Posts tagged ‘weight loss’

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

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

 

 

February 25, 2012

Hello Again!

by Zen Gray

Image

So, like many people, I’ve had a lot to do lately. It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog because I’ve been freelance writing for Vital Juice but also… I got married.

“Married?” asked Jake Ryan.

“Married.” declared Long Duck Dong.

“Married?!!!” Jake asked again incredulously.

“Yeah… MARRIED!!!” Dong bellowed while closing the door. “Sheesh!”

Yep, I’m a married woman. I must also point out that this is the longest (continuous) relationship I’ve had since I started my awkward dating career back in high school. Since saying, “I do,” I’ve come to realize many things about my relationship patterns that I will happily share (in future blogs) because I think they aptly pertain to love and fat.

I look forward to once again reporting my observations and discussing our opinions on the matter.

Until then… a happy wedding shot!

~Zen

Zen Gray gets married

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 31, 2011

Post-holiday Eating

by Zen Gray

Memorial DaySince yesterday was Memorial Day, most people spent the weekend eating BBQ and visiting family and friends.

It’s no secret that the first day returning from vacation is usually the toughest day to get back on track with good habits. But I find that the sooner I jump back in with healthful eating and a quick workout, the better I feel and the easier it is to shed a couple “happy pounds”.

Certainly I’ve had the urge to prolong my holiday with another treat because I want to hold onto the sugary-haze of the last couple days… but I’ve got to suck it up and go for the spinach omelet instead of the strawberry waffle now. Like anyone, I can add 5-10 pounds in a weekend of unchecked eating. There’s a big difference between having just one cheat day as opposed to two or three.

Personally, I planned for one cheat day over the weekend. One of my clients had suggested we go to the Getty for the 18th Century Parisian exhibit and wear girlie hats and have a lunch-time picnic with Nicoise, bread, cheese, wine, fresh cherries and raspberries and the wholeZen Gray in flowered hat at The Getty Parisian Exhibit works.  Since my fiance is such a good sport, he came along to help carry all the baskets and get immersed in estrogen.  I think I may have gotten a little high on brie and date cake in this picture, actually.  (Also, the exhibit was gorgeous and if you’re in LA, you can go see it until August 7th: the dresses, jewelry, artwork, furniture and games, etc. of that era.) After the exhibit, we enjoyed our favorite chocolate butter cream cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and THEN some macaroni & cheese deliciousness for dinner. It was a pretty big cheat day before we sank into our carb-induced comas.

But then Sunday rolled around and old friends were in from out of town. We HAD to meet them for brunch, of course, and since they suggested eating at The Griddle on Sunset, we waited over an hour for a table. By that time, I was starving and just as in most cases when I’m starving… I ordered what I was craving instead of what healthy. (Plus it’s easy to do if you’ve ever devoured a pancake, waffle or french toast at The Griddle… omg… so delicious.) And once I open the flood gates at breakfast, the whole day is usually shot. So, I decided to just enjoy myself and start fresh the next day.

One thing I was really proud of was that we FINALLY decided to start cooking on the grill my brother and his wife gave us for Christmas. It’s been sitting out on the patio for ages with various grilling accoutrements because neither David nor I have ever grilled before. My brother told us to get this charcoal-starter-thingy so we wouldn’t have to use lighter fluid. And I loved the idea but when we went to implement lighting the fire, we just kind of looked at each other and blinked.

“Do you know how this goes?”
“Uh… put the newspaper underneath it, I guess.”
“Do I stick the paper in the holes and light it like a wick?”
I shrugged.

Grown adults were soon staring at each other and engulfed in smoke and our kind neighbors were nice enough to just close their patio doors without comment. But we would not be discouraged! Soon, my healthy red pepper, onion, and tomato kabobs, asparagus and turkey Italian sausage were filling the air with tantalizing aromas. And shortly thereafter, David triumphantly carried in the delectable-looking plate back inside along with the 2 1/2 foot tongs. (Is that really necessary? Are my meager foot-long stove top utensils hopelessly inadequate?) However, I’m thinking perhaps just one small meal is too little for charcoal grilling. David kept checking the coals before we went off to bed and I think they might just now be cooling off this morning…

grilled vegetablesI have decided to call this past weekend a success because we feasted on a great holiday bounce-back meal AND learned to do something new that had been pushed aside for months. It’s funny how just a little win can motivate me to continue the momentum for the coming week. Lots of canned legumes, tuna, chicken and veggies await to be savored. I know that my couple “off” days will force me to work a little harder this week, but I’m willing to put in the extra work to get back on track as long as healthy eating is delicious in it’s own way, too. And grilling those vegetables and lean protein was a VERY yummy way to enjoy my “on” days again.

Enjoy your week!
~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. 🙂

 

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.

March 25, 2011

Thankful

by Zen Gray

hearts

It’s easy to focus on the negative– like those parts of your body that you’d like to change… but how about the parts you LOVE?!

How about all the people in your life that LOVE you? That you have access to healthy food and clean water?

For technology that allows you to learn practically ANYTHING? That we’re living at a time when ANYTHING is possible?

On this happy Friday in March, I just wanted to put out some good vibes… not only to help others, but to remind myself what a magical thing it is to be alive.

I’m thankful that:

  • My family is healthy and loving and thriving.
  • I have a wonderful fiance that loves me, supports me, makes me better and makes me laugh.
  • My puppy is sweet, soft, quiet and finally house trained.
  • I live in Southern California where wonderful weather, farmers markets and active outdoor lifestyles are possible year-round.
  • People are willing and happy to help me figure out how to use my smart phone and other techie stuff that makes me nuts.
  • Even though I don’t always feel like it, I’m lucky that I can run, jump, lift, dance and play.
  • I get to see other people live healthier and happier lives because of my efforts, advice and enthusiasm!

What are you thankful for?

 

March 23, 2011

Is This Normal?

by Zen Gray

cartoon scale

When looking at the computer, are you sticking out your chin and neck a bit?

Do you sometimes get a pain in the back of your shoulder or neck? (Hmmm.)

Do you slouch?

Is one side of your body stronger or bigger than the other?

Have you ever had low back pain?

Are you getting less than eight hours of sleep?

Are you slightly overweight?

Are you really overweight?

Are you exhausted at the end of the day?

Do you eat to feel better?

Do you eat because you’re bored?

Do you eat because you’re lonely?

Have you gained weight since you’ve been in a relationship?

Have you gained weight because you’re not in a relationship and you want to be?

Do you like wine?

Do you like chocolate?

Do you like pasta?

Do you like pizza?

Have you always had a weight problem?

Have you never had a weight problem before now?

Are you getting older and feel like your body isn’t responding like it used to?

 

Today I had a client ask me if she was normal because she answered “yes” to a few of these questions.

Of course, I told her she was a total freak because the rest of us are eating whatever we want and walking around pain-free in our skinny jeans.

 

 

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?
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 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

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?