Linda Gray’s Longevity RegimenMarch 2015
By Donna Caruso
When you think of Linda Gray, you probably imagine her as Sue Ellen Ewing, the alcoholic wife of evil oil baron J.R. Ewing on the 1978-1991 TV blockbuster “Dallas.” It’s easy to believe you know her.
But the real Linda Gray is a constant surprise. At age 74, this happy, dynamic woman appears to be at least 20 to 25 years younger and overflows with energy. She believes that her lifelong interest in diet, supplements, exercise, and positive thinking are at the root of her healthy, fulfilling life today. In an exclusive interview with Life Extension® magazine, Gray talks about her background, acting career, health regimen, goals, and what she does every day to remain young and vibrant.
Early Life And Career
Born in 1940, Linda Gray grew up in California in a strict Catholic household where she was expected to eventually assume the role of an obedient wife and mother. But Gray had her own ideas.
“I’ve had an innate curiosity all my life and it started early on with my wonderful grandmother,” the actress explains. “There was a wanderlust about her. She had traveled and was very worldly, and I had a connection with her that I didn’t have with my mother.” In fact, Gray’s mother had been a ballerina and a fashion illustrator who, Gray feels, was frustrated by her inability as a married woman to fully pursue her own career. Gray soon began to have her own goals and developed an inner strength that propelled her out of her expected role into a world where she managed to attain the freedom to make her own dreams come true.
Gray began a modeling career in her teens, although even then, her goal was to act. “I remember telling my parents that I wanted to be an actor,” she says, “and I thought their heads would spin off. So I started modeling.” She quietly began to look for ways to act, which finally happened once she got into television commercials. From the first moment she was given lines to read and recite, Gray immediately wanted more.
Married at 21 to freelance art director Jeff Thrasher, the couple had two children and Gray became a stay-at-home mother. “Back then,” she explains, “when women had children, they would just remain at home and raise them, and it must have been frustrating for these women to stifle their creativity.”
The young family soon moved to the country. As a way to afford a pool and tennis court, Gray’s husband encouraged her to do a few commercials.
“One night I said to my husband, ‘I want to become an actor,’” she recalls. Although he asked her to wait until the children were grown, by then Gray was already in her 30s and didn’t want to lose any more time. She enrolled in an acting workshop and began getting small parts in films.
“I loved it,” she says. “I loved the creative process and knew that was what I wanted to do. It was absolutely wonderful.”
Before feminism, before “women’s lib,” Gray was a very strong woman who defied the social strictures of her time. Somehow, she found the inner strength and confidence to fight for—and finally attain—her dream of being a working actress.
“I was cast in a commercial,” she explains, “and I loved it, but I couldn’t speak because I was ‘a model’ and models don’t act. And so I had these two very interesting words that have stayed with me all of my life: ‘Watch me.’ But ‘watch me’ with a smile on my face. You’re telling me I can’t do something? Watch me! The feisty little girl inside me was saying, ‘You may think you can tell me what I can’t do, but watch me! I’m going to do this.’
“Whenever they told me I couldn’t do something or I was too old for something, I was so nice and said ‘okay,’ but underneath, I’d be saying ‘watch me.’”
It was a very simple technique and it worked wonders for Gray and her career.
Achieving Her Goals
Over her long career, Gray has not only acted in “Dallas” and many Hollywood movies and TV films, she has also starred in plays on Broadway and in London, directed TV shows and live theater productions, and has been honored with Emmy Award and Golden Globe nominations. In 1982, she was elected Woman of the Year award from the Hollywood Radio & Television Society.
Additionally, Gray has devoted time to a variety of charitable causes, including Meals on Wheels and AIDS fund raisers. She went to Malawi to help distribute food to needy children and was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations from 1997 to 2007, traveling on behalf of the organization to address women and children’s health concerns.
Food As A Key To Health And Longevity
Gray was fortunate to be raised in a home where natural, healthy food was the norm. “My parents didn’t have a lot of money,” she recalls, “but my mother made sure we had good food. We even had wheat germ and who had wheat germ at that time? I remember going to a friend’s house and they had bologna and cheese on white bread. I didn’t even know what that was!”
Gray remembers going to her future in-laws’ home, where “they had a proper sit-down dinner with a stack of white bread, biscuits, gravy, and that kind of food. So when we got married and my husband expected a stack of white bread and all the rest, I said, ‘What is it? I can’t make food like that.’”
But as a young bride, she tried her best and attempted to make gravy for her husband one evening. “The spoon literally stood up straight, it stuck like it was in glue,” she laughs. After a teary reaction when her husband came home, Gray vowed never to make gravy again—and to this date, she never has.
Instead, she began to study the work of nutritionist gurus Adelle Davis and Paavo Airola, placing herself on a lifelong road of fascination with good nutrition. When her husband was diagnosed with “a nervous stomach” early in their marriage, his doctor said he would be on antacids for the rest of his life. As he gobbled them up like jelly beans, Gray says she became determined to cure him with healthy food. She fed him a fresh, nutritious diet filled with salads, vegetables, and fruit. When her husband later returned to his doctor, the astonished physician told him his symptoms had disappeared and he didn’t need the pills any more.
Gray also made her own baby food. ”I was grinding up carrots and other vegetables and putting wheat germ in,” she recalls. It was the 1960s with very few health food stores, but Gray found one in Los Angeles and went there regularly. It was there that she met a charming woman who introduced her to her husband, Dennis Weaver, of “Gunsmoke” fame. “That was the beginning,” Gray says. “It was Adelle Davis, Paavo Airola, and Dennis Weaver,” and it was Weaver’s recommendations and guidance that launched Gray’s acting career.
Today, Gray is well known among her peers for her extensive knowledge of nutrition. “People always ask me what I’m eating,” Gray explains. “‘What is that? What is your secret?’ I don’t feel there is a secret. I feel there is a wealth of knowledge and if you avail yourself of it, then it works for you.”
Gray mentions that her younger sister died of breast cancer in 1989 at the age of 43, calling it a “wake up call” to make the most of her life and to continuously look for ways to remain as strong and healthy as possible. “To me,” she adds, “it isn’t about living to be 120, but it’s about living consciously every day of your life. Bless every single day you’re on this planet, because you don’t know how long you will be here. Learn to be the best of who you are.”
Food And Supplements: A Work In Progress
There is nothing static about Linda Gray. Where others form their personality and lifestyle early and remain pretty much the same for life, Gray is the total opposite, a woman who is constantly working on her evolution and growth. She has a palpable drive to learn more, to do more, to try more, and to continuously refine and reshape her life, her body, herself. It’s a quality that consistently draws others to her and makes her acting performances magnetic.
Gray is, and has been, a dedicated student of health and nutrition for almost her entire life. While she does consult experts from time to time, most of her personal health regimen consists of foods and supplements that she has personally researched, tried out, observed in herself in terms of their effects, and determined whether or not to continue and in what amount. The result is a constantly evolving list of what she consumes, and so far, it appears to be highly effective.
One of Gray’s key beliefs is that it’s best to vary your intake: She never consumes the exact same things every day. “In the morning I do a combination,” she says, mentioning possible ingredients, including chard, kale, baby spinach, and arugula with scrambled eggs and a bit of goat cheese for breakfast. Or she may decide to make a smoothie, which she prefers to juice because she wants the fiber. Gray may include handfuls of baby spinach, cacao powder, maca, a few drops of folic acid, a little camu camu, some hoodia, schisandra powder, lycium powder, vitamin C, chia seeds, and a handful of goji berries, which she says are great for energy and the brain.
“When I’m working,” Gray says, “the brain needs some help and I notice especially that when I’m memorizing my lines, all this helps, especially the cacao, hoodia, maca, and the berries.” Gray notes that her breakfast combination has evolved over the years, along with her knowledge of what to put in her body for all-day energy.
She also has a small NutriBullet® blender/food extractor that she takes with her when she’s on the set all day. Gray brings along foods like almond butter and an apple, so she can create a nutritional boost when she needs it. “I don’t have a nutritionist,” she explains. “I do a lot of research, go online a lot, find things, and try them out when they sound good. I observe the effects on my body and any changes I feel and if they seem to work, I’ll continue with them.”
Another serious concern for Gray is the proper pH balance between acidic and alkaline foods, something she pays close attention to. “We’re more acidic than we need to be,” she comments, “so I try to eat a very alkaline diet to keep my pH in the normal range. I often refer to a list of acid-forming foods to help me. If you keep your diet more alkaline than acidic, your internal system gets a better chance to work properly. For example, I eat more almonds as opposed to cashews.”
How strictly does Gray follow her rules? “I don’t beat myself up if I go to a birthday party and eat some sweets I don’t normally eat. Women especially think they’ve failed if they go off [track] a little,” but Gray says she sticks to her goals about 90% of the time and she’s happy with that.
The Varieties Of Exercise
“I do a lot of different things,” Gray says when asked about her exercise program. “I get bored. I have a hard time in the gym because sometimes the music is weird or too loud. I’m an outside person and I love to be outdoors.”
As a result, Gray walks almost every day, often in the early mornings. “I love just trotting around, exploring, doing things,” she says of these walks. “At this stage in my life, I like things that don’t involve a lot of equipment, I don’t want all that stuff, so I walk every day I can.”
But Gray does use a few devices. “I just love my little rebounder,” she says of the small trampoline that she often takes with her to the set. “Women need exercise to clean out and stimulate the lymphatic system,” she explains, “and for me, nothing works better.” She adds that during the 20 minutes that she exercises with her rebounder, she watches television or listens to the radio news. “I think anything over 20 minutes is boring,” she adds.
When Gray travels, she always brings along good walking shoes and a small jump rope to get her heart rate up. She jokes that some people who are very advanced can jump rope on the rebounder, “but I haven’t done that because I’m afraid I will just fly out a window somewhere.”
Staying Healthy Mentally And Emotionally
Obviously, Gray has found that the proper diet and supplements have a clear and positive effect on her mental and emotional health, as well as her body. But she also believes that it’s necessary to make a conscious effort to continually monitor and assess your current state.
“I try to keep everything as positive as I can without being in Lalaland,” Gray explains. “One of the things I do is accept my emotions. “If you’re sad, all right, you’re sad. Accept those emotions, because if you suppress them, that’s when disease occurs. I feel if you push them down—if you’re angry, for example—that’s bad. Let yourself be angry, feel whatever you feel, get it out.”
Good health, Gray believes, starts with a healthy attitude. “I bless my curiosity, my need to know. Be curious about who you are. The energy will come when you drop the negative attitudes, the negative food, the negative people. When all of that is dropped, you will find this wonderful being that you are.
“So when you drop the judgment, the criticism of yourself and everyone else, you will suddenly shift to becoming the person you were put on Earth to be—and that is energy and that is life extending.”
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