It feels like my entire life has been impacted by diet culture. The first time I remember thinking I needed to lose weight was when I was 6 years old; I sucked in my tummy at a Girl Scouts meeting and told a friend I wanted to be "this skinny." Four years later, my mom took me to my first Weight Watchers meeting (we carpooled with my fifth grade teacher . . . I should set up a GoFundMe for the amount of therapy I've needed afterward). My family constantly talked about diets and wanting to lose weight. I was a voracious magazine reader, and women's magazine covers were splashed with gorgeous size-0 models and cover lines promising to help you shed those unwanted pounds — it was all I had ever known.
It didn't take long for that message to consume every thought; I started obsessively weighing myself and restricting my food my freshman year of high school and lost a significant amount of weight. After an intervention from my parents, which included regular appointments with a doctor, a psychologist, and a dietitian, I started to get back on track, but I still struggled with a negative body image. I never thought I was thin enough and had a hard time accepting my body for what it was. In college, I was eating enough calories, but I started exercising two hours a day and still never felt comfortable in my skin.
My weight has fluctuated the entirety of my adolescent and adult life. Thanks to my PCOS, my prescription medication for bipolar disorder, the lovely genetics I inherited (thanks, Mom and Dad!), and my unabashed love of weekend cocktails (I can't say no to a mezcal margarita!), I carry a little bit more weight on my 5'3" than a BMI chart would deem healthy. But I also eat a low-sugar, whole-food-based diet, exercise five days a week, and get about seven hours of sleep a night. I spent more than 20 years obsessing over my weight and my size, and I refused to let that overtake what should be the happiest time of my life: being engaged and getting married.
Why I Didn't Try to Lose Weight For My Wedding
I was engaged for 18 months before I got married on Nov. 5, 2016. Most women feel the pressure to take that time to transform their bodies and get in the best shape of their lives. Blogs and magazines are filled with prewedding diet tips and advice, juice bars offer 10-day cleanses, and gyms promote packages and boot camps for brides-to-be. I'm calling bullsh*t on all of it.
Sure, I did a Whole30 in January of 2016, but that was mostly to discover if I had any food intolerances, heal some PCOS-related issues I was experiencing, and see if it would help with some digestive issues I had. (Turns out I am sensitive to gluten and dairy, my skin cleared up, and my GI health improved.) I weighed myself before and after my Whole30 and didn't step on the scale again the rest of the year.
Since I had been plagued by disordered eating in the past, I knew if I gave myself a hard deadline to lose weight, it would just stress me out. I'm an emotional eater, so this would have only resulted in me eating more, feeling guilty about it, restricting, and starting the whole cycle over again. I also knew if I put a set goal weight number in mind and didn't meet it, I would be incredibly disappointed in myself, starting a string of negative self-talk ("You're so lazy and disgusting," "Why are you such a failure," etc.) I had worked a lifetime to undo. Not to mention, planning an out-of-town wedding with two big Catholic families is stressful enough (How do you tell your cousins for the 10th time kids aren't invited? Where you do sit the aunts and uncles who hate each other?); I didn't need to add another layer.
I joined Orangetheory Fitness in the months leading up to my wedding because I wanted to improve my fitness overall — I could feel my workouts getting stale and I wasn't pushing myself — and I also wanted to feel more confident on my wedding day. But for me, that meant wanting more energy and stamina, and possibly toning up my arms. I didn't care about dropping a dress size or fitting into an ideal body type. In fact, in the year that I had my wedding dress, I needed minimal alterations.
Did my body image issues and negative self-talk completely disappear during the year-and-a-half I was engaged? Of course not. But I felt beautiful on my wedding day and was so excited to marry my husband and be surrounded by all our friends and family. As someone who let diet culture and negative body image rule most of her life, I was proud of myself for not succumbing to the pressure of brides-to-be to lose weight, and instead enjoyed my engagement and wedding. I hope other engaged women are kind to themselves and don't carry the burden to try to fit some unrealistic mold on what should be the happiest day of their lives.