The week before her big day, my friend called me in a panic. She had just tried on her wedding dress one last time, and she claimed that her itsy-bitsy waist had widened a tad since the last fitting. “It’s like I have back cleavage!” she moaned.
“Are you complaining about having DOUBLE cleavage?!” I joked. We laughed, and then I sympathized while she vented, because while I knew it really was stressful, I also suspected—and I think she did too—that she was going to be fine.
Sure enough, on her wedding day, she looked beautiful. And more importantly, it was a joyful, fun, celebratory day. She says now that she has so many happy memories of that day that the dress not fitting quite as perfectly as it might have was just a blip on the radar.
my plan wasn’t to gain weight
Of course, I didn’t want to have that same crush of anxiety the week of my wedding, so I made a plan. I was going to lose ten pounds for my wedding—one pound a week, totally reasonable. I would stick to a strict calorie deficit, work out daily, and watch the pounds melt away. It looked great on paper.
The problem is that I have definitely wrestled with disordered eating off and on throughout my life. For as long as I can remember, my relationship with food has been characterized by shame and guilt. The more I focus on my eating, the more obsessive my thoughts about food become—and, therefore, the more I eat.
Before long, I was not only failing to make progress on my weight loss goal, I was actually moving in the opposite direction—I was gaining weight. I beat myself up, agonized about how I was going to look in my wedding photos, and worried about whether I would fit into my dress.
Of course, all of this just led me to shame-eat more. The calorie-counting app I had downloaded wasn’t helping, either; it just made me feel worse.
goodbye, calorie counting app
I finally talked to my counselor about it. We quickly discovered that my compulsions around food have been with me since I was a little kid and that disordered eating runs in my family in one way or another. He challenged me to consider that it might not be my weight that was the problem but my relationship with food and, on a deeper level, my relationship with my body.
I discovered, much to my surprise, that I’ve spent most of my life profoundly disconnected from my body’s natural hunger cues. I tend to eat emotionally or because it’s time to eat or because something tastes good; my efforts at dieting have led to more distrust in my body when I’ve denied it the nourishment it knows it needs; and I’ve so often ruined what could have been enjoyable gastronomical experiences by eating too quickly or too much.
So a month before my wedding, I stopped trying to lose weight. I deleted my calorie-counting app. I quit visiting the scale on every trip to the gym. I’m focusing on getting back in touch with my body and letting it guide me instead of responding to every stressor by stuffing something in my mouth.
I definitely have moments where I am terrified I’ll look awful in my wedding dress. The day of my final dress fitting, I ended up texting my mom in tears. Of course, I know I’m being overly self-critical. The dress fits, and if I focus on giving my body what it needs in terms of nutrition and exercise for the next twenty-six days, I know I will feel better in it.
what’s wrong with this version of me?
But it’s made me think of something else. This idea that I should look different on my wedding day than I do the rest of the time. I’m shunning professional hair in favor of doing it myself; I’m refusing fake eyelashes and heavy makeup; I’m being intentional about the fact that, although I want to dress up and look extra beautiful for my wedding, I still want to look like me.
After all, my fiancé is marrying me—the woman who doesn’t know where her hairdryer is, whose makeup collection fits in the palm of one hand, who has always had a hard time finding pants that fit her figure. Although I have grown my hair out a little and am going makeup shopping with a friend this weekend, I’m not trying to make major changes to my look for my wedding because I want to be myself. Why hasn’t it occurred to me that my weight might be part of that?
you can’t change a lifetime of habits in ten weeks
For years, I’ve treated my extra weight as if it were temporary. But what if this is just what I look like? I’ve been about this size almost all of my adult life. I could definitely be healthier, and I am working toward eating better and becoming fitter, but for me, the disciplines of calorie counting and frequent weigh-ins just become idols as I worship a fictional self.
So I gained weight for my wedding. I didn’t mean to. I need to work on my relationship with food and with my body, but I can’t expect myself to get that all straightened out during wedding planning, when I’m juggling the demands and expectations of every other relationship in my life all at once. I’m already starting to eat better, but it’s going to be a process. And there’s simply no way that process is going to yield the results I was hoping for by my wedding date. And I’m okay with that—or at least, I’m trying to be.