We’ve gotten a lot of requests recently to tackle the really horrific crap that is (increasingly? it seems?) permeating the culture about women and body weight at weddings. We’ve talked a lot about the underbelly of the wedding industry, and how they are willing to do just about anything in order to sell you more stuff. And preying on your insecurities and body image issues at a sensitive time in your life, to sell you wedding weight loss products? Well, that’s almost too easy. When I was planning my own wedding, I was delightfully impervious to this nonsense (I was raised without a TV, or much access to popular culture, and I chalk up my ‘oh-my-god-I-love-my-body’ image to that). But today Lauren is here, by request, to talk about how being engaged finally allowed her to kick her body image issues to the curb. Because what is engagement really, if it’s not an invitation to change our lives forever?
There is a lot of crazy losing weight crap about weddings. You know this. It’s everywhere. Magazines, TV shows (reality TV shows, barf), the emphasis is on 1) how much the wedding costs and 2) what size the bride got down to in order to fit into her dress. I actually heard an audio clip on the radio the other day promoting one of these stupid shows. The bride-to-be was adamant that if they “didn’t lose this weight to win the prize, they were NEVER going to be able to afford the wedding of their dreams. And then what would we do?” It disgusts me that a show exploiting desperate couples because of their body image issues is on the air, and that there are couples who are so incredibly desperate for a completely over the top wedding in order to have a “perfect” day, that they would sign up for it.
Now then, I have struggled with my weight pretty much my entire life. I understand that there are people who don’t and it’s hard to understand the chronic anxiety that comes with trying on pants or, god forbid, bathing suits when you haven’t woken up one day and just … not fitted into your clothes. Yeah, that’s a real special moment when you have to keep the button undone and wear a big sweatshirt because your muffin top has finally said “Enough!” The anxiety of that ever happening again induces IBS, and increases the days where I look in the mirror and am more than disappointed with what I see. So, you’d think my wedding would be putting me in a salad-eating, two-work-outs-a-day frenzy, but it hasn’t.
Here is what happened: Kamel asked me to marry him (hooray!), and my first, or even fifth thought, was not about my weight. It was not about what I was going to weigh in a year, and it was not about what I weighed right then. A few months went by and I started to think about my arms. My arms and I have always had a wary relationship. Basically, I don’t trust them. I’ve never been able to do a pull-up, and no matter how many push-ups I do, they never change shape. They just are what they are. So I figured, well, it can’t hurt… I’ll buy a ShakeWeight. They sold it at Walgreens, I had walked by it dozens of times on my way to retrieve large amounts of candy. The infomercials had snared me, and no amount of ridicule from Kamel was going to stop me from marching in there and snatching it off the shelves. I had made a promise to myself not to tell a soul, but instead shock them with my amazingly toned biceps in a years time.
Sometimes, I can’t help myself, I believe the hype regardless of the sexual innuendos, and Kamel’s chronic secret videotaping of me while I, uh, worked out. In the end, the ShakeWeight really didn’t last that long. It ended up being a pain to use, and I felt like it wasn’t, um, effective? Ya think? And it wasn’t until after we went on a weekend trip to somewhere that had a pool and sunshine, that we really got serious about changing our lifestyle. I say we because a lifestyle change involves the other person when you’re about to bind yourself to them for eternity. Ahem.
Ever since I was 18, I’ve been losing and gaining weight pretty much every year. When I was a freshman in college I stopped eating anything but english muffins and cereal because the cafeteria grossed me out. So, I lost about 15 pounds. Then I got over it, and found the soft serve machine and gained those 15 pounds back plus 20 more. For the next 2 years I struggled with those 20-25 pounds, and finally when I was 20 I had stopped gaining and losing and gaining and losing and was just at a weight I could depend on. This lasted until I was 22, when I started to fluctuate again. Finally, I went on Weight Watchers (after doing everything else I could think of including changing birth controls, working out twice a day, and giving up peanut butter!). And that worked great. It taught me a lot about nutrition and portion size, and what foods keep me full, so I wasn’t a crazy hungry person. It stopped feeling like a sacrifice. It was an education. But, things changed, I moved, I started working at a bakery (hello free pastries!), and I fell in love with Kamel. We ate out all of the time, we split desserts because it was a “special occasion” every other weekend, we went to movies, bought candy, stayed in with snacks, etc. Temptation was everywhere and guilt was chronic.
So when I say WE made a lifestyle change, I mean it. We came back from our weekend in bathing suit land, and signed up for Weight Watchers online together. We started working out consistently together at least 4 days a week, and we cooked and grocery shopped together, looking at labels together, and keeping each other on track… together. The wedding was a kind of incentive, because no one wants to feel uncomfortable on their wedding day, in front of all your friends and family, memorialized in a million photos. But this was about our life. This was about being around for a long time, not getting winded walking up stairs, and not feeling gross after eating an entire bag of Doritos. Wiping crumbs off the front of my shirt and spiraling into guilt filled panic just doesn’t scream sexy, ya know?
In the last 8 months, my weight and my body have been the least of my concerns. Have I lost weight since we decided to live a healthy life? Yes. Do I feel a million times better, physically? Yes. But the best part about what happened to me after deciding to change our lifestyle is that I am no longer tormented by my body. My weight is not what stresses me out about the wedding, it is not a factor in what dress I chose, or how my daily life works.
There are so many issues that come up during engagement. Family issues, money issues, time issues. There are discussions about children, about where you want to live, jobs, mother in laws, etc . So why not health and lifestyle? I’m setting up the groundwork for the rest of my life, and at least for me, my physical and mental up-keep is hugely important, and it’s important that Kamel and I are in this together because it doesn’t get easier. When I’m 50 and achey and it hurts to roll out of bed, I want Kamel there next to me encouraging me to go for a walk and eat my broccoli (with cheese). And I know he will. Getting into shape and being a healthier version of me is not about the wedding day, it is not about fitting into a one-time-wear dress. It is not about measuring perfection. It’s about being able to chase my kids around one day, about healthy bones and teeth, about reducing our risk for diabetes (yes, it runs in the family) and heart disease (that one too). It’s a choice about awareness that we’re making together.
Photos by: APW sponsor Allison Andres Photography