Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

March 22, 2011

Soft Addictions

by Zen Gray

Do you love a certain show(s) and watch it religiously? Are you compelled to check Facebook first thing in the morning? Are you always holding a cup of coffee? Do you NEED to shop? Are you a little too good at video games?

These behaviors are actually considered soft addictions — a term coined by Judith Wright to describe “activities, moods or ways of being, avoidances, and things-edible and consumable but which do not pose a grave health disease risk – rather, they have the most effect on personal time and productivity.”

Internet AddictonApparently, over 90% of Americans have soft addictions and I’m not surprised by that statistic at all. I know I enjoy my excessive Internet browsing as much as the next person… and my fiance and I always turn on a movie when we eat dinner together. It’s just what we do to relax.

But then I thought, “How much more could I get done if I stopped watching movies every night and stopped checking facebook every morning?” I bet it’s a lot.

But then I think, “Hey, I need to relax, too!”

So, there’s a little battle going on in my head about the benefits of relaxation vs. productivity. Am I escaping reality when I really need to dig in and get something done?

I know there’s so much more to this topic but I just want to throw these questions out there:

  1. What are your soft addictions?
  2. Why do you do them?
  3. Is it possible that they’re going beyond stress relief so that they’re problematic to your health or happiness?
  4. Could you make a small change to your habits so you have more control over the compulsion?
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March 21, 2011

Forehead-slapping moment

by Zen Gray

There’s this great thing that some bakeries offer to engaged couples…. wedding cake tasting appointments!
Cake Tasting at Torrance Bakery
David and I saved our cheat hour for the amazing cake-tasting event at the Torrance Bakery today since they are one of the sponsors of the Ultimate Wedding Experience. They brought out a selection of:

  • White cake with fudge filling
  • White cake with lemon filling
  • Strawberry angel food cake
  • Banana nut with custard filling
  • Red velvet with cream cheese frosting
  • Chocolate cake with raspberry filling

Each one was more delicious than the last. You’ve never heard more “Mmmmm!!!” sounds from a couple in your life. (At least not in public.) But in the end, you’ve got to pick a favorite — and David and I LOVE chocolate so we knew our cake was going to be chocolate with some fudge in there.

We were told initially that we couldn’t get chocolate icing but when we were flipping through the cake book, David found a chocolate wedding cake with chocolate flowers… and his face lit up.

Homer Simpson in the Land of Chocolate

“Could we get THAT?”

The lovely woman helping us couldn’t have been nicer or more excited for us when we told her that we were one of the wedding contest finalists. She brought us out the cake samples, some bottled water to clear our palate in between flavors, told us what size cake we’d get if we won, and shared our enthusiasm for the joy of picking out this wedding-day delight.

She laughed, “Well, you can get chocolate fondant with the sugar flowers for a premium, if you like.”

And David said, “Yes, we’ll take the chocolate cake with chocolate filling with chocolate, chocolate, chocolate…”

And I added laughing, “Yes, can we get it with chocolate forks, chocolate napkins, on chocolate plates served by chocolate people?”

The lady laughed, “We’re still working on the technology to make everything chocolate.”

It wasn’t until a few minutes later that it struck me.

I said “chocolate people” to this woman — who happens to be African American. OMG. She probably thinks I’m a racist – when I was truly just taking a walk down chocolate lane in my mind like Homer Simpson in that episode when he dreams of the land of chocolate…

When we left, I turned to David and said, “That was really fun and I loved all of those cakes… but…um… CHOCOLATE PEOPLE?!!! WHAT. WAS. I. THINKING?!!!”

He laughed hysterically, “I knew you were just going with the chocolate extreme scenario…”

“OMG. Do you think I offended her?” Then I slapped him playfully, “Why didn’t you SAVE me?!!”

“What was I supposed to say? That it’s ok because my stepdad is black? That would have made things worse.”

I both laughed at my ridiculously inappropriate  comment… and groaned all the way home. I wasn’t planning on eating my foot today, too.

Idiot.Open Foot Insert Mouth Mug

March 18, 2011

Everyone’s Got Stuff

by Zen Gray

It’s a beautiful sunny Friday… and the day after St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve noticed a few hung-over people at the gym today but not many.

David and I are four weeks into our diet/workout plan and I’ve lost an average of 2 pounds per week. (I started at 147.9 lbs and now I’m 140.5 lbs.) I’m quite pleased with those stats since I wasn’t sure how my body would respond to the gluttonous cheat hour… but apparently, you can’t do that much damage in an hour because still I’m losing weight and feeling pretty good. I have to add that I’ve started teaching more classes, though, and I’m definitely sweating a couple more times a week than just my evening workouts with David.

But… oh, man I’m sore. I wake up sore in my low back every day.  And I’m not sure if I can place all the blame on that chiropractor that first “adjusted” my back. A few years ago, I was given a free adjustment from a chiropractor (even though I had no back pain… I was told it was a good “preventive” thing to do). And within a couple weeks, I was walking tilted side-ways with so much pain that it took me 45 minutes to get from the adjustment table to the floor. That doctor told me that my new shoe inserts were causing the problem.

Now, before I get all the chiropractors upset… let me just say that I went to orthopedic surgeons and acupuncturists before another chiropractor that one of my client’s recommended showed me how to do a couple exercises that fixed the problem in a couple days. The second chiropractor, Dr. Gary Jacob, was fantastic and knew what he was doing and didn’t even have to touch me to help me. He looked at the x-ray the first place did and said, “Oh! You’re one of the few people that has kind of a 6th lumbar vertebrae… actually, it’s not a fully formed L5 that act like two separate vertebrae so it can slip around once you’ve loosened it up. You should have never been adjusted… and now you’ll have to tighten up your low back again. Don’t bend forward for two weeks and do these couple exercises…” He said it was some kind of Spondylolistheses, which is Greek for “slippery vertebra”.

Awesome, right?

That was four years ago when I first had the problem and I’ll ALWAYS have to do these exercises and be aware of my low back issues. So even though I’m a personal trainer, even though I’ve done triathlons and marathons, even though I’m active all the time… I’ve got stuff. We’ve all got stuff. And yes, I’ll have to deal with it all the time and it’s a pain in the butt (or the back) but I figure it’s just like brushing my teeth. I just add it to the list of things I’ve got to do every day and I don’t take it personally and I don’t let it hold me back. Sure some people have it better… but I’m thankful because a lot of people have it a lot worse.

***If you’ve been bitching about some of your stuff, I challenge you to change your perspective. Take a moment to consider how much worse it COULD be and try not to make your stuff some kind of “the-world’s-against-you”conspiracy to hold you back from better health, love or prosperity. THEN, take a moment to be thankful for all the great stuff in your life!***

If you practice this perspective shift on a regular basis, I promise you’ll enjoy a much happier and more fulfilling life.

Wishing you lots more great stuff,

~Zen

March 17, 2011

For Love and Money

by Zen Gray

Have you ever lost sleep worrying about the bills?

The reason why I’m bringing up financial issues in this blog is because I believe that money troubles are another symptom that life is not in balance. And when life’s not in balance it WILL affect your body… and NOT in a good way. Studies show that if you stress, you’ll gain more belly fat. Other studies show that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll eat more. And still other studies show that if you and your partner don’t have money strategies that mesh, then it’s the number one cause of divorce! For those reasons, let’s talk about money.

Thankfully, I haven’t felt the sting of credit-card debt for a while now. But I’m re-reading a book called Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker and he talks a lot about your “financial blueprint” – the unconscious money strategies you’ve learned that are either working for you… or they’re not.

I grew up in a middle class family and I was taught that talking about money was “tacky” and there were never budgets. My mom would often buy a bunch of clothes on sale and bring them home and we’d take back what wouldn’t fit. I don’t remember one discussion about money when I was growing up except that I was told it’s rude to ask about money. Oh, and I used to win coloring contests as a kid and was told to “put the money in the bank”. I vaguely remember having this savings account and then my great grandmother left me $1000 which was added to the savings account– but when I went to pull out money in college, my parents told me that they used it for my tuition. That seems totally fair — except for the fact that I thought it was mine to use for what I wanted so I felt like I saved my money… for no reason. I’m SURE that experience carried over into my adult life because until recently, I’ve never had a savings account. Why would I? On some emotional level, it was pointless to save.

I’ve never been that great with money but I was blessed with a family that really took care of me. The only problem is that I didn’t learn effective financial strategies on my own and quickly got into debt once I left home. After YEARS of turmoil, I’ve finally started to educate myself about how to MANAGE my money. Eker suggests opening a “Financial Freedom” bank account where you deposit 10% of all your income (after taxes), to create a “Financial Freedom” jar in your home to deposit SOMETHING in it every day (even if it’s just a single penny), and to have a “play” account or jar with 10% of your income. Lastly, he wants you to open up four more accounts for Long Term Savings For Spending, Education, Giving and Necessities. Here’s the percentages:

10% Financial Freedom Account and/or jar

10% Play Account and/or jar

10% Long-Term Savings For Spending Account

10% Education Account

10% Give Account

50% Necessities Account

Even if I just have one dollar, I’m supposed to manage that dollar!  Eker says, “This action alone will send a message to the universe that you are ready for more money. Of course, if you can manage more, manage more.”

To keep my sanity, to whittle my waistline, to build some wealth, and to keep the peace with my fiance — I’m willing to give it a try. Of course, there’s a bunch of other strategies that I can implement, but I’m starting small so I can feel successful at mastering one thing at a time… much the same way I train my clients.

Perhaps because I’m a Taurus, I picture myself as a bull psyching myself up by taking small steps, then slowly they become bigger and faster and soon I’m this powerful force that can bulldoze my way through any obstacle. Of course, sometimes there’s a pretty red scarf waving around and my attention gets diverted but that’s just a part of the game. Sometimes we get distracted, sometimes we spend too much, sometimes we have a cookie… we must simply refocus and try again, right?!

To your health, wealth and happiness!

~Zen

March 16, 2011

If you feel like a failure…

by Zen Gray

I think we all get caught in the trap of feeling like a failure sometimes.

But only people that are brave enough to fail and keep trying… eventually succeed.

Keeping the faith,

~Zen

 

March 15, 2011

Shake it up

by Zen Gray

“What is the perfect protein shake?”

Today I participated in a focus group for protein shakes and we were asked that very question. There were a bunch of trainers seated around a table and we were asked our opinions about current products on the market and what changes, if any, we’d like to make to a new product.

Wow, where would you start? Since my typical client is an overweight female over thirty —  I’d like one that tastes great (of course), is made with REAL dark chocolate (a strong antioxidant that lowers blood pressure), low in NATURAL sugar (no cancer in my sweeteners, thanks!), and low in calories (because almost everyone is trying to lose extra body fat). It would help if there were plenty of calcium (to combat osteoporosis) and some fiber (to help one feel full). Perhaps a sprinkle of vitamins and minerals (since most people don’t eat enough veggies) and a reasonable price (so we can afford to look and feel good) would be fabulous, too. I also added that I’d like to see some healthier packaging without plastics. (Recent studies are finding that to some extent ALL plastics are endocrine disruptors — read that as “man boobs”, low sperm count, hormone-related diseases like breast cancer, and excess belly fat.)

Of course, my perfect protein shake doesn’t exist yet… but they’re getting closer. I haven’t actually tried the brand, Rockin’ Refuel, but was given a coupon to go get a free sample. (Click on the picture if you’d like to see more info.)

I was impressed that they use real milk from cows not treated with hormones along with whey protein, natural sugar (fructose), and it’s a solid 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein, which is great for post-workout muscle recovery. They said it costs under $2 per bottle, which is not bad either.

Before today, I hadn’t put a lot of thought into the perfect protein shake… but I’m getting a lot of feedback after posting the question on facebook. EVERYONE has given me a different answer so it’s clear there’s a lot to choose from out there.

I just wish I had some now because David and I are ready to hit the gym with our brutal “day 2” workout this week… and it would be nice to see how I felt after a swig of this stuff. Guess I’ll just have to stick with my post-workout egg whites, veggies and teaspoon of olive oil.

Do you have something to add? Would love to hear it.

Rock on,

~Z

March 14, 2011

“How was your year?”

by Zen Gray

That was the greeting from my accountant today when I saw him about my taxes.

My first response,”Great!” needed an amendment —  “in many ways, however, not exactly the best year financially.”

After all, you can’t pull the wool over the tax guy’s eyes.  I’m not sure when I learned the habit of always answering in an upbeat, positive way. It’s probably a Tony Robbins thing. Sometimes, I really am great — but sometimes I’m sure it’s part “fake it ’til you make it” and part, “I’m sick of hearing people whine about their problems. Why don’t they focus on solutions?” I want to be a person that focuses on succeeding… on possibilities.

I’m pretty proud of the fact that I paid off all of my debt last year. However, 2010 was more about personal rather than financial triumphs. Last spring I was SICK of attracting men that I just couldn’t end up marrying. But I had kept their old love letters and photos in what I called the box.

All innuendo aside, the box was full of love, obsession, heartache, good hair days, great tans, romantic gestures, some questionable fashion choices and, of course, drama. I always thought I would hold on to the box and finally throw it out after I got married.

Realizing that I needed to make some changes, I took a second look at that ominous cube of memories. Why was I holding on to these things? Did these reminders serve me in some way? Was I afraid of getting rid of these love tokens? I think I was scared that I would never find that intense passion again and perhaps I would have to just be content with the fact that someone loved me once that way… even though each relationship had been broken and was clearly not what I wanted anyway.

Keeping that box, I realized, was EXACTLY like settling and I was NOT READY to give up on love.

As soon as it was gone, I felt lighter.  (Oddly enough, I effortlessly lost a few pounds, too.)  And a few months later, I met David — my own personal super hero. (I’ll have to tell you about his special powers in another episode.) A few months after that, I ran my first marathon in Honolulu, got engaged and got a puppy!

Yep. I’d say it was a very good year… even if I’m not quite ready to retire just yet.

March 13, 2011

The Wedding Contest

by Zen Gray

About a month ago, David and I became finalists in a contest to win a wedding. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to get married and have all of your friends and family there WITHOUT having to freak out about the cost of the reception site, the ceremony, the dress, the bridesmaid’s dresses, the flowers, the tuxes, the catering, the menus, the cake, the DJ, the videographer, the photographer, the album, the wedding coordinator, the event planner, the transportation and even the honeymoon suite? It would be AMAZING, right?!!!

Well, we’ve got a great shot because we’re one of twenty five couples that could win this event called “The Ultimate Wedding Experience.” We had to create a video and write a short essay and get approved by the powers that be… and we did. To vote for us, please click here. (Please enjoy our puppy’s cameo and remember that I never claimed to be a singer.)

Today just happens to be the last day for people to vote. They don’t post how many votes each couple has but they do allow people to post comments under the video. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that. Does that mean they’ll just pick the couple they like the best and not even care about the voting? Is it really the number of COMMENTS that make a difference? If it is, then we’re screwed because some guy dressed in drag to re-enact his first date has over 200 comments to our paltry 90 comments. And what are the judges looking for? For a couple that looks like they’re in love? To the couple that looks most desperate for help? For a couple most connected to all the sponsors? You just don’t really know.

And that made me think… so many times, you just don’t know what people are looking for and what their criteria is for choosing the way they do. There’s no reason to take things personally if someone isn’t looking for your background or type on an audition or job interview or even a love interview (a date). All you can do is be yourself and do your best to do the things that make you happy. It sounds so simple – but I forget sometimes.

Can I just say that I really want to win this wedding? I really do. I embrace this possibility for my love, my family and my friends and have visions of laughing and dancing with David. However, I’m so grateful for the many blessings in my life already… winning this contest would just be more buttercream icing on the wedding cake.

Wishing YOU much love and happiness and unlimited possibilities!

~Zen

March 12, 2011

Working it out… together

by Zen Gray

I’ve been on my new training regimen for three weeks now… and David, my fiance (Do I say that too much? I love that word!), has been working out with me for the last two. I wasn’t really sure how things were going to work when we first started. Was I going to annoy him when I corrected his form? Was he going to get me off track? Was I going to lose momentum because he didn’t feel like going to the gym with me or eating my chicken and broccoli again for dinner?

We’ve been eating relatively the same food every day except for Sunday nights when we have a one-hour free-for-all that I dream about all week. My coach said he allows that one hour a week because, “Compared to a week-long strict diet, that one hour of letting your blood sugar skyrocket isn’t going to do too much damage.” I just laugh when I think about the amount of food I can consume during that hour. It’s such a liberating feeling to eat whatever you want without guilt AND I’ve lost an average of two pounds per week. But man– you gotta EARN that cheat hour.

David seems less excited about the cheat hour than I do. Then again, he hasn’t been as strict as I have during the week. When he’s at work, he eats whatever he wants even though it’s usually pretty healthy. For example, I ALWAYS have the same thing for breakfast — oatmeal with protein powder (not bad, actually) and a glass of green stuff in water. And today, David had coffee and a donut. WTF??!!! Of course, I wasn’t around to see it because I was teaching a spin class. I only found out after we were working out together and I asked if he had any water. He mumbled… “Uh, there’s water in coffee, right?”

“You didn’t drink any water this morning?”
“No.”
“Did you eat anything?”
“I had a… uh…. meh…meh..meh.”

“What?”
“I HAD COFFEE AND A DONUT!!” And then he laughed and hid his face.

My jaw dropped and I pointed at him, “YOU!!!!”

Then we both laughed and got back to the workout… which was fun even though he was EXHAUSTED because, of course, he was dehydrated.

At least he didn’t eat it in front of me.

So far so good. 🙂

March 12, 2011

Sharing

by Zen Gray

“Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.” –Erich Fromm

It’s been a little while since I posted a blog… I’ve let my insecurities about my writing dictate my actions. But I want to be a better writer and I want to share more of myself, my experiences, my thoughts, my observations, my lessons and my questions. So, even though this is a little entry… it’s a big step for me today. I’m committing to writing DAILY  — which freaks me out — so I’m sure it’s exactly what I need to do. So much has been going on in my life lately but my next tale will have to wait until tomorrow.

 

“The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”  -Moliere

February 17, 2011

Post Valentine’s Glow

by Zen Gray

It’s the day after Valentine’s

And all through the house

Are goodies of chocolate

given by your spouse.

We know the boys mean well though, don’t we? My fiance managed to find me dark chocolate covered almonds, which are tasty as well as heart healthy with antioxidants, flavanols and magnesium.

Are you still nibbling on chocolate treats or have you banished them yet? With my fitness competition diet in full swing, I admit that a little chocolate felt totally decadent on Sunday night (when we decided to celebrate Valentine’s.)

It’s so interesting how my perspective shifts on things like food and exercise. For example, I used to think that running 2 miles was quite an accomplishment. Now after running a marathon, I think that 2 miles is a decent warm up. With my food consisting of chicken breast, oatmeal, protein powder, brown rice, yams, white fish and green veggies, now I think that marinades and sea salt are totally indulgent. Weird.

And then I wonder, “Is it normal to think about food this much?” For those times that I’m in the best shape, I have to say that planning my meals becomes a necessary evil. I’m sorry to say that great abs don’t just happen. At least not to me or anyone I know, especially for those of us celebrating more than one 29th birthday. (Have I mentioned that I plan to be perpetually 29? At least for ten more years. Then I will claim to be in my early thirties until I have to get cataract surgery.)

I’m realizing that much of my motivation for diet and exercise comes from wanting to LOOK youthful. (Apparently, I’ve got some vanity issues but I’m trying to be honest.) But I also have this devotion to balance:  celebrating life (with food!) and maintaining good health.

I don’t want to be one of those starving actresses who look AMAZING on the red carpet because I think that takes too much work and it negates one of my favorite parts of living – dining with family and friends.

I just saw Moulin Rouge again and I think that Nicole Kidman looks gorgeous in those corsets – but she gets paid a lot to be hungry.

Perhaps if I had her lifestyle and wardrobe, I could easily amuse myself with week-long spa treatments and trips to exotic islands instead of food.

Or how about Natalie Portman in Black Swan? I hope that most women walked away from that movie realizing that her character was sick and her body unnaturally thin because that is what is expected of a prima ballerina that devotes her life to ballet.

The following questions are very important to me and I ask all my clients: Do you need to be as ripped and lean as a leather-clad Hollywood action heroine? Are you willing to do all the work and miss out on all the tasty food that everyone around you is eating? If the answer is no, then I think we should stop comparing ourselves to the photoshopped, air-brushed, professionally dressed, primped and coiffed Hollywood elite. If looking at fashion magazines makes you feel ashamed or disappointed with your body — then stop it.

I just pulled a few images of some of my favorite celebs I think look sexy, happy and healthy: Eva Mendes, Kim Kardashian, Scarlett Johannson and even Queen Latifa.  I’m pretty sure that most of us could still be thrilled to look like this, right?

All I’m saying is, you’ve got choices. If you want to be shredded like Angelina Jolie in an action film, then go for it. But don’t bitch about how hard the workouts are or how you can’t have pizza anymore. (And depending upon your body type, you might STILL not get the results you want because you’re not Angelina.)

My goal right now is to do ONE fitness competition and know how to share that knowledge with anyone who wants to be that disciplined, too. After the competition, who knows?

I guess I just want to be healthy… and for me that means enjoying celebrations with my sweetheart and my family, my curves, my workouts, discovering new healthy vegetable dishes and even the occasional cleanse to balance out some festive eating. But I know that I can’t get down to 12-13% body fat for a competition if I celebrate too much.

But what’s Valentine’s day without a little chocolate as well as a lot of love?

February 8, 2011

Day 1 Stats

by Zen Gray

My coach for the fitness competition finally sent me my first menu after weeks of “Well, I haven’t officially started the diet yet so I may as well have dessert.” I’d love to post my new eating plan here but part of me feels like it’s his proprietary information. I think I can mention that I’ve never bought rice cakes, yams or fresh white fish before today, though.

I also took measurements and weighed myself at the gym (because I don’t own a scale). Those I CAN post, but don’t really want to. I’m saving the ghastly “before” bikini shot until after I have a redeeming “after” pose from the competition.

5’8″, 147.9 pounds

Measurements (in inches):

Bicep:  11.5, Chest: 34.5, Waist: 28, Hips: 40, Thigh: 21, Calf: 14.5

I haven’t been this mushy in a while and I’m excited to get back on track, if not a bit terrified of the strict regimen I’ll be following. You know what else is terrifying? The outfits these fitness competitors wear. I don’t think my friend Nicole will mind me posting this one because she’s AUCTIONING this archery number. If you’re interested, check out her facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/nicolemoneerguerrero2

Nicole actually WON in this outfit. It’s pretty hard to imagine that anything could make her look bad, but I can’t imagine prancing around in a beddazzled bikini, Mary Poppins’ boots and a weapon reminiscent of Robin Hood. She looks great, however, I have serious doubts about pulling something like this off in front of an audience. What will MY outfit look like?

I’m also told these ensembles usually cost over $1000.

(Oh, here… let me help you pick your jaw up off the floor.)

Now, as if I didn’t have enough pressure with this goal already, let me add ANOTHER element to this; my fiancé David HATES the idea of me walking around in a tiny swim suit and stripper shoes (in public, at least).

When I told David my big fitness goal for 2011, “Honey, I want to do a fitness competition this year and be the leanest I ever have in my life!” — he was less than thrilled.

“Oh great. You’re going to strut around on stage and have even MORE guys lust after you!”

Wow. Ok. Thanks for the support, babe. (Not that I didn’t love his assumption that I have legions of men drooling over me constantly.) I really didn’t expect that kind of reaction. I thought he would be excited to have me look all ripped and sexy (albeit unnaturally tan and oily).

I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. It’s typically my client’s spouse or boyfriend that sabotages their weight loss efforts because of fear. EVERYONE is afraid of being left behind, of being unloved, of not being enough for the spouse who is now hotter than YOU.

How would YOU feel if your sweetheart started dieting and working out? How about if their workouts took priority over time you used to spend together? What if you wanted to cook his favorite meal but he told you that he couldn’t eat it?

I think we’d all like to say that we’d LOVE it if our love took some initiative with their health, but if it’s a new habit, the change might rock the boat a little. I try to tell clients to gently remind their spouses that they love them and that they’re doing all this hard work so the relationship can get even better. (Do you feel like having sex MORE or less when you’re in better shape? HELLO?!)

So, taking my own advice, I told David that I loved him and I’d love it if he’d like to join me in the “Quest for My Best Body of 2011.”

I promised him that I’d give him a private preview of my outfit, too.

January 25, 2011

I Heart Cupcakes

by Zen Gray

I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to start a diet I usually give myself a few days of “preparation” before I actually begin it. Unfortunately, my few prep days typically turn into, “Oh, I better eat this now because I won’t be able to while I’m back on the wagon…”

I’ve noticed this lovely phenomenon happening last week. While waiting for my coach to get back to me about what fitness competition I’m going to do, I’ve been having a food free-for-all. I know once I’m committed to a diet that I’ll stick to it, but that eating plan hasn’t officially started, so I’m in limbo land where chocolate cupcakes dance upon my counter tops.

Perhaps that doesn’t sound like such a huge deal since I still workout and teach spin classes every week.  But even as an active person, high carb/sugary food messes me up. It’s not just the added pooch (which I could contribute to monthly hormonal chick stuff) but increasingly pissy moods and aches here and there.

I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, but there it is. I eat lots of chocolate sometimes. And David, my fiance, loves me so much that he wants to get me WHATEVER MAKES ME HAPPY. He sees my face light up at the mention of dessert. So, I have to try DOUBLY hard to say no… both to him and to myself… when I’m being more strict with my diet. He’s what you’d call an enabler… and I love him for it. Ha! And that’s one of the reasons why love can make me fat.

BUT because David loves me so much, he has made a deal with me. As soon as my coach sets the fitness competition date (one of my New Year’s Resolutions), then we’ll start whittling down my body fat and David promises to refuse my pleas for dessert when I’ve committed to a strict dieting phase. (I must note here, though, that my competition diet WILL include a cheat HOUR once a week so I will be able to eat dessert… just not as often as I’d like.)

So, here’s my question to you:

If you’ve gained weight in your relationship, are you being enabled or are you the enabler?

As you know, I won’t judge you no matter what. I believe that everyone has struggles. It takes courage to fess up to your weaknesses or mistakes and then ask for help. If you’re dealing with some issues, talk to SOMEONE about them and look for guidance. Even the best athletes in the world need a coach, right?

Sending love to you and all your perfect imperfections.

~Zen

January 17, 2011

Where’s The Party?

by Zen Gray

Last night at dinner, David and I discussed what was important to us as far as this wedding is concerned: David is adamantly opposed to the chicken dance. Everything else is cool. That is one of the reasons why I love him. Life with him has been SO EASY.

I went to my first bridal show today as a newly engaged bride and it solidified my stance on forced participation of wedding guests to clap and dance by an over-zealous DJ… I’m definitely against it.

I got to thinking, though. When is it ok to force people to do anything? Does that ever work? Does it bring real change or just temporary resentment through a clenched smile?

Clients have bought training packages in the past for their spouses and the ONLY time the spouse ever had success is when they requested the gift… not when it was given as a surprise. Sometimes the unsolicited gift of health can be misunderstood like, “Hey, I got you a personal trainer because I think you’re too fat and I want you to change. Happy Birthday!”

I think the DJ would have done better if he just started to boogie down and played some awesome music. I’d much rather join the party because it looked like a great place to be… not because someone implied what I was doing was lame compared to what they wanted me to do.

I know what’s it’s like to really, really want someone I love to live a healthier lifestyle and watch them continually choose a more self-destructive route. It’s so frustrating and I want what I think is best for them but all I can do is hope they’ll be inspired to join the party sometime. So, I’m extremely happy to report that I’ve seen it happen time and time again…so don’t give up on your loved ones… or yourself.

BE THE PARTY 🙂

xo,

~Z

January 11, 2011

Where did all my friends go?

by Zen Gray

I love being in love. I get all wrapped up in it sometimes and disappear from the world in a sappy pink bubble o’ love. I’ll find ways of spending more time together with my sweetheart and put off something that I’ll “just do tomorrow.”

Because doesn’t sleeping in together sound so much better than getting up for a workout? Isn’t celebrating with a little wine is so much more appealing than just having water? Doesn’t cuddling on the couch feel so much more comfy than taking a walk after dinner? And it’s no big deal if I just call someone back tomorrow, right?

With that kind of logic, I not only gained weight while being in love but I lost an important part of my life. Friends I used to see and talk to on a regular basis went weeks or even MONTHS without hearing from me.

Sound familiar?

Thank goodness for Facebook or I’d never catch up with some people. (Ugh… that’s just wrong.) I’ve already made a lot of progress where friends are concerned… but this year will be different. Better! This year, I’m putting friendly get-togethers and phone calls on a calendar and scheduling them like any other important appointment… because at the end of the day (or at the end of my life!) they are just as important. I don’t want to let my amazing friendships just fade out.

Many of my friends, I’ve realized, are people I’ve met while doing the things I love. I have gym friends, dancing friends, karaoke friends, sci-fi movie friends, charity friends, self-help seminar friends, nutrition friends, new-agey friends, sorority friends, school friends, friends of friends, and friends that I’ve just randomly connected with at the oddest times. (My best friend, Jen, met me while I was on a first date with some guy over 12 years ago… can’t even remember his name now.)

I understand that I can’t keep everyone as a close friend all the time because people ARE busy after all. But I think connecting with friends is like reconnecting with oneself… and that’s an important part of living a balanced life.

Love you, my friends 🙂

~Z

January 8, 2011

Happy New Year!

by Zen Gray

Hard to believe it’s 2011. With all the craziness going on in December, I didn’t take any time to reflect upon the year until New Year’s Eve. But looking back, I’m proud of my year. It was a big one:

  1. I paid off my credit cards.
  2. I completed my first book proposal.
  3. I got to spend time with my parents and my sister and her family at Disney World.
  4. I saw my best friend (who lives in Jersey) three times this year.
  5. I moved in with my boyfriend.
  6. I became closer with my brother and his wife and their family.
  7. I finished a marathon.
  8. My boyfriend became my fiance.
  9. My fiance and I got a puppy.

Pretty wonderful, actually. And now I’m looking forward to the things I’d like to accomplish in 2011. One of my biggest challenges, and always has been, is to try to keep my body as healthy as possible and advance my career while still maintaining a great relationship.

I’m not sure if other women do this, but I tend to hide behind my relationship. I will hyper-focus on our interaction instead of working on myself. I will find reasons to be upset with him instead of confronting an entirely different source of stress which often has everything to do with my career and NOT him.

I’m ashamed to say it, but in the past I’ve used my man as a scapegoat because I felt like it was something I could control. I can’t control a boss! I can’t control public opinion of me! I can’t control if the publisher buys my book idea! But I CAN control if I’m going to date someone or not… whether to give or withhold my love. That’s just what I thought.

And at the same time, I felt like I didn’t have control over food. Granted, I’ve never been obese but I’ve always loved to eat and celebrate with food and comfort myself with food (sugar, in particularly.) I’ve gained much more control and balance over the years, but I think it’s like what they say about addicts… you’re always recovering, never cured. Maybe that’s an extreme analogy but that’s how I feel. Every time I go back to Chicago, I want hot dogs, pizza, White Castle and lots of Fanny May fudge. I don’t always get it… but the urge NEVER goes away. (I can’t even imagine how hard it would be if I ever tried heroin. No thanks.)

But if 2010 showed me anything, it was that I DO have more control over my life and I CAN make things happen. One of the wonderful things that I learned this year was to be committed without being attached to an outcome. For example, I wanted to complete a marathon so I trained with AIDS Project Los Angeles every week for 6 months until I ran across the finish line in Honolulu. Could I have gotten injured? Sure. Could I have gotten too dehydrated to finish? You bet. But I also knew that I would have trained again until I finished a different race if that’s what it took. It would just be a detour. And many times, my detours have been delightful little surprises along my life’s journey.

So here’s what I see for 2011…

Now that I’m aware of my “hide and go seek” tendencies when it comes to my relationship, I’m not going to blame my fiance if I eat too much or if I’m afraid to make that important phone call. I’m going to be responsible for my actions. On top of that, I’m going to have some checks and balances put in place.

  1. To really conquer the discipline of eating for nutrition (and not just for emotional reasons), I’m going to compete in a figure competition this year.
  2. I will hire a coach to help me with training and meet with a nutritionist to make sure I’m fueling my body correctly.
  3. I will get a team of advisors together and have a check-in at least once a month to make sure I’m on track with my personal and career goals. (I prefer once a week, but I’ll commit to once a month.)
  4. I will find a publisher and editor that share my vision for helping women stay happy and healthy while keeping the love in their lives.
  5. I have long-term goals of filming a fitness/comedy tour across the country that reaches millions of people wanting guidance for a healthier lifestyle.
  6. I want to have a fun wedding… and not become bridezilla.

I’ve got some big goals… but small goals aren’t that inspiring, you know?

Wish me luck 🙂

~Z

January 2, 2011

Cleaning Up Messes

by Zen Gray

I am a very good driver. Usually.

My apologies for using a horribly outdated movie reference, but I was so upset and distracted about the situation with my mom that I ran a red light. Well, I slammed on my brakes after a car crossed my path and skidded to a stop in the middle of the intersection. (And for the record, I was not on the phone nor was the radio on.)

Thankfully, and miraculously, I didn’t hit anyone but it really freaked me out. I came home immediately and called my mom again. I’m so happy to report that we cleared up our misunderstanding.

But it made me wonder,  “How can ANYONE function when a major relationship in their life is malfunctioning?”

I think the answer is: we can’t. Relationships are important and they AFFECT us even if we try to pretend that they don’t. We can bury ourselves in work, in food, in drugs, in sex, in gambling, in soap operas or whatever other hard or soft addiction we can think of  — but I think facing our “stuff” head-on is the only way to live a fully-functioning and fulfilling life. In short, I’m a big fan of cleaning up messes.

I know that every time in my life when I’ve gained weight, it’s because I haven’t cleaned up a “mess” which was relationship-related. I cleaned it up and the weight dropped off. I’m fully aware that I’m an emotional eater, and if I’m not addressing something that’s upsetting me, I will look for comfort in food.

So my solution has been to take responsibility for MY actions. I’ve noticed when I do that,  my life gets better and better. Just sayin’…

By the way, thank you for all the kind messages and phone calls about my quarrel with my mom. I was surprised at how many people responded to my last blog. Even though there weren’t many posted comments, I received a bunch of phone calls and emails all saying basically the same thing: “Oy, mothers. Hang in there. It’s worth fixing no matter what.”

I agree.

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,

~Zen

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.

~Zen

PS: Here’s the marathon video. ENJOY!