I read this article about someone who decided to try out Gwenyth Paltrow’s insane-sounding diet and exercise regime that is detailed in the book Tracy Anderson’s 30-Day Method, which the celeb has pointed to as the sole reason for her stellar (skeletal) beach body.
The writer in question lost a lot of weight. She also lost her ability to concentrate, stand on her feet and think clearly (which some might argue actually happened previously, since she signed up for this physical torture without coercion).
While the whole system seems bonkers to the average person, me included (it consists of mostly pureed foods which only give you about 700 calories a day, not to mention the 2 hour daily workouts), on some level, I get it. I mean, I understand why people seek out these drastic measures.
There is something about structure and control that makes you feel better about all of the other craziness in your life. Because you can’t regulate when a family member will pass away, or decide not to have feelings for someone who’s no good for you, or even control the economy that determines whether or not you’ll have a job next month. If there is even one small aspect of your life where you can feel like the reins are in your hands and not in Lady Luck’s, then you have something tangible to hold on to. Life no longer seems so random.
People like to point out that I have control issues. Old news. Growing up with divorced and quarreling parents, with three siblings, one of whom was autistic and impossible to predict, it’s not a stretch to conclude that my craving for structure has been with me from an early age. I like timelines. To-do lists are my chocolate. I need to know when things are going to happen, so that I can plan.
Sometimes, I think it’s a strength. In my otherwise chaotic work environment, I am that dependable person who creates organization from obvious mayhem. I know what’s going on at all times. I have to. And when I can’t control something, it’s my natural inclination to drop it. To run away. Like when I can’t control who my husband is sleeping with. Leaving = strength, regardless of what some may sneer at me.
This is perhaps why I poked and prodded my boyfriend this week about when he might get his knee dirty. Not because I’m super-eager to get married again, but because I start feeling that insatiable need just to know when. So I can plan. And plot. And control my whole universe.
However, I am learning, more and more, how this control issue is also just that: an issue. My weakness, for all the times I’ve missed out on the moment because I’m writing to-do lists in my head, or counting back the hours/days/weeks/months that I’ll need in order to accomplish a task that’s unrelated to what’s right in front of me. It can vacuum out that special magic from an experience that should be lived in its entirety, frame by frame.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” This old flutter of insight is something I keep having to come back to. But I continually need to add one question: even if I can change it, should I? Like pestering the hornet’s nest. Fun? Maybe. Necessary? No. Dangerous? Hell yes–allergy or no.
I’ve recently started my own workout regime, in an attempt, I tell people, to prepare for a race I want to run in the summer. But there’s more to it than that, if I’m honest. I want to look good in all those fun sun dresses I recently splurged on (Visa, if you could hold off on that bad boy bill, I’d get truly indebted to you–get it? Ha!). I want to control how I look.
But, not in comparison to Gwen’s lithe stick figure. Or my effortlessly skinny best friend. Or the girl down the hall. I want to have a say in how I look, within the healthy range of the body type spelled out in my DNA. Which means, basically, that an intense exercise plan will result in bulkier limbs as my body builds up those muscles easily, rather than slimming down to be on par with celeb-pretty. It’s taken my awhile, but I’m okay with this kind of pretty. It’s my pretty.
But is my dedication to running six days a week still an expression of my control issues? Probably. But perhaps I will snap out of my running fix long enough to appreciate the smell of sweat in the gym, the flex of my leg muscles pounding pretend pavement, the person beside me striding in unison to my movements. Perhaps I can learn to smile at the random chaos along my journey to reign it in. Everything in moderation, right?