I want to talk about body image. The pressure to look “perfect” in your dress on your big day. Bridal boot camps! Shredding for the wedding! Your 28-day pre-wedding detox diet! Finally drop those last 5/10/20 pounds for your big day! Blah blah blah.
I’m going to get real with you for a sec. I have more than my fair share of body image issues. I struggled with disordered eating as a teen because I hated the way my body looked compared to the images I saw in magazines and on TV. Over the years I wasted time, money and endless mental energy on my pursuit of the socially acceptable thin body. By my mid-20s, I recognized it as the oppressive crap it really was and I began to reject it. Therapy helped. Yoga helped. Getting really angry at the system helped. Then, I began body-building several years ago as a means of re-evaluating my relationship with exercise, as I still really enjoyed the positive impact on my sleep and mental health. I began focusing on getting stronger, not skinnier, and I began to look at eating as a way of nourishing my body rather than constantly trying to trick it into burning fat for fuel. This was my recovery – for many others it can look different.
However, when I got engaged, things changed. I couldn’t help the nagging feeling that my dress would sit nicer on my hips and upper arms if I lost some fat there. I started upping the cardio and cutting the carbs. I started staring critically at myself in the mirror again. I got irritable and started snapping at my partner, sort of taking away from the romance of it all. Then, I had a conversation that not only alerted me to what was happening to me (that I was beginning to relapse), but also, how much of a money-suck I was about to buy into.
I’d been attending a bootcamp class for about a year. I really enjoyed the fast pace, it got my heart pounding, released anxiety and got me thisclose to being able to do an unassisted pull up. Then, one night, I accidentally drop the f-word while I was chatting with the instructor – “fiancé”. I’m pretty sure the moment he realized I was getting married, I transformed from a person into one of those brown sacks with a giant dollar sign on it that cartoon robbers steal from banks. He started pushing personal training on me, dropping comments about “getting ready for the big day.” In the moment, I briefly considered it – he was a really good guy, and I liked the idea. Then the comments got more personal – how much weight do you want to lose? First off, I felt massively stereotyped. Hey man, I thought, you assume that because I’m female and getting married I automatically hate my body and want to lose weight? Further, your plan is to exploit that in order to make bank? He insisted the only way I was going to see “drastic changes” in my body was to come at least twice a week, with the price tag of approximately $480 a month. Sorry, dude, I didn’t (and never said that I did) want to make any drastic changes to my body. I walked out feeling uncomfortable as hell, and by the time I got home, I was pissed.
Ladies, the pressure to look perfect on your big day is real, prevalent and damn expensive. Being female in the first place is expensive, mind you; being a bride increases it 20-fold. Aside from the makeup, hair, dress, jewelry, shoes, you’ve got to have to have “the body” too. Not to mention the boot camp-style classes that will allegedly give you the perfect body also result in super calloused hands and feet, plus shin bruises from box-jumps and dead-lifts gone awry. Add the cost of manicures, pedicures, and spray-on body concealer. Remember, you want to look fit, but you don’t want to in any way advertise you actually worked hard to get there!
Needless to say, it’s a losing game. If you are trying to plan this “perfect event,” managing a million expectations and budgeting while at the same time are spending hours in the gym and being hangry, well, that sounds like a terrible recipe for disaster. I’m not doing it. I will keep exercising because I love how it makes me feel, but I might be going someplace else.