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Surviving Your Wedding With Body Image Issues

Since the beginning of APW you guys have been asking me for posts about weddings and body image. And since the beginning of APW I’ve been asking y’all to step up and write these posts, since I’m totally unqualified to write them. The first immensely brave woman to step up and write a post was Margaret, who wrote an amazing piece called A Way To Weigh What You Way When You Wed, about how her anxieties about her size melted away in the joy of her wedding day. Today, the immensely brave J. is writing about how wedding planning affected her, as someone with an eating disordered history. Hopefully J. will be back soon to write a wedding graduate post, but for now here is some serious wisdom.

I’m a third generation eating disordered person. My maternal grandmother and my mom both had eating disorders long before I cared if my belly hung over my bikini line. I don’t blame the women before me in my family for my eating disorder; that being said, it was kind of in the cards for me. I developed poor body image probably around 5th grade, but didn’t develop an eating disorder until my sophomore year of college. It got progressively worse and I asked my dad for help just weeks before my senior year. I won’t go into details of how my eating disorder lived in me during that time (not the purpose of writing this), but generally, it was a combination of excessive running, minimal calorie intake, and purging. I saw a therapist for a year (thanks to my dad’s help in finding one for me) and consider myself to be in recovery for about 4 years now. I’m not perfect. My past with an eating disorder doesn’t define me, but it influences who I am and still impacts my relationship with food, my body, and even women in my family.

The primary wedding related area where my eating disorder history seems to pop up most is… ta da, the dress. Probably not too surprising. When I went shopping for my wedding dress I brought my maternal grandmother and my mom with me. I was so glad they wanted to share that experience with me. I felt really good that day – excited to try on dresses, knowing I had about a year to lose any “unacceptable” weight (as I said, my thinking still isn’t perfect), and also a little nervous. What if I didn’t find the dress? That day, I did find the dress and I adore it! I love, love, love my dress. That stands out in my mind. But another moment also stands out in my mind, and maybe stands out even more than the moment of choosing my dress. The moment I tried on a slinky, sexy, sheath. The dress was too small, without a doubt, but who fits into every single sample in the store? I came out in the dress and quickly knew it wasn’t one I’d consider. A few head shakes from my grandma and mom, then I turned to enter the fitting room and take off the dress. As I was taking off the too-small sheath, my grandma says to my mom, “See, she’s got that thigh problem”. My first reaction was to smirk a little, shake my head, and go on to the next dress. My second reaction was, “thank god she said that today, and not 3 years ago”. I could not have handled that comment 3 years ago. Third reaction, that stings a little. Not that it makes a difference, but I do not have chicken legs. I have solid, strong, powerful legs from years of soccer, running, and yoga. I’ve made peace with my thighs. Apparently, my grandmother has not- and maybe that’s what I haven’t made peace with yet.

While that “thigh” moment is one that stings a little, it is also one that reminds me of the amazing strides that I’ve made with my relationship with my body. It also reminds me that I do feel my grandma’s eyes giving me the once-over when I’m wearing fitted clothes and I often wonder if my mom’s eyes disapprovingly scan my lower half when I’m not looking. My dress is a fitted style and you know what, I feel pretty amazing in it. My wedding is 2 weeks away and I can’t wait to show off my curves, something I used to loathe. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m also a little scared. What if people think I’m too curvy to “pull off” the dress? Are my thighs too big for the dress? My butt too bubbly? Should I have gotten a ball gown to hide and disguise the lower half? As I write this, I realize how stupid it all sounds. But that’s the somewhat running commentary. And I do love my dress.

My eating disordered past and the wedding also makes me think of my future. With that, one of my biggest fears is that something in the future will re-open the wound. I’ve read that major life transitions (uh- marriage!) can make women’s eating disorders (or at least some of the behaviors) come back. Will the eating disorder ever come back? I feel in control now, but will I always? An even bigger fear, will I have a daughter who will develop an eating disorder? On the same note, did my behaviors in the past negatively impact my little sister? (she’s 7 years younger than me… so, 14 years old when I was at my worst. Happy to say that she seems to have a very positive, healthy body image). While those are fears, I’m working on not living with that fear. Right now I’m good. I’m ready to get married in 2 weeks and look freaking-fantastic in my dress. And if I don’t, well, at the end of the day I’ll be married to my amazing, supportive man, and I can’t wait!

(Final notes:  First, J. wants to emphasize that her Grandmother and Mother are in fact awesome people. J. says, “For the record, my mom and grandma are amazing, supportive women – despite the thigh comment.” So let’s go easy on them, yes? Second, J. is, obviously curvy and gorgeous. She knows this, but that didn’t make navigating the wedding process less tricky. So lets stay away from the “oh my God you’re so THIN!” comments. Because really, who cares? She’s gorgeous in her own way, just like all the rest of us. It’s learning to believe that about ourselves that’s tricky. That’s what we’re talking about today… and always.)

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