[This is a post that is going to talk about weight, specifically me worrying about my weight and body size even though I am a thin person. So you might not want to read this if you struggle with disordered eating or body image problems or even if weight talk just makes your eyes roll. But it does have a happy ending.]
I bought my wedding dress in August. It fit snugly when I bought it. I weighed myself and I took my measurements and I said, “Self, if you are bigger than this, your dress won’t fit.”
Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for neurotic disaster? It was, and I wish I’d never done it.
Do you want some overly detailed background on my body image? I hope so, because you’re getting it: I think I’m probably a couple standard deviations right of center when it comes to body satisfaction. A big part of that is because I am thin, so society isn’t constantly telling me that I’m lazy, unhealthy, or a bad person, even though I’m usually at least one of those things. In my adult life I’ve weighed thirty pounds more than this and ten pounds less than this and at all points I felt great about how my body looked. [Granted, thirty pounds more than this at best puts me into the “in-betweenie” category. This isn’t that remarkable a feat of personal body acceptance, but sometimes it seems like any woman who loves her body has a supernatural resistance to the kyriarchy].
Losing a lot of weight was weird for me, especially because I didn’t try to do it. I was simultaneously terrified that I was sick, delighted by all the positive attention weight loss brings, guilty because I didn’t “earn” that praise, excited by my new clothes, mournful for my lost DD boobs, fearful that the weight would come back and I wouldn’t love my old body anymore, and immensely irritated because, really, what is so praiseworthy about being thin that a possibly sick person deserves credit for shrinking? [See also]
I wasn’t sick, at least not physically (anxiety can make you lose weight because you burn more calories when you are panicking. That stress is so much more likely to kill you than fat is. Thin != healthy). My weight settled into a happy place where the Wii fit doesn’t make my avatar flop like a wet noodle and I get fewer “eat a sandwich” comments (Sidebar: don’t say shit like that! You don’t get to tell other people what they should eat or their body should look like).
But weddings make you do the wacky. The spectre of my snug sample wedding dress made me worry about my weight in a way that felt foreign and wrong. I went on a new antidepressant and almost immediately gained five pounds. Five pounds which no one but me and the waistband of my jeans noticed. This brought on a minor freak-out that involved a lot of internet research about how much seams can be let out and trying to convince myself I could always buy a new dress (those attempts at rationality always ended in tears). And then, and understand I feel like a traitor when I confess this: I tried to lose those five pounds. I upped my cardio [I already exercise almost every day because a) It tremendously relieves my depression b) I like being reasonably “fit” such that I can lift heavy things and run up flights of stairs without getting winded c) I am mostly unemployed and have a lot of time to kill] and tried drink more water, less beer, and to snack on fruits and veggies instead of cheese and crackers.
I avoided weighing myself to try to hold body hate at bay. But with two weeks to go before my dress fitting, I stepped on a scale: I had not lost one pound. And I cried. I’m ashamed of that, but it is true.
But I somehow snapped out of it. I wore a really tight dress on my birthday, one I’d previously intended to return for being too small, and I felt like a million bucks in it. Maybe I actually was a little slimmer even though my scale number stayed the same. Maybe not. Maybe I just let go and got to be the person I normally am, the person who loves her body, so I felt the dress looked sexy instead of too small, even though nothing had changed.
I realized how much I missed the feeling of loving my body and feeling sexy without subjecting myself to judgment and fear. So even though putting myself through more cardio and dipping carrot sticks instead of pretzels into my hummus might have, possibly, made my dress fit when it otherwise would not have, it doesn’t matter. The moral of this story is not “I worried about my weight so I exercised a lot and then my dress fit, hooray!” The moral of this story is after finding out my dress fit, I realized the stress and the bad feelings about whether or not the dress would fit were not worth it.
I’m writing this and sharing this (with trepidation, because the last thing I want is to perpetuate diet culture and body hatred) so that I remember that over these next two months. I want to look good on my wedding day, sure, but I want to love myself for the rest of my life. So I need to let myself love my body regardless of what clothes it fits into.