Wedding: The Anti-Diet. Advice for a Bride to Be

I have a wonderful friend, we’ll call her “R” who is going to join the ranks of wedded bliss later this October.  With all the stress of her trying to plan a wedding with over-helpful families and all the insanity that comes from organizing a giant festive occasion when religion and cake are involved I found it not surprising but still discouraging that on top of it all she is concerned with also trying to lose weight in these final weeks. 

R is a brilliant, funny and wonderfully thoughtful woman.  One of the LAST things I feel she should be worrying about as the final weeks of her wedding preparations draw to a close it trying to starve her body into submission.  I wanted to copy here her thoughts and what my own response was and find out what others think. 

Despite being an English major, I apparently never learned the meaning of the word “willpower.”  This has been especially problematic in the past year.  I had thought I could lose 30 pounds from December to next month.  Then I was hoping for 20 pounds from June to October.  Then I thought maybe 10 pounds from August to October.  Now I’m hoping to maintain.  The good thing is that there is a slight possibility of that happening – except that between now and the wedding are 3 holidays revolving around food.  Also somewhere in there I need to have a fitting for a dress that is already having an entire back added to it because zipping was not an option.

Why is it that I crave nothing but crap right now?  Two weeks ago I wanted apple cider, apple cider doughnuts, cheese and pie.  Then there was the craving for salt and vinegar potato chips, followed almost immediately by cravings for ice cream and kitkats.  And peanut butter filled chocolate covered pretzels.  Now it’s kugel.  I’m swinging between sweet and salty cravings like a demented Tarzan–and no, I am not pregnant.  I have become an eating machine.  Considering that I exercise slightly less than a comatose cat, this is not helpful to my weight loss.

I know I am not alone in this.  I recall a conversation with a bride-to-be who was telling me that she had no problem losing weight to be a bridesmaid, but could not focus on the program to lose weight for her own wedding.  Is it stress?  Or is it just the time of year?  Fall is fattening season–time to get your winter blubber ready.  I had thought it would be a good time because I would have had all summer to lose, but the end of summer is where all of that healthy eating really fell apart.  I still have almost a month to lose.  I could theoretically get on Atkins and do beautifully.  Or I could workout every day and get a little buff.  It’s possible.  Not likely, but possible.  If I just walk 3 miles a day at a quick pace, while eating nothing but low-fat protein I could lose another 10 pounds and fit into the dress that, as far as I know, is being altered for me as we speak.  Or there’s always a the girdle option.  I’ll have people helping me get dressed,  I’m sure 2 or three women could tie a girdle tightly enough that I won’t pop the laces.  Of course, I wouldn’t be able to breathe; but then I could say that while my gown is lovely, my undergarments are truly breathtaking.

My response included a few links to other posts of mine and around the fatosphere and I’m hoping it was helpful and not annoying! 

I  write on a blog I call “I AM in Shape. ROUND is a Shape” with a few entries you might like to read for fun and some interesting things to think about; especially : 

Where does the fat go when you diet? 

and : Fasting reminds me why I don’t diet anymore

and : Your body knows what it needs

Here’s a great site that I like to go to often too: Diets Don’t Work

and : Fat Rant 3: Staircase Wit

But the main point I want to bring up is that listening to your body’s cravings for whatever nutritional (or not so “filled with nutrition”) items it needs is a difficult process when we spend our lives denying our bodies’ in-born food regulation systems.

The whole “Lose weight before your wedding” thing is just another BS part of the whole wedding process that makes me cringe. As if the wedding would be that much less special if the bride was HERSELF instead of a smaller version of herself obtained by months and weeks of body hatred and self-restriction.

My thoughts? You have enough to stress about in the next few weeks. You certainly DON’T need to add a diet to the list of crap you have to deal with! Get that fitting and have it fit a body that you have loved, nourished and respected right up until your wedding day; not one you have abused and hated and starved in the hopes that one or two more stitches can be taken in.

L doesn’t love you any more or less for your body gaining or losing 20 pounds by a particular day. (If he does I’ll have to punch him at the wedding) ;)

PS: You’re beautiful!

I find that in the world today we spend far too little time telling people that they are beautiful JUST as they are and far too MUCH time focused on how to IMPROVE our looks (whether it be by losing weight, preventing the look of aging, etc).  I’ve also always found it repulsive that a bride is expected, almost as some sort of rite of passage, to go on diet after diet in the months before the wedding to “Slim up for the honeymoon bikini” or “Look smashing in your wedding gown”, and then to whimper in self-loathing filled defeated agony if weight is not lost by that final fitting (and don’t even get me into the awful industry of bridal dress sizing and fittings). 

Regardless of how large or small the woman (or man) happens to actually be and how well they fit your perception of “fat” or “overweight”; how is this dieting fervor in the midst of the stress that already comes with planning a large wedding, mentally (or even physically) healthy?  How does it make sense for a woman embarking on a joyous celebration; who is about to become linked via ceremony to their loved one; to do everything in their power to CHANGE themselves drastically just prior to the party, to work their darnedest to try and disappear??!?  Is it all just part and parcel of the Fantasy of Being Thin?  That you only DESERVE to get that big fun wedding if you’re thin enough?  That you can finally Be Yourself if only those last few pounds would just fall off?  Why is there no little disclaimer on these pushes for weight loss prior to the wedding that reminds folks:

Annoying Truth: there is no magic weight, no magic dress size, at which life becomes nothing but sunshine and puppies.

I can understand my friend R wanting to avoid foods that she is craving if they are making her feel sick or malnourished, or her wanting to get some movement if she’s feeling sluggish (or just wants to get out and escape Wedding Planning Insanity for a while); that is not what I’m pondering.  What I’m wondering is how to respond to the very pervasive wedding ideal that being a Smaller You is just how it is done.  Perhaps it is all just a way to give folks the “satisfaction” of watching folks a year or two after the wedding and being able to say “Ooo, she let herself go!” when the weight that may have been frantically lost prior to the wedding comes back.  Isn’t the wedding supposed to be about celebrating the joining of two lovely people who love each other as they are, for better or for worse?  Then again, perhaps I’m just wrong.  But I’d like to hope not.

Thoughts?  What advice would YOU give or what words would you NEED to hear if it was you in this all too common situation?


9 thoughts on “Wedding: The Anti-Diet. Advice for a Bride to Be

  1. Great post! Here’s what I would say to your lovely friend:

    I’m getting married next May. I’ve known this since last December, so I’ve had a reasonably long engagement. I’ve also known since two Mays ago that I was done with this unnecessary emotional and physical rollercoaster called “dieting.” I knew then that being a higher weight than was culturally acceptable was better than the self-loathing I felt every morning, noon, and night because I possessed a body that didn’t conform to the norm, and despite my best efforts, I could not get it to conform for more than perhaps a year or two at a time.

    In order to lose weight, you *have* to loathe your body. Those who tell you that they lose weight because they love their body leave that part out: if you don’t want the body you have now, you loathe it until it conforms to what you want it to be.

    Marriage is a celebration of self, love, and family (both current and future). When you walk down the aisle, *neither you, your husband-to-be, nor your family* cares whether your waist is two inches smaller than it was in the fall, or whether you’ve got back fat, or how big your arms are. Believe it or not, they’re all going to be focused on your face, and channeling your every emotion. Only those who don’t care about you will be focusing on your body or your dress, and frankly, those people shouldn’t be invited in the first place!

    I know that it is expensive and a bit disheartening to alter a dress up. But isn’t that better than the months of pointless toil, the hours towards which you could be planning, dreaming, relaxing, or engaging in exercises you *like* eating foods you *enjoy* instead of chalky bitter protein bars chased by glass after glass of water?

    Listen, we all can lose weight. We all can go temporarily insane with self-loathing long enough to starve our bodies into size submission. But what then? You will inevitably gain the weight back that you lost (95%-98% of all dieters gain the weight back after a period of five years, with the first two-thirds gaining it back after two years), and then you will loathe yourself for “Not being able to fit into your wedding dress,” or “letting yourself go after the wedding,” etc., when really all your body is doing is regaining after a self-imposed state of famine. Your body can’t tell the difference between a famine and a calorie-restricted diet, and it has mechanisms in place to recover lost mass and protect against future losses of mass, which can mean a lower metabolism at your old baseline weight.

    I think dieting before the wedding and losing X lbs, whether it is to fit into a too-small dress, or look a certain way in the pictures or to your family, is a bad idea for all these reasons. Before and after the wedding you will feel the consequences. Weakness, self-loathing, stress, depression.

    What you are doing now sounds like deprivation-induced small binges (though I’m not a nutritionist, I’ve just lived a little life in a fatter body). I think that if you stop stressing about what you’re eating, and make up your mind to allow yourself to eat what your body wants, after an initial binge or two, you will stop binging entirely. In the presence of plenty with the mindset that you are “allowed” to eat what you want, you will stop focusing on so much food and naturally moderate your intake. Back when I was dieting, or even when I wasn’t formally dieting but still self-loathing and of the mindset that I *should* be dieting, I’d binge once in a while, usually twice a month. However, since I stopped dieting, after some initial regain, I haven’t had a single binge. It’s been over two years.

    Altering your dress up a size or two is not the end of the world. Accept your size. If you are concerned about health, moderate exercise (like walking at a moderate pace for 30 min three times a week) is a fun way to get moving and feel stronger. As the planning kicks into higher gear, I think you will be getting all the exercise you can handle. 😉 If you are concerned about what you will look like, don’t you want to look like — well, yourself — for the wedding? That is, after all, who your fiancee is marrying, not a smaller version of yourself.

    You have the power to embrace your size, and not feel badly that you want to have a dress that fits it. That’s okay, in fact, that’s wonderful! So many women set out to lose 10-30 lbs before the wedding (I’ve done a good deal of research on this), and it really boggles my mind. You *deserve* to be married, you don’t have to *earn* it by starving and whittling away at your flesh. Allow yourself to be happy, celebrate, enjoy the holidays, and most of all, allow yourself to stop focusing on food and your body and to focus everything on the wedding preparations, your future plans, and the concerns of day-to-day life.

    You have the power to make this a happy occasion, and accept and love your body, and feel like you deserve to be married *no matter what size you are*. Many women larger than yourself get happily married all the time. It’s all about self-perception. You’ve got the power to let that self-loathing go (and you are the only one who can do that for yourself).

    Good luck, and congratulations on your upcoming nuptials,


  2. I was lucky to have just found FA right before my wedding. I’d gained 25 lbs. during the fall semester previous to the wedding (which was in July), and was desperately unhappy with my body. I dieted briefly that spring, and only succeeded in gaining another 15 lbs. I had looked at a dress in early April, that when I went to buy it in mid May, I needed to get the next size up, which required it being shipped from another store in the next state over, because it was the largest size that store carried, period.

    I had been thin just eight months before that.

    I found Shapely Prose about the same time as I found my wedding dress, and it took those six weeks of reading SP and other FA blogs for me to be able to deal with the thought of buying the dress that fit then, and not trying to change my size to suit a piece of clothing.

    So, the words of wisdom:

    1. You have to be happy with yourself as you are in order to be happy.
    2. The dress is supposed to fit you, not the other way around.
    3. Clothes that fit allow you to be as happy as you can be. Clothes that don’t fit distract you from experiencing your life.
    4. Other people who criticize you for your weight are doing two things: a) trying to love you the best way they can and b) buying into the delusion that Thin==Happy.
    5. Your wedding day is for YOU and your partner, not for your parents or your guests. What they think is absolutely irrelevant. If you two can be happy, that’s what matters.

    and, hopefully finally —

    6. Your body knows what it needs. Trust it, and it won’t fail you.

    In support of #6 — when I started eating intuitively, right before my wedding, lo and behold, I quit gaining weight. I let myself eat what I wanted, and pretty soon I quit stress eating, because without all those rigid rules I’d been trying to impose upon myself, I was no longer stressed out about eating. Forbidden food ceased to be a temptation because it was no longer forbidden; traditional diet foods like salads ceased to be a trial, because they were no longer punishment for errant eating.

    Words I needed to hear before my wedding:

    Make yourself happy, and forget about worrying about everyone else. They’re responsible for making themselves happy; it’s not your job.

  3. You will inevitably gain the weight back that you lost (95%-98% of all dieters gain the weight back after a period of five years, with the first two-thirds gaining it back after two years)

    And some of us will regain it within months. I’m glad I was one of the most unsuccessful dieters I’ve ever known — it helped me give up on it sooner than I might have otherwise.

    //resume topic

  4. nightgigjo, I also gained back within about nine months. Our bodies are very resilient…mine remembered what my baseline weight was supposed to be, even after seven years of off-and-on dieting or starvation.

    //again resume topic 😉

  5. It’s funny I’m about to get married in two weeks and decided that there was no way I was gonna try the dieting thing. I like food too much and so does my fiance. (He gets cranky if he doesn’t eat).

    But I have a good friend that’s getting married two weeks after me and she has been trying to lose weight. Recently she told me that she’s lost so much that her dress doesn’t fit and she’ll have to pay more than what the dress cost for alterations.

    As for me, I just need a little hemming on mine.

    So that’s a good arguing point, if you do lose weight you’ll have to pay even more.

  6. This is a really wonderful post and the responses so far are equally great. I truly wish someone had talked to me this way before I got married.

    I didn’t have a wedding because I thought I was too fat. I was somehow convinced that only the starving, barfing, size 2 me was worthy and I’d be a joke in front of everyone for gaining weight. I had a meltdown in a bridal shop (the sizes were insane, only had sleeveless or strapless dresses, I looked like a marshmallow…) and called the whole thing off (I’m dramatic like that).

    *sigh* Oh where was this FA? Why oh why did I not find this last year?

    Anyway, I think your friend is lucky to have a sweet friend like you that will point her in the right direction. I hope it works and she has a wonderful day. I also am delurking – I read this regularly and love it.


  7. There are two things I would say to any bride who is considering trying to diet on top of everything else:

    1: It is the dress’ job to fit you and make you beautiful, not the other way around. It is then the photographer’s job to capture the beauty, not yours to be conventionally beautiful to make the photographer’s job easier. Trust me, (s)he already knows how to get the best angles on you.

    2: Your family and fiance already know and love you just as you are. They already know how beautiful you are, no matter what your dress size happens to be.

    And to every single bride out there, I would say this:

    Serenity is beautiful. Joy is beautiful. Stress is ugly. Let go of perfect. Perfection is not attainable and the stress of trying too hard for it will result in an unhappy, disappointing day after months of squabbling and freak outs. Strive for nice. Strive for pretty. Strive for fun. Strive for meaningful. It will relax you and allow everyone to see the best you.

    There are few things on this earth as beautiful as a happy, serene, confident bride who knows she is marrying the partner of her dreams. She doesn’t need to make herself less in literal or figurative terms. She simply needs to be in all her glory.

  8. Trying to get your friend to understand that she’s already beautiful and of the futility of dieting often falls on deaf ears when a bride is concerned about photos from the Most Important Day of Her Life. So, as a fellow newlywed who didn’t diet before her big day, here’s what I’d say:

    1. Invest in a good girdle/corset. I wore Spanx and it made me look like I had instantly lost 10 pounds AND gained an actual waist in the 60 seconds it took to wriggle into it. No dieting required.

    2. If you hire a skilled and professional photographer, they’re gonna make you look thinner. It’s their job to make people look good, because good photos sells them to future clients. I was amazed at the flattering poses my own photographer captured of me.

    3. Wedding-planning is hard! Who needs the added stress of obsessing over calories and squeezing in workouts while trying to nail down vendors and mail out invitations. Plan smarter, not harder.

    4. Alterations are expensive, especially on a deadline. I had to have a corset back installed in my dress and had a three-week deadline because we eloped. The seamstress’ bill was more than double because of it. If you alter your dress to fit your current body and weight, there’s usually no need to size up or down at the last minute.

    5. Your husband fell in love with you at your current weight. And isn’t that what a marriage ceremony is all about? Celebrating the love between you and him?

  9. I’m a bride-to-be (five weeks to go gah!), and I decided long ago that I was NOT going to diet. Sod it. He’s marrying me because of me.

    That said, I am going to a personal trainer, which I tell myself is to get “toned” – but its only 30-40 mins three times a week, and that’s pretty much it exercise wise.

    I’ve lost bugger-all weight wise doing so, but I feel better, and it helps de-stress, and surely that’s the point.

    I figure – in twenty years time, I’m going to look back at those photos, and see myself as young and cute and happy. I’ll be saying “huh, I was totally hot!”, not “gee, I should have lost a few more kilos…”

    So sod it. Why be unhappy? If I want a chocolate bar because I’m having a melt down about seating plans, damnit, I deserve one, because its not my fault that Uncle John can’t possibly sit near Aunty Sue, and that they both loathe Grandpa Pat!

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