Posts tagged ‘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 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?

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 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