These days when you get engaged, it feels like you barely have enough time to celebrate the exciting milestone with your partner, family and friends before social media starts targeting you and your newly bejeweled left hand with ads for detoxes, quick fixes, flat tummy whatevers and new “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” apps (that you know behind the BS are solidly diets). A Cornell study in 2008 found that more than 70% of brides-to-be diet in advance of their weddings and it doesn’t come as a surprise, with entire industries built around making us feel like our bodies need to shapeshift in order to be worthy of walking down the aisle.
Even if you’ve already come to the realization on your own that diets don’t work and have chosen to leave diet culture and its ideals behind, it’s still all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking you aren’t good enough as you are for your wedding. Weddings are built up to supposedly be the best, most important day of your life. There is immense pressure placed on engaged couples, and brides in particular, to look their absolute “best” on this most important day. Since the wedding industry is so closely intertwined with the diet industry, and because we live in a thin-obsessed, fat-fearing society, the pressure to be as small, toned, and as flawless as possible comes at you from all sides leading up to your vows.
The Downside to Diet Culture in Wedding Planning
While wedding diets promise perfection they normally just deliver distraction. Instead of celebrating your engagement, and your future marriage, you end up obsessing over your reflection, stressing over your weight, letting whatever “good” or “bad” foods you ate that day define your day, and altogether feeling more insecure about your worth than when you started. In eating disorder recovery, aiming to shrink your body by restricting and limiting your food choices is a one-way ticket to relapse.
Diet culture runs deep. It’s possible that leading up to your wedding people around you will be prone to making comments about their own bodies, or even about your body. Usually, these comments come from a place of wanting to feel accepted, and valued. Unfortunately, diet culture teaches us that to be both accepted and valued we need to be small. This is simply untrue; instead of shrinking ourselves into acceptance, we usually end up shrinking our lives.
What can I do instead?
The good news is - there is another option! You don’t have to diet. You don’t have to shrink. You can be a bride (or groom) just the way you are today. You can continue to honor your hunger, eat satisfying foods, enjoy your engagement and be present in all the events leading up to your big day. This one day doesn’t have to be the most perfect day of your life - it’s one very important, very special day, but it’s not a day that requires you to give up vibrant pieces of yourself in exchange for a “picture perfect” body. Spoiler alert: You’re already picture perfect.
5 Tips for Protecting Your Recovery while Planning a Wedding
Reflect on what the wedding really means to you.
If you stop to think about what you want your wedding day to feel like, what comes to mind? What is important? Who is important? What does the wedding mean to you? Marriage and celebrating your love is about so much more than fitting into a narrow (and often unattainable) definition of beauty. What would you be giving up by putting the pursuit of a smaller body at the forefront of the day?
Focus on how your dress (or suit) feels before you think about what it looks like.
Wedding dress or suit shopping can feel like a high-pressure situation, especially when others around you are inclined to make comments about your body. Call ahead to the store to learn what size options the sample dresses come in to make sure they are able to accommodate your body. When it comes time to trying on different wedding dress options, consider taking a pause before looking in the mirror and thinking about how the dress you have on feels on your skin, how you feel in it, and if you feel comfortable enough to be able to move in the way you want on your special day. Only after you decide that you feel comfortable in the dress, head to the mirror to see what it looks like.
Set boundaries around diet and weight talk with family, friends and your tailor.
If people around you start to make comments about their bodies, their diets, your body or your plans to try and pursue a smaller body, decide what amount of diet talk you want to tolerate.
Tell your loved ones “I’m not going to try to lose weight for my wedding because I want to feel comfortable and present leading up to and on the wedding day. I know diets don’t work for me and I am working on accepting myself as I am. Talking about diets is distracting and harmful for me, and I do not want to spend our time together talking negatively about our bodies.”
Stick with nourishing meals and joyful movement.
Instead of jumping on a crash diet or extreme exercise bandwagon that will leave you feeling depleted, miserable, and out of control around food leading up to your wedding, focus on meeting your needs and honoring what feels good to your body.
Wedding planning can be stressful - moving in a way that feels good (without expectations around what that movement looks like) can help relieve stress without adding the additional burden of feeling inadequate OR feeling like your entire day revolves around whether or not you worked out. Try incorporating mindful walks (bonus points if you walk with your partner and talk about something other than wedding planning!), gentle yoga, dance parties in your living room, or fun games of tennis or soccer when it’s nice out.
Pay attention to your hunger, fullness and satisfaction cues when it comes to nourishing your body. If you start to notice a drop in appetite with the stress and anxiety that can sometimes come with planning a wedding, remember that your body’s need for nutrition hasn’t necessarily changed - your body just needs a bit more help getting back to a place where it can effectively communicate hunger to you. Focus on meals that are easy to prepare, contain a balance of nutrients and incorporate flavors and textures that you love, and aim to eat 3 consistent meals with snacks in between throughout the day.
Making sure your energy stores are full with nourishing meals on the actual wedding day itself will also help you be present, alert, and able to think about everything else going on - not just when you’re going to be able to eat and/or worrying about what that will be.
Remember that the diet industry and the wedding industry are in the business of making a profit, not of supporting your marriage. What your body looks like and whether or not it conforms to society’s thin ideal has no bearing on the connection you share with your partner, how much fun you will have at your wedding, or how long your marriage will last.
If you are struggling with body image and the desire to make yourself smaller for your wedding day, know that we don’t blame you one bit! We understand how hard it is to learn to accept your body, and harder still to accept it when the culture around us teaches you that you need to fit an unattainable standard of beauty to be valued. Our individualized services are here to support you in any way we can as you learn to navigate your own process. Moral of the story - we’ve got your back!