Archive for ‘Fitness’

March 23, 2012

How can you know what works?

by Zen Gray

I love “before” and “after” pics, don’t you?

Jennifer Hudson before and after.

Personally, I think Jennifer Hudson looks stunning either way but her weight loss is definitely impressive. And how did she go from a size 16 to a size 6 after having a baby? She worked out with a trainer (Harley Pasternak) and learned portion control (Weight Watchers) —  a pretty solid weight-loss strategy.

I’ve tried many diets, exercise routines and supplements over the years and here’s how I’d sum up a few of the diets (exercise and supplements to be reviewed in future blogs):

Atkins -Low carb, no fat restriction, works fast, makes you a little crazy and you smell. Must maintain a low carb lifestyle and doesn’t allow for deviation, vacation or holiday eating. Even the carbs on the “maintenance” phase seem too low for anyone who exercises, but it does say you can adjust carb intake based on your activity level. Lots of Atkins food products with chemicals and sugar alcohols out there. (My stomach reacts poorly to sugar substitutes.)  Not sustainable.

Zone Diet – Low carb but higher than Atkins, focuses on a diet of 1/3 low-fat proteins and 2/3 fruits and veggies, effective for weight loss. Sustainable – and there are food delivery services using the zone philosophy so if you can afford it, it’s a good choice.

South Beach – Very similar to Zone Diet, also created by a doctor, controls cellular inflammation and hormonal response in the body using three phases of carbohydrate intake (you get the most carbs on the phase 3 maintenance part of the diet). It works.

Weight Watchers – I haven’t tried this personally, but my clients that do WW and train with me at least two times per week see great results. I hear they have several plans available but essentially you assign “points” to your food and you’re allowed a certain number of points per day. I believe their philosophy used to be purely calorie-based, but I’m happy to hear that they now allocate points to foods based on the protein-carb-fat ratios and nutrient content. I love that they are community-based and you can have weekly check-ins to help stay accountable. Clearly, Weight Watchers works (see Jennifer Hudson above).

Perricone Diet – A diet created by an anti-aging specialist and dermatologist. It’s all about decreasing inflammation and there are loads of high-priced skin care products to accompany this diet philosophy. I tried the diet AND the products and I lost weight but the products had too much oil in there for me as I was still under 30 at the time and my skin probably wasn’t as dry as most aging skin. Expensive but effective and if I didn’t already love my skin care lines (Arbonne and Kiehls), I’d try it again since I’ve been 29 for over ten years now.

Lean Cuisine – If this is your go-to diet food and it works for you, then great. However, the only benefit I see to these frozen meals are portion/calorie control. Almost all of the choices have wheat in them but they are pretty tasty. Doesn’t help if you’re trying to control hormonal response (i.e. not eating too many carbs). Not great if you’re trying to back off on wheat (gluten) or dairy, but certainly better than a Big Mac. I’ve noticed a lot of sodium in these and hard-to-pronounce ingredients, too. OK, if you just need to replace your usual large portion and/or fast food lunch.

Eat Right For Your Blood Type: This diet takes a more evolutionary perspective to eating: your blood type determines what foods are absorbed best by your body. Since I’m Type O (the oldest blood type – “the Hunter”), I’m supposed to eat plenty of lean meat, vegetables and fruits but avoid dairy and grains since those didn’t become a human staple until agriculture was developed. It’s kind of fascinating and I enjoyed reading the book. I’ve been told to eat this way by more than one holistic doctor, however, I’ve also been told that nothing is healthier than a vegan diet. So, who is right? I don’t know. I lost weight on this diet pretty easily but I can’t vouch for the effectiveness for the other blood type recommendations.

Paleo Diet: Essentially, this diet goes along with my Type O diet but insists that everyone will do well eating lean meat, veggies, fruit and nuts. Again, no grain or dairy. It works for me.

Jillian Michaels –  Master Your Metabolism: This is a book and not necessarily a diet but Jillian has certainly changed her old tune of “calories in, calories out”– which I’m glad to hear. It’s all about balancing your hormones. She’s one of the first celebs to address the importance of eating organic food and explaining what all the “food” and chemical additives are doing to our hormones; which is causing the weight gain so prevalent in the US. Tons of helpful, yet alarming, information. And yes, it works… but it can be pretty confusing and overwhelming.

The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss: I love this book, this diet and this author. This guy has made himself the guinea pig for over ten years of diet, exercise and supplementation experiments. Ferriss records all his info and gives you the basic explanation as well as the in-depth “geek” version of why his plan works. The other thing I LOVE about his plan is the once-a-week binge day… which does have rules but you do get to eat AS MUCH AS you want and WHATEVER you want. Heaven, right? I can’t tell you how much I really appreciate the mental break of eating whatever I like once a week… as long as I follow the rules exactly the other six days of the week. The trick is to NOT CHEAT during those six days and people have a tough time with that. I highly recommend this book… not only for the effectiveness but for entertainment value.

OK, I realized after I started writing this blog that I have more diets that I could write about and no doubt someone will point out another effective strategy.

However, my point is: There are many effective diet strategies! (Hooray, right?!!!)

Some diets offer a “quickstart” option (typically, super low-carb) and others are more long-lasting with more flexibility. I’ve found that if I stick to a diet for three weeks and DON’T see or feel a change, then it’s time to switch. But honestly, I’ve lost weight on almost every diet I’ve tried. The key is to see if you can stick to it.

And how do you know if it’s working? Take measurements and/or check your body fat percentage as well as check the scale. If you’re exercising, you’ll put on weight first before the pounds come off… and you might think that you’re not making any progress when, in fact, you’re making great progress with your fat loss.

Do you have a favorite diet plan you’d like to share? Then let’s talk, dahling.

Ok, ironically, it’s time for me to dash off to see The Hunger Games

Until next time,

~Zen

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March 11, 2012

“Disabuse”

by Zen Gray

Last week I posed a bunch of questions that have been rattling around in my brain and got some feedback about which topic was most compelling.

“Should we keep questioning our choices? Or accept all we do and just move forward?”

Since I’m not omniscient, I’ve got an opinion instead of “the” answer. But I think it’s pretty sound logic to assume that no one can go back in time and make a different decision, therefore, all we can do is move forward. Now, does that mean we can’t change our mind? No. Does that mean we can’t apologize if we screw up? No. I think it simply means that all we can do is course-correct and do the best we can.

I’m taking the GRE in April because I want to get into Claremont Graduate University and get my PhD in Positive Developmental Psychology… and getting a decent grade on that exam is part of the requirement for admission. While studying for this whopper-of-a-test, I came across a word in my vocabulary flash cards: disabuse.

Disabuse means to persuade (someone) that an idea or belief is mistaken: “he quickly disabused me of my belief”, to undeceive, to free a person from deception or error.  The sample sentence they used was:

Galileo’s observations disabused scholars of the notion that the sun revolved around the Earth.

I bet that was a fun discussion for Galileo. Actually, I know it wasn’t because the Roman Catholic Church forced him to stand trial for his belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun and he ultimately died under house arrest after nine years of imprisonment.

OK, what’s my point? My point is that when it comes to love or weight-loss, we don’t have to have such drastic consequences when we try to make things right.

Did you hurt someone’s feelings? Then apologize and ask what you can do to make the situation better.

Did you eat a box of Krispy Kremes? Then drink some water, make a plan for tomorrow, get some rest, and stick with your plan to eat better and exercise.

Is it always that simple? Probably not. But chances are you won’t be killed or incarcerated for your course-correction. (I could be wrong, though, perhaps you deserve some hard time.)

But I know that when it comes to weight loss, NOT changing course could lead to some serious consequences like self-loathing, hiding from the world, heart disease, diabetes, and the death of life as well as the death of one’s dreams.

Disabuse yourself from the idea that you can’t change…. because you can.

Galileo should have it so good.

March 4, 2012

Pick A Topic

by Zen Gray

Zen Gray asking questions?Since I took a little hiatus from my blog, I keep thinking about what I should write next. So much has happened and I’ve got so many topics and questions to choose from. My list looks something like this:

1. Pre-wedding and post-wedding habits and observations.

2. Holiday family stress and the escape tactics I’ve used.

3. Recognizing my personal weight gain/weight loss habits in my significant relationships.

4. Feeling stagnant and getting fatter.

5. Getting psyched up for “the diet” and how it affects my husband, friends and family.

6. Renewal of faith in exercise.

7. The importance of keeping in the right heart-rate zones.

8. Jumping from one diet philosophy to the next.

9. How can you know what works? How long do you give a program before you determine it’s not right for you?

10. When tragedy strikes, how do we comfort ourselves?

11. When should you go with the flow and when should you MAKE things happen?

12. Should we keep questioning our choices? Or accept all we do and just move forward?

13. Rituals. Morning time, daytime, before bed. How important are they?

14. How hard should we try for a baby? What will THAT do to me, my body, my career, my life, my relationship?

15. Are these even the right questions?

See what I mean? There’s a lot of stuff rolling around my brain. And this is just a SHORT list.

I’m trying to dedicate at least one hour a week to blogging right now since I’ve decided to apply for a PhD in Positive Psychology (HOW COOL IS THAT?!!!! RIGHT???!!!) and I have to study for the GRE now, on top of doing my taxes, teaching group fitness and of course personal training and my freelance writing gigs. Yeah, yeah, Gray… you’re so busy. Pffft. I just need to dedicate some time ON MY CALENDAR to writing my blog and I’ll do it. The calendar really is a magical thing when used properly.

OK, that’s it for today since I have to teach a 6:30am spin class tomorrow morning. I’ll have to explore some of those ideas a little more next time… but would love it if I got some feedback about what would interest YOU.

Love and thanks,

~Zen

 

 

June 8, 2011

The Comfort Cocoon

by Zen Gray

woman wrapped up in blanketAt some point, every woman I know has wrapped herself up in a blanket to escape from the world. The “blanket” can include Godiva chocolates, Nutella, pizza, Jane Austen (or in my case Harry Potter), romantic comedies, work, sex, drugs or a multitude of hedonistic distractions.

When clients first contact me, often they are just emerging from their comfort cocoon of choice. As I have dabbled in some of the above indulgences, I can recognize (and appreciate) the phase for what it was: hiding from some kind of pain. I think some people are so good at hiding from their pain, though, that they accept the behavior as “normal” and lose themselves. Fear and discomfort (from too much of a good thing) are typically the catalyst for finally reaching out and asking for help. Perhaps it was a heart attack, a Type II Diabetes diagnoses, a divorce, or a cruel remark about their body fat that finally pushes them into action. Whatever it is, typically the POSSIBILITY of NOT CHANGING gets too painful so they finally make the call.

I don’t know if I have ever been clinically depressed, but I’ve had my moments when the world felt like it was crashing down on me and all I could see was a bleak future. Instead of facing my problems, I retreat for a while. I take time to regroup because I can’t face the breakup or the failure or the bills, etc. I’m not going to beat myself up for doing it either. It’s just what I do. But I’ve gotten a lot better at being aware of when I’m doing it so I can get out of the pain faster. Often it’s a matter of calling upon my friends and family and if that’s not working, I’ll find a new support system. I’ll also write in my journal every day and take time to be grateful for wonderful things in my life. That’s the strategy that helps me.

So I have the utmost compassion for another person who is fumbling around in a painful place. If that’s you… you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too. And mostly, you’ll see a huge smile on my face even if I’m in pain. (I bet you have no idea what that’s like, huh?)

Here’s how I look at it: most people are NOT brave enough to look closely at their lives and see what they really want… what they’d really like to change. They numb themselves with fleeting comfort (sometimes for years, sometimes until they die). But if you’re brave enough to examine what you really want out of life, there are people out there… like me… that will help you try to get it.

One thing I realized, though, is that life is NOT about being comfortable. It’s about doing things that excite you. In fact, I can’t think of a single triumph I’ve ever had that didn’t go hand-in-hand with quite a bit of discomfort: doing stand-up comedy for the first time, walking across fourteen feet of hot coals, chucking my six figure advertising career for one in fitness, or dating for twenty years before finally meeting my fiancé.

I think Timothy Ferriss, one of my favorite authors, said it best: “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

And some of those conversations are with yourself.

Sending you love,

~Zen

 

June 2, 2011

Sabotage

by Zen Gray
Sabotage

Self Sabotage, Stivers Cartoons

Once again, a client came to me in tears saying that her spouse kept feeding her bread, rice, pasta and dessert when she was deliberately trying to cut back on refined carbohydrates. I had to share this very surprising and very real fact:

People closest to you are most likely to sabotage your weight-loss efforts!

Here’s the kicker, though…. it’s because they love you so much that you’re scaring them. They’re worried that you will get all new habits that don’t include them… or that you’re making them wrong for their lifestyle choices. They’re scared that you’re going to change and YOU WON’T LOVE THEM ANYMORE.

So, if you’re having trouble with your spouse or partner, your mom, your sister, your best friend, etc. and they don’t seem to be on board your new healthy program — take a moment to tell them that you love and appreciate them and that you NEED their help to succeed. ASK them for their help. SHARE with them what your new future will look like — with the healthier version of you AND THEM in it.

If you happen to be dealing with a saboteur yourself, please try out this strategy and let me know what happens.

To your health!

~Z

May 10, 2011

Getting Into a Groove

by Zen Gray
Madonna's "Into the Groove"

Madonna's iconic "Get Into the Groove" look

Madonna would be so proud of us. After living together for six months, my fiance and I have really gotten into a groove. We time our morning rituals nicely so that while I’m getting ready, he’s feeding the dog and taking her outside. I grab my protein shake and run off to the gym and then the house is free for David to get dressed and ready for work, too. When he comes home, I’m typically making a protein-packed dinner for the two of us and then we either take the dog to the park or head to the gym together before watching a movie and going to bed. Thursday nights are open for fun activities like dancing or karaoke or whatever else we choose.

Saturdays are typically spent working on career-improvement things — new certifications, classes or books for me and music-related research and rehearsals for David. Sundays are easy-going family days as well as grocery shopping/prep days for the week ahead.

Sundays are typically our cheat/binge-days, too, so I really look forward to them. Every time I crave something sugary during the week, it’s easier to triumph over the urge to blow my diet by writing down a list of all the food that I COULD eat on Sunday. (Even though once I get there, I don’t always have those cravings anymore.)

It’s a nice healthy groove we’re in… but I understand that sometimes a groove could be more of a “rut” for some people.

I’ve certainly had relationships where we’d have dessert every day and our habit would just be to complain that “we shouldn’t have” after we ate it. Then we’d do a little self-loathing, finger pointing and do it again the next day. Sound familiar? Or instead of going to the gym together or being active, we’d only hang out on the couch… secretly resenting the other person for not getting up off their ass and coming up with something more exciting. Fat and bored. Fun.

When clients come to me overweight and unhappy, one of the first things I do is ask them to describe a typical workday… from waking up to going to bed: all activity, food, work and relationship stuff. It all matters because all of those things affect the body. We discuss how we could make some small changes and try to adopt new habits every week… not go for the complete overhaul on Day One. I know I’d fail if I tried to make too many changes at one time so I wouldn’t expect anyone else to be able to do it either.

If your groove feels more like a rut, then take a look at one entire workday over the last week. See where you can make small changes:

  • Can you get more sleep?
  • Can you start your day with a better breakfast?
  • Are you drinking enough water?
  • Do you enjoy your job? Is there anything you can do to improve it?
  • Do you have healthy, supportive co-workers?
  • Do you need workout buddies?
  • Are you eating balanced meals every 3-4 hours?
  • Are you addicted to caffeine?
  • Is your home a place that feels rejuvenating?
  • Are you active with your loved ones?
  • Do you take time to play?
  • Are you taking steps to improve your life or are you coasting and hoping?

I think that if you’re not excited about SOMETHING, then you’ll be depressed about everything. One of the first places to start making a change, is to create ANY vision that sparks some passion in you and start working toward it. Whether it’s your work, your partner, your family, or your dreams… start tracking SOMETHING and the momentum will help you succeed in more areas than one.

It doesn’t matter if you’re just making one more sales call or adding one more minute to the treadmill, make today just a little better than before and soon you’ll notice you’ll be groovin’, too.

Health & Happiness,

~Zen

April 6, 2011

Options

by Zen Gray

Thankfully, there are always options.

decisions

We can choose to be pissed at people that play unfairly… or we can let it go and focus on other opportunities. I’ve seen many people choose to hold onto anger and bitterness for years only to have it cause health problems. It’s like that quote, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t be a grudge-holder. It’s exhausting and I’m too perky for that.

David and I had a great workout on Monday night and really let go of the wedding contest disappointment. We decided instead to focus on the options that we have now. We can have this wedding any day we want, any where we want and have as many (or as few) as we want. We can do a beach wedding where none of the guests wear shoes. We could do a party in a mountain lodge where everyone wears pajamas and we have hot cocoa and s’mores. We can do a destination wedding or a get married during a little cruise. Or Vegas! And I can pick a dress to wear from any designer I like! Lots of ideas sound fun to me and I’m not attached to any of them.

I think it’s the same for exercise. If someone gave you one routine and said, “This is it. Don’t deviate. Go!” You might find it a little tedious and restrictive. But when you explore all the fun classes and equipment and routines available to you, you’ll enjoy mixing it up so much more! Sometimes I want to power through and lift as hard as I can. Sometimes I want to just go for a long walk and not kill myself over the intensity. Sometimes, I want to do a circuit with David. Sometimes I want to just crank up my cardio and zone out with my ipod. Sometimes I want to go dancing. Sometimes I just try to keep up with my puppy (which we’ve decided is a Rhodesian Ridgeback and German Shepherd mix and LOVES to play for hours or sprint like she’s on a lion hunt).

I think what’s important is that we recognize that there are many paths to achieve the same goal but much of our journey depends upon our attitude. Lots of ways to get married and lots of ways to get healthy!  We can choose to enjoy the triumphs or we can bitch about inconveniences. (Although, I think that acknowledging my pissed-off feelings for a moment is fine as long as I don’t wallow in them for too long.)

So go forth and frolic in your favorite way… and I’ll keep you posted on the wedding ideas. 🙂

 

April 4, 2011

Meh.

by Zen Gray

We didn’t win the wedding… and I’m really ok with that.Absolut Bullshit

What I’m NOT ok with is that they never posted the voting numbers and apparently we didn’t even come in the “Top 5” number of votes?

*cough*

Lame.

 
Anyway, we would have really liked to have had a big wedding with tons of friends and family but it’s most likely going to be a small one now. But, my best friend had a small wedding and it’s still one of my favorites so I’m sure it will be awesome either way.

Could we still figure out how to have a big wedding if we wanted? Probably. But like anything, David and I weigh the options, “Hmmm…  a huge party or a down payment on a house?” In every scenario, the house payment wins.

But it got me thinking about weighing the options.

“Do I get more sleep or do I work out this morning?”

“Do I eat fast food or go hungry until I can get access to a healthier lunch?”

“Do I satisfy my craving or give in and start over tomorrow?”

I think we’re all faced with these choices constantly and I have to admit giving into sleep, fast food and sugar cravings on more than one occasion. And sometimes, like yesterday, I’m just bummed out and want a little comfort food.  (Because dammit… Nutella on a spoon was necessary to ease my disappointment after that bogus wedding contest result.)

But you know what I said to myself before I even put that chocolately goodness to my lips?

“OK. I’m going to enjoy this. And then tomorrow, I’m working out in the morning with my class AND I’m working out with David when he gets home from work. PLUS, I’m implementing a “no sugar in the house” rule until my fitness contest is over. My weekly cheat hour will remain in place but it will be sugar-free until then.”

Will I be perfect until the end of July when I compete? Probably not. But having a plan is better than none, and enjoying a treat now and then is better than “eating around the craving” by eating everything BUT the yummy tidbit that I really want.

So, just remember when you’re making a choice between the margarita and the guacamole, that delicious mile-high sandwich or the chips, the mac n’ cheese or the ribeye, or the all-you-can-eat pancake special; it’s just one choice and it’s just one meal and it’s just one plan to adjust your lifestyle to recover from the not-so-healthy option you might have picked.

But please… choose the option to keep TRYING to get back on track. (Even though you’d like to wallow in self-pity for a little bit first.) We’re all dealt some pretty crappy crap to deal with at times and I’m the first to condone a moment  of “Bitter, party of one!” before getting back on the bright-side bandwagon. (It’s not healthy to keep it all in. Go ahead and be pissed! But just for a bit. Let it go, ya know?)

Mae West QuoteMae West Headshot

*Sigh*

Well, David’s home so we’re off to the gym.

Have I mentioned that I’ve noticed workouts are especially powerful when I’m pissed off?

Have a great night, everyone 🙂

March 30, 2011

“I Don’t Feel Like It”

by Zen Gray

It’s not often that I do my hair and make-up.

Jessica Simpson in a baseball hat

Jessica Simpson wearing my work attire.

I’m lucky in that I get to wear sweats and a baseball cap to work practically every day so when I’m not only tired, but busy, AND dolled up for some meeting I had… I REALLY don’t want to go to the gym and get my workout in and get all sweaty and gross. But you know what? Even though I bitched the whole way over there… I felt great and so proud of myself after that workout. I even did a personal best on chest press. Go me!

It really helped that David was ready to go when I got home. It would have been very easy for him to talk me out of the upper body workout we did tonight. All he’d have to say was, “Would you rather (fill in the blank)?” And I would have done it. I’m really thankful that I can count on him. I wish that everyone had such a supportive partner and/or buddy.

 

 

 

Which makes me ask the questions:

  • Is your significant other HELPING you?
  • If not, can you find a way to get them on board your program?
  • Can you turn to friends or family instead if your partner is just not on your “get healthy bandwagon” just yet?

I know sometimes it sucks to get yourself to the gym. Try to have all your workout gear ready to go before you can justify your way out of it… and get some support from SOMEONE. Because when it comes down to it, you’re NEVER sorry you exercised, are you?

 

March 29, 2011

Radio Show

by Zen Gray

Last week, Sophia Venable from LA Talk Radio had me on her show.

Zen Gray on LA Talk Radio

I just listened to the podcast and laughed to myself because we’re both so passionate about health that we segued a gazillion times: relationships, weight loss, anorexia, bulimia, aging gracefully, cosmetic surgery, eating tricks to make you feel full, artificial sweeteners, alkalizing the body for health, how dogs help you live longer, finding time to exercise, slowing metabolism, hormones, scale vs. measurements, kids’ fitness, being a role model for your kids, chronic dehydration, and more. We definitely could have talked for several more hours and still kept up the frenetic pace. It was so much fun! (Click here if you’d like to listen.)

All of those topics rally around that which I have dedicated my life’s work: to living a healthier and happier life.

There are times when I doubt myself because I think, “Who am I? I’m not a doctor. Maybe I need more schooling before I can really give any advice…” But listening to that show made me realize that I actually know a lot of stuff and that I barely scratched the surface of information I have archived in my brain during that interview.  I know that I can always learn more… but I don’t have to know EVERYTHING before sharing strategies that I’ve tested out either on myself or my clients, right?!

Overcoming that inertia, the inaction that comes from thinking about criticism or failure, is a mental exercise that I’ve worked on my entire life and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so. When I was a senior in high school, I read and loved Shakespeare’s Hamlet because he was the classic example of the plight of the intellectual; thinking about all the angles and outcomes and preparing for every scenario so much that you just might end up doing nothing. And having a family of lawyers, the phrase “cover your ass” is liberally and possibly over-applied in my life, too.

I’ve been taught to worry about what might happen and how I could prepare for possibly risky situations. But if I’ve learned ANYTHING in my life… it’s that you can’t possibly prepare for every single outcome and sometimes it’s better to just DO SOMETHING and have faith that you can correct mistakes as you go along. Preparation is great, certainly, but not at the expense of inaction. The most successful people out there are the ones that aren’t afraid to make TONS of mistakes.

How’s this for a great quote?

Wayne Gretsky quoteSo true. Thanks, Wayne 🙂 I’ll get back to writing my book now.