I —like many women — have a weird relationship with my body. I know I’m on the petite side and that my body is fine. Smaller than most, in fact, but it’s taken me some time to become at peace with myself.
The short version of my story is that I hit my current height — four foot eleven on a good day — when I was 11. Child model, you say? Not so fast. I was teased for being chubby, when, hi, I was just going through puberty and getting these awesome things called breasts and hips. But the teasing struck a nerve, and I started exercising and watching what I ate, lost the puberty weight, and then, for the most part, stayed pretty small. There were times when I would obsess over what I ate and would look scary thin. There were also times when I would indulge myself — like freshman year of college – and while it would show I never looked truly heavy. After starting to work a desk job, my weight rode up to the higher side of my fluctuation and didn’t show signs of moving. I ultimately decided, sure, it would be nice to have the rock-hard abs of a Victoria’s Secret model, but, nope, not going to happen. Not unless I truly committed to a rigorous, painful diet of leaves and air with a little bit of stevia. Which, sure, I could do that — but I also had shit to get done and a life to live. So while I wasn’t ready to run naked through the hills, for the first time in my life I felt at peace with my body for what it was.
And then I got engaged.
That zen-like state suddenly came to a halt. I had to get a #bridebody. There is no other industry on earth that is simply built around telling women that, sure, you are pretty enough to get engaged, but are you hot enough to have ten thousand photos taken of you? Don’t you want to spend the next 14 months of your life morphing your body into an alien version of yourself, depriving yourself of all the joy that led you to this very moment so that you get to be a dress-size smaller for five hours — all before gorging yourself on your honeymoon?
There are bridal detoxes, wedding workouts, and so much industrialized shame around not partaking in any of that that you might as well have that nun lady from Game of Thrones walking behind you shouting “Shame! Shame!” every time you put a carb in your mouth. And while I fully understand someone using a wedding day to get motivated to embark on a health and fitness plan that’s actually more like a lifestyle change, I don’t think these detoxes/bootcamps/colonics/baths that are supposed to get rid of your excess waste/turn you into a virgin again/do some other crazy promise are targeted toward unhealthy women. I think they’re targeted towards women like me: healthy, fit women who are a little bit vulnerable and who want to look their goddamned best for the wedding day, even if it means being a little unhealthy.
And so, I tried. Convinced that I wouldn’t look like a true bride unless I dropped a dress size and could cook a pancake on my stomach, I attempted to diet. Whole 30? I tried it. Paleo? You bet. My Fitness Pal? Downloaded. And while every week would start off pretty well, I’d usually cave into something before Friday, whether it be from hunger, functioning as a human being, or simply celebrating. I wanted a glass of wine at the end of a long work day. I craved sweet potato fries when I was about to get my period. And chocolate? That looked – and yep, tasted — pretty damn good.
I don’t think these detoxes/bootcamps/colonics/baths that are supposed to get rid of your excess waste/turn you into a virgin again/do some other crazy promise are targeted toward unhealthy women
And while strict dieters might chide my lack of self control, please realize that my entire life is the picture of self control. I don’t binge-eat crap. (Except when I eat almond butter out of the jar, but there are far worse things I could be eating out of a jar.) I exercise regularly. I even go to sleep at a reasonable hour on most weekends. Basically, I enjoy myself within reason, which is something that I’ve worked to be able to do for a very long time.
Still, I told myself, “I’ll be super healthy and not fail starting on this day! ” and let the month-marks dictate when I’d really get down to business and not allow for any “cheating.” But the months flew by and I continued eating like a normal person and exercising — and the scale only dropped a few pounds. Before I knew it, my fittings were happening, and once those start you can’t really change your body much more (unless you have wads of money at your disposal to drop on last-minute changes). Someone told me that I’d lose stress weight, but that’d be even more of a nightmare — if my dress was too big, everyone would see my nipples. And I’d rather have excess weight than accidentally flash about 150 people on my wedding day.
That’s when I realized I did not have my dream bridal body. The one in the mirror — a body that I had determined was not good enough to put on a wedding dress months ago, despite being fine with it months before that — was very much what was going to be walking down the aisle. At first, I was furious with myself. How could I have had no self discipline? I was disappointed that I, unlike brides that have been and brides that would come, was not at my thinnest, my most sculpted, my most plastic.
But within that jealousy (at brides that don’t actually exist), an opportunity washed over me: the chance to — cue the music and song — become truly OK with my body as it is. Much like the body-positive adage “all you need to have a bikini body is to put a bikini on a body,” I told myself that I already had a bridal body. If I was a bride and I had a body, then I was ready for the dress. If a magic eraser suddenly took away my limbs and torso and made me an amorphous head, then maybe not so much. But I’d still have a bride head, right?
In retrospect, I wouldn’t have taken back having celebratory drinks. I wouldn’t have taken back nice meals out. And I wouldn’t have taken back the fact that I didn’t obsess over every little thing that went into my mouth, or mask myself from society to become a gym rat. No, I’m not as thin as I was in high school, but guess what? I’m not in high school! It would be weird (and, honestly, sad) if I was still stuck in that time capsule.
Now that I have my photos to obsess over, there’s one thing I noticed (OK, one of many things): my body looks different depending on what photo it is — sort of like how those #fitspo posts on Instagram tell you it’s all about ~angles~. It’s true! And weirdly, I did lose a few stress pounds in the week before my wedding after all my fittings. (Hopefully no one saw my nipples.) But those few pounds didn’t change anything, because I still remember how I felt that day: goddamned gorgeous, without a single worry about what my body looked like. Instead, I was floating around on a high, marrying the man I love, surrounded by people I care about.
What bothers me, though, is that I know I’m not the only woman who has undergone this emotional torment before her wedding day. While I doubt my husband would balk if one day I came home with a body comparable to a Victoria’s Secret model, I’m pretty sure he knows that the woman he married is four-foot-eleven and gets food babies. He knows that, one day, she’ll (hopefully) pop out a real baby and likely not be able to get back to her pre-baby weight. And he knows that, one day even later, she’ll be wrinkly, old, and unable to use the restroom without help. The kicker, though, is that he knew all of these things before we said vows — he knew it on the day he got down on one knee. So why did I put myself — and why do other women put themselves — through so much mental torture?
At the end of the day, I know I might be fighting a losing battle here with my plea for women to cease putting pressure on themselves — it’s really hard for women to tune out the noise, especially during wedding planning. And I get it: you want to look great. Once you get that expensive dress, you don’t want to gain weight so that you can’t zip it. All of that makes sense. But there shouldn’t be an emphasis on skinny or, really, becoming someone you’re not. Rather, it should be on being the healthiest version of yourself. Because, yes, I work out and some days think about what it’d be like to be a little more toned. But I’m so much happier on the days I decide not to punish my body for not being like somebody else’s. And ultimately, the reason it was so hard to get my “bride body” is because — spoiler alert — it doesn’t exist. It’s simply an idea that you, as you are, aren’t enough. Which, in my very honest opinion, is bullshit. I am enough, my body was enough on my wedding day, it’s enough today, and it will always be enough. Even when I need help getting to the bathroom someday.
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