Diet Creep

When I was at the Running of the Brides, I overheard something that made me want to cry. A bride-to-be was wearing a lovely dress that looked stunning in the front, but couldn’t zip up in the back. Instead of saying, “Aw, nertz” and moving on to another dress, she said, in a voice that sounded stretched over terror, “I have eight months. And this way, I’ll have to.”

She’ll have to lose weight, that is. It seemed pretty clear she wasn’t deciding to lose weight for a dress. She was deciding on a dress that would help motivate her to lose weight.

Because you can’t be a real bride unless you’re thinner than you were when you got engaged.

I hate that message. I hate our culture’s fear/hatred of fat and its mandate to be perpetually dissatisfied with our bodies to begin with. And body negativity is yet another thing I find generally objectionable that is magnified by a factor of UGH in the context of weddings.

And I hate that it is GETTING TO ME. Me! A believer in fat acceptance! And also (I’m not sure how much emphasis should be placed on this next item) a thin person!

I was at the grocery store yesterday, and I had a hankering for some mint chocolate chip ice cream. And I found myself grateful that I was at the godforsaken Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle, with its horrible labyrinthine layout, so I could easily resist buying ice cream. Because “I don’t need to indulge like that.” No, brain, no!

When I got home, I discovered the coat I was wearing had a torn seam. Did I think, “Well, that’s what I get for buying thirty-five dollar coats at Forever 21?” No! That would be rational! I thought, “Dear heavens! Have I gained so much weight that I am busting coats? How will I ever fit into my wedding dress?!?! Dios mio!”

This morning, I seriously had butterflies in my stomach when I stepped on the Wii Fit Balance Board, determining if weight gain was the cause of my broken coat. When the weight was around the same as it was last time I checked, I couldn’t just let it go.  I turned to a vinyl tape measure. And I felt sad when I saw one extra inch around my waist.

And that kind of thinking has got to stop. I can’t let my self-worth rest on how I look or how much I weigh. I shouldn’t hold myself to standards that I find abhorrent when applied to other women. It’s hypocritical, disingenuous, and lame.

And it’s a miserable way to live life, and I’m not looking for new ways to feel bad. I don’t want to think about fitting into a dress when I exercise; I want to think about being stronger and more flexible and not getting winded when I run to catch a bus. I don’t want to eat more veggies to save on calories; I want to eat more veggies to get more vitamins. Eff that, I want to eat more veggies because veggies are yummy. And then I want some ice cream. And beer. Possibly in the same mug.

And I don’t want to see women buying dresses that don’t fit in hopes of forcing weight loss. I don’t want there to be hours of cable television programming devoted to shaming women for having visible back fat when wearing a strapless gown. I don’t want people to refuse to let me take their photograph. I don’t want people to feel bad about themselves every time they step on a scale or try to buy new jeans or look in a mirror.  I don’t want people to tell me that I need to eat a sandwich, or that I need to drop my fucking sandwich, or that I need to do anything with sandwiches!

This war has to start at home.

So I’m going to sew my coat back together.  I’m going to read some of the Big Fat Deal archive. I’m going to keep clicking the little x next to the ads on Facebook that insist I can lose weight before my wedding day.  When Facebook asks why, I’ll click the button that says the ad is offensive.

What are your strategies for staying body positive, particularly in the midst of wedding culture?

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30 responses to “Diet Creep

  1. I love this post – you are so right about what you are saying.

    Losing weight for health reasons is one thing, but doing it because ‘you’re meant to be thin’ on a particular occasion isn’t a good way to think. I’ve been trying to lose weight for health reasons, even before I got engaged, now my wedding is just another target date to help motivate me, but whatever weight I am – I’ll still get married and still look good in my dress!

    I stay positive by remembering that not everyone sees me in the way I do – in particular that my fella loves me no matter what size I am and one inch here and there will not change how he feels – I have my blue days but I try to remember that life doesn’t begin and end with what you see in the mirror!

    Good luck mending your coat 🙂

    • Thank you! Trying to be healthier is awesome, even though it can be hard. It gets harder when the efforts are weight-fixated, I find. Because the weight/size goal can really detract from all the “boy I feel awesome” benefits of eating better and exercising more. Best wishes your your health and your healthy attitude!

  2. my strategy is to follow smart women who have constructive things to say about body image. like you robin! yay!

    i stay positive by remembering the things about myself that i do like. i have healthy hair, i like my eyes and my calves freaking rock. i try to highlight those attributes with my outfits or the awesome volumizing mascara i covet.

    each day is battle though. some days i can’t stand myself and wish i was someone else… but i talk myself through it, find some resources online or hop over to hey, fat chick! i think it’s good to be aware of triggers and feelings, it’s the first step.

    • What is this awesome volumizing mascara? Or is it some kind of imaginary awesome mascara? [I want a mascara that sort of detangles my eyelashes… I have found that the wand seems to be key in that area. Clinique High Impact was working for me except it made a huge mess whenever I cried, which is OFTEN. I’m using waterproof Maybelline Colossal now, but every application requires a second swipe with a clean wand and that is kind of a hassle.]

      Also, thanks for pointing me to Hey, Fat Chick! I have not seen it before and it’s a very cool site.

      • Cover Girl Lash Blast in Orange. It’s also in waterproof. Honestly, it’s the closest to mascara nirvana I’ve found (apart from Dior, of course. But my wallet doesn’t go there.)

  3. Wow, I am slow. How did I not know you could report those terrible Facebook ads?? (Guess I’ll just stow away this info for when the baby ads inevitably crop up….)

  4. I always click offensive on those bridal weight loss facebook ads!

    I totally know what you mean about the weight issues getting to you. I don’t know why it happens, because I’m pretty good at turning off the weight loss noise usually. Maybe because I’m getting older, and my body is changing so I’m having a hard time accepting it. And with the wedding pressure, the acceptance makes it even harder.

    • Getting older brings about too many body changes that I object to. My friend Louis, who’s a bit older than me, told me one “when you get a little older you’ll learn about something called Doan’s for back pain.” And now I know.

  5. Aw, that breaks my heart to read what you overheard at the RotB. I can’t help but wonder how things will turn out for her. Will she lose too much or not enough weight, the dress becoming this mocking thing hanging in her closet — a feeling of dread gripping her chest every time she goes to try it on again? Why must we so frequently feel shame and guilt in association with our clothing? Gah. The ongoing battle with internal demons.

    Oh, and I’ll raise my hand and admit I didn’t know until now about the Facebook ad trick — those SOBs are going DOWN. Thank you.

    • I am choosing to believe that after I left the RotB she found another dress that actually fit her and was even more beautiful, left it with joy in her heart and hasn’t bothered with dieting since.

  6. The pressure to lose weight before the wedding is strong but I want to mention my experience where weight loss was not actually perceived positively. Pre-wedding stress made me magically shed about 5-7 pounds (not a good diet program though) and I was told by a couple of friends after the wedding that while beautiful, in their eyes I looked unnecessarily skinny. They were happy to hear I put the weight back on shortly after. Now I was by no means actually too skinny, but they were used to me looking slightly curvier and the change was not an improvement in their eyes. In looking at the wedding pictures I have to agree. You might hate your curves, but others might really love them on you.
    (of course, this mention that I was not fat enough at my wedding bothered me immensely because it meant that my weight was a topic of conversation. I don’t care which direction it goes in, my weight fluctuations don’t need to be a discussion topic!)

    • I completely agree, and I’m actually more in your boat than I might have let on. When I moved back to Pittsburgh to start law school, I lost like thirty pounds in five months, mostly from stress. And at first, everyone was all, “Wow, good for you!” “You look hot!” all that crap. That made me uncomfortable because, dudes, I always was hot.

      Throughout law school, stressful times usually were accompanied by a few shed pounds. And it reached the point where my friends, my family, even my SHRINK were making well-meaning comments about how I was too skinny. And I knew they had their hearts in the right place, but it still hurt my feelings. I remember last year I had an awesome photo taken of me that I really wanted to make my Facebook profile picture, but I was worried because you could see the outline of my ribs on my chest. I posted it anyway, and sure enough, I got comments about my ribs jutting out. Uncool.

      And for the record, I don’t personally hate my curves. Quite the opposite.

  7. This was perfectly, perfectly timed for me (because of course the universe bends itself around me). I spent most of yesterday evening in a bit of a funk over our engagement photos, I guess I somehow expected them to be mindblowingly transformative and surprise surprise, they were not. And on top of that I’m upset with myself for being disappointed, even as I am feeling proud of myself for the 5K I’m running this weekend. So, thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone here, at least. I told all my work friends that I had to go home and work on my self-love and acceptance a bit and here goes the blogsophere with some help on that front. I’m planning on writing about it ab it more but I need to give it some time so I don’t write something that hurts our photographer’s feelings.

    Also re: your comment on Miss Manners’ theme overall, I AGREE. And I was a little miffed throughout in my first reading, constantly going, but I’m not like that! Really I’m not!! Stop lumping me in with all so-called ‘bridezillas’ that are pretty much only driven to being so by the WIC anyway, if they were unpleasant women beforehand that’s separate, but enough with the hating on brides from all sides! So at least she has the last section be a passionate letter from a bride giving it back.

    When I read it a second time I was a bit more calm about it and could more enjoy Miss Manners’ usual wittiness without being personally offended it. Or rather, just more accepting that ok, maybe she wouldn’t approve of this decision, but so it goes. I think she needed to go a bit more into the ‘you should *try* to make your guests as comfortable as possible but I acknowledge that you can’t make everyone happy.’

    • Hang in there. I’ve noticed that sometimes when first I see pictures of myself I zero in on “flaws,” but when I come back to them I just see me and feel much better. Also, sad to say, your photographer is probably used to clients being upset with how they look in photos.

      As for Miss Manners, sometimes it seems like she wants everyone to be happy but you. I think that got overemphasized in her wedding book, because she’s fighting against forces that say, “the bride is the only person who matters!”

  8. my mom’s best friend’s daughter in law did the whole ‘i’ll buy a dress too small and lose weight’ thing too. guess what? she didn’t and had to pay a ton to get it let out. such a bad idea! weddings are so stressful people should not add this burden of being crazy thin to it. i told people i was working on getting taller instead of losing weight. this line is perfection by the way: “And it’s a miserable way to live life, and I’m not looking for new ways to feel bad.”

  9. WORD.
    Yes. Mark them “offensive,” you shall. Wedding culture is very saddening sometimes…but it’s like that with everything…Some people let corporate culture consume their lives…some let “finding the right one” eat everything, and some get all antsy about being perfect for the wedding day. And that’s okay…those brides are almost as cool as us.

  10. I mark all wedding-related ads on Facebook offensive. You know what really ticks me off about those? Tony changed HIS status to engaged to me (he sent me the request), and has HIS status visible on his page (I don’t). I immediately started getting diet, plastic surgery, botox, teeth whitening, wedding dress and jewelry ads. On Tony’s page? OKCupid ads. WTF, Facebook?!

    On the body image issue: I think a lot of the body image problems has to do with dress designers. I blame them entirely. I don’t know when strapless dresses became de rigor, but the styles that are out there are really only flattering on about 2 percent of the bridal population. Yeah, I really do want a dress with a jacket to cover my arm fat, and I don’t want people to stare at my back fat for 20 minutes during the wedding. I don’t want to be constantly tugging at a dress that wants to slide down until my nipples show. I don’t want miles of poofy stuff right at my natural waist or around my already ample hips, making me feel like I need to turn sideways to get through a door.

    A lot of my poor body image would be solved by a dress that flatters my curves instead of highlighting the lumps.

  11. I hesitate to chime in because I know how much more difficult this subject is for women than for men; we don’t have nearly the same ridiculous societal pressures to be thin, in normal life nor in weddings. But I will say that I’ve recently made a concerted effort to lose weight, and through lots of exercise and healthy eating, I lost 35 pounds and now feel extremely comfortable with my weight. But what was interesting was that amid all the congratulations I received from people were some fairly snarky remarks about “oh, getting thin for the wedding, are we?”

    Maybe snarky is the wrong word, but they were a sort of playful mocking. Like, aw cute, look at the guy trying to lose weight for his wedding. And the thing is: I wasn’t doing it for my wedding. I was doing it for a variety of reasons, but none had to do with fitting into a tighter suit for one day of my life next summer. And there’s been a lot of dismissive comments about how much easier it is for men to lose weight; which may be true, but in fact, I’ve NEVER had any success losing weight until I made radical lifestyle changes.

    I guess my point is that body type and weight loss issues are intensely personal, but are made very public because we can’t really hide how we look, and because of the ridiculous norms we have in place. Those Facebook ads are part of a large machine that preys on insecurities; it’s all pretty shameless and horrifying, and not at all surprising that the Wedding Industrial Complex (still can’t type that without giggling) has latched onto it as well.

    How nice it is to have found an online community of awesome people who know what true beauty is!

    • I’m so glad you commented, because this is super interesting. I’m guessing (I really don’t know) that ladies who lose weight before their wedding don’t get the same kind of dismissive remarks. Also, while it does seem easier for men to lose weight, that certainly doesn’t make it EASY. So I wish on your behalf that people would shove it sideways on that point as well.

  12. *claps* Another great post.
    I struggled with the ‘weight loss cuz I’m a bride’ crap for our whole 18-month engagement, and my mother didn’t help, openly calling me out to watch what I ate while being fitted for my dress (god, argh). I actually had a similar situation to Nina, that the week before the wedding was so overwhelming and nerve-wracking that I lost weight. I lost my appetite and the adrenaline was pumping, so I shed a few pounds, and my heart sank when a couple people told me I was too skinny and that my bones were sticking out. We can never win, can we?

    Stay strong, and have some broccoli followed by that mint chip ice cream. No matter what, you’re going to look totally hot.

  13. It’s a process, isn’t it? I have some days when I’m sane and some days when the wedding makes my existing self confidence issues fester into open boils of self-directed fat-hating evil. But I try and stay away from non-real bride blogs now (that helps a lot) and I never read women’s magazines anyhow (also very helpful) and I just try to focus on health. Real health, and not weight-loss health. I’ve had a few months of stressful breakdowns and I’ve shoveled food into my face in response. And then last week, I finally started eating real foods again. And then this week I started eating real foods in appropriate portion sizes again. It ebbs and flows. I focus on the health, cut out as much bullshit as possible I hate facebook and do the same) and the rest can go eff itself. Yay for this post.

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  15. I like when you link to old posts, because I can come back, read, and super belatedly comment!

    I would like to say that members of the bridal party/hootenanny are also worried about gaining weight and not fitting into their dress! Not because EVERYONE WILL BE LOOKING AT ME, of course (except, like, my boyfriend. Maybe anyone else at the wedding I’ve slept with? Sure, there are people at weddings like any special event you want to make sure you don’t look like a sausage squeezed into a dress for) …but because oh my gosh I love that dress I want to wear it. Plus I paid for it.

    I was worried buying a dress early for that reason. I firmly believe any and all reasons I gain or lose weight is for some kind of curse I had in a previous life where I like, stole clothing from a poor shop owner. Or I sold clothes super expensively to a town of poor people. I don’t know, either way, I seem to lose weight and look ridiculous in my ill-fitting pants until I finally give in and buy new ones and then boom, I’m 10 pounds heavier and doing that “fit into your jeans” dance. I gain weight and wear the same 2 pairs of pants for months until I finally give in and buy 2 sizes up and suddenly lose 10 pounds. It’s ridiculous, exhausting, nerve-wracking, expensive, and I have no data that supports any real EXPLANATION.

    That was a big of a digression. I just wanted to jump in and say I’ve been thinking about this. Perhaps your wedding being right in the middle of summer will help me (and everyone) be at their slimmest so that we won’t have to deal with this. I have also heard of people who do Atkins or South Beach or whatever for like, 3 weeks prior to a wedding specifically for this reason. I think it was a bridesmaid, not a bride actually, who told me that.

    WORST COMES TO WORST, I buy another metallic dress and I have beautiful metallic dresses in both sizes of Abby.

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