Why we need to stop pressuring people to diet before the wedding day
Lately, my social media has filled up with two things: Engagement announcements and then a few days later, the telltale announcement that a pre-wedding diet and transformation is about to happen. The following is often a menagerie of low-carb recipe ideas, gym screenshots and the dreaded “before” picture that’s supposed to be a testament to how far you’ve come on the road to being wedding ready. It’s almost as if an engagement ring automatically comes with a diet book and a yearly membership to the gym. It’s seemingly inevitable that people will start asking you about your weight loss goals before the big day.
Working out and dieting is, of course, an individual’s choice and if they truly want to do it it’s something to be supported and encouraged. But for some reason, it seems that once someone gets engaged, there is a sudden spotlight of expectation to slim down in order to fit that perfect wedding ensemble—particularly for women and feminine-presenting people.
For many, the weight-loss pressure can be problematic and harmful for those who have struggled to accept and embrace their bodies. It can be especially difficult for those who are recovering from eating disorders and self-image issues. The pressure to diet sends a message that you weren’t acceptable the way you were before and that if you don’t lose weight you’re going to look back at the photos of your wide smile and your wide arms and regret it. Dieting culture has preyed on milestone moments for years: Proms, birthdays, you name it and there is probably a commercial out there encouraging you to buy the latest brand of diet food. Just the comments from well-meaning family members alone can send one into a tailspin of self-conscious second-guessing.
Like many, I’ve struggled with body image for a majority of my life and it has taken me a while to grow somewhat comfortable in my body. I am encouraged every day by the people who thrive and live unashamed in their bodies, those who say the human body isn’t one size fits all and that a fat body isn’t a problem to be solved. After years of dietary suggestions and the well-intended bribery to lose weight, my family has stopped commenting on my body.
I thought I was free, until a few weeks after I became engaged. I had skipped eating at home and brought a quick frozen meal to my family’s to eat before we went out for the day. Someone commented on how healthy the dinner looked followed by an almost offhand comment, “Oh, good for you. It’ll be good to lose a few pounds before the wedding.” Just like that, I was right back to my teen years staring at the carbs and meat on my plate as if they had betrayed me.
This mindset followed me when I went searching for a wedding dress. I found a beautiful and surprisingly fitted trumpet dress that shocked everyone in the room, including me. It was far outside of my comfort zone and yet every other dress I tried on paled in comparison. Everyone complimented me on it, I was flying on cloud 9, and then someone innocently added, “Imagine how that’s going to look on you if you lose just a few pounds.” Despite my best efforts, I found myself wondering what a few months of crash dieting could for my waistline and if, in fact, a slimmer version of me could pull off the dress better.
Every day we are bombarded with images, messages and suggestions that thinner is always better. It’s a default that the body positivity and fat acceptance movement is constantly trying to fight. However, it wasn’t until the moment in the wedding dress store that I realized just how much the wedding industry is focused on thinner people.
Every marrier should feel comfortable in their own body, especially on their wedding day. If that means hitting the gym or getting strong enough to lift their partner during the first dance then that’s what they should do. But preying on people’s insecurities and bringing up weight loss to someone you know is happy in their body can have devastating effects. I think the takeaway here is (as with most things) unless expressly asked for an opinion, keep it to yourself.
Macey Lavoie is a Boston-based writer. She has been featured in Ravishly, HelloGiggles, Bustle and more. She is owned by two cats and works at a place where people take their robots for walks. When she is not jotting down writing ideas in her notebook, she is eating sushi and catching up on her never-ending TBR pile.