I’m not seeking validation
First, I want to start off by saying, I’m not seeking your approval or validation of my body size. I’m not looking for comments like, “you didn’t need to lose weight,” or any of that stuff. I’m simply sharing my experience as a recent bride living in diet culture and how others might choose to proceed with caution when it comes to manipulating body size in the weeks and months leading up to the big day. Because, despite what others think or feel about your body shape and size (even if it fits into societal norms), women (even men) of every shape and size experience an immense pressure to get smaller.
I hope that after reading my story on why I chose not to fight against my natural body size before the big day, you may consider the same. Perhaps instead, you’ll care for yourself in ways that don’t include the pursuit of weight loss.
When the weight loss ads flooded my social feeds
I got married in October of last year. I had a 14 month engagement, leaving me plenty of time to drop some pounds and “shape up” for my wedding, right? The pressures were all around me. It would have been easy to fall into the trap that pushes brides to shrink for the big day. Everywhere I looked, I saw weight loss ads and messages targeting brides-to-be. And trust me, as someone with a history of disordered eating, I knew all the “tricks,” I knew how to manipulate food and exercise to drop weight quickly (albeit temporarily).
I did some deep thinking about the possibility of losing weight. I thought about my past and how I struggled with body image and disordered eating. The pain, heartache and isolation that came along with the experience of being at war with one’s body. I thought about how far I’d come, I was in a place where my weight had found it’s “happy” place. A weight that remains relatively stable while I fully enjoy and engage in my life.
I admit, it can be easy to flirt with the idea of dieting and weight loss as a product of the culture we live in. Diet culture is seductive like that. Ultimately, I decided that I wasn’t going to waste my time and energy trying to lose weight for my wedding day. I’m grateful that I felt so rooted in my beliefs that the idea of weight loss lost its appeal for me. Not to mention, I didn’t want to spend my engagement (such a sweet and special time) counting calories, spending hours at the gym and obsessing over every bite I put into my mouth.
I worked hard to get to a place of body acceptance and a healthy relationship with food. It was a challenging process to finally feel at home in my body. I didn’t want to turn my back on all the progress I’d made.
I knew that any changes in my weight would be temporary
Another thing that helped to solidify my choice to not lose weight was knowing any shifts in my shape and size would be temporary. I knew that to be true for a few reasons: 1) I had no intentions of maintaining any rigid food or exercise rules after the wedding and 2) research shows that weight loss through dieting is not sustainable for the large majority of people and 3) bodies naturally change over time. Efforts to maintain a smaller body size (one that’s uncomfortable to my physiology and hormones) would require me to make choices that prevent me from living my life to the fullest.
My choice to not engage in weight loss efforts before my wedding isn’t something most people steeped in our culture often decide on a whim. It’s taken years for me to get to a place in which I feel comfortable and safe in my own skin. So if it’s something you’re working on, I see you.
Society tells us that if we don’t match cultural beauty standards, it’s simply “not okay” to love ourselves or even feel content or neutral towards our body/appearance. We are led to believe that we should always be striving to achieve and maintain a very specific “look.” But let me tell you… when you surrender to the fight, your life will change in SO many ways. You’ll have the headspace to find new hobbies, enjoy restaurants with family & friends, engage in joyful movement, the list goes on.
I want to point out that I recognize the fact that I live with what’s called thin privilege, which makes the choice (to not lose weight) easier for me. I may not live in diet culture’s “ideal” shape, but I don’t face ridicule and discrimination based on my size. People don’t make assumptions about my health based on my size. That’s not fair, but it’s true. I realize that the pressures for a woman or man living in a larger body size are likely much greater than what I felt as my wedding approached. Those living in a larger body experience a great deal of shame and discrimination for their size. They live in a world where they experience weight bias from healthcare providers and people on the street. Strangers place judgements about who they are as a person due to their size. This is not right.
Weight cycling is not health promoting
Repeated weight loss, followed by weight regain through the process of chronic, yo-yo dieting is called weight cycling. Weight cycling is not good for health and often is associated with worse outcomes than remaining at your original higher weight.
Weight loss is so difficult to maintain because the body fights for homeostasis. It’s like a thermostat. When we attempt weight loss through caloric deficits (diets) and increased energy expenditure (excessive exercise), the body slows down metabolism and increases hormones that make us feel hungry to get us to eat more. On a diet, levels of the hormone Leptin fall, this hormone helps communicate to the brain that we’ve had enough to eat. It does this to protect you, because it’s fighting hard for you to stay at a comfortable weight and prepare you for the next famine (diet). It might be hard to believe, but your body is on your side, fighting for you.
Furthermore, because of the metabolic changes that occur with weight cycling, it is thought to contribute to decreased insulin sensitivity and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The damage caused by weight cycling is not exclusive to physiological changes, it also affects our psychological state and can cause emotional trauma and distress.
The discomfort of a constantly changing body size can make it difficult to become comfortable in our own skin. With a body that’s always changing, we may become attached to the “thin” version of ourselves, only to drown in shame and guilt when we regain the weight. Our wardrobe changes to fit our ever changing body (that’s an expense!), and we feel sad and ashamed when we can’t fit into our “skinny” clothes. The list goes on.
I value my health and my body, so why would I want to put it through the roller coaster of dieting?
It’s a time for celebration
The year leading up to my wedding was a time to celebrate the love I’d found with my soul mate. I am incredibly blessed and eternally grateful for all the family and friends that showered me with pure joy and love as I prepared for marriage.
I wanted to fully enjoy every moment of my engagement and every pre-wedding event with the people I love most:
I wanted to go to brunch and drink mimosas with my best girls before wedding dress shopping.
I wanted to savor the sweetness of the lemon cake made with love by my sister-in-law.
I wanted to relish the beautiful charcuterie boards expertly crafted by my loving foodie cousin.
I wanted to remember the all the amazing meals, appetizers that my aunts, cousins, in-laws and friends took the time to prepare for all my pre-wedding celebrations.
I wanted to enjoy all the fun foods my sisters bought for my bachelorette party (only my gals will get this – fresh or frozen?).
Food is more than fuel. As a dietitian and nutritionist, I value and appreciate the nourishing properties of food and I know that many foods contribute to my well-being. But I don’t believe I would be “fully well” if I eliminated or restricted foods in my diet for the purpose of losing weight. I greatly value the pleasure of food in social celebrations because for me, it equates to fully living in the moment.
My memories are made richer, more vivid when I have the aromas and flavors of food to help connect me to the conversations and laughter I shared in those moments. I was unwilling to sacrifice those experiences for the sake of shrinking my body.
The happiest day of my life
If I had one word to describe my wedding day, it would be, MAGICAL. The day turned out to be the happiest day of my life without losing a pound. Honestly, I don’t know what I weighed, because I don’t own a scale. My husband loves me for me, as I am. I respect myself and my body and have learned to accept my natural shape and size.
So if I were to have lost the weight, who would it have been for? To live up to the beauty standards of society? I don’t want to succumb to that and reinforce the idea that there is only ONE body we all should be striving for. Diversity in shape, size, color and ethnicity is what represents beauty to me.
What do you want to remember on your wedding day?
I hope reading my thoughts has helped you in some way. When you look back on your wedding day, the pictures and memories you have, what do you want to remember?
The hunger pangs and poor energy the weeks leading up to the day?
The hours you spent obsessively exercising to compensate for the champagne and cupcakes you ate at your shower?
Tracking every morsel in your MyFitnessPal app?
The special times with friends and family where you enjoyed every moment?
The food, drink, music, dancing, toasts, laughter and happy cries?
Sending love to you.
Photography by Magnolia Lane Photography Studio