of how others use it, too.

I love David. I love my new puppy. And I was frustrated with both of them at different points in the day but dealing with it head-on seems to help me keep in control of my sanity and my waistline. It reminds me of a quote I once heard:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It helps that they’re both so incredibly cute, too.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend! Now I’m looking forward to last minute holiday shopping… NOT.

Health & Happiness,


December 18, 2010

Big Week

by Zen Gray

To say that this has been a big week for me is kinda like saying “God is smart.” It’s a little bit of an understatement.

I flew to Honolulu last Friday to run my first marathon. My boyfriend, David, accompanied me (which was wonderful) because:

  1. Airplane turbulence makes me crazy.
  2. He wanted to support me and help me prep for the race.
  3. We wanted to enjoy a short vacation together in paradise.

I hoped I wouldn’t end up walking like a pirate after those 26.2 miles but I wasn’t sure what kind of shape I’d be in after race day. Even though we got to Honolulu on Friday, I wouldn’t be racing until early Sunday morning so I had two days to really let the panic set in. I tried to calm myself by thinking, “You just gotta finish, Gray. You don’t have to push yourself.” Having been diagnosed with both bursitis AND tendinitis in the knees, I figured my finish would be less than graceful. But because I had so much love and support (and training!) I knew that I would cross that finish line even if I had to crawl. That conclusion was non-negotiable.

The “carbo-load” dinner was pretty fun and ended early so we could all get to bed by 8pm the night before the race. Our coaches suggested we wake up at 1:30am so we could be dressed, sun-screened, fed and ready to meet in the lobby at 3am. Oh yeah… 3am. As a group of 150 participants from AIDS Project Los Angeles, we all cheered in the lobby before heading out to the starting line. (I had a moment of silence for any guests not associated with the marathon who may have been trying to sleep at that perky hour.)

I wondered, “Why in the hell do we have to head to the starting line NOW??!!!” As we approached Ala Moana Park, I realized why we walked there so early… 25,000 runners! When the fireworks went off at 5am to mark the start of the race, it took me 13 minutes just to get to the starting line in that crowd of hopeful finishers but it was a spectacular site to see so many people take on such a huge challenge. (Check out the marathon video at the end of this blog to hear the APLA cheer and see the fireworks!)

My running partner, Chad, paced with me a 3:2 run-to-walk ratio. It was invigorating to kiss my boyfriend at miles 5.5 and 11 and then I knew I wouldn’t see him until the end of the race. Chad and I enjoyed darkness for the first 1.5 hours and then the sun came up as we climbed the hill around Diamond Head. (I could swear this whole course was uphill, actually, but that’s not what the chart says.)

We wove in and out of runners the entire way until really bad foot/ankle pain made us both start walking after mile 20. I love that some of these participants wore costumes while running. I saw a Pokemon, 2 brides in wedding gowns, Avatar characters and various other festive outfits. The Japanese really know how to lighten up the mood during something so brutal as a marathon that’s all uphill in 110% humidity… just sayin’.

So we’re getting close to mile 26 when Chad says, “You know we have to run in, right?” Um, ok. Guess I can grimace my way to the end. Why not? Of course, the spectators are cheering and clapping and they’re pumping Justin Bieber tunes… so we run smiling and crying across the finish line to get our shell necklace that only marathon finishers get. YES!!!!

The cops told us to move along (um, really??!!) and get out of the way for more finishers and I saw David grinning at me from the sidelines as I hobbled over to him. He joined us as we dragged ourselves to the finishers tent where we got our bright blue finisher t-shirts. Shortly thereafter, I enjoyed a 20-minute ice bath. ( I won’t bore you with the awesome details of that delightful horror.) Strangely, I couldn’t eat more than a little fruit immediately following the race. But later that night, I wolfed down both a roast beef AND a ham sandwich before bed. (There are definitely some caloric perks to running a marathon.)

Thankfully, the ice-bath facilitated my miraculous recovery and I was walking around just fine the next day. There’s a Duke Kahanamoku statue in Waikiki Beach and they say to hang your lei on his arms for good luck so I was determined to walk over there.

Satisfied with my accomplishment (and my wish for good luck), David suggested that we walk out to the beach together. To give you a little background on our rapport, we’re one of those nauseatingly lovey-dovey couples that hold hands constantly. So when he started saying how much he loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, I just thought, “I love you, too, honey…” It wasn’t until he dropped down on one knee that my jaw dropped, too. He pulled out a BEAUTIFUL ring and placed it on my finger, “Will you marry me?”

The first thing I said (after I said “YES!”) was, “Wow. The Duke works fast!” And the next couple of days were a blissful haze in paradise.

Perhaps it was because we were riding the Honolulu high when we got back to LA, but we visited the West LA Animal Shelter the next day and fell in love with our new puppy, Tippy Longstocking. What a magical week!

Wishing YOU lots of love and happiness, too.


PS: Here’s the marathon video. ENJOY!

December 9, 2010

The Finish Line

by Zen Gray

As I said before, this week I’m traveling to Honolulu to do my first marathon. I say do because I’m not running the whole thing, nor am I racing. I’ll be doing a run/walk ratio of 4-to-1. I’m looking to at least crawl across the finish line in under six hours. Awesome. I gotta be honest… I’m SO OVER the sweaty-blistery-chaffing thing. I’m almost pissed that I agreed to do this but I made the commitment so I’ll do it.  (I’m convinced that besides raising a ton of money for charity, the only saving grace about this race is carbo loading.)

That’s the funny thing about my commitments, though. First I’m excited about them and then after awhile, I get irritated that I HAVE to do something. And then I decide that I might as well be happy about them since I made the commitment and I’ve got to keep going or I’ll not have my integrity. And THEN I end up being really proud of all the hell I put myself through.

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
– Vincent T. Lombardi

I don’t think all commitments involve suffering, though. At least I hope not. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never taken the plunge and gotten married. Or one might argue that I hadn’t met the right person. Finding “The One” always seemed like such a daunting task but it seems lately there’s been a shift in people believing there are like six or seven soulmates out there for each of us. That’s a little more comforting like, “Hey, even if you screw up with that one, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up shriveled and alone…”

Now I’m realizing that I always thought of finding “The One” as kind of the finish line. And perhaps that’s exactly why I never really wanted to find him before. If you reach the finish line, then it’s over. The end. Goodbye. My life’s quest would be over and then… meh. And I know this sounds silly, but I didn’t consciously think this stuff. It just got in my head somehow at some point and it’s taken a while to uncover that belief.

Funny enough, I’m traveling to the Hawaiian Islands with my new love where “Aloha” means both goodbye AND hello. So perhaps finding “The One” can be both the end – and a new beginning. Because after all, it ain’t over ’till it’s over and there’s always a new finish line to discover… although I’m pretty sure this will be my last marathon.

I’ll post some pictures when I get back 🙂


December 7, 2010

Love and Fat

by Zen Gray

This is a big week for me. In a couple days, I’m flying to Honolulu to run my first marathon. Since June I have been running at least once a week in the hopes that I would become one of those people that LOVES running. Regretfully, this phenomenon never happened. As a person with constant foot and knee pain most of my life, I still hate it. However, before I signed up for the training, the most I had ever run without stopping was 2 miles. Now I can boast having run 18 miles during my longest training run.

Zen Gray AIDS Marathon Training

Zen's 18-mile run

And even though it didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling, I’m confident that I’ll be able to finish a marathon and consequently bust through a self-imposed limitation in this area. Plus, I believe other areas of my life that seem stagnant will miraculously evolve after this victory as well.

What’s interesting is that during this time when I’ve been training so hard, I’ve also fallen in love. Ironically, this year I wrote a fitness book called LOVE MAKES YOU FAT: How to Keep the Love and Lose the Love Handles. It includes many strategies I’ve learned the hard way. A therapist can really have a field day with THAT conviction, though.  Did I fall in love so I could gain weight and have an excuse not to finish the marathon? Did I get in a relationship so I could blame him for my shortcomings? Or am I finally aware of my deep-seeded fears about love so now I can transform into the fully self-expressed romantic that I truly am?

Oh boy.

My mom told me once never to write down anything personal because it could come back and “bite me in the ass.” Well, I realized recently that my survival instinct is often in direct conflict with my need for happiness and fulfillment. And because I want to do more than just “survive” my life… I’m going to share how my relationship affects my body in the interest that other women will see a little bit of themselves in me. I take a lot of pride in all the work (and mistakes) I’ve done to evolve into the person I am today. I think there is a lot to learn from each other.

I’m making a commitment today to write at least twice a week about how relationships affect body weight. Hope you’ll join me for this journey and please wish me luck 🙂

Health & Happiness,