I have recently begun following the body positivity movement more and more, and I think I’m starting to shift my thinking around my body and around trying to change the way that I look. The problem (but also awesome thing?) is that I’m getting married next summer! There is so much language out there about getting in shape before you get married and looking 'good' in a wedding dress, that I’m having trouble avoiding that trap. I’m basically in a space where I think, I should love myself no matter what I look like..... after the wedding. Do you have any advice? Is it okay for me to try to look good on my wedding day if that means losing weight? Does that make me hypocritical?
First off, congratulations! Yay for love! And a fancy new dress! And wedding cake! Not so much yay for the inescapable pressure our culture puts on brides to be as small as possible on their wedding day. Boo to that. Let's talk it over.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the 'get your body back' pressure that's put onto people post-partum and how much it pisses me off (find it here). From where I'm standing, the 'lose weight for your wedding' pressure is directly connected to that.
Think about it: getting married and having babies are both events that we've been conditioned to see as quintessential moments of womanhood. We're supposed to plan the trajectory of our lives in relation to them and prioritise them as the most important life goals. And while there's nothing wrong with doing so if that's what brings you fulfilment, I think it's very telling that both of these events get distilled into and somewhat overshadowed by how our bodies look during them. Because then it's not about us being fully present and experiencing the moment for ourselves, it's about how we look to others. Even in those most pivotal moments, we're supposed to put how other people are seeing us above all else.
And let's not get it twisted, this is exactly what the diet industry wants. By picking out the moments that are prescribed landmarks of womanhood, and saturating them with the idea that shrinking our bodies is a requirement in order to complete them 'successfully', they will have a steady cash stream forever. There is absolutely no higher reason why we believe that we have to lose weight before our wedding day. We've simply been conditioned so heavily to think that way by diet culture, that we no longer see it as optional.
But it is optional. You have 100% permission to opt out of the 'lose weight for your wedding' narrative. Especially since buying into it is likely to leave you hungry, even more stressed out, and distracted by numbers on a day that should be about making memories and celebrating love.
And making your body smaller is not something you need to do to 'look good' on your wedding day either, although it's definitely worth spending some time questioning why you believe 'good' means 'thinner'. You could also go and find some representation of brides in all shapes and sizes that prove that being content in your own skin is the most beautiful thing a bride could be. Rock N Roll Bride magazine is a good place to start!
Obviously, it's entirely your decision what you do with your own body. And choosing to diet doesn't make you a terrible human being, it makes you a human being who's surviving the best way they know how in the cultural landscape they've been given. It's really fucking difficult to resist never-ending diet culture messaging at the best of times, and even more so in the run up to events that hyper-focus on your appearance. So if dieting is what you feel like you need to do, that's your choice. But is it the body positive thing to do? Well, I think you already know the answer to that, otherwise I wouldn't be answering your question now.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that you deserve be fully present and experience that day for yourself, and you deserve to feel like royalty regardless of the number sewn into your dress.
Love & bopo,
P.S. If you like this column and want more advice like this, I wrote a whole book of it! You can find Body Positive Power here.