Zen: Being “Fat” For My Wedding


Zen: Being Fat For My Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Recently I went to a clam shack for the first time ever. To those of you for whom a clam shack is about as exotic as an Old Town, this may not seem like a significant life milestone, but it was very exciting for me. I’m the sort of person who goes to Wikitravel and scrolls down to the “Eat” section when deciding whether a place is worth going to, so y’know—the sun was out, the sky was blue, and I’d ordered lobster clambake. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then my friend leaned over and said to me, “You’re fat now, by the way. I just thought you should know. Are you going to lose weight for your wedding?”

I finished my half of the lobster clambake, but my enjoyment was somewhat dampened.

To be fair, my friend wasn’t being any more impertinent than the numerous Facebook ads offering me weight loss programmes. I told her the same thing I would’ve told those ads (if ads had ears): I’ve got no plans to lose weight. My reasons aren’t terribly interesting; they mostly amount to “stupid WIC is stupid”. Why should I look unnaturally perfect on my wedding day? Does anyone expect Cephas to be preternaturally beautiful, and do up his hair, and whiten his teeth, and to have been working out seven days a week for the six months preceding his wedding? No, they do not. And I always object to societal standards which require me to do more work than dudes.

I also object to the idea that the less of me there is, the better it looks. Fat and beauty aren’t mutually exclusive. Beauty shouldn’t be an obligation.

Having said all that, I admit I’m not totally content with my body—who is? Body hatred almost seems like a condition of femininity. I’ve come out of this particular round of Society vs. Women relatively unscathed, if only because I had the good luck to more or less fall into the narrow bracket of permitted sizes in my culture. I’ve never been thin by that culture’s standards, though—except for once, and that just reinforced the fact that it’s all bullshit.

It was when I was at law school and walking for a cumulative hour a day to and from school. I dropped a dress size without really noticing it, and suddenly I was thin. And I’m not gonna lie, Planet Skinny was amazing. My friends envied me loudly. My family praised me. (Cephas, bless him, never remarked on it.) It changed my whole view of myself physically. I’d always felt a bit embarrassed in clothes shops before—I felt too geeky, too clueless, too funny-shaped to be there. But now it was as if the part of me that’d been scared said to itself, “The salespeople can’t really think I look like an idiot if I’m wearing a size S.”

But the privilege of being thin changed the way I thought and acted, in ways that surprised me. For the first time I understood Kate Moss’s inexplicable line that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I mean, I still believe she said it ‘cos she’s probably never had chilli pan mee, but—unlike Kate Moss I hadn’t made a career out of being conventionally attractive, and yet I found myself checking myself when I was eating because I didn’t want to lose the ground I’d gained.

I knew it was all a scam, is the thing. The job of the patriarchy is to plant brainweasels in your head, yeah? The brainweasels are to distract you so you’re too busy worrying about stupid things like your waistline to object when dudes keep hogging all the money and power. Thinness is a total con job. It’s an impossible goal—you want to be thin because you want to feel beautiful, but as Meg points out in the bookpretty is not an emotion. And it’s a dumb reward. Being thinner didn’t make me better at anything except wearing size S clothes. It didn’t make me kinder to people, or more diligent about writing. It didn’t make anyone love me more.

And yet it made a difference. A completely fictitious, societally enforced, brainweasel-based difference—but a difference nonetheless. How freaky is that?

So then I finished law school and kept eating large bowls of chilli pan mee and returned to my normal size. I wish I could say I was totally above it all, that I didn’t care. But I totally cared! For a while I went around shaking Cephas down for compliments as if they were lunch money and he was a particularly weedy-looking kid at my school.

But I got over it. Now here I am, slightly squishier than I would like to be and about to get married in 3.5 months. I eat well and walk every day. I trust my body to know what it’s doing when it gets hungry, and that it’ll know when it wants to stop. I could be fitter, but let’s not kid ourselves. If I started working out now it would have nothing to do with my resting heart rate and everything to do with how my bum looks in a wedding dress. So I won’t.

I’m gonna be “fat” for my wedding. It will make no difference whatsoever.

Because it won’t. Strive to lose weight if that’s what floats your boat, but remind yourself, when you’re being bombarded by evil brainweasels bearing body image angst: it won’t make you smarter. It won’t make you kinder. It won’t make anyone love you more.

Editor’s Note: The last time we posted something concerning body image, you guys blew us away. At 399 comments (and holding) this community fostered an incredibly intelligent and civil discussion on the topic, and forced us to realize that body image is something we need to be talking more about at APW. We know weight and body image are difficult to talk about, and it’s hard to frame the conversation in a way where it’s safe to disagree with each other without someone feeling personally attacked. We trust you to keep the conversation civil while talking about your personal experiences and ask that you support Zen and her humorous approach to a tough conversation.

Photo by: Kandise Brown (APW Sponsor)

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  • http://www.rachelwilkerson.com Rachel Wilkerson

    Wait, your friend casually gave you a “friendly reminder” that you were fat while you were enjoying a delicious meal?! I’m worried I’m misreading this but I’m really worked up on your behalf. As a general rule, I think a friend should always be able to treat you better than a Facebook ad. What was your friend thinking here!?

    • Cassandra

      For real, anyone who felt the need to tell me I’m fat could really go straight to hell. That line left me fuming.

      • http://www.ohmeaghan.com Meaghan

        But…what if fat isn’t an insult? Speaking as a fat person who would like to normalize the perception of my own body, while I don’t agree with a friend assessing a friend’s body, I do not see anything wrong with the word or descriptor “fat”. Telling a friend that they have changed in some way – lost weight, gained weight, tired eyes, dry skin, sleepy, irritable, etc – is observational and something I would actually expect from a close friend, because they love me and are concerned. The comment tacked onto it insinuating that Zen might want to lose weight for the wedding is unnecessary, but expressing concern in the form of an observation is not necessarily borne out of hatefulness.

        • meg

          Also an interesting point, and a beautiful comment on reclaiming words.

        • http://makingsofanurse.com Kristine

          This is a really interesting conversation about reclaiming language. But “fat” is also such a loaded word, and as a “fat” person, I would probably be hurt if a friend said this to me – simply because it isn’t just a descriptor. It has social and cultural implications, given our society’s twisted ideals.

          I had a similar experience as Zen – eight years ago I unintentionally lost a lot of weight while living abroad and was my lowest weight of my adult life. I came home and all of the sudden, everyone said “Wow you look great!”

          Now I’m the heaviest I’ve been in my adult life and I have yet to hear those words uttered by anyone except my husband, even when I’m all gussied up and trying to look my best. The “looking great” was associated with being thin, not with the effort I put into my appearance or with the truth that Zen spoke – fat and beauty are not mutually exclusive.

        • http://www.rachelwilkerson.com Rachel Wilkerson

          I agree that fat doesn’t have to be an insult (and I’ve actually written a lot about why it SHOULDN’T be on my blog) but I got the impression from the post that the friend meant it that way and Zen took it that way. But I agree 100% — it’s a shame that it’s become such a loaded term!

        • http://fatcarriesflavor.wordpress.com MadGastronomer

          I’m fat and happy about it, and a fat acceptance activist, and asking me if I’m going to lose weight for my wedding, with the strong implication that if I don’t there’s something wrong with me, is really fucking rude. It’s not the word fat that’s wrong with what the friend said, it’s the framing of fat as bad and the attempt to build an obligation to lose it.

          • http://www.ohmeaghan.com Meaghan

            I don’t disagree with that. I was trying to swiftly interrupt the focus on the word “fat” as the rude component to that conversation. The word “fat” could be replaced with anything, and it would still be really fucking rude. The implication that anyone would need to change anything about their body before their wedding is the issue, not the face-fanning objection to fatness, which I saw as the misguided direction this conversation could take (partially due to the context in which this issue was presented in the original post). If you travel farther down in the comments, there’s a fitness professional telling “us” that by not focusing on how fat is bad, “we’re” glorifying fat here (and elsewhere). It’s not about fatness. It’s about people giving up these antiquated conventions and the completely irrational need for wedding day perfection, whatever the hell that means.

    • meg

      “As a general rule, I think a friend should always be able to treat you better than a Facebook ad.” HA.

      (That’s why I loved this post as much as I did. It confirms that I’m not the only one who has people say things to me in casual conversation where I’m like, “Hold the phone, let’s back up and have you say that again, but this time I want to record it, just to confirm that I heard you right/ play it for people at parties as a joke.”)

    • Ari

      Yeah…I understand that different people have different parameters for friendship, and that’s great! But I have to say, nobody I’d call a friend makes disparaging remarks about the bodies of any of their friends (and it’s not because we’re all Perfect Like Cosmo–it’s because this is a part of how we love and care for one another). I hope I’m misunderstanding something!

      • meg

        Well hey, let’s not disparage Zen’s friends, ok? That makes me uncomfortable. I think we all have people in our lives who say stuff that leave us blinking in shock. Off-putting remarks make for great writing and cocktail party stories, but they don’t have to end friendships! That said, if we want a general discussion of how we can all support each other better as women, I’m all for it!

      • Zen

        I see “hey you’re fat now btw, just wanted you to know” as being one — admittedly extreme — point on a spectrum, though, and disparaging your OWN body to your friends is another point on the spectrum. And the latter is something a lot of women do, yeah? If I got mad at all my female friends for having messed up ideas about body image I wouldn’t have that many left! (Not that I wasn’t kind of irked by her comment, but, y’know.)

    • Lynn

      My best friend (& MOH) did this…although she was talking about my husband (who is also larger). Her words were, “I guess if having to stand up in front of 150 people, as the center of attention, isn’t motivation to lose weight, then nothing is.” My instant response was, “Guess there’s no hope for me either as I have yet to lose weight.”

      We’ve had the conversation before about how when she’s snarking about someone who is overweight, while she may be talking about that person (usually her sister-in-law), I hear her talking about me. It is all the more confounding because she *knows* how painful it is to be derided for your size. All of her life she has struggled with weight, although for her she has struggled to gain weight and is incredibly thin. She is extremely sensitive to comments about her own weight but does not hesitate to do to others what she cannot stand having done to herself.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        That doesn’t seem that odd to me – most people hate most in other people what the hate most about themselves.

    • Zen

      She’s just one of those people who says what they think, always. Like Meaghan I think “fat” should ideally be a neutral descriptor (though it obviously isn’t in our society). I don’t think my friend thinks it’s a neutral descriptor, which is why I was a bit taken aback, but then you start thinking about why you find it so offensive … “fat” shouldn’t be the worst term any woman can throw at another!

      • http://www.rachelwilkerson.com Rachel Wilkerson

        I agree completely that “fat” should be a neutral description, but I gathered from the post that that wasn’t how your friend meant it or how you took it. I was definitely hoping you two use the word as a non-loaded good old-fashioned adjective without hurt feelings on a regular basis!

        • http://www.ohmeaghan.com Meaghan

          See, I viewed the exchange as a catalyst for Zen to examine what these cultural conventions are with regard to wedding and to share them on APW. That’s why I said up a few comments that the issue is the implication that Zen needed to change anything, not the fat part. People really need to unpack their fat-shaming stuff before they react to things, clearly.

  • http://davidkatejourneytogether.blogspot.com Kate

    I absolutely couldn’t have summed up my feelings on this topic better! I know exactly how you feel and I feel the same way!! I’ve had friends ask me at restaurants what I’m going to order because of my “wedding diet” and I’ve always happily said “There isn’t one — I’ll take that delicious plate of risotto (screw carbs)”. Yes, I’m a size 12 and I’m beautiful — I don’t always feel so self-confident because, as you said — “Body hatred almost seems like a condition of femininity.” I’m happy with who I am and I’m walking down the aisle in 2 months to the man I can’t wait to spend my whole life with and who loves me just as I am — size 12 and all — because that’s who I am. And the best part is…I’m going to be absolutely gorgeous on that day (and happy about the croissant I will probably eat that morning).

    • Amy

      Amen! I’m also around a 12 (up from 8 about 18 months ago), but in my short 4 month engagement, I refused to let the worry about my weight bog down all the joy I feel about getting married. I too am thoughly loved by my fiancee who truly, honestly, not trying to make me feel better, thinks that I look beautiful. All the time: clothed, not clothed, in my wedding dress, whatever.

      Now- the dress I fell in love with? Only came in a size slightly too small for me currently, but it’s merely been a nice reminder that gym trips and jogging a couple times a week are good for me. Still no “wedding diet” no “wedding bootcamp.” Just an iphone app and some time after a stressful workday to shake it all out on the treadmill. Honestly, the same level of working out I’d be doing, wedding or no wedding. (in 6 weeks!)

    • http://www.sarahhoppes.com Sarah

      Amen! I, too, am a (mostly) happy size 12/14, and am marrying a wonderful person who loves me just as I am. I’ve never been thin, and have remained at varying degrees of size 12/14 since I was a teenager. Even if I were to frantically try to lose weight for my wedding, I’d never be skinny. I’d still have the big bones I inherited from my parents and my same stocky arms and legs. I worked for 4 years at a summer camp for people with disabilities, and those arm and leg muscles are the reason I was able to help lift people in and out of wheelchairs each season, so I’m damn proud of them.

      I’ve been lucky that no one has asked me about my “wedding diet,” but if that happens, I’ll be proud to inform them I don’t have one. (And to pass the homemade rice balls because they taste like carby heaven!)

      I love that APW has posts about body image, and that this community can be respectful, supportive, and helpful.

    • Katie H

      A size 12 is fantastic, and is actually one of the most common sizes. When I got married I was a size 18, and I felt so beautiful that day you couldn;t convince me I wasn’t a size 6.

      • Amanda S.

        This comment is a really great example of Zen’s brainweasels theory. Equating feeling beautiful with having a small dress size. We (and I certainly do not exempt myself from this) are so well trained to feel like we aren’t even allowed to feel pretty unless we are thin.

    • MDBethann

      I think it is interesting that we equate the size of our clothing with being “fat” or “thin.” I am 5’10″ tall and most people would classify me as thin. Yet, when I walk into a clothing store, I’m trying on size 10s and 12s, in part due to my height, but also because I’ve been blessed with the family hips, so I have some curve to me. Whenever I go shopping with my friends, they are often floored when I tell them what size I wear and they give me the “but you’re so thin!!” line and/or look.

      The thing is, clothing sizes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and from store to store. Even in the same store from year to year. I have a great comfy pair of pants that I bought a couple of years ago in a size 10. They still fit fine, but now in that store I’m suddenly a size 8. My weight hasn’t changed and neither has my size, but the store’s sizing has.

      I think that before we get too hard on ourselves and others about the “size” that we wear, we need to get the manufacturers to measure a woman’s body more fairly in actual inches/meters, etc. like they do for men. Until they do, size is all a mind game.

      • Liz

        Yep, I wear a size 2 and a size 10, depending on where I’m shopping.

      • Zen

        Yeah, women’s clothing sizes are nonsense. That said, size in the inches/metres sense is also kind of a mind game, I think, because fat is sort of a social construct? I could be fat in Singapore and tiny in the UK, in terms of how people see me, while staying the exact same kilograms-and-inches size. I think the demonisation of fat needs to be broken down on every level.

        • MDBethann

          Zen, you’re completely right. I just meant they should use inches/centimeters/meters to size women’s clothing not as a measure of judging, but as a measure of practicality so we have a better idea of what will fit us before we try it on. Make it about something we can measure and then I know what size I actually am, no matter what a manufacturer or fashion house says.

        • Rachel T.

          I would really love if we could do this. I had just this conversation in therapy today – “I’m going to be fat for my wedding”. She rolled her eyes at me and said, as she has so many times before, “so what?”. But what I’ve come to realize over the last few years is that people do, in fact, equate fat with personality/intelligence/beauty/worthwhileness/and (as evidenced by that horrifying video of middle school boys mocking an older woman on the school bus) fat is a justification for cruelty. It’s so awful. I have TERRIBLE body image, and it’s because I have bought into the idea that because of my size, I am not worthwhile. Even as I type that, it makes me sad. But I know, somewhere down in my APW-heart, that that’s not even close to true. I just have to keep telling myself and OTHERS that fat is nothing but an observation, that the connotations need to disappear, and that we are worthwhile because of who we are, not what we look like. And my wedding day is when I express my love and dedication out loud to my partner, not a “I’m a size 4 and therefore deserving” day. We all deserve love every day, sometimes two and three times a day. Thanks for a great post – it’s like the universe knew I needed some outside help today. Much love to APW! As always!

          • Alexandra

            It’s been said a few times down the comments, but I just want you to know that while fat is one justification people use for cruelty, they can be just as cruel to skinny people or people of every body type. Especially in a school bus setting. Really, some people are just cruel, and regardless of their excuse, they’re still wrong.

            I mean, you know how cruel people can be to overweight people. I’m skinny and spent years listening to people call me anorexic, or when that failed, attacked my hair. Flat-chested girls get compared to chalkboards (to steal another commenter’s words) and big chested ones get accused of having implants and hateful glares. People on Pinterest regularly attack pictures of skinny models. People comment on what you eat, whether it’s a salad (Oh, that’s why you’re skinny) or a cheeseburger (You’re so lucky you can eat that). I didn’t order a salad in a restaurant for a decade because I was worried people would assume I was trying to lose weight.

            Honestly, the best answer to people being cruel seems to be my sister’s answer, and to have a self-esteem so solid you could build a house on it. Not that it completely stops the insults or the body hate, but it helps shrug them all off.

      • Sarah

        Yes! I’ve had similar experiences recently. I don’t live in the US and I love to do all my shopping there when I have a chance. I have a pair of size 6 shorts that I love and still wear, and wanted another pair from the same store. But in the two years since I’ve last been, the sizing changed completely! I found that even a 0 was too large — I had been sized out of the store! Since my dimensions haven’t changed, I can only assume that the labels have.
        I worry about the attachment we have to a size number (or letter) when its completely subjective. I try to not to get too attached to these things, and go by what looks best. When I do have to get on a scale, at the doctors office, I stand backwards and ask the nurse to keep it to herself. As long as I feel good, I don’t need a number to obsess over.

  • Jo

    “Being thinner didn’t make me better at anything except wearing size S clothes. It didn’t make me kinder to people, or more diligent about writing. It didn’t make anyone love me more.”

    I love this.
    Personally, I believe in eating healthy (in moderation) and exercising because these habits give me more energy, a more balanced hormone level (less mood swings!) and a clean bill of physical health. These things make me feel better about myself and make me a better friend and partner. But none of that has anything to do with what I LOOK like. I do my best to keep these habits throughout my life, but of course I’m FAR from perfect. And an impending wedding wouldn’t change that.
    I do, however, believe in a good haircut before a day when I’ll be photographed a gazillion times. So there’s that.

    • Maddie

      Good haircut, YES. Every time.

    • meg

      Amen to that. As someone who’s dealt with lots of chronic illness and paid, I think of my body in how it feels and what it can do. Sometimes I want to tighten up a bit so I *feel* better, but that’s it. As far as I’m concerned if you feel good about yourself you look hot, and that’s the only looks issue I’m interested in (and sometimes an extra slice of cake is what it takes to make me feel awesome).

    • Flamingo

      That quote was my favorite part about this piece. One of the biggest lies we (as a society) tell ourselves about losing weight is that things are going to be SO MUCH BETTER once lose weight / get back to goal / get into the skinny jeans.

      I can honestly say that for the majority of my life I thought that being thin would be this magical land with fairies and unicorns and butterflies where the rivers flow with chocolate (calorie-free chocolate that is). And then I was thin, and surprise, surprise, all my problems did not disappear. Yes, it was great to be fit and look good in my clothes, but that was it. One of my biggest goals is to get to a place where I can eat well and be at a healthy weight for the sake of being fit, while realizing that my weight does not in itself magnify or dampen my life experiences (unless I give it the power to do so).

  • Cass

    “You’re fat..I just thought you should know?” As if we all are not aware of our size at any given time. That’s just rude. And hurtful.

    • KB

      Exactly. This particular part of the post reminds me of someone I know who constantly rips on overweight people with the absolute most appalling language ever – as in, “god, isn’t that disgusting” or “fat people are a *&#$ing drain on society” – and when you call her on it, she defends it! It would make me so unspeakably angry sometimes, until I finally realized why she comments on what everyone’s eating and spends three hours at the gym. It finally clicked that she has an eating disorder and is terrified of being fat herself. Not that it excuses it – but I do think about the day when she’ll finally walk in someone else’s shoes, when she’ll be the one who’s “fat” or “gray” or “wrinkly.” Not that I’m WISHING any particular thing to happen to her, I just hope that when it finally happens (as it does to everyone!), when her looks become “less than society’s definition of perfect,” that she’ll realize that what’s on the outside doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.

  • Samantha

    There is a big difference between “fat” and fat. I’m morbidly obese. It is a medical term and I hate it and I don’t feel it and I don’t feel ugly, and yet, here I am: morbidly obese. No one is bothering to tell me to lose weight for my wedding. I think that’s the curse for the very nearly skinny women out there. Come on, ladies, if you just put a little effort in, you could be PERFECT. Bah!

    I hate that I keep thinking about how I won’t look good enough in my pictures. But screw looking “good,” you should look happy.

    • meg

      Super interesting… and so painful and true about the quest for perfection.

      (We also asked Zen put “fat” in quotes, because it’s such a loaded word, we wanted to make sure you guys didn’t think we were throwing it around as a slur. Reclaiming words is tricky business.)

    • http://www.ohmeaghan.com Meaghan

      If you’re happy, you’ll look AMAZING. Always. *three snaps in a Z-formation*

      • http://www.brownbettystyle.com mari

        I’ve noticed that too… as a size 24 (holla!) no one has said a word to me about losing weight. Now, there are lots of potential reasons… I don’t diet, and I think I’ve made that pretty clear to my family. I generally seem to avoid a lot of “helpful” diet talk, so I assume most of my friends/family are just not the type to bring up that kind of talk unless I were to initiate it. But honestly, a big part of me does feel that it’s a combination of isolating myself from the standard WIC crap and being well beyond the reach of a “straight” size… there is no way in hell I could conceiveably get down to a size 12 in 6 months, and most people can see that. I do often wonder if that’s why there’s so much pressure on regular size ladies… they could reach whatever their idea of perfection is.

        This is all just conjecture and wondering, so I don’t know how true it is outside my own experience. But whatever it is, I am ETERNALLY GRATEFUL that I’m generally being spared weight talk around my wedding (knock on wood). I expect I will look fat in my photos… and even if it takes a little time to get right with that, I also expect it will be fine, because it will be me and my fiance, looking exceptionally happy on an important day in our lives together.

        • Zen

          “I do often wonder if that’s why there’s so much pressure on regular size ladies… they could reach whatever their idea of perfection is.”

          I think there is some of this at work, yeah. Some of my skinniest friends have the worst body image and are the worst perpetrators of “fat talk”, and I think the reason why is because they are so close to the ideal that even the most minor deviation terrifies them. Because if a lot of your self-image is built on your being thin — and it’s really hard not to enjoy being thin when you see how the world treats you for it — then you’re disproportionately afraid of losing that.

          • Hillori

            Yes. As someone who went to the wrong-side-of-healthy in weightloss, sometimes the opinion of someone who loves you is important. I look back at those pictures and think, “Wow, I look truly ill.” At the time, I thought I looked great. But I also obsessed about what, how much, when food went into my body, and how many miles I’d walked that day. It was exhausting! Oh– and food deprivation makes me grumpy– so no, being “skinny” (aka hungry) did not make me a nicer person.

            I’m now happily normal. And I will not go back for any ad, magazine, or wedding preparation.

          • Fenn

            But for me, it’s my friends who have struggled with weight issues and lost tons of weight who have the worst talk. They’ve reached their goals, losing 30-100 pounds, and all the want to do is go on and on about how being thin is right and better and being even thinner would be better. It’s really annoying, because I stand next to them, as their “before” and have no desire to achieve the “after”.

    • Snow Gray

      As another ‘morbidly obese’ woman – I can relate to how awful a term it is. But happy IS what’s important, and that happiness will show in your pictures, and matter more than anything else.

      What really helped ME was finding a dress that made me feel beautiful, and this awesome APW article, which I read over and over (including immediately before I went dress shopping, to help me stay calm): http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/07/a-way-to-weigh-what-you-weigh-when-you-wed/

      “But more than anything, I hope for you what was true for me, which was that on the day I got married, I felt so buoyed by hope and joy and love from all corners. I danced like a mad woman. I laughed and screamed with delight. My weight was so unbelievably unimportant. It was so incredibly beside the point.”

      • Rachel T.

        Something else I think it strange… why are we expected to look thinner for our wedding day when the people coming theoretically see us on a regular basis and already know what we look like? It’s not like there’s some big body reveal here… like we’ve been living in a box for a decade and are finally “revealing” ourselves to the world for the first time – hence the hair, diet, make-up, dress, etc. It’s just supposed to be about marriage and tradition. Why is the weight part so important? Everyone already knows what I look like – what is it about the dress that suddenly means I have to look different?

        • ElisabethJoanne

          A lot of people coming to my wedding DON’T see me on a regular basis, or they’re my future in-laws from overseas, whom I’ve never met. We take the wedding-as-family-reunion attitude.

          Not that this has anything to do with weight or body image, directly.

    • Zen

      And what’s “good enough”, right? It’s an ever-retreating goal. I think you’ll look wonderful in your pictures.

  • vron

    Amazing post. I have to say I lost weight the week before the wedding – I think that’s a combination of being too anxious to eat (note that has never happened before) and my brain being turned off from the aforementioned anxiety so I had nothing productive to do except exercise. What happened? On my wedding everyone commented on how skinny I was and I wanted them all to go to hell. Skinny is not a compliment it’s just a number on the scale. Since the wedding I’ve been feeling exactly what Zen described – maybe I should curb my eating? Maybe I should aim to be as skinny as I was on that day? Eff that.

    • http://miriamba.blogspot.com/ Miriam

      I lost weight before my wedding because I did a special diet to attempt to find out what food was giving me stomach aches all of the time (the diet involved drinking a lot less alcohol and not eating cheese for 3 months so obviously I lost some weight). I felt great because I found out what was making me sick and didn’t get stomach aches anymore, but I knew people must have assumed I lost weight because of our wedding.

      Luckily I had more than the week you had and I posted on my blog about how I didn’t want to hear any “you are so skinny!” comments on my wedding day. I was sick of getting them every time I saw my family! It worked and no one said a thing about my weight, thankfully. I’m sorry you had to put up with it!

    • L

      I read about a study once where they restricted the caloric intake of people with an otherwise healthy relationship with food – these people hadn’t been dieting and weren’t trying to lose weight. Once they were on the restricted calorie diet for a while (I don’t remember how long), they actually started spontaneously obsessing about calories and restricting themselves even more. The theory the researchers had is that if there is less food intake then the brain assumes there is less food available so the logical survival step is to save food. Anyway, I just thought it was interesting.

  • Contessa

    I love this bit the best, “And I always object to societal standards which require me to do more work than dudes.” I know this idea needs no explanation as to why the fact that men aren’t expected to put in as much work as we are at “looking good” makes steam come out of my ears and why I carefully select the magazines I read because I don’t want to subliminally believe that it’ll be the highlights and trendy nail polish this summer that will change my life.

  • http://www.myorangechair.wordpress.com Anna

    “I knew it was all a scam, is the thing. The job of the patriarchy is to plant brainweasels in your head, yeah? The brainweasels are to distract you so you’re too busy worrying about stupid things like your waistline to object when dudes keep hogging all the money and power. Thinness is a total con job.”

    BEST THING SAID EVER!!!!!

    • http://elissarphotography.com Elissa

      For real.

    • http://www.twitter.com/you_love_lucy youlovelucy

      So, if the APW mascot is the wily duck, then the WIC brainweasels must be our big rival.

      It only makes sense, right?

  • http://www.screeninvasion.com Kristal

    THANK YOU! This is something I need to constantly remind myself this week. My wedding is on Saturday and due to an injury, stress from the wedding planning and launching my own business I’ve gained some…extra weight since I first got engaged. While I can finally get back to exercising, there’s no way I’m going to get back to my old size in a matter of days. Deep breaths and remembering that “pretty is not an emotion” are definitely going to help. :)

  • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

    This is interesting to me. When I got engaged I was 60 pounds overweight (and had been for about 3 years) and people absolutely asked me if I was going to lose weight for the wedding. It made me feel hideous and insignificant, yes, but it also pissed me the hell off. “No,” I said defiantly. “I have no intention to lose weight for my wedding.” And then I’d cut myself a second slice of cake.

    I’m getting married on September 1st (so close!!!) and in March I started working out regularly and revamping my diet, and since then I’ve dropped 25 pounds. And the seamstress altering my wedding gown has been a real doll about it. And yes, I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from those same people who told me to lose weight for the wedding in the first place. And yes, I feel confident and courageous and energetic in a way I haven’t felt for a very long time.

    But I’m not losing weight for my wedding. In March, my self-esteem had hit rock bottom. I was stuck in a job I hated, I couldn’t even recognize myself in the mirror anymore, and I needed to shake things up pretty desperately.

    I knew there was no way I’d be back to my college weight before the wedding. I had 60 pounds to lose. Are you kidding? So that was never my goal. My goal was just to make my life BETTER in every way I could. I ditched that soul-sucking job and landed a position in my chosen career (which I thought I’d had to leave behind forever when I moved away from New York). I started working out and eating well, and spending active time with my fiancé, going hiking, playing catch, walking to the restaurant for dinner. I did more of the things I love to do. And yes, now I’m 25 lbs down and counting, but that’s not the point.

    Although, the DIFFERENCE, as you said….the difference. Suddenly it doesn’t matter that the wedding is not the reason I am losing weight. And somehow the fact that I will look better in wedding photos now than I would have 25 lbs ago doesn’t matter, because it still won’t be ENOUGH. I can’t lose the last 40 lbs in 2 months, and I wouldn’t even if I could, because there’s no healthy way to make that happen.

    But I hate that something that had nothing to do with my wedding when I started suddenly feels really wrapped up in my wedding, and I hate the I feel like it’s robbing me of my earned happiness a little bit. Ugh. Thus ends the longest comment ever.

    • charmcityvixen

      I had a very similar experience!!!! Good for you for doing something to feel better and get out of your funk!

    • MDBethann

      Good for you for taking the initiative in making your life happier for your own and your fiance’s sake – emotionally and physically. Being unhappy at work can be soul-sucking, and the fact that you are making such positive changes in your life should be applauded, whether they are wedding related or not. And the things you chose to do – activities with your fiance – build your relationship too, not just your physical health. Good for you and as the wedding fades in the distance and you continue these new habits, it will be more about being happy and healthy and less about the wedding. Best wishes!

  • http://www.hillaryschuster.com Hillary

    While I agree with most of this post, I do think that near the end it started to sound like the author’s weight and activities were a response to the “patriarchy” and not about health and her own body. I fear that not conforming to beauty standards handed to us by someone else as a feminist act, is, in a certain way, giving these ideas more weight, not less. Body image and actual shape/weight should be related to health and personal feelings. Skipping dieting or working out before your wedding is great and totally acceptable but I worry that if you are doing it as a middle finger to “the man” it really doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s not really the same thing as loving yourself and feeling comfortable.

    • ferrous

      Yes, this. I read this post somewhat confused, as an athlete and medical professional who feels that fitness doesn’t have much (if anything) to do with patriarchy or keeping us down. To compare, there are some societies where bigger women are valued by men, for equally distasteful reasons (inequality, the woman’s role, etc). How would we feel differently about our bodies in a society like this? As Hillary says, I don’t think linking this to “the man” gets us anywhere.

      (Please note, I said “fitness” and not “fat.” I do believe in the WIC weight-loss “brainweasel.” I feel most bridal models are entirely unrealistic and will not be wearing a slinky sheath, no spanx, I refuse!)

      • Zen

        I wasn’t really talking about fitness, but about fat as a social construct.

      • http://fatcarriesflavor.wordpress.com MadGastronomer

        Fat is not the opposite of fit. You can be fit and fat. You can be healthy and fat. You cannot tell someone’s health from their size.

      • ECD

        As an athlete and medical professional, I couldn’t agree more with Madgastronomer. That link is worth a read, as is the rest of that blog, as is Linda Bacon’s work and Health At Every Size, as is Kate Harding, and as is all the very good medical research and evidence they link to. They all went a long way towards expanding my medical education.

    • Zen

      “Body image and actual shape/weight should be related to health and personal feelings.”

      But it doesn’t always. A woman who’s perfectly healthy and active but larger than a woman who isn’t that active but is much thinner will often feel worse about her body than the thinner person. That’s got nothing to do with health. “Personal feelings” don’t exist independent of societal pressures — or nobody would care what size their engagement ring was.

      And no worries, I’m not “skipping” dieting or working out as a middle finger to the Man — I don’t diet, so it’s not really something to skip, and I just don’t work out ‘cos I’m lazy. \o/

      • Erin

        Agreed. And it’s not just women. I’m a size 16 with lots of curves. My husband is a skinny little thing who weighs a good deal less than I do.

        On the weekends, we both sit around and play video games. In fact, for a long time I was the one working out 3 times a week and he was /still/ sitting around playing video games (this sadly stopped due to finances – I’ve yet to be able to make the free stuff stick like my zumba classes did).

        But I can tell you who gets the ‘you need to be more active’ talk. Even when I /was/ the active one.

  • Hannah

    I have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, 1) a sincere WTF to your friend. Tactless much?? and 2) I totally hate the idea of losing weight specifically for your wedding, just as I hate the idea of growing your hair out for your wedding if you like your hair short (not that I’ve had tons of people ask me if I’m growing the pixie cut out for the wedding… which I most definitely am not. I can look pretty with short hair thanks.) I think people should be themselves on their wedding day, not everyone else’s image of what a bride (or groom) should be. On the other hand, I disagree with the underlying implication that trying to lose weight is, in general, a bad thing and a social pressure. Yes, there is a lot of that in our culture, to be sure. But sometime, you really DO need to lose weight, and it has nothing to do with how you look. I am getting healthy before my wedding (although I started before I got engaged) not because I want to look awesome in my pictures, although that is a nice perk, but because I want to live a long and active life with my fiance.

    • Maddie

      I also lost weight before my wedding, for similar reasons (and, I’ll admit, for social-pressure reasons, and heck, just vanity), but I see this post as critical of the idea that you MUST lose weight, not the idea that anyone would want to lose weight. And that’s where the issues lie. You, Zen, me, whoever else, we should feel comfortable with whatever we’ve decided to do for the benefit of our bodies, but it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business what that decision is, whether that’s losing weight or defiantly NOT losing it, you know?

      Also, I’m always a little wary of the idea that a little extra padding is going to cut my lifespan. A few extra pounds won’t kill me any more quickly than not having them, not on its own, not without many other underlying factors. Frequently, I find that the health angle (while valid in some regards) is just another way to guilt us about our bodies.

      • Hannah

        I definitely agree that it’s nobody’s business but our own. I think that’s what bugged me; this post felt a little “I’m choosing NOT to lose weight JUST BECAUSE I’M SUPPOSED TO,” which is also not a very good reason. As for the health thing: I think there is probably a range of what is healthy for whom, and it varies widely from person to person. I know people that are way heavier than me that can outrun me like it’s no thing. A *little* extra weight never killed anyone. However, what is considered to be only “a little” extra in our country is increasing as our norm increases and our rates of diabetes and heart disease increase, which is hard to consider coincidental.

        I definitely think that our society puts WAY too much emphasis on “being skinny” versus “being fit,” but that’s a whole other topic that I could write an essay on, haha

        • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

          An alternate interpretation, which is how I read it: Zen isn’t going to focus on exercise until she’s in a brainspace that keeps her safe from brainweasels. She knows herself well enough to know that if she started an exercise routine NOW, it wouldn’t be healthy for her because she’d get stuck on the idea of being thinner for the wedding.

          • Maddie

            THIS. I have no business trying to lose weight until I’m in the right headspace to do it.

            Also, can we give three cheers for the term “brainweasels?”

        • Zen

          Laurel’s interpretation is a pretty good one, but my real reason for not losing weight is that a) I don’t personally think I need to and b) (the more important reason) I’m super lazy.

          I agree with Maddie that the health angle is too often used as a means of making women feel bad about their bodies.

          • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

            I agree with Maddie that the health angle is too often used as a means of making women feel bad about their bodies.

            Co-sign in a big way.

            Also, I am pro laziness, which is really just prioritizing things you like.

        • http://fatcarriesflavor.wordpress.com MadGastronomer

          Actually, since the BMI definitions of “normal”, “overweight” and “obese” actually went down, and now have nothing to do with reality, society’s perception of what “a few extra pounds” is is now much smaller than it used to be, because we are now told we’re obese at lighter weights.

          And, in fact, if you read up on the research, there is no causative relationship that we can demonstrate between health and fat. Sometimes, fat is completely unrelated to health, even for very fat people. Sometimes, health problems cause lots of fat. Being fat, even very fat, does not actually make you unhealthy.

          • Sarah

            BMI is a tricky beast — it doesn’t account for muscle, for example. I wouldn’t rely on it as a sole measure of fitness.

      • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

        I’ve read in a few places recently that weight doesn’t correspond to lifespan in the ways we think it should. One that keeps popping up is that statistically people who are “overweight”, according to BMIs, live longer than people in the “healthy” and “underweight” catagories.

        Skinny does not automatically equal healthy, and heavier does not always equal unhealthy.

        • Rachel T.

          Yep – my father has to take cholesterol medicine and yet works out seven days a week, sometimes twice a day, eats SUPER healthy, and is VERY active. I am “morbidly obese”, but much to the shock (and frustration?) of my doctor and my father, I am perfectly healthy in my blood work. My body is in really really good health, but yet somehow, I’m still being told to lose weight. I understand the idea of “later on”, but I am frustrated by the idea that just because I’m overweight, I’m unhealthy, and just because my father is thin, he must be healthy (which he’s obviously not!). Not cool.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        I’ve read that a few extra pounds is positively correlated with cancer survival. I guess because you body has more reserves?

        • ECD

          Excess weight is associated with longevity in almost every category except cardiovascular disease. And that risk disappears when you control for exercise and diet, meaning: if folks are engaging in moderate exercise and eating well (quality-wise, not quantity-wise), cardiovascular risk evens out across all BMI categories.

    • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

      You know, the thing is that trying to lose weight doesn’t actually have much in the way of health benefits and can actually wreck your metabolism. Some of the things people do to try to lose weight — gradual increases in exercise, endeavoring to eat a sustainable healthy diet — DO, but those things don’t reliably work for weight loss over the long term.

      There’s also (really) not very good evidence that weight per se, rather than stress or poverty or unhealthy eating or a sedentary lifestyle — has bad health effects. The lowest mortality rates are in the ‘overweight’ BMI category. Also BMI categories are made up. Thin and healthy genuinely aren’t the same thing, and I wish we’d stop talking about them as if they were.

      • Hannah

        Oh I know BMI is bull, don’t even get me started! I’m all about lifting weights, doing moderate cardio, and eating a well balanced, high protein diet of mostly whole foods. People do a lot of incredibly unhealthy things to lose weight rapidly, and I highly discourage that.

        I also agree that extra weight is a symptom, not a cause, and that poor eating habits and lack of exercise are the real problem. But fixing those problems generally leads to loss of excess body fat, so the end result is the same.

        • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

          Some people definitely lose weight when they start exercising, etc. Others don’t! Sometimes because they’ve injured their metabolisms by dieting for weight loss, sometimes because that’s just how their bodies are built, sometimes for no reason it’s easy to see. And it’s incredibly discouraging to hear that the purpose of healthy lifestyle choices is weight loss (and thus you’re failing if you don’t lose weight). It convinces people to do really damaging stuff like super-restricted eating and crash diets, steers people away from sustainable exercise they’d like to something they think will make them lose weight, etc. Talking weight loss just isn’t the same as talking fitness.

          The evidence also suggests that efforts at major weight loss mostly don’t last over the long term, except among the small subset of people maintain extremely restrictive eating (to a point that resembles an eating disorder) for decades. So there’s that.

        • http://fatcarriesflavor.wordpress.com MadGastronomer

          I used to work out frequently, often seven days a week. I never lost a pound (and indeed gained weight from muscle development) or an inch, and did not in fact feel any better. Now I don’t work out, but have instead just been working active jobs for years (I’m a cook, and have owned a restaurant, and when I’m working I’m on my feet and moving constantly). I’m fat, “morbidly obese”, but my body does everything I want it to do, unless my asthma or bad knees slow me down. (And those bad knees? Actually better than they used to be when I was lighter and thinner, thanks.) My numbers are good, although my cholesterol is creeping up and I might have to go on meds for that someday. But then, my father, who works out 3-4 hours a day and eats low fat, is on cholesterol meds, too. Sometimes genetics means high cholesterol, and nothing will change that.

      • Janet

        Don’t even get me started on the BMI and the havoc it creates! At my fittest and “skinniest” in college while playing Division I field hockey I was still a size 12. According to the BMI I was still over weight even though I was benching over 150lbs, practicing 3 hrs 5 days a week and playing games every weekend, and running less than 8 min miles I was still “fat” according to the BMI.

        I remember thinking back then, “God, I’m so fat compared to all my slender and lean teammates.” Now I look back at those pictures and think “Yeah I looked pretty darn good, though maybe a touch too thin.” Those team pictures I hated then show a healthly, fit me whose collarbones were sticking out at a size 12. My body type is just not meant to be that small!

        My school’s on staff sport medicine doctor once told me that the BMI was a poor indictator of the overall health and body structure of a person. Not every one’s bone structure and muscle structure is the same and even the fittest people (look at some of the Olympic athletes who are in the best shape of their lives and the BMI would tell them they were overweight!) could be considered overwieght or unhealthy by the BMI.

        *gets off soap box*

        • Hannah

          I read somewhere that BMI was a guideline started by insurance companies based on averages. Not even remotely scientific! Also, hilariously (to me) I wear the same size now as I did 5 years ago, but I am 15 lbs heavier because I lift weights now and have more lean mass. According to BMI, I was doing better then. But was I healthier? HELL no! Ok, joining you in stepping off the soap box now ;)

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            Yeah. For insurance in the 19th century, so it’s no wonder it’s totally out of touch with the world of today.

          • http://fatcarriesflavor.wordpress.com MadGastronomer

            Actually, originally, it was reasonably scientific for what it was designed for, which was actuarial tables. It was never, ever, ever designed to have anything to say about individuals, only about trends across populations. Now, because they’ve changed definitions in response to pressure from diet companies, and it’s no longer based on actual data, it’s not even good for that.

    • Ana

      I actually think Zen did a great job of acknowledging that there are legitimate and self-loving reasons to want to be fitter (and have a lower resting heart rate– loved that!), but also recognizing what your motivation is. She noted that she is happy with what she eats and how much she walks– that’s fitness and health. She also noted that if she were to work out more now, it really wouldn’t be to be healthier but to “look better” at the wedding. Zen– I applaud you for being so insightful and reflective and able to recognize your internal motivations and external pressures and that those aren’t always as separable as we would hope!

      I love this article and that we’re talking about this. Working in a non-profit gender-speficic mentoring program that focuses exclusively on girls and their needs, I am always aware of the need for more dialogue, more empowerment, and more sisterhood in this world, especially when it comes to such identity-shaping issues like self-image and self-love.

    • Brefiks

      Ha. Such a good example. I absolutely refused to attempt to lose weight for my wedding (and purchased a dress that fit me as-is rather than have to deal with alterations and pressure) but I spent a year and a half growing out my hair, which drove me nuts! Those brainweasels sneak in at the weirdest of times. Oh well, my bun looked cute and my new short haircut is cuter : )

      • Anon For Now

        I did the grow my hair out too, but it was because I wanted to do a half up/half down thing with curls, and I have stick-straight hair that only holds curls with hot rollers and product, necessitating longer hair so I didn’t look ridiculous. Two weeks after the wedding, i was back to my chin-length bob. It was heaven.

        My dress didn’t need altering either, except at the hem line. BUT it fit like a glove, so I surprisingly became hyper-sensitive about my waistline, afraid my boned dress top might be too tight if I wasn’t careful. I really kicked myself a few times, wondering where “that girl” came from, because it was sooooo not me.

    • ECD

      You seem to be using “health” and “weight” interchangeably. They are not the same thing.

  • ToeKneeRay

    Excellent post! Love the reiteration of “pretty is not an emotion.” Your groom already wants to marry you and most likely has seen you snoring and drooling at this point (at least mine has), so no matter what you wear, no matter how big you are, the love and happiness that will be emanating from you is all the “pretty” you need. Every wedding I’ve attended the bride looks beautiful. Am I lucky? Probably. Or perhaps I’m looking beyond the pretty to see the joy. And I hope that for each and every bride. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to exercise and then have a Toasted Marshmallow Shake. That’s how I roll.

  • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

    The job of the patriarchy is to plant brainweasels in your head, yeah?

    It’s like APW met Girl Genius in an explosion of weddings, feminism, and mad science. And I LOVE IT.

    I’ll be be perfectly frank: I cannot untangle the threads of my healthy vs. wedding-inspired efforts. I got into a bad spiral with my fiance before he left for deployment (“He’s leaving soon! Let’s not take the time to exercise or cook, and spend the whole evening together!”), and we made a pledge to each other that we would cook at home and take the time to do healthy things, no excuses. Now that he’s so recently back, we’re still working to establish the patterns, and – like everything – it goes through fluctuations based on outside obligations, illnesses, etc.

    But I would be lying if I said it hadn’t been a kick in the pants to see my fiance’s brother get married to a size 0 (legitimately, under 5 feet, adorably tiny) woman. I sobbed. I despaired. I felt resentful. (Thankfully, none of those things happened AT the wedding.)

    And I honestly don’t know what to say about any of this. I don’t know what’s good and what’s bad. Right now, I’m trying to take it as good that my Wedding Crazy got me to say, “No, it’s been three weeks since you were sick, time to at least TRY a workout and see how it goes,” and then get back on track with my existing plans.

    In short: where I am right now, above the weight at which I feel best and can run/jump/do martial arts best, my health plans and WIC-inspired-crazy are running close enough to parallel that I can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. I guess I’ll just make a conscious effort to try to focus on functionality (Can I go up three flights of stairs without being winded? Can I run a 5K?). And beware of brainweasels.

    • kathleen

      PA- I think you ended on the key to unlock the mess: make it about what you can DO, not what you look like. When that shift happens (and it’s a huge shift) the threads of why we do it (is it health? is it vanity? is it brainweasels?) disintegrate, because we do it so we can do things we didn’t think we could do.

    • MDBethann

      Kathleen is right – it is about what you can do and not how you compare to other people.

      I’m a head or more taller than many of my close girlfriends. They shop petites, I shop regular or talls (heck, the last swimsuit I got was a special “long torso” model). They have chests and me, well, not so much. But it does none of us any good if we compare ourselves to each other – we’re too different physically in ways that we cannot change to ever fit in the same outfit. What’s funny is, some of my friends who are more active than me are heavier than me but they bike and run more than I do so they’d probably kick my butt if I tried racing them.

      A colleague of mine just shared an interesting article with me today on “Walkable Communities” which seems to fit right into today’s discussion: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2012/06/grave-health-risks-unwalkable-communities/2362/

      My goal is to be active so I have energy to do things with my husband instead of taking the easy route of lying on the couch and watching TV. It’s a struggle, but I feel like I make progress as long as I walk at work each day.

      • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

        WHERE do you find a “long torso” swimsuit???? I have a legitimately long torso (and legs the length for a person 4″ shorter than I am) and finding a one-piece to wear to the gym pool (the whole reason I joined the gym) is horrible. If it’s tight enough to wear swimming, it’s riding up in scandalous ways. If it fits right so that I’m not flashing my ladybits to the world, it’s too baggy in general. Argh!

        • MDBethann

          Cathi, I found it at Kohl’s back in late March. I tried some one piece suits on at the department stores and I felt like I had to hunch over – they were all too short in the body. I went to Kohl’s and found a very comfortable suit.

        • HH

          Land’s End makes some great ones!

    • Zen

      I think it’s really hard to ever untangle the threads of “if I do this I will be THIN and everyone will love me THIN THIN THIN” and “exercising and eating like this is really good for me and I feel super healthy!” We can only do the best we can. Good luck! Watch out for the brainweasels!

  • Kelsea

    How rude. I want to lose weight, but I want to do it for ME. I want to do it so I don’t have to buy more big people clothes and so I can run without wanting to throw up. Screw the haters.

  • http://adriatopia.etsy.com adria

    Meh. I was a fat (well, technically, morbidly obese) at my wedding and I was pretty, and fun, and wore a wonderful dress, danced my face off, and ate the cake, too.

    Oddly enough, I worried a bit about it before the actually wedding day, but on the wedding day, the concept of not being “skinny” didn’t once cross my mind. Something about being surrounded by a room full of people who love me and my husband, and saying vows to love no matter what…that was the underlying emotion of the day. Not remorse for what my body should look like, or how I could have done better.

    • meg

      You know, this comment hits me in the face with the fact that skinny is not an emotion either.

      • Genevieve

        Yeah. I’m not sure if this is where you’re going with that, Meg, but I TOTALLY agree with you.

        So, I’ll just insert my comments here, instead of at the end, where I was scrolling to…

        Body weight/image is a HUGE issue in my family. Some of us are obese with very serious related, documented health issues. Others (like me) grew up so thin we had to drink weight gain shakes.

        Before you all groan about the weight gain shakes — it’s not totally peachy on the other side of the coin. I have friends who don’t like to meet for lunch because they weigh more than I do and are self conscious of that when we eat (if I order a salad, that’s the reason I’m so skinny! If I order a cheeseburger, I make them sick because I eat cheeseburgers and stay so skinny! I can’t win). I have grown apart from a few women because they regularly compared our body sizes and it made me really uncomfortable. Some of these friends are the funniest, wittiest, most talented people I know. Do they really think I’m so shallow that I invited them here so I could gloat about how much more they supposedly weigh than me? Ugh.

        The biggest reason this disgusts me? Because society puts pressure on women to the point where it is this big of a deal. You just can’t beat this game and the sooner we all realize this and stick together, the better we will be.

        • clampers

          I was super thin growing up too. I’ve tried to explain to people that you get teased just as much as if you are overweight and it hurts the same. People don’t believe me, for some reason. Every day at school I would hear, “You’re so skinny! Are you anorexic? Eat a cheeseburger! I wouldn’t go out with you! You look like a boy!”

          I don’t know where I’m going with this. I totally agree with you about the “stick together” thing. There’s pressure to be thin and there’s also pressure to have big boobs and junk in your trunk. Honestly, we just can’t win.

          • J

            As a gangly teenager I once got called to the front of the school dinner queue because I needed “feeding up”… Imagine the outrage if they’d sent someone bigger to the back?!

  • http://www.choosetheodd.blogspot.com Alyssa

    After I got married last year, thought I was going to be done with all this body image pressure — at least from the wedding industry. Nope. It does not end.

    I’m going to be a bridesmaid in October, and the bride picked out dresses for us in a shop near where she lives in Texas. (I live in Illinois.) Last week, I called the shop to give them my measurements, since I can’t try on the dress. The shop owner and I have never met, and she’s never seen my picture. Here is our conversation:

    Me: Here are my measurements: ___ bust, ___ waist, ___ hips.

    Shop owner: Oh, honey, that’s a problem. We don’t make dresses that size. You obviously have a very tiny bust –

    Me: Excuse me?

    Shop owner: — without having a very tiny waist to match. There’s barely any difference between them for me to work with. We’ve got a couple of options here. We can order to fit your waist, but then you’ll be about 5 inches too small in the bust. We could alter the bust, which will be another $75.

    Me: $75?!?

    Shop owner: Now hold on, that’s not your only option. It might not even be the best option. It really would be better if you could lose an inch in your waist between now and the wedding. Do you think you can do that, sweetheart?

    Me: Because it would be more convenient for you?

    Shop owner: Well, you sure would fit the dress better, and you’d look better at the wedding, so …

    I wish I could have hung up the phone, but I didn’t have much of a choice but to buy the dress.

    What bothered me most was all the language about *me* fitting the *dress* instead of the other way around — like the dress was the standard, and I needed to change myself to live up to it.

    • Shiri

      This is horrifying. And reminds me of today’s East Side Bride post – http://www.eastsidebride.com/2012/06/4-big-boobed-bridesmaids-1-ahole-bride.html – though at least it came from a stranger and not your friend.

    • KTH

      “What bothered me most was all the language about *me* fitting the *dress* instead of the other way around — like the dress was the standard, and I needed to change myself to live up to it.”

      A thousand times YES to this. The attitude of the bridesmaids dress sellers I’ve had to deal with…but that’s a whole other rant for a whole other time.

    • meg

      I started laughing so hard from horror in the middle of this comment that I started having a coughing fit. You’re imperiling APW staff lives over here!

    • KTH

      Also, one more comment: I really loved the bridesmaids dresses from JCrew, but they didn’t come in a size large enough for one of my bridesmaids. Having her in my party (and there on the day, making sure I was OK) was so much more important than what dress she wore, so I went elsewhere. It’s the people that matter, not the dress, and I really think that part of asking people to put down all that time and money to be a part of your wedding is taking their feelings and lives into consideration. No way would I want to ask someone I care about deeply to go through the humiliation of not being able to fit in a dress or having to special order it.

      Then again, I’ve been in that exact same position (“I’m sorry, that doesn’t come in your (totally normal) size.” Oh yeah? Then f u American Apparel.) so perhaps I’m very sensitive to that situation.

    • Jashshea

      Didn’t happen to me, but I was in a wedding a few years back and my friend (my 5’10″ friend who is naturally quite thin) called a bridal shop with measurements and was told (and I’m only paraphrasing a little) that it must be tough for her to find clothes with such a disparity between her waist and hips. Outrageous.

      • Shiri

        Been there. I have, according to bridesmaids’ dress places, a size 6 waist and size 12 hips. The phone silence when I told the salesgirl this made me think we’d been disconnected. When I asked how to order, she said, “……..um?”

        • Jashshea

          Yeah, it’s like: Pick the area where you’d like to be baggy/snug. Ugh.

          • Shiri

            Right, or how much more money you want to spend on alterations.

    • MDBethann

      That is horrible. The dress SHOULD fit you, not you fit the dress. Bleh ick ick. As I noted in response to another poster, the size thing is a HUGE problem, but it is one that could be remedied by the manufacturers and stores. However, they probably make much more money making us conform to their “normal” or “standard” than if they ever tried to match their clothing to reality.

      For those brides looking for a dress shop with a wide range of sizes and styles, I know it is a chain and probably pretty WIC, but my girls and I found Alfred Angelo to be really helpful. We were able to get 4 different style dresses that fit each girl’s body type in a size they were comfortable in and all in the same material and color. They looked great and everyone felt comfy in her dress. One of my friends needed a larger size and they didn’t charge her more for the dress (a smaller boutique did that for another wedding she was in). The store is also located in a variety of places, so that helped since we don’t all live in the same city.

      • Jennie

        Yeah, I kind of second this about Alfred Angelo. I got my dress there, and there have been price shenanigans (overcharged $100 by my about-to-quit salesperson) but everyone was GREAT about size/weight/”fat”ness etc. I apparently measure a size 10 bust, size 8 waist, and size 12 hips, and NO ONE ever hinted that that was wrong in any way. So even though it is a somewhat WIC-y chain, I had a very good experience there as regards sizing and shaming.

    • Zen

      Eeeek. This reminds me of that line in Bride Wars: “you don’t alter a Vera to fit you, you alter yourself to fit the Vera.” I was like, whaaat? You totally alter the Vera to fit you! It’s a dress, you’re the person, and incidentally you’re the one holding the credit card!

      • MDBethann

        Right – Vera is nothing if no one is buying it and wearing it!

      • http://www.advancedlivingforbeginners.com Jen W

        “…and incidentally, you’re the one holding the credit card!”

        I LOVE this!

      • moonitfractal

        I realized about 8-10 months before my wedding that running every day really helped manage my chronic pain. My weight/size didn’t really change until shortly before my first fitting. I told the seamstress that I might lose weight and she just told me “don’t lose weight.” I got really indignant. I hadn’t changed my diet and wasn’t trying to lose weight ‘for the wedding’ at all. I was just trying to keep my body (relatively) healthy and who was she to say that I should change that in order to fit into a garment and so that she had less work to do. While it’s likely that she was trying to be encouraging and accepting of my size before I started losing the weight, it sure came off as “you should sacrifice your health so I don’t have to work as hard.”

    • clampers

      That’s just poor customer service!

      • http://www.choosetheodd.blogspot.com Alyssa

        The key is that, even though it is my money, the owner knows that I’m not the real customer. The bride is the one who picked the dress and the shop. The owner knows that, and I know that, so there’s nothing for it but just to buy the damn dress.

        And maybe write a review of her service on Google Maps. Yes. Maybe that.

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    “I also object to the idea that the less of me there is, the better it looks. Fat and beauty aren’t mutually exclusive. Beauty shouldn’t be an obligation.”

    This, times a million.

  • Cleo

    I could relate to a lot of what was said in the post — especially the part about not wanting to diet, not wanting to fit into some societal mold, and being somewhat disturbed by how good you feel when you get to a “skinny” place (and then realizing how tasty all the tasty food is).

    A lot of the time, I find it difficult to balance my “Screw society, I work out 5 days a week, eat all my vegetables, cook healthy meals and run half-marathons, so what if some arbitrary chart tells me I’m overweight,” attitude with a desire to rebel against needing to be a perfect size…which almost always translates into me eating 5 chocolate chip cookies not because I’m a bottomless pit (though sometimes that is the case), but mostly because “Nobody is going to tell me I shouldn’t!”While this is a tasty habit, it also is wildly unhealthy and gives me headaches and an upset stomach the next day.

    Anyone else in the boat of wanting to be healthy, but feeling duped by, as Zen so eloquently put it, “body hatred as a condition of femininity” and doing things that are bad for yourself just to spite society?

    • Remy

      Yup, although I don’t think I can articulate it very well just at the moment.

      Recent musings have included stress about looking “good” in pictures (somehow camouflaging areas on my body I feel uncomfortable with by being a self-trained contortionist??) plus a genuine anxiety of “OMG I can’t lose weight, because my dress fits NOW and I can’t afford alterations!” which is not really any more helpful and self-loving than “OMG I have to lose weight to fit into my dress!”

      Body image stress is not adding positivity to my already overscheduled life, in which I find it hard to make time for fresh air and exercise and NOT sitting in front of a computer screen with bad posture anyway. Even when I feel like I want to get up and move about and see the sunshine. So when I’m in a bad mood and want to hibernate, there’s the extra guilt of inactivity when I ought to be taking care of myself. Yes, both physical and mental health are served by polar opposites: staying away from people, recharging, getting work done… or putting the work away, taking a long walk in the park, and maybe visiting a friend. GAH.

    • Zen

      I don’t know if this will work for you, but I mostly manage to avoid situations like that because I aim to have only optimal taste experiences (yeah, you can tell I think a LOT about my food). I know that after x number of chocolate chip cookies my enjoyment per crumb will begin to diminish, so I don’t go over that. And if I stop at x, that frees up space for me to have even more cookies some other day!

  • Jeannine

    love the post.

    I solidly refused to make any particular effort to lose weight before the wedding, but I now realize that feeling like I wouldn’t fit the perfect bride-y image actually made me shy away from anything that I considered aspirational: I did not choose a form-fitting or white dress, whereas I wear form-fitting clothes all the time, because I thought, I want to be able to breathe! and laugh! and not worry about less than perfectly sculptural abs during the wedding. So on the one hand, I want to high five myself for not giving into wic in terms of punishing my body for not matching an ideal, on the other, I actually did buy into the wic standard, and finding myself not matching up, decided to go another direction entirely (high five revoked).

  • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

    Here’s the thing. I told myself I wasn’t going to lose weight for the wedding. I was going to continue my exercise path and trying hard and I wasn’t going to give in to societal pressure and I was just going to be myself for the wedding. I’m also a big believer in HAES and that the weight loss industry exists to make women feel bad about how they are and that something like 98% of dieters will regain all the weight lost within 5 years and then some.

    Then I signed up for Weight Watchers six months before the wedding and got over the calf/ankle issues that had waylaid my running for a while. Because GODDAMNIT I JUST WANT TO BE SKINNY, OK? ARE YOU HAPPY WIC? I decided that the short term reward was worth the long term risks. And I lost 20 pounds, which still wasn’t enough to be skinny, but was enough that I felt really, really happy with how I looked.

    I stopped restrictive eating almost immediately after the wedding and, a year later, have put back all of the weight I lost. While going to the gym 4x a week and running 5ks & 8ks.And I’m not happy about it. And I’m beating myself up about it. But I’m letting it be and reminding myself that the road to health, happiness and mindful eating is a lot more fulfilling in the long term than a size 12 dress. I just wish my pants would fit.

    So, learn from my fail. Deal with yourself as you are and the rest comes, yanno?

    Also, now I have to make chilli pan mee.

    • Zen

      Bah, society. I know this doesn’t really address the issue, but can you not buy new pants? Do it on the same trip that you make to buy chilli pan mee ingredients!

      • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

        But I like my pants! And going shopping usually ends with my crying in the dressing room, so, you know, that.

  • http://stalkingsarah.wordpress.com Stalking Sarah

    About two years ago, my fiancee and I embarked on the Couch-to-5K program with the knowledge that people who workout regularly generally live longer and that since we want to be married forever, living longer seemed like a good place to start. As a result of being more fit, our bodies have changed and we are both more compact than we used to be. We didn’t do this to change what our bodies looked like; we did this to change what our bodies could do.

    Our wedding is in 9 weeks (pause: HOLYCRAP NINE WEEKS!?!). Last week, a friend commented to me and said, “Wow, you guys both look great! The wedding diet is totally working!”

    And this is totally frustrating. Because on the one hand, I feel great about what my body can do now (aka run a whole 5K and sometimes more!). On the other hand, I hate hate hate the idea that people think we did this because of the wedding. Because then I’m actually contributing to the very phenomenon I hate. (It feels like buying lemonade from a kid who wants to “to make the world a better place” and then finding out the kid is donating all the funds some super conservative politician who hates everything I stand for.)

    All of this reminds me of what Miss Manners advocates — no friend, acquaintance, or stranger, at any point, should ever be commenting on what someone weighs, what size they wear, or what they are eating.

    • http://www.ohmeaghan.com Meaghan

      This is like a completely awesome form of pre-marital counseling, too!

      And the only time I comment on what another person is eating is if I want to try it myself. :-)

    • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

      “Because then I’m actually contributing to the very phenomenon I hate.”

      Please don’t feel guilt for making a good choice because other people might misunderstand your motives! Well, that’s my advice, anyway. It seems like stress you don’t need 9 weeks before your wedding.

      Also, cool, you can runk a 5K! I’m … getting there.

  • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

    People are focusing on the pressure to lose weight, but I want to point out how much positive feedback you got from dropping a dress size. It reminds me of the time my grandmother said, “You’re so becomingly slender. You weren’t always, you know.”

    It’s a particularly obvious example of what’s implied in every compliment about weight loss: I WAS socially unacceptable, but thank goodness I fixed that. If my body changes, I can be absolutely certain people who complimented me on a previous change are still noticing. This is why it’s so awesome that Cephas never got involved in that dynamic.

    • Zen

      Wow, your grandmother talks like a L. M. Montgomery heroine. An EVIL L. M. Montgomery heroine.

      • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

        So apt!

      • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

        Pretty much. She’s a very special variety of crazy.

  • Dutch

    Yep, uh-huh – ALL of that. For me the pressure was in the fact that on your wedding day, you have to wear A wedding dress. Not one of a few dresses, not maybe those pants that always fit even on the bloated days – you get ONE dress that’s going to have to fit, no ifs-ands-or-buts. It’s one of those things that probably seemed completely obvious but that realization for me was a little terrifying.

    • Lisa

      Yes! I’m scared to go wedding dress shopping too early in case I gain some weight. I’m fine with my body the way it is, and would probably be fine with a few more pounds, but I don’t want to pick a dress and then out grow it before the wedding.

      • Dutch

        Oh! But I should add to this (so as to prevent anyone who might be feeling similarly or who I might have just accidentally passed my terror on to) that the fact that there was ONE DRESS was also the beginning of the very best realization I had about my wedding: that it’s still going to happen, no matter what. So, my dress is snug – I’m still getting married! I forgot the brooch bouquet my mom and I spent hours crafting at home during our pre-wedding “first look” and would only have it for the wedding – Meh, I’m getting married! The ceremony coordinator couldn’t locate the backing track for the song our friends were going to sing during the ceremony and I nervously told all of our guests to “Hey! Check out my shoes!” – I’m in the middle of getting married! I forgot to make a “post-ceremony cocktail hour” playlist and a friend had to make one up on the spot, resulting in a lot of Spice Girls and early 90′s hits being played – I TOTALLY STILL GOT MARRIED!!! And it – was – awesome. It was a total perspective changer for me. In fact, it became the theme of the day for my bridal brigade – “Everything is fine. Nothing is fucked. You’re getting married.”

      • Erin

        Corsets. Seriously. Get a dress that laces up the back. Not only do they look great (especially if, say, your bust is one size and your hips another), but they’re /very/ forgiving of sizes. I actually gained weight – several pounds – between buying my dress and the wedding day, but you’d never know because the corset leaves lots of room for flexibility.

  • http://againstthegrain2013.blogspot.com/ Andee C

    Um. So. I’m not sure what it says about me, but this is the first APW post that has made me literally tear up at my desk.

    Through high school and college, I had zero body issues (and prior to high school, I wasn’t aware this was a Thing society felt I needed to obsess over). I mean sure, *maybe* my tummy could have been a bit flatter, but I assumed little imperfections that I only vaguely acknowledged after a night of drinking and eating an entire pizza myself and washing it down with more beer were to be expected.

    Flash-forward five years. My body went through a HUGE change over the past year; I came out of this change with hips, a petite pair shape, boobs, and an extra 10 to 15 lbs. And I definitely jiggle all over, way more than I used to. I think I could deal with all of this, if not for the fact that I am in a friend’s wedding this fall, and I had to order my dress. I am – was – normally a 2. I ordered a 4 to account for my expanded bust and hips. It didn’t zip up. I exchanged for a 6. That didn’t zip up either, and I’m pretty sure I flailed and ranted to my fiance about how he didn’t KNOW how to zip up a dress properly because OF COURSE I SHOULD BE FITTING INTO A 4 OR CERTAINLY A 6.

    I fit – rather snuggly – in an 8 (stupidly, I’m about to burst into tears just writing that). My fiance, for his part, acknowledges the changes in my body, and doesn’t just embrace them, he celebrates them (…probably because all he sees are the hips, the curves, and the boobs…).

    My point is, Zen, thank you. Thank you for this incredibly relevant post. Thank you for sharing. I’m not There yet. I sort of can’t stand the sight of myself in the mirror right now, and a two piece swimsuit? Forget it. I don’t even know if I’m on the path to Getting There.

    But conversations like this at least let me know I’m not alone.

    • Katie

      Oh honey, definitely not alone.

      As an aside, though…most bridesmaids dress sizes seem to be WAY off. I’m a size 12/14 and when I was in my cousin’s wedding this spring the dress I ended up having to order was a size 22W!

      • MDBethann

        Yes, bridesmaids dresses and bridal dresses run small, at least compared to “street size.” Not sure why other than to make us feel horrible about ourselves.

        • http://againstthegrain2013.blogspot.com/ Andee C

          My theory? Dress manufactures are in cahoots with the Weightloss Industry (an equally scary cousin to the WIC).

      • http://againstthegrain2013.blogspot.com/ Andee C

        “most bridesmaids dress sizes seem to be WAY off”

        I try to keep telling myself that, but it’s harder to accept when jeans that fit just fine last year just…don’t fit…this year.

        Thank you so much for your kind words :)

    • Erin

      Agreed that all wedding clothes run small. It’s annoying.

      But beyond that, let yourself revel in your finance’s opinion of the new curvaceous you! The first time I have ever, ever felt comfortable in my body was when my now-husband started telling me how much he liked certain parts of it. And from his reactions, I’m pretty sure he’s not making it up. ;)

      • http://againstthegrain2013.blogspot.com/ Andee C

        I love your advice; this idea to let myself revel. It evokes the image of indulging in a luxurious treat, which, when it comes to our fiances, I think is exactly the point.

        I don’t know how else to articulte it other than I feel embraced by this idea, and it is good.

        Thank you :)

    • Dianne DeSha

      Something I (mostly) learned the hard way: The numbers in themselves mean nothing. In high school I was mortified beyond belief that someone would find out I wore a 16/18, because being in “double digits” at all was generally accepted to be “just disgusting”. (As was triple digits in weight–I was 180#.)

      In our idiotic groupthink we bought the magazines’ inane dictates hook, line, and sinker. The concept that different bodies were designed differently was not even recognized, much less whether the standards made any sense–either from health or appearance standpoints.

      I was 6′ in high school, from a large sturdy family. I’m pretty damned sure that my bare *skeleton* wouldn’t fit in a size 2 and probably was pushing 100#, but did that make any difference to the numbers we revered? Of course not. The numbers told me I was clearly a whale of unprecedented proportions.

      Had I managed to fit either of those “standards”, I would have looked like a famine victim (in very tight clothing) and probably needed hospitalization and medical intervention. Yes, I had some extra weight, but not nearly as much as I thought, and nowhere near what “the numbers” insisted was true.

      It sounds cliched and empty, but it’s very true: The numbers are just that. Numbers. Given the way US manufacturers have been messing with them, they’re not even decent signals for picking the right thing off the rack to try on. No one I know actually even has “a size”–at best they’re 2-6 or 10-14 or 22-26, depending on the brand, the item of clothing, and the time of year.

      So one of the first things in “getting there” is to try to let the damned numbers go. They don’t “mean nothing” as in “body size isn’t important” (although I don’t think it is), they are meaningless in the most literal sense: They tell you *nothing* except what a manufacturer/marketing department/whatever decided to print on a label thinking it would best sell the item.

      Given different bodies, having “standard” sizes doesn’t make all that much sense to begin with. Nowadays–with everyone playing into the mind games that have developed around the tyranny of “sizes”–they’re worse than useless.

      • http://againstthegrain2013.blogspot.com/ Andee C

        This is so, so true, and so difficult to remember sometimes. I’ve often wondered what would happen if women’s clothes ever go the route of men’s – that is, size is determined by inches. In a weird-social-experiment sort of way, I would be really interested to see the ramifications. Would gym memberships increase? Would enrollments in diet program skyrocket?

        Or would nothing change?

        Thank you for this reminder :)

  • charmcityvixen

    When I got engaged, I felt sick. I had let myself gorge and eat way past the point of being full, and I hated the way I look in pictures and I hated the way I felt about myself. I wasn’t even excited about any type of wedding anything.

    Then, I made the decision to try to be healthy. Not to fit some ideal for my wedding, but based largely on the previous post about Weight Watchers — to chase future kids (or even my current step kids!) around and to go on hikes with my future husband and to feel good about myself.

    In the past almost-year, I feel so great. I’ve lost some weight, but I’ve gotten 1 million times healthier…

    And no, it’s not for a “wedding diet,” it’s for a complete lifestyle change so that I can live healthily. Boo to societal pressure, yay for following your heart and finding your own happy — irrelevant of society, WIC, your friend’s opinions, etc. My fiance thinks I look great the way I am and the way I was, but I am not losing weight for him or going to the gym for him — I’m doing it for me.

    Thanks for writing, Zen!

  • Shiri

    My wedding (in three weeks) happens to also be exactly 6 months after recovering from a major injury that took me completely out of commission for an entire year. I’ve been asked again and again if I’m dieting for the wedding or if my new exercise routine is about fitting into my dress, and while I tell them, every time, that I’m eating what I want and the exercise is about getting my body, my health, and my condition back after a year of recovery, I’m not totally sure it’s true.

    Yes, I wanted to take the opportunity of being recovered to get into better shape and be stronger than I was before the accident. But there is also a small voice inside of me saying, “yes, 125 people will be staring at you wearing white, and that is not a flattering color. Get thee back to Zumba.” And the real issue for me is that I’m ashamed of the little voice – because god forbid I give into my vanity or to the WIC. How trite and unfeminist that would be, right? Is there something wrong with wanting to look “my best”? Is that even my best? Is that really a thing? And on, and on, and on.

    • Maddie

      That internal conversation is my least favorite game of pong ever. I never win.

  • Geepuff

    Not to be the bearer of bad news, but the pressure to live up to some unattainable body standard doesn’t exactly go anywhere after the wedding. There are plenty of facebook ads and tactless friends who warn you not to be a fat wife. To which I say, “Shut up and pass me that goat cheese.” Doesn’t mean I don’t hear it sometimes though. Stupid brain weasels.

    • http://stalkingsarah.wordpress.com Stalking Sarah

      Stupid brain weasels needs to be an APW rallying cry.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for this. I’m going to be fat at my wedding too. Because, I’m fat. Being a bride isn’t suddenly going to erase my big belly or make me work out compulsively, why should it? I’m also going to have short hair, and probably wear my glasses, because that’s what I look like.

    My senior year in college some friends and I started a fat acceptance/body positivity discussion group and blog and I’m so glad that we did. I was in a really bad head space then and had been dieting obsessively and forming this group and being a part of the fat acceptance movement really helped me. I still have days (or months) where I don’t feel good about my body, but for the most part I’ve made peace with what my body looks like. I’m so glad I managed to get to this place with my body before I was engaged because I feel so much more able to shake off the cultural BS around weddings and weight loss. (The blog is happybodies.wordpress.com if you’re interested, we’re not posting very often anymore, but there is quite a bit in the archive).

    • Remy

      I’m trying to work my head around this, too. My friends know what I look like. I somehow don’t think they’ll be surprised to see me looking like that. My INTERNAL concept of what I look like (now, what I looked like 20 pounds in either direction, what I could look like if ___fill in the blank____) is kinda skewed.

    • Lana

      “I’m going to be fat at my wedding too. Because, I’m fat. Being a bride isn’t suddenly going to erase my big belly or make me work out compulsively, why should it?”

      I’ve read plenty of other posts on APW that remind us that our guests and family are going to be who they are at our wedding. If Uncle Bob drinks too much and talks too loud, he’ll probably do that at our wedding. If Aunt Sherry nit-picks everyone’s appearance and makes rude comments on an every day basis, she’ll probably do that at our wedding. If my fiancé doesn’t get along with his brother, that’s not going to change on our wedding day either. Why should I be any different on our wedding day either?

      I think it’s stupid and rude for people to expect that I would change or happily become something that I’m not for that one day. I work out because it makes me feel good, sleep better, and is a stress reliever for me. Not so I can put on a skinny-me suit for a bunch of pretty pictures (…which everyone can then hold over my head for “letting myself go” should I gain any of that weight back within the first few years of marriage).

      Catch-22.

      • kathleen

        this struck me on a bigger level too– I’m going to be anxious and cagey and overwhelmed by all the people because, well, that’s what I am. as I’ve pictured my upcoming wedding I’ve pictured a calm, easy-breezy version of myself, and yeah. NO. and even more, my family and friends are expecting ME, anxious, cagey, overwhelmed me to show up, and it will be more than fine. thanks for this perspective, Lana.

  • C

    I want to start by saying I completely agree with this. Losing weight because society tells you it’s necessary for your wedding is ridiculous. As long as you are healthy, that’s all that should matter. We are all different shapes and sizes and that should be celebrated! Unfortunately it is used against us every single day.

    There is one thing I do want to say. I would not want a mean friend. But I would expect my friends to tell me the truth! In fact I expect my friends to be honest with me in good and bad. That’s what makes them my friends. They would never try to hurt my feelings, but they wouldn’t let me be self-destructive without at least tactfully asking what is going on. It makes me sad that anyone would judge her friend from a single comment she has said taken completely out of context

    • http://stalkingsarah.wordpress.com Stalking Sarah

      But doesn’t it say an awful lot about her friend that she has no idea about how Zen feels about her body or her philosophies on body image?

      • Maddie

        Before we get too far into a debate about Zen’s relationship with her friend, I’m going to ask that we steer this conversation into a more general direction. I’d love for us to be able to talk about the kinds of relationships we want to surround ourselves with during our wedding planning, and heck, our lives, but it’s up to Zen to comment on the specifics of this particular relationship, and I’m a bit uncomfortable making implications about her friend without her here to weigh in.

      • Zen

        But don’t you think body image is kind of a complex subject? This post is about 1,000 words long and it still doesn’t even begin to cover every nuance. I don’t necessarily expect my friends to know how I feel personally about it any more than I expect to know how they feel about it, or about any other very complicated subject.

        • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

          How you interpret a casual comment like that depends on what micro-culture you’re in. In most of my communities, people either buy into HAES or know that that view is quite common among our friends. So making a comment about weight loss would be strange and possibly offensive and most people wouldn’t say it even if they believed it.

          I ended up in this micro-culture because practically every woman I know, including most of my female relatives, has had an eating disorder and I just can’t deal with throwaway pro-weight-loss comments. It interferes with my ability to be friends with people. It makes me feel unsafe the same way I feel unsafe when people aren’t queer-friendly. I’ve had major arguments about it with friends who have a more conventional view of weight, and they eventually take offense or decide I’m crazy or come around or decide being friends with me is worth not making small talk about weight loss. I don’t know that I’m particularly proud of that. I might be a better person if I were better at being friends with people with whom I have major philosophical disagreements, but I’m not.

          Which is a long-winded way of saying that I *do* expect my friends to know how I feel about it, but I don’t expect you to expect that of your friends.

  • Jen

    I have been engaged for a little over a month and I am not planning on getting married for another 15 months. I have already had 4 or 5 people ask when I am going to start my wedding diet. I always thought that I exuded a confidence about my image and health that would prevent such questions. Such naivety on my part I guess.

    I already run several miles three-four days a week and I am perfectly happy with my appearance and level of fitness. In fact, my fiance proposed after we completed our first 10-mile race for we which trained together (after we had showered and all)!

    We both loved how the training felt (most of the time) and loved how it felt to finish it together. So we have decided to train for another event (maybe a triathlon) next summer which will be a couple of months before the wedding. When people ask about my diet plans, after trying not to give them a really shocked and mean face, I explain that any weight loss will be simply collateral to any training that BOTH fiance and I take on.

    This may not work for everyone. It helps me b/c I know that I am not dieting for the wedding, but I am also confident that I will feel healthy on my wedding day. Plus I can make my point politely without making the conversation too awkward.

  • SarahToo

    This post makes me think of what a zero-sum game body image is in N. America.
    I’ve been a skinny thing all my life, and have often had friends tell me how lucky I am to be so thin. But what they can’t know is what it’s like to grow up and be told “you’re so flat the walls are jealous” accompanied by loud guffaws from pre-teen boys at their bro’s clever joke. Or to find, when trying to buy a new bra, that the only ones in my size are padded to make them look at least a size bigger-what if I’m happy with my little boobs and don’t WANT to cover them up with a layer of foam? Or to look at ads that inform me “Real Women Have Curves”? All this to say, it doesn’t matter whether you’re bigger, or smaller, flatter or curvier than the billboard versions of women…somehow we’re all made to feel like we aren’t “real women” if we don’t fit the (airbrushed and utterly unreal) mold. I really hope that we can all learn-and help each other remember- that whatever shape and size we’re in is GREAT, and just right for us. Society be damned! We are all beautiful no matter what size we are, and don’t let any brainweasels tell you otherwise!

    p.s. In case any of you are tempted to romanticize being thin, and beat yourselves up over your weight, think about this: I can count the number of times someone told me that I’m “hot” on one hand. When I try swimming my body wants to sink like a stone. I freeze whenever the temperature goes below 10 degrees Celsius (50 ºF). I don’t get hungry, I get RAVENOUS, all at once, and if I don’t eat NOW I start to feel faint, cranky, and shaky. If I travel to parts of the world where big booty and bosoms are associated with beauty and fertility, I get told that I’ll NEVER find a husband because I’m “too-too skinny” (yes, this has happened to me in Mexico and Thailand). In other words, being thin comes with its cons as well as its pros. The grass is always greener, and all that.

    • Alexandra

      I managed to post about being “too skinny” just after you. I just wanted to give you props for knowing that “too skinny” isn’t any better than being “too fat,” and the “Exactly” button just didn’t express it enough.

      And yeah, teenagers are harsh regardless of your weight. When I was in grade 8, shortly after the eating disorder’s lesson, everyone started asking me if I was anorexic, or bulimic, and some boys even started passing around a picture of a girl saying “My name is Alexandra, and I’m an anorexic.”

      • SarahToo

        Brutal!!! Kids can be so mean (and adults too, intentionally or not). Why should our size matter at all, and merit comment from anyone, ever?!?

        • Alexandra

          Yeah, I remember staring at them after they asked if I was anorexic being like “I eat lunch in the same classroom as you. And I always have a bigger lunch. And then I go into the courtyard with you. Did you pass this unit?”

      • Genevieve

        I just wrote my “too skinny” post too. I was compared to the chalkboard by a boy in 8th grade. Looking back it’s funny, but at the time I was traumatized!

        • Sarah

          I totally understand. When I was 13, a group of boys made a song about me called “flat as a door.” Apparently I was so flat chested it was worth an original composition and guitar solo.
          Years later, with double D’s, I ran into the leader of the bunch, and I was still FUMING. I told the friend I was with my story, and said “I want to grab his head and shove it into my chest and say, HA look at these!” My friend gave me a lopsided grin and replied, “Ya… I don’t think that’s going to be quite the punishment you think it is.”

    • Jashshea

      Sometimes I wonder if the grass is ever greener, Sarahtoo :)

      I have a BHB body (boobs, hips, butt) and I’ve had it since I was a girl. When those boys finished teasing you for being flat, they turned around and made obscene gestures to me about the, ahem, ampleness of my chest.

      And it’s not just middle school boys that are the problem. If I wear a bikini now, other people (sadly, mostly women) stare and make a face. That sort of thing stings the same way as all other judgement on body type or current weight. I HATE carrying these things around all the time – I have a normal torso, but I need to buy long (or too large) tshirts so that my belly is covered, I can’t wear strapless dresses (or empire waist dresses AT ALL), exercise is often painful, etc etc.

      The upside is that it makes me more sensitive to other people who have an issue with a particular area or their overall body situation. Rather than just being like, why don’t you like your “ankles/nose/knee caps” I just substitute my own feelings for “the girls.”

      • Ambi

        Yep, my good friend growing up had the same body type, Jashshea. She is relatively thin, but has very large boobs, and I can’t tell you the number of times people have overtly accused her of having breast implants. When in college, her sorority sisters constantly talked about her behind her back about “why won’t she just own up to it?” and one day while we were vacationing on the beach a group of women walked by us and started discussing, loudly, “that girl over there with the really fake boobs.” She is gorgeous, and I think she loves her figure now, but for years she wanted a breast reduction just so she would look “normal.”

        • JASHSHEA

          I would get a reduction in a heartbeat. Sure, they’d look faker than they already do, but they’d be lighter. Maybe after the not-yet-agreed-to- babies. :)

    • jlseldon7

      Hear Hear!

      “I freeze whenever the temperature goes below 10 degrees Celsius (50 ºF). I don’t get hungry, I get RAVENOUS, all at once, and if I don’t eat NOW I start to feel faint, cranky, and shaky.”

      Me Too. The grass is apparently never greener.

      • secret reader

        OKAY, so this is potentially life-changing, but it’s a long shot. That “needing to eat or I’m gonna faint” is sometimes actually a medical issue. It’s called vasovagal syncope (which is really just the medical term for “fainting”) and is a chronic condition common in thin women. It’s also hugely underdiagnosed. Worth some googling if you think it sounds like you, and then completely worth a visit with a cardiologist if the google info sounds like someone has been spying on your life! I had a chance encounter with a doctor who explained it to me once, and had it all checked out medically and whatnot, and seriously, Life. Changed.

        • ProjectWed

          Cripes! That has a name???? It took Mr. Project catching me on an early date for him to realize that I wasn’t kidding about being hungry NOW!

          • secret reader

            yeah, I mean there are also just people with super fast metabolisms, but honestly worth the googling and the doctor visit if it sounds like you! i feel like much less of a weirdo now that i can talk about an actual medical condition rather than just having to vaguely hand gesture about how i’m not kidding when i say i need to eat. having it be a “real” medical issue (not that it wasn’t before…) gives me much more confidence to assert my needs.

            and if you *do* have it, the secret to regulating it is electrolytes. so eating frequently, but also making sure you’re well hydrated. i always carry sports drink powder with me now so i can make myself gatorade whenever i feel it coming on. Life. Changing. my favorite one is called Nuun, and it comes in tablet form (like Airborne) and it doesn’t have sugar in it but still tastes good. you can find it at outdoor sports or running stores or online.

            honestly, it’s so underdiagnosed that i end up preaching about it all the time. at my own birthday party once, someone came up to me urgently and was like, “i hear you faint too.”

  • Alexandra

    I get really uncomfortable when APW talks about body image, I admit. Because I want to join in the conversation. I want to join in bashing this whole idea that your wedding should be when you’re the prettiest of your life, and all this pressure about how you look, and low self-esteem. I tend to slingshot between “love my body” and “hate my body.” I joined a gym and got a personal trainer, just because I feel too self-conscious to go excercise alone. And I’m sure part of it was because I’ve recently become super embarrassed about my body and want to fix that before I have to put on a wedding dress.

    And yet, I’m a skinny person. I’m not even skinny and working hard at it. I’m skinny, and have never been anything but skinny despite years of trying to get to a weight that isn’t “underweight”. I joined a gym to fix my posture and to put on muscle, not to lose weight.

    So then I come onto APW, or even just see friends talking about their own efforts to lose weight, and I want to join in this conversation about getting in shape or just the pressures to look better on your wedding day. And yet, there’s this serious fear that I’m simply not welcome in the conversation. That I’m secretly “the enemy” because I’m one of those “eat whatever the heck you want” skinny people, and joining the conversation will just make everyone hate me because I’m not fortunate enough to love what I have. And even APW being as great of a community as it is, that these posts on body image are simply one place where I am just not welcome. I think I spent hours trying to write a comment the last time this topic came up, and ended up just walking away because I felt too much like I would come off as bragging, or off-topic if I tried to talk about body issues and self esteem.

    So, I guess the morale of my post is, skinny people don’t necessarily love their bodies either, and can still feel uncomfortable in a clothing store and “Body hatred almost seems like a condition of femininity” is a very true statement. Even without a weight problem, you can always find something else to hate.

    • http://stalkingsarah.wordpress.com Stalking Sarah

      Your membership in the Society for the Abolishment of Brainweasels is hereby confirmed!

      Seriously, though — I think body image conversations need to include everyone, and I think you deserve a space here.

    • Maddie

      You are TOTALLY welcome here! It’s actually something we are very outspoken against at APW (the idea that thin folks have it easy, that is). We don’t receive as many (read: any) posts about the subject because I think the pressure is much more subtle and harder to pin down and the backlash for any complaint about being “too thin” can be horrific for the writer, so many people don’t feel comfortable writing in about it or have been made to feel like they deserve a say (at least in my observations). Which of course, couldn’t be further from the truth.

      But that doesn’t mean that your opinion isn’t valued. In fact, I think it serves to point out that (as SarahToo pointed out) the weight thing is a ZERO SUM game in this country. There is like a 7lb window of acceptable weight, and the rest of us are left wanting (or at least, with the implication that we *should* be wanting).

      Or, to quote Mean Girls:

      “I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there’s lots of things that can be wrong on your body.”

      P.S. Thank you for the gracious tone of your comment.

      • SarahToo

        Also, just to remind everyone that even the “7lb window of acceptable weight” is an utter lie, because what we’re actually looking at is literally airbrushed and photo-shopped to an unimaginable degree. NOBODY looks like that, not even the models who provided the raw material for the original photo. The carrot they’re dangling in front of us is a mirage.

        • Maddie

          YES. Thank you for bringing that up.

      • Alexandra

        I considered writing a post about it, actually, instead of a comment. I wasn’t sure it would be appropriate though, since body image is only tangentially related to weddings/marriage, and it really is hard to write about why I feel like an interloper in weight discussions without feeling like I’m offhandedly insulting people who feel like they’re too fat.

        • secret reader

          Alexandra, I would co-write a post with you! Except, yeah, only tangentially related to weddings, alas. But I FEEL you as a lifelong skinny girl. I frequently find myself justifying it for others (“it’s actually a medical thing”). And being sized out of clothing on the low end also feels like the world is telling you, “Sorry, we just don’t make women in your size.” Bras and swimsuits? Good grief. Insensitive high school boyfriends thinking you will congratulate them when they tell you they dated you anyway, even though a mutual friend said he never would because you don’t have boobs?

          My favorite was a lady magazine once doing a “Real Women!” article, and they actually printed something like, “And I mean, who would really want to be a size zero, anyway? yuck!”

          Being both short and skinny, I find people rarely even tell me I’m “lucky” to be my size, because “my size” is just all-around too small. The most common way it comes up in conversation with other people is when someone, describing another person, says, “”And she’s super small — I mean, not like you, but you know, small,” in this weird “How embarrassing, I forgot I was talking to a tiny person!” tone.

          It took me for.ever. to believe my partner when he said he liked me body. In fact, I still take it a little on faith, because in my weaker moments I still have trouble seeing it for myself.

          And to make this all a little bit more fun, my career is one I *love,* but is both male-dominated and involves physical activity, like as part of my job, not just as an office culture vibe or something.

          Okay, end rant for now, but Alexandra, you are far from being alone on this one!

    • MDBethann

      Alexandra, I think you and SarahToo are in my head.

      Just because I’m skinny doesn’t mean I can wear a size 0, 2, or 4 and it doesn’t mean clothes fit when I go shopping. Tall may mean I can reach stuff on high shelves, but it also means wearing heels is practically a no-no, dating was hard (I thank my lucky stars my DH is 6’2″ so I can look him in the eyes instead of the forehead), and it is hard to find nice clothing for taller women.

      None of us meet the “ideal” – some are told they aren’t skinny enough, others of us are told we need a bigger chest or more curves. We are who we are. We should obviously care if our weight leads to other health issues (diabetes, heart disease, bone or muscle disorders, back problems, etc) and do what we can to fix it, but if we are healthy we should celebrate our unique bodies and be glad that we don’t look like everyone else. If we did, the world would be pretty boring.

      • Alexandra

        It’s funny, I’m also very tall (5’10″) and so happy that my fiance is half a foot taller than me too. I spent so long dating shorter guys, and telling myself it didn’t matter, but that brainweasel is really hard to shake. (I can even wear heels and not be taller than him! It makes me way happier than it should)

        • MDBethann

          For me, I don’t know if the shorter guy thing was a brain weasel or not. I tried dating shorter guys multiple times – the ones that were closer in height to me were a bit easier, but my problem was that it was physically uncomfortable for me to even hug them. I just felt tall, gangly, and awkward.

          Heels have honestly only been a semi issue for me. When I get all dressed up for a fancy night out, I’m in heels. But on a regular basis, I go with low heels – otherwise I feel wobbly and towering over anyone. In some ways I guess I never got past the gangly phase.

          • Alexandra

            My exes were pretty close to my own height, so it wasn’t really uncomfortable to hug them, but I did feel like I was always looking down on them, and when/if I wore heels I would be always looking down. Though I wear flats more often than not anyways.

            And at that point, I’m pretty sure it was just that I’d look at the image of the guy kissing a girl’s forehead, and realize that could only happen if I was sitting or something. I love being tall, but when it came to shorter guys, it was really just that there’s the societal image of the taller guy wrapped protectively around his girlfriend, and on some level I truly regretted that it was something I couldn’t expect. So yeah, totally a brainweasel for me.

      • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

        The heel no-no? My mom used to push that on me in high school…she figured at 5’10″ I’d intimidate the boys. I struck that rule as soon as I went to college. My fiance is 6′ and sometimes I’m taller than him in heels. He knows that’s a non-negotiable because I love wearing ‘em (the few times I get to wear them a year anyway).

    • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

      Alexandria, you’re totally not alone for feeling this way. Totally. Not. Alone.

      I’ve had lots of people think my slow, steady, HEALTHY weight loss was for the wedding. Apparently they missed the fact that it’s happened over the course of THREE years. (Must be something about trying on a bunch of white dresses in front of some out spoken family members or something.) I’m really happy with the way I look and, more importantly, feel now but it really makes me sad that it would be assumed that I would do it for my wedding and not just for my life.

    • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

      I am totally with you. I get a lot of “you’re so lucky to be so skinny” comments, which is nice and all, but the fact is that I need to (re)start working out. Like you, for posture and more muscle.
      I am back to my pre-baby weight, but not my pre-baby health. At 9 months pregnant I was more fit than I am now, b/c I was swimming 3x a week and doing squats every day. Now, I may be skinny (until I eat a big meal and my food baby comes along and I’m suddenly 3 – 4 months pregnant), and I feel like I’m not allowed to say “I really need to work out you guys,” but I am not healthy.

      I suppose I was really blessed to avoid all the wedding diet talk: a benefit of being a pregnant bride. Everyone (I hope) knows that preggos don’t diet!

      I’d love to see a post from the skinny point of view.

  • Julia

    I really appreciated this post and am greatly enjoying reading through the comments. I was an athlete in college and weighed more than I do now but never thought about it because I needed the muscle for my sport. My weight has fluctuated up to about 15 lbs more than I weighed in college, and I lost that. I have always been an athletic person and I enjoy working out and racing, but I do go in cycles where I will stop for a while, gain 5-7 pounds/lose some muscle, and then get going again.

    I was struck by the comment up-thread that the concept of the “wedding diet” is the province of people who are already within the socially acceptable size range, maybe just not quite “perfect” yet. Because this is an aspect of the WIC that I have not been able to reject, and I know I am well within the socially acceptable size range. I am being more careful about what/how much I eat & especially drinking less alcohol and am doing more strength training.

    My wedding is in September. Reading through these comments I feel so, so grateful that no one I know (or don’t know) has felt the need to police my eating/exercising behavior with “helpful” comments about how I might want to tone up for the big day. I don’t hate my body, but I do want that thin feeling.

    Because, I am not above the vanity of that thin feeling Zen talks about. When I was at my slimmest 2 years ago, I felt powerful. Superior. Feelings I am not proud of but if you think about it that is really what the “be thin” message is about (other than patriarchy brain weasels): you have demonstrated your self-denial and asceticism skills and therefore you are a more in-control person than someone larger.

  • Molly

    Firstly, go Zen for writing something brave and smart and funny and go APW for continuing to explore this messy and painful and fascinating issue.

    Also I love Zen’s feminist approach towards weight loss and body image and she opened my eyes to a way of lookin at it that I hadn’t considered and like a lot. I too didn’t lose weight before my wedding and in some ways I regret it. However, I didn’t work through why I didn’t and why I shouldn’t have to beforehand and I love Zen’s reasons even if I think they wouldn’t change how I feel now. I got some comments and hurtful words about how of course I would lose weight and I was stressed and unhappy too but in the end just damn stubborn that those people shouldn’t be the boss of my body. So I was an accidental feminist, I like to think.

    The one thing I quibble with and this is super personal but at the end of the day, being ‘fat’ isn’t really ideal. Not because you should look or be a certain way according to society and magazines and unfair judginess… But because it isn’t good for your health. Now I know that’s all a matter of degree and to a certain extent, opinion etc etc but at the end of the day, above a certain BMI or waist measurement, your body is not working the way it should. I’ve lost 35 pounds recently and the reason I did, 18 months ‘too late’ for the most photographed day of my life, was because I worked out my BMI and I was really close to Obese. Size 12, reasonably tall at 5,8 and unhealthy, even if only a little bit. And I thought I was listening to my body, but sometimes even bodies are wrong… And of course tasty food feels good – that’s what it’s designed for! But I think we confuse what too much looks like nowadays – and it’s a good idea to evaluate and moderate in the interest of keeping your body healthy in the future too.

    • http://stalkingsarah.wordpress.com Stalking Sarah

      Using BMI to evaluate an individual is not what the BMI was designed for.

      “The B.M.I. tables are excellent for identifying obesity and body fat in large populations, but they are far less reliable for determining fatness in individuals,” explained Dr. Carl Lavie, a cardiologist at the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/health/31brod.html?_r=2&ref=science

      • Molly

        I do take your point and was already aware of the issues with BMI – it’s extremely crude but just because it’s not the best, most accurate reflection of body fat vs muscle in individual cases doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be a wake-up call for a lot of people.

        As the article you mention also states:
        “Of course, most Americans with a body mass index in the overweight or obese range carry around too much fat in relation to muscle. And a study…found that those rated overweight … were 20 to 40 percent more likely to die within 10 years, and those rated obese … were two to three times as likely to die within a decade as those who had a lower reading in midlife.”
        So BMI may be unreliable but that doesn’t make it useless or irrelevant.

        I also mentioned waist measurement, which is widely acknowledged to be a more reliable “assessment of fatness” and is recommended as an alternative measurement in the same article again. An unhealthily large waist measurement in younger people has a negative knock-on effect as they age and causes disproportionate levels of ill health including diabetes and heart disease.

        My issue is that there are always reasons and justifications not to deal with being overweight and I’ve come up with plenty, but at the end of the day being healthy is the most important thing. For me, being a married person made me realise that I needed to face up to my obligations to my spouse to be around for a while. Being heavier was harming my chances of doing that. I’m not skinny now and I have lumps and bumps and definitely don’t feel any closer to a restrictive societal standard of beauty, but I know I’m healthier as evidenced by my BMI, waist measurement or ability to run up stairs (etc).

    • Alexandra

      Please don’t give too much faith into BMI though. My fiance is overweight. He has a small gut, and I won’t deny that he could lose some weight. But by BMI standards, he’s morbidly obese. That was when he was 6’3″, 275 lbs. After an entire summer of working in a steel yard, hauling around metal all day, he was talking about how much more fit he was, and how much stronger he was. He had gone up to 300 lbs. And trust me, he is not morbidly obese in the first place. That phrase comes with an expected waistline, and BMI doesn’t account for the fact that muscle is heavier than fat.

  • Marissa

    This issue is so timely for me. We got engaged about a month ago. I heard my first “So, how much weight are you going to lose for the wedding?” comment this week.

    The twist? I’m 5’8′ and 125 lbs. I eat like a horse and my main exercise method is sitting on the couch. It’s just how my body works. I’ve NEVER considered losing weight; if anything, at times I’ve tried to put ON weight because people thought I had an eating disorder.

    Today’s post plus my own experience makes me think that some people (and the WIC) will never be satisfied. Already at an underweight BMI? “Oh well, time to lose more weight! It’s your wedddding! Your one special day for ever and ever and you’ll never look this pretty again!” It doesn’t matter how normal or overweight or underweight you are. There is an expectation of losing weight for your wedding, regardless of the situation. And that makes it such utter bullshit.

    • Jashshea

      Implication being…”wouldn’t you rather you looked SUPER hungry in all the pictures instead of happy?”

      Seriously, what’s with people?

      • JEM

        I look SUPER PISSED when I am hungry and that just isn’t a good look on me. ;)

        • Jashshea

          I go from violently violent to weepy when I’m hungry. I can be the incredible hulk bride.

          • http://www.advancedlivingforbeginners.com Jen W

            In my family we refer to that feeling as hangry– you’re so hungry you’re angry at everyone. My mom diets a lot, so she’s often hangry.

        • Lana

          Oh. I don’t just LOOK super pissed, I AM super pissed…and everyone knows it. If I don’t eat lunch by 2 watch out! Dieting might not be the best idea for me, or anyone who will have to interact with me. :)

  • Janet

    Needed this today so badly. You have no idea.

    We’re getting ready to sign our contract for our wedding venue and everyone is excitingly asking the follow up questions: Colors? Theme? Wedding Party? Dress? Are you [both] going to lose weight before the wedding?

    Yes, BOTH my fiance and myself are being hit with the “Are you going to lose weight before the wedding?” question. Our mothers’ are asking, wedding party members, friends, coworkers, etc. I’ve gone from being super excited to be getting married to dreading every aspect of planning my wedding.

    While my fiance is not nearly as overweight as I am we’ve both put on some weight since we began dating and got engaged. Too many dinners out, super stressful jobs, school, trying selling a house, and not getting enough excerise has helped put the pounds on. When we meet I was already overweight [in fact morbidly obese, I LOATHE that phrase] and he tells me all the time he loves my curves and that he fell in love with the person I am on the inside and not the number on the scale. I can say the same about him.

    There is also the additional fun factor of my company asking us to “voluntarily” get bloodwork done this year to report our glucose levels and cholestorol levels to obtain our full employee health benefit cost reduction. Having gone thru this once before with another employeer this will lead to benefit premium penalities in the future for those of us who are over weight or have high cholestorol levels, etc. The joys of loop holes in government guidelines for employee health insurance.

    Which leaves us back at the “losing weight for the wedding” issue. Now that a set wedding date is our future, we’re both going to try and make some life style changes. Due to family history of obesity related health issues and our desire to have children soon, we’re both going to do our best to eat healthier [ie cut back on the eating out], work out, and try to find some non-sedintary activities we both enjoy.

    I’m trying to beat back the “brianweasles” from taking over my brian in the mean time. They’re telling me to crash diet or to try those really unhealthy weight loss pills and that I can NOT try wedding dresses on until I lose at least 50 pounds. My body, my self image, and I don’t have a good relationship right now, in fact we hate each other. I’m going to try my damnest to work on this relationship and find my way to the healthier [hopefully some what lighter] me thru eating better and excerising more and tell her that it’s okay to be a “fat” bride no matter what. My love will be waiting for me at the other end of that aisle no matter what size I am, and he will think I’m beautiful. Inside and out.

    • MDBethann

      FYI, BMI isn’t the only measurement that can be used to incorrectly say you are unhealthy.

      My DH has, by doctors’ standards, high cholesterol. It runs in his family. So we eat ground turkey instead of red meat, we eat fish, chicken, pork, etc. and eat red meat maybe twice a month. At most we out once a week. We eat fruit and veggies daily. When the weather isn’t extreme, he likes to go biking. When our new doc called him in a panic about his cholesterol levels and started telling him what he should do to lower them, it turns out he was already doing everything right and the only thing he could change was by adding niacin. So sometimes, even when you try really hard, you can never meet “normal”. Otherwise my husband is healthy. The only reason we care is because we want a long life together, but as long as he continues to exercise and eat well (though we still enjoy chocolate & ice cream as part of a balanced diet) there isn’t anything we can do. And we exercise and eat well because it makes us feel better and it saves us $$ by cooking at home (double bonus!)

  • Meagan

    “I always object to societal standards which require me to do more work than dudes.”

    This sums up so much about how I feel in terms of not just body image issues, but the entire wedding planning process.

    • MDBethann

      Did anyone see the one spring episode of “The Big Bang Theory” this year where Howard mentions being on a “wedding diet?”

      I found it interesting that a very skinny guy was on a “wedding diet.” Also the only time in popular culture I’d heard a guy say that.

  • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

    It’s interesting, I was just about to post how I agreed with what’s gone on above about how “wedding diet” affecting us engaged ladies and how frustrating it is that you wouldn’t hear people asking a guy “so how much weight are you planning to lose?…”

    But then I realised, perhaps these insecurities do hit the men too. My husband certainly got a lot of “getting buff for the wedding” jokes, and I’m sure he felt the pressure as well. Although I don’t think men get the brain weasels in the same way and are a lot better at shaking these things off.

    Also perhaps the most important part of this is that your wedding is one day. Fair enough if you want to lose weight and achieve goals and be healthy or just look a bit hotter, but do it for your life, and for your marriage, not just for your wedding day.

    • ferrous

      I definitely think men have their own pre-wedding body issues. Heck, just regular body issues. (It’s most apparent when reading the disparaging male responses to Magic Mike posts on my facebook feed.)

      My partner is an athlete, and muscular, which increases his BMI to “overweight”. (Many athletes are technically “overweight” due to muscle mass.) He didn’t take it well, which is ridiculous considering how fit he is… but there was no rending of garments or gnashing of teeth. Society tells him he looks awesome, which probably helps with the brainweasel effect.

    • Brefiks

      Yes. My beloved has a belly and usually wears his pants under it. When he saw what they measured his waist size as for his tux, he about passed out. For any gender or body type, a wedding brings more scrutiny than you’re used to.

  • Hannah

    If a “friend” had said to me, “You’re fat now, by the way. I just thought you should know. Are you going to lose weight for your wedding?” it would have taken all my very being to not blast him/her. And probably end the friendship. Because honestly? NOBODY SHOULD EVER SAY THIS.

    Not that I didn’t struggle with the brain weasels. I would love to have back the mental energy that went into worrying that the dress wouldn’t fit when it arrived because of weight gain. I knew that, for me, losing weight just wasn’t going to happen. Not gaining additional weight was enough for me to declare a victory since the dress was zip-able when it arrived.

    Although it almost wasn’t zip-able at my last dress fitting, which led to a valuable life lesson: The Spanx? It ain’t always your friend. My mom was having a horrible time getting the zipper all the way up at my last fitting, when finally the seamstress said, “Can you take the Spanx off?” I was really, REALLY skeptical. And yet, she was right. The dress zipped up, and I didn’t have to wear a torture device on the hottest day of the year. FTW.

    • Kathleen M

      The Spanx seem to redistribute fat evenly across your body. Thus sometimes expanding the waist. It’s evil.

      • Hannah

        I agree–it’s totally evil. In my case (it was one of the bodysuits w/ bike shorts), it seemed to have the effect of displacing just enough back-flesh upwards so that last inch of zipper was impossible. Getting rid of it also meant far fewer worries about how exactly the bathroom was going to be navigated…..

  • Chelsea

    Amen! I toyed with the idea of trying to lose weight then I said F that, I’ve got a million other things to work on. As Meg says in the book, pick a few things to do for the wedding (DIY) and do them well, then let the rest go. I let weight loss go and it feels pretty amazing. I’ve seen quite a few weddings on blogs lately with brides who look a lot more like me than usual and boy do they look gorgeous. Its so nice to see images that confirm my choice!

  • Anon

    While watching Say Yes to the Dress (I know, I know..) the other day with one of my bridesmaids I suddenly blurted out “See them??! How come they are ok with wearing strapless dresses and I am not?! I am so scared about my fat arms!” My friend stops and stares at me. “Wait. Are you really worried about that? You don’t have any reason to worry about that.”

    Which left me stunned and scared and relieved all at the same time.

    Stunned and scared because I was smacked in the face with the sudden realization I really do have a distorted view of my body. Relieved because apparently no one is judging me on how my arms look in a strapless dress. I still have not worked it all out in my head but I have my first dress fitting tonight and I’m pretty worried.

    • SarahToo

      Your concern about wearing a strapless dress reminds me of another con of being skinny (and flat): I have a skinny girl’s horror of strapless dresses because the chances are high that if I tried to wear one it would FALL OFF (boobs too small to hold it up) and I’d inadvertently flash everyone. Who invented the strapless dress anyway? Some misogynistic designer who wanted to make women feel self-conscious and uncomfortable on their special day? And why are 80% of the fancier, more formal dresses strapless? Boo. Once again, no-one wins, curvy or thin. I vote for the dress with straps, shoulders, or even sleeves if that’s what you feel more comfortable in. By the way, if you’re happy and comfortable in whatever you wear, I’m sure you’ll look gorgeous!

      • Anon

        What evil person decided 99% of wedding dresses/formal dresses have to be strapless. Seriously, no one wins! I’m worried about flashing too, because if bend over/gesture too emphatically too I might spill out. Talking to tailor tonight about adding straps. High-five on the strapless dress haters club!

      • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

        If fitted correctly, your breasts don’t hold up a strapless dress, your waist does. So rock on small boobed women AND big armed women (or both at the same time!). If you like it, it’ll show and it’s right.

      • Gigi59

        Dresses are strapless now because it’s cheaper to make them that way. Clothing manufacturers have created a fashion trend as a cost cutting measure. How’s that for WIC?

        I paid extra to have straps added to my dress…

      • MDBethann

        I had/have the same fear of strapless dresses SarahToo. What’s funny is, I tried on spaghetti strap dresses and didn’t like they way they looked on me. I ended up LOVING a strapless, in part because I was strapped into the inside of the dress with elastic bands. I felt awesome on my wedding day and didn’t want to take the dress off. If the dress is constructed right, I might just wear strapless again.

  • Krista

    AWESOME!!! As a woman who was officially “obese” (though seriously, what a scary word) before, on, and immediately after my wedding day, I really enjoyed this piece. My mom was the only one who dared ask if I planned to lose weight for the wedding (and as I was ironically working in a [daycare at a] gym, I said “Maybe my regular summertime 10 lbs from all that tasty produce.”) But really I was fuming at the concept that the wedding should be what inspired me
    to get my health in check. And so, no I did not lose a single pound for the wedding, partially out of spite. I also didn’t grow out my nails or wear fake ones, even though my stubby nails are something I do wish looked differently. But your wedding is about so much more than looking your very best! And yet so many women, even slim ones, feel the need to tone up or slim down for the big day. This was an issue that made me so mad throughout my engagement. Funny enough, a few months AFTER the wedding, I made the decision to lose weight (not from feeling fat on my wedding day, either, just because I was finally happy and relaxed) and have had some great success! And I love our wedding pictures still, even if I am a heavier version of myself in them. I was happy :) and it was our wedding day, so obviously… good memories no matter what size dress I wore :)

    Great post!!

  • Purple

    Your post (and link) made me want Chilli Pan Mee SO badly. Do you have a good recipe, or know where I can get some in the bay area?

    • Zen

      No. :( If I had a good recipe I would make it! I can’t find it in London either.

  • AM

    Hi there — I just want to chime in and say a big thank you to Zen for writing this post and to APW for hosting these kinds of conversations. As someone who currently falls in the “generally socially acceptable range of weight,” I do feel that I’ve been unnecessarily bombarded by comments about my weight. I am just (after at least ten years of frustration and dissatisfaction) coming to terms with the way my body looks and, more importantly, the fact that genes actually do have a lot to do with the way I look. Somehow JUST BEING IN THIS RANGE seems to give everyone an invitation to comment on how I look. Wedding dress retailers asked me if I was planning on losing weight for the wedding. Distant family members asked. This was after I found, without much hassle, a dress that fits me and looks nice. And it is a size 6. And it fits me as I am now. And it isn’t tight and doesn’t require that I wear something uncomfortable. And I don’t think anything is wrong with any of that. And I am still asked if I am trying to lose weight. I just want to scream!

    So my question is: what do you say in response to those sorts of inquiries to 1) shut the person up and 2) promote a kinder way of looking at our bodies and 3) end the weirdness and pressure of everything having to be perfect for a wedding?

    Also, all these comments have helped me see that weight issues happen for people of all weights. What a bummer.

    • KEA1

      How ’bout, “No, I’m paying a lot of money to buy a dress, and the prerequisite is that the dress will fit me, NOT the other way around.” ?

    • MDBethann

      I’m with Kea1. Or you can say “I found the perfect dress that fits me perfectly. Why would I want or need to lose weight?”

  • Ashley

    As a fitness professional these posts always rub me the wrong way- I feel like APW likes to glorify not loosing weight or putting too much pressure on your weight but in most cases its not healthy for the person to be at that weight! Now the author didnt say how much she weighs or if she is at a healthy body fat % so maybe she is but I feel like a lot of readers and commentors start glorifying being comfortable at any weight and size when in reality most of america is overweight and or obsese. Weight is not something to be taken lightly if you arw wearing a size 12+ and you are under 5 5 chances areyour waist measurement is too high to be healthy. Please dont forget your health in the name of anti WIC you still need to be healthy!

    • Zen

      It’s interesting because if I made a post about being an atheist, most religious people would not comment saying I ought to spend more of my life thinking about religion — or to use a less loaded example, if I said I spent all my free time playing video games, I wouldn’t get a lot of booksellers in the comments saying I should be reading instead. My health and size are for me to worry about; they’re not really anyone else’s business. And that goes for everyone.

      You can hear about how it’s unhealthy to be fat anywhere and everywhere else — if Michelle Obama is on it, it is not an obscure cause. But you don’t get to hear a lot in the mainstream press about how you don’t have to hate yourself because you’re fat. I don’t think it hurts anyone to hear the latter message and I’m glad APW reiterates it.

      • Ashley

        Yes but A lot of these comments arent just saying dont hate yourself for being fat they are saying thank you for giving me an excuse to be fat. Or thank you for saying being lazy is okay- its not! Its not okay to be overweight because you are too lazy to workout and eat right. If you do workout and eat right and are in a healthy body fat % range then good for you but to say no one should ever feel like they need to lose weight so that they are no longer fat is not right. You owe it to yourself and your future husband to be healthy when you are about to start your lives together.

        • Ambi

          Maybe I am wrong, and maybe it isn’t even my place, but after reading a lot of these discussions for several years now, I feel like this is just a fundamental difference of viewpoints that aren’t going to be resolved or compromised here. In my opinion, people just flat out disagree whether the best, healthiest approach is to encourage people to love and accept themselves or to encourage people to lose weight. I think a lot of the divide comes down to whether you view weight as a legitimate health concern or see it as more of a societal pressure related to appearance. Honestly, I think we could debate these issues for weeks or months and never fully agree. This is, in my opinion, one of those areas where we just have to respectfully agree to disagree and move on.

        • Shiri

          I think you’re missing the humor here. And she was explicitly talking about her own experience, not telling others what to do.

          • Shiri

            That was meant for Ashley, not Ambi!

      • Brefiks

        I wish I could exactly this times a million. “You don’t get to hear a lot in the mainstream press about how you don’t have to hate yourself because you’re fat.” I would add, or because you’re unhealthy, if in fact that’s true. Being healthy or pursuing healthy behavior is not a moral requirement. It’s a choice.

    • http://www.ohmeaghan.com Meaghan

      I constantly hear your message and rarely hear Zen’s, so ease up!

    • Brefiks

      You would think a fitness professional would be aware that fitness is not determined by body size. I also disagree that anyone has a responsibility to pursue healthy behavior, as you say below. I may choose not to smoke, binge drink or exist solely on Oreos but I certainly don’t think it’s anyone’s responsibility to make those choices.

      • kathleen

        I’m a fitness professional who chose to work with pregnant women because it’s the only place where fitness is ONLY about feeling good and not about losing weight. It’s the only way I can work in this industry.

        And I do actually think it’s okay to be lazy. We don’t get to dictate others’ lives, or how they choose to spend their time.

        In terms of weight+wedding, even as a personal trainer getting married in October I’m working out way less than normal because, WHOA WEDDING PLANNING.

    • Flamingo

      I respectfully disagree with Ashley’s comment. The message I get from this discussion is a) whatever you do or don’t do about your weight is your choice and b) you can feel good about your wedding day, even if you are not at exactly the weight you would like to be.

    • Lisa

      I think we all hear enough anti-fat, obesity panic hand-wringing from other sources, thanks. As a “fitness professional” I’m surprised that you have such a narrow vision of what constitutes a healthy person. Weight is not the same as health (or even fitness). And even if a person is unhealthy, (as other commenters have pointed out) no one has an obligation to be healthy.

      I also find the tone of your post to be very presumptuous and judgmental. You don’t know me, you have no idea about my lifestyle or the condition of my body, and yet you’ve already dubbed me “unhealthy.” If the body image posts rub you the wrong way, then don’t read or comment on them. Please let this be a safe space for discussion without fear of fat-shaming, because we get enough of that already.

      If you want to better understand where I’m coming from with all of this, start here (http://kateharding.net/faq/but-dont-you-realize-fat-is-unhealthy/). That post pretty much sums up anything else I could say here.

      • B

        I think one who characterizes themselves as “lazy” and also as “fat” is not likely to be one of the few non-average cases of overweight and healthy.
        I think that was Ashley’s point.
        I get being comfortable/happy/content at a bigger than average size, but I’m not sold on the no-exercise-because-I’m-lazy-but-hey-fat-can-be-healthy-too story.
        You can be overweight and healthy if you eat a balanced diet and exercise. Just like average sized healthy people and thin healthy people. But lazy is not healthy at any weight.

    • Maddie

      I think it’s clear from this thread that this debate can’t be resolved in the space of a blog post, so I’m going to end it here. Thank you to everyone who commented for keeping the tone of your responses civil.

  • kimikaze

    Brilliant post.

    I had a lot of people tell me I should lose weight, or ask if I had plans to. I told them all, and told myself, that there would probably be a lot of things going through my mind when I look back on my wedding photos over the years, but I hope like hell none of them are “I wish I’d been thinner.”

  • Ambi

    Sooo . . . I have held off on commenting because, well, the last APW post about weight and body issues just brought up a LOT of negative emotions for me, and I really don’t feel like crawling back into that hole right now. BUT, I feel like I need to share, since so many of you were really loving and supportive to me last time. None of this is to say that how I feel and what I am doing is right or that anyone else should agree with me, but, here is where I am now:

    I am in a much happier place because I took control of my weight. I’ve been working out more, and more intensely, and I am seeing a huge change in my fitness level. And I’ve been dieting. I know it’s a four letter word, but there is no other way to describe it. I would say that I am embarking on a new healthier eating lifestyle, but this is more than that – it’s a diet. Meant to lose weight. And it has been working. I am a LONG way from being thin. In fact, I’ve probably only really lost about 7 lbs since our last conversation. But I FEEL so much better, because now my weight isn’t so scary. I don’t feel helpless. I am doing something and I feel so satisfied when I accomplish each goal. Instead of freaking out about why I want to lose weight, and whether I should feel this way or not, and what it means about me as a feminist or about my relationship or any of that, I just accepted the fact that I am much happier when I am fitter and yes, thinner. Not thin, per se. Just at a size where I am more comfortable in my own skin. Getting there is hard, but I am happier working for it than I was when I was just lamenting how overweight and out of shape I was.

    Now, all of that said, I have to add a caution or a bit of self-reflection. I have previously (years ago) dealth with some disordered eating, and I am fully aware that the “happiness that comes with working toward your goal, the feeling of control over your weight and your life” – those feelings are the kernels of the same feelings that fueled an eating disorder for me. So it is a fine line. Right now I feel incredibly healthy and proud of myself. I am working out and seeing my body as an instrument. I don’t think I am in that disordered mindset. But when I get the rush of pleasure from stepping on the scale and seeing the lower number, and when I feel the happiness that comes from exercising control over my weight when I successfully eat right in a tempting situation . . . those are warning signs and red flags for me because I know from experience that I can almost become addicted to those feelings and take it too far.

    So, just an update, really. I am doing much better in terms of my mental state. I don’t feel helpless or worthless like I did. It makes me cringe to realize how sad and lost I really was, and that wasn’t very long ago. But today I am bit of a cycle of success – I am encouraged and happy about actually (finally) losing a bit of weight, and it keeps me feeling good enough mentally to keep working and losing more.

    • kathleen

      Ambi— high fives, congrats and big cheers to you. Feeling better, and feeling in control of feeling better, is a very good thing.

    • Lee

      Way to go Ambi! I’m really happy that you are feeling better. I think that paralyzing fear can be the worst state to be in and when you can take a step or two in one direction it makes all the difference.

      About a year and a half ago I remember feeling that helpless and the despair that I will never feel good. I was sick of feeling tired and uncomfortable, even when doing simple things like bending over to tie my shoes because my belly was in the way and it was hard to breathe. I am so happy to say that I’m finally at a place where what I am eating and doing for exercise makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER! But it isn’t because of the number on the scale or the size of my clothes. It is because I am stronger. Like, I can lift heavy weights stronger. And it is amazing how that makes me feel stronger in all other aspects of my life.

      Wishing you all the best!

      • Ambi

        LEE, absolutely! I can’t quite put into words how different my relationship to my body is now that I am proud of what it can do. Lifting weights, running, jumping . . . to me, those activities used to always be “exercise” that I dreaded. Now I am so damn proud and pumped up about being stronger and faster and more coordinated and just happier. Exercise is the shit, ya’ll. Seriously.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/CK_characters Caitlin

    I got married a few months ago, and I had people ON MY BACK about losing weight for the last 4 months – and I was already a size 6. I changed dresses 6 weeks out because the first one couldn’t be altered to fit my chest correctly, and the new one was tighter on my stomach so it wasn’t perfectly flat.

    Now, let me mention a few things – 1) I was working 2 jobs, 60+ hours a week in the 6 months leading up to the wedding, 2) I was planning the entire thing because my now-husband was preparing to defend his PhD thesis the week before, and 3) we were moving across the country 2 weeks after the wedding. As someone who has always been an emotional pizza monster with access to ALL THE DEEP DISHES in Chicago, this was a recipe for disaster.

    So I decided that instead of going on a crazy workout routine (and frankly, becoming a giant, hungry bitch to co-workers, family and fiance) I was just going to make a few small changes to make sure I at least didn’t gain any weight. I stopped drinking beer (wine was still OK!), and made an effort to work out 20 minutes a day every day. Some days I ran for 30 minutes, others I stretched in front of the TV for 20 minutes. But for three months, I did something involving my body for 20 minutes a day.

    Was my stomach perfectly flat the day of my wedding? Nope. Could it have been? Sure! But likely there were have been a lot of pictures of my flat stomach fighting with my mom, or my flat stomach giving my fiance dirty looks. I maintained my weight, kept the stress eating to a minimum, and found that the every day routine gave me a chance to organize my thoughts or get a little cry in in a cathartic way.

    I had a few friends ask me afterwards if I felt bad about not losing more weight, but I know that it was a choice between my ability to be kind to others and my looking 4% better in photos. Most of the pictures I’m dancing manically or giving hugs, so my stomach is hidden anyway.

    One final thing – I always thought that I would be the fittest I’ve ever been on my wedding day. I genuinely love to work and and used to be an athlete. But once I reached the 6-month point and saw the schedule before me, what I had always thought fell away to make room for what was actually going to happen.

    Love your writing, Zen!

  • http://upupcreative.com julie green

    My favorite line: “Being thinner didn’t make me better at anything except wearing size S clothes.” Obvious, once it’s said, but that thought would never have occurred to me in that manner. Well put.

  • Helga205

    Wow, this post definitely resonates with me (to the point where I am making my very first comment on APW despite having been a daily reader for the past four months).

    I have been unhealthily “fat” since I was about 10. I’m now 27 and will be married in April next year. I have probably also had an unhealthy (ie bingeing) relationship with food since I was about 10. Hiding food under the bed, lying about food, obsessing about food – all of it. Talk about a vicious cycle of hating my body – eating more food – hating my body – eating even more food.

    I also have a strong family history of breast cancer. From all the articles and studies I have read, once you have above a certain percentage of body fat, then you have an increased risk of a whole host of health problems – cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc etc etc. I trust the science, not Cosmopolitan Bride.

    I do believe in loving yourself and not letting society dictate your self esteem. I can’t help but feel that self image is subjective (and rightly so), whereas health is objective (putting BMI entirely to one side – body fat percentage and waist/hip ratio are more reliable and accurate measures). Yes, there are skinny ‘fat’ people who appear to be slim but really have unhealthy levels of body fat. And there are ‘fat’ people who are much healthier than a skinny counterpart because they are fitter, are more insulin-sensitive and have more muscle.

    I am 20kg lighter than my heaviest weight 5 years ago, and I have always been like a yo-yo with my weight over the past 10 years. Losing weight in the past has been purely about self image, which might explain the yo-yo trends.

    But NOW, I am focusing on losing fat for health as well as self image. I want to be the best version of myself, a large part of that is health but a part is image as well, and ensuring that my fiance and I will have long happy lives together. That means losing 10kg of body fat with good food and good exercise, and not relying on the scales or my dress size to tell me if I’m healthy. It’s objective, it’s scientific, it’s not a judgment on anyone else. And to a certain extent, while I should have done this in the past, this is the best time to start.

    I know Zen’s post was more focusing on the subjective/image side rather than the objective/health side, but I think it is easy to ignore the scientific reasons for losing fat. I know, I’ve been there for some 16 years!! Loving yourself is one thing – but what about being around for the longest possible period of time so that you can love someone / they can love you?

  • Teri

    I’m going to be me for my wedding.

    fat and all.

  • Fenn

    I could go on and on about this…currently being over 200 pounds (and not tall) and training for a marathon, so that I am both fat and physically fit. I buck a lot of stereotypes every day, but it is still a fight, like I have something to prove to the world about being able to be fat and fit.

    I just had a conversation with a friend about her losing 10-ish pounds, partly for the wedding dress, partly for all the vintage clothes she owns, and I think mostly for body image issues. It saddens me, really, because she is talking about going from a size 6 to a size 4, and really, a size 6 is THIN! As always, I take the stance of, “You’re beautiful, you’re perfect, and I think you’d look better ten pounds heavier than ten pounds thinner.” And seriously, I really do think this for almost everyone.

  • SelkieKel

    Every single word of this was brilliant! Kudos to you lady for seeing through the smoke and mirrors that society tells us how your body “should” appear.

    Also, brainweasels…totally making use of that.

  • Katie

    Thank you so much! I love this post because this is me too… I was trying to get a little fitter for the wedding but once I figured out that it had nothing to do with resting heart rate for me either, I gave up. I’m not 100% happy either but my fiance loves me, and my family loves me and I feel blessed for not having been forced to confront these things so publicly! Thank you for sharing and representing a group I didn’t realize existed, but I am a solid part of!

  • Sara

    I’m a little late to the party, but I wanted to add my two cents regardless. I’m no where near ready to marry, but I am the friend that is in everybody’s wedding. Last year I was in four weddings – it was fantastic, we had great times, the girls were really aware of their bridesmaids sizes and picked decent dresses. None of the girls ever said anything about size, weight or appearance – just asked if we liked the dress or if we were comfortable.

    The problem came with – strangely – everyone ‘adult’ that I knew. Not my friends, not other people in their wedding party, but my parents (especially them), their friends, my older relatives, etc. They’d find out that I had so many weddings in the summer, and their comments would be “oh are you working out/dieting? You have to look good for the pictures!” I’m about a size ten/twelve, but I have a very large chest, so I have to spend a lot of money on alternations to buy the size 16 dress and bring it down. My mother actually told me “you’re spending the money on alterations anyway, you might as well lose the weight”.

    Every time I tried to say, no, I’m happy with my weight, my size, my appearance, I have better things to worry about…I just got “BUT THE PICTURES!” over and over again. My parents are very image conscious, so this has been a thing throughout my life and really doesn’t surprise me anymore. But I’m still kind of dreading any sort of wedding planning in my distant future because of that same conversation.

  • Amy

    Thank you so much for this! We all know that our weight has nothing to do with what kind of person we are, logically anyway. But when the salesgal told me they’d be ordering a size 20 wedding dress (for my size 14 figure), I wanted to cry. This was exactly what i needed to hear today!

  • KateW

    I’m so glad I came across this today! I am getting married in exactly a month, and was about to not eat dinner in a fit of self-punshiment. I love “Being thinner didn’t make me better at anything except wearing size S clothes. It didn’t make me kinder to people, or more diligent about writing. It didn’t make anyone love me more.” I am going to remember that when I have bad moments!

    On this journey towards getting married, and fending off my own brainweasels about how I look, I have been trying to keep present the ideas that a) my body is beautiful because it is healthy, useful, and in my spiritual tradition, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and b) my culture hasn’t always valued extremely thin women as the most beautiful. I remember to look look at paintings by Klimpt and Reubens and read texts like the Song of Solomon (which will be read in part at our wedding) which feature as a description of a beautiful women “Your navel is like a round goblet/Which never lacks mixed wine; Your belly is like a heap of wheat fenced about with lilies”

    It’s so easy to get trapped in the WIC and patriarchal way of looking at ourselves; I do it almost every day, but I am making a conscience effort to shift my perspective, from within myself and using helpful media to reframe my definition of what is beautiful.

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