I love my body — or, at least, I make the active choice to love it every day. Like pretty much everything else I do, some days I am more successful than others. The day that I got engaged, I loved my body. We took a celebratory photo. When I looked at myself, I thought, "This is how I look." It wasn't, "I look good," or even, "We look happy." In that moment, I couldn't muster body positivity. The most I could hope for was body acceptance, and that's OK. Like I said, some days are better than others.
This is how I look: round cheeks, a hint of a double chin, and my eyes less prominent than they were in my early 20s. In recent years, I've gained a fair amount of weight — about 50 pounds. I am 50 pounds heavier than the days when I thought I was "too fat" to find love. Since then, I have ditched the slender physique and the self-loathing I carried with it. I became determined to love myself as I was, and sure enough, that's when I found someone else who was willing to love me . . . exactly as I was (how very Bridget Jones).
We got engaged, and in that moment, I also became a bride-to-be. I could no longer be a woman who loved a man who happened to love her back. Suddenly, there was also this pressure for me to be self-actualized. In addition to being happy in my relationship, I was supposed to be set in my career, have glossy hair, and start "sweating for the wedding."
Why is it that when women get engaged, it becomes a referendum on their worth as a person? We look at bridal magazines filled with photoshopped models. We are shown Pinterest boards filled with women who represent unstudied perfection — which is so much worse because in addition to being perfect, we have to make it effortless too. We are told not to diet . . . but have you tried Whole30? Because that's about health and not weight. (It's not. It's a diet in disguise.) Age-old expectations about women and their bodies are wrapped in the guise of self-improvement and sold to us as Skinny Tea.
In addition to being happy in my relationship, I was supposed to be set in my career, have glossy hair, and start "sweating for the wedding."
I feel the pressure to drop weight, for sure. There will be so many photos! From so many angles! And the whole darn thing is so expensive! Plus, I am well aware that other people would feel more comfortable if I fit the traditional picture of what a "bride" is supposed to look like. Then I remember that my body does not define my self-worth. How I look does not tell you who I am . . . except when it comes to my bangs. I very much fall into the personality type of "a person with bangs," which is to say I am a little high maintenance when it comes to changes in humidity.
I have one thing on my "30 Things to Do Before I'm 30" list, and it's to develop a healthy relationship with food. It's been a process, and I honestly don't know if it's going to happen by the time I turn 30 this July. Turns out that unlearning 30 years of toxic messaging takes time. The way that some men struggle with emotional intelligence because they were raised to deny their feelings, I struggle with what I like to call "appetite intelligence." Because I spent years denying my hunger, I have a hard time recognizing what my body needs and when.
For 15 years, I had practice denying my appetite, telling my body that I couldn't give it what it wanted. I'm sure that it would be pretty easy for me to lean back into that mentality to go on a crash diet before the wedding. Then I would be the bride who people expected me to be. And it would also mean that I had decided to celebrate something good in my life by inviting toxic thoughts and habits to run my life.
I am getting married, and that's great! But I am not changing into a different person. I don't need to look different, and I don't need to suddenly be different. Let's be honest — these days, not a lot changes for most of us when we get married. My fiancé and I had already lived together for a year by the time we got engaged. We already committed to each other a while ago. We're just making it official.
When I walk down the aisle, I want to look like the person who I've been for our whole relationship. My fiancé fell in love with me looking this way. He proposed to me looking this way. Why would I send him down the aisle to wed a stranger?