Trigger warning: I discuss body image, disordered eating, and wedding-related dieting in this post.
If you are getting married, I guarantee that you can relate to this.
As soon as I got engaged, my Instagram algorithm completely changed. I expected to see a TON of ads for all of the following:
-veils, Jimmy Choos, tiaras, and all the luxury accoutrements associated with a wedding.
However, I did NOT mentally prepare myself to expect all of the directed marketing for "nutritional supplements," diets, "cleanses," and workout trends and clothing that target brides-to-be. I was inundated with "Wedding Bootcamps" and ads for workout gear that said, "Sweating for the Wedding." No, thank you.
The truth is, a couple years ago I would have been completely unable to defend myself from this marketing. I would have most likely engaged in disordered behaviors and became obsessed with fitting into a certain dress size. Like many kids, from the ages of 10-21, I drifted in and out of obsessions with food intake and exercise. For one stretch of time I was purging, and not at all worried about the long-term impacts that it would have--as long as I could fit into the prom dress I wanted.
All of this completely disrupted my development, self-worth, and happiness. It wasn't "just" dieting because it was a constant anxiety, and so many of my friends have experienced the same thing-- especially before their weddings. In fact, research shows that as many as 70% of women diet before their wedding, and as many as 25% of dieters develop disordered eating.
Wedding dieting is particularly dangerous because it involves losing as much weight as possible before a certain date. Extra pressure, extra anxiety.
I wanted to open up a frank discussion about this because sadly, I am aware that some of my clients are affected by this. And sometimes it does impact my job. It breaks my heart to see my couples, who look so gorgeous and have spent so much time and money looking amazing on their big day, feeling insecure about their weight.
I've seen brides cry because their dress fits differently than they'd hoped. A tailor at a well-known suit retailer told a groom of mine that if he lost weight, he wouldn't have to spend so much on tailoring. I've witnessed my wedding clients squeeze themselves into corsets that make it difficult to breathe or laugh. And none of this is said to shame them, but is said with love, to help others know that they aren't alone in this feeling of hopelessness.
And so, when it was my turn to get engaged, I experienced the same hyper-focus on weight and image that everyone else does. And there is another layer to this: I'm sure MANY of my 2020 couples relate to me saying that because my own wedding was postponed, the constant battle against wedding-related body issues has had to continue longer than I wanted it to. Instead of it being on the back of my mind for 8 months or so, it's now been almost two years of putting my walls up against this marketing. To someone who is already vulnerable, this is... a long a$$ time.
At the gym once, I saw an ad for a Wedding Bootcamp. I was proud that instead of feeling sad, or feeling guilted into signing up, I felt angry that they would prey upon a very real vulnerability that many people struggle to overcome. (Therapy has helped me tons.)
Weddings should be about pure love and happiness. Connecting with friends and family who love you and are there to help you commit to your partner. Feeling confident and beautiful. (Alas, there's no money in people being happy with themselves.)
Why can't we all just feel fabulous???
My 2021 New Years Resolution: to do absolutely nothing about all of the marketing to which I am exposed on a daily basis. In one ear, out the other. I am honestly SO OVER ALL OF IT. And I KNOW there must be other people like me who feel the exact same exasperation!
I've been Pinterest-ing "plus-size bridal" to see a variety of bodies represented in my feed. Having a plan for wedding dress shopping that won't trigger the sh*# out of me is going to help, too. Developing a system for avoiding triggers was key for me. I don’t talk about weight or diets with my friends because, well, we all think it’s boring. We have much more interesting things to discuss.
To anyone who feels this in their heart, and relates to what I am saying:
Babe, it's time to unfollow those Instagrams. I promise it'll help. (And finding a great therapist to help with this is a great idea, if you can access one.) I also recommend gently leading people away from the topic of weight/diets whenever you feel comfortable. Like I said, I'm sure you can find more interesting and important topics of conversation.
(Even if YOU feel 100% comfortable discussing these things, there is a statistical likelihood that someone around you is triggered. You'd be a good friend to change the topic.)
So, to my engaged couples: we are in this together. We all want to feel amazing on our wedding days. Duh! But the way to do that won't be by endangering our health. We deserve to feel confident and happy on one of the most important days of our lives.
I'd love to hear some ways in which you've rejected the wedding diet industry in the comments below!