LOVE/HATE: The Thin For a Day Edition

Jeez, I’m all about the hate lately, and today’s edition of LOVE/HATE just adds fuel to the fire. Have you ever heard of “Brideorexia?” I just came across it for the first time. It’s just a made up word for the bad habits some brides-to-be adopt because they think they aren’t good enough, skinny enough, or attractive enough to get married. Ugh!

real brides

A study in Appetite found that 70% of engaged women were actively attempting to lose 20 or more pounds before their weddings. More than 20% of those women admitted to using extreme methods, like starvation diets, fasting, liquid diets, smoking, binging and purging, or laxatives (ewwww).

We conducted a descriptive cross-sectional survey to examine wedding-specific body weight ideals and weight management behaviors among women preparing for their wedding. The average bride-to-be was overweight according to clinical body mass index standards and idealized a significantly lower wedding weight.

I’m not anti-fitness or even anti-weightloss, but I’m talking about a movement and an industry built on insecurities. Just look at these titles…there’s The Wedding Workout, Bridal Bootcamp, Buff Brides, Diet and Fitness for Brides, and Body Sculpting for Brides. No, health is good, but what burns me is this idea that you have to be a size two to look hot (or glamorous or elegant or pretty) in your wedding gown. That your new spouse won’t think you’re a beautiful bride if you don’t drop a few before the wedding. That you don’t deserve to wear that dress unless you wear yourself down by dieting and over-exercising before the big day.

If that sounds like you, I just have one question for you. Are you nuts? Look at the solidly average-sized bride in the Stephanie James Couture dress above. You simply cannot tell me she, with all her curves and lady lumps and normal human bodily characteristics, is not hot stuff. I’d wager that if she was two or five or ten sizes bigger, she’d still be hot stuff!

What it comes down to in my mind is this: If you want to lose some weight in a safe and sane way, wonderful, but in the name of all that’s nuptial, don’t feel you have to lose weight to be a beautiful bride. And if you don’t want to lose any weight because you’re smokin’ hot as you are, that’s wonderful, too.

As always, I’m going to ask “What say you?” though I suspect most of you will agree with me.

19 Responses to “LOVE/HATE: The Thin For a Day Edition”

  1. Kai Jones says:

    I was brideorexic before my first wedding, but not by choice. I worked for my future mother in law (an office job) and she made my life a living hell for the months before the wedding, both at work and away. She’d call me names in front of my co-workers, snap at me all day long, etc. I threw up a lot out of stress and anxiety and lost 20 pounds in 3 months. Couldn’t sleep, either.

    I’ve long since divorced that husband and remarried. I didn’t even *meet* my current MiL until 3 days before the wedding; she’s a lovely person, kind and generous. And she lives 3,000 miles away, so even if we didn’t get along, it wouldn’t matter much.

  2. Erin says:

    I’m not defending this practice at all, but I think that brideorexia has at least two other motivators, as well. For starters, some people need a reason or tangible goal to attach to their weight loss plan – what better than their own wedding? Second, we’re supposed to be most beautiful on this day – society has taught us that “most beautiful” is synonymous with “thin,” and so we only want our thinnest self forever immortalized in those wedding photos.

    That said, I don’t think this practice is healthy, and I certainly hope I won’t feel this pressure when my wedding day draws near, but I do think that it’s important to show empathy and understanding for the (external and internal) pressures that many brides face.

  3. Melissa B. says:

    That “study” in Appetite sounds completely bogus to me. I’d buy that 70% of brides want to be more fit or get toned or lose weight or some combination of those, but there’s no way that 70% of brides want to lose 20 or more pounds! That’s a lot of weight!

  4. Kai Jones: No one should have to go through that, ever. Your ex-MIL sounds like an unhappy person with her own deep-seated issues. I went through something similar with a step-parent so I definitely sympathize in a big way. I’m glad you eventually got a better one!

    Erin: I totally agree — the pressure put on brides (and women in general) inspire many otherwise smart, confident, awesome people to make misguided decisions. My hope is that someday brides everywhere will realize they’re awesome the way they are…I’m not holding out much hope, though :-/

    Melissa B.: I can’t say one way or the other, though I’d love it if weight-conscious brides-to-be or former brides would weigh in (so to speak) in the comments to tell us how much they want(ed) to lose before the wedding.

  5. I admit I am eating a lot more veggies and a lot less krap before the wedding, but hey, I needed to do this anyway. Not only do I truly need to be healthier, but I want to be healthier so I can be around longer to have more adventures with the future hub. 🙂

    This is not to say I’ll ever be (or want to be) a size 2, and frankly I think I’m more attractive as a bigger girl. I mean, the pic of the bride in this post? I want to be her when I grow up!

  6. Linda says:

    I refused to lose weight for my wedding. I’m a plus size gal and I wanted to be the same person on my wedding day. I did meet a lot of other brides during my planning that were trying to lose weight or get toned for their wedding. I know brides that refused to do dress shopping til they lost a few pounds.
    I think there is an expectation that brides will want to be thin, clear faced, having a great hair day on their wedding day. And there’s people that feel that they have to do that.

  7. MissPinkKate says:

    I think a lot of it has to do with how generally unflattering wedding dresses are. The one you pictured looks bad on that woman (and the woman is lovely)- shiny fabrics, rolls in all the wrong places, armpit boob hanging out- and it’s not even strapless, which are the worst of all. We build up these dresses, and then we feel we have to work to fit into them. It really should be the other way around- designers should be designing for the bodies we have.

  8. Casablancabride says:

    I am one of those brides who planned on losing 20+ pounds before the wedding. I started my weight loss plan in January of 2007, weighing in at 194 lbs on my 5’7 frame and by the time the wedding rolled around in September of 2007, I was down to 161 lbs. It wasn’t my “goal” of 155, but it was close enough.

    That said, I absolutely did not become ‘brideorexic’. I started out by eating whatever I wanted, but tracking every calorie on sparkpeople.com and when I reached 1,400 calories in a day, I stopped – regardless of it was dinner time, or mid-afernoon. After a few days of adjusting to the lowered calorie count (read: going hungry-ish because I wasted my dinner calories on mindless munching), I realized spending 320 of my precious calories on a bag of Cheetos (even if they are puffy, corny cheese coated deliciousness) was ridiculous. So, I slowly started eating lots of whole grains, and lots and lots of fruit and vegetables. I cut out everything that had the words “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” and I stuck to it. As for exercise, I rode a stationary bike on a medium to hard level for 25 minutes, 5 days a week.

    I’ve been married for over a year now, and I’m still fighting to get down to that 155 number, but I’m pretty proud of myself. After all the years of saying I was going to lose weight but not doing anything about it, my wedding was the catalyst that made me wake up and realize that my weight was un-healthy and I was un-happy about the way I looked. For me, it wasn’t about being the “skinny bride” (lord knows with DDs on top there’s no way I’ll EVER be a size 2), it was about looking my best and more importantly, feeling my best. The wedding was just the fire-starter, if you will.

  9. Casablancabride says:

    MissPinkKate – I disagree with your judgement about the bride pictured. I think she looks happy, confident, and sexy in her gown. Is it the most slimming gown she could have chosen? Probably not, but if she doesn’t care about a little armpit boob (a hazard of the trade for those of us who are big on top…it’s virtually unavoidable), why should you?

  10. Melissa B. says:

    OK, I read the Appetite study and it actually seems pretty solid — they acknowledge that their sample is likely skewed because they had a low response rate and women who are trying to lose significant weight are much more likely to respond to a weight-loss survey.

    Personally I have no interest in losing weight for my wedding, but I will admit that I’m trying to maintain my current weight. If I outgrow the dress I just ordered, I can’t afford another one! 🙂

  11. daisyj says:

    I kind of want to disagree just to be contrary (yeah, I’m like that), but I won’t, of course. Developing an eating disorder because the imaginary bridal princess you see in your fantasy is thin is silliness of the worst kind. I will say, though, I’m less concerned about the 70% and their weight-loss goals. In my experience, whenever there is some sort of planned event coming up (trip, reunion, summer) I always seem to set my goals accordingly, even if I never come close to reaching them. As long as it’s just something that keeps you on track and you don’t get sucked into some sort of miserable self-hate spiral, I don’t think having a target is such a terrible thing.

  12. Toni says:

    The funny thing is that my wedding is the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’ve always been slender, but a combination of going from an active college student to a stationary office worker, plus cooking lots of large meals for my new “household” ended up in both me and my then fiance gaining about 20 pounds each. We realized the error of our ways after the wedding, and have since gotten back down to our fighting weight. I love my wedding photos, but I’m always a bit sad that such a well-documented occasion shows me not at my “regular” size.

  13. Twistie says:

    Nobody has mentioned so far one of the most pernicious and pervasive reasons that people bring up again and again as their reason for wanting to lose weight before the wedding: the pictures.

    For some reason, wedding photography has slowly become less and less about recording a moment in time, and more and more about preserving an image that has little to do with reality…at least in the minds of all too many of the subjects. Over and over again I see and hear brides talking about how they need to lose weight so they’ll look good in the pictures.

    The crazy thing about that is that any photographer worth his/her salt will know how to use angles and lighting to get the most flattering pictures of everyone involved, just as any designer/dressmaker/tailor truly worthy of the title will understand that it is the job of the dress to fit, flatter, and show off the wearer rather than the other way around.

    The myth of the One Perfect Day intersects here with the cultural admonitions that any scrap of fat is going to cause you to DIIIIIIEEEE horribly causing otherwise perfectly rational women to go completely off their rockers and enter into scarily unhealthy behaviors in hopes of being able to point to those photos one day and prove to everyone that they really were completely socially acceptable for at least this one occasion.

    Choosing to eat reasonably from a wide variety of nutritious foods is great. Finding an activity that exercises your body and makes you feel good about yourself is fabulous. If that makes you lose weight, that’s cool. If it doesn’t, that’s also cool. If it makes you gain weight, then that’s cool, too. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, move your body, and then let the chips (chocolate or poker, as you prefer) fall where they may. Get a gown that fits you, choose a photographer who knows how to use his/her equipment to show you off to your best (which isn’t necessarily your thinnest) advantage. Let go of perfect and find a way to appreciate who and what you are now, complete with the waistline you turn out to have.

    Take care of yourself, inside and out. That never includes purging.

    Besides, the best looking brides I’ve seen have been so not because they fit some arbitrary ideal of beauty on the outside, but because of the happy glow from within. It’s hard to get that glow while following behaviors straight out of the eating disorders handbook.

  14. Summer says:

    I am planning on losing well over 20 lbs before my wedding next October, try three times that much weight. I’m not doing it for my guests, for my parents, for my photographers, or for my future husband. I’m doing it because I’ve let myself become unhealthy. I’ve been battling the weight battle for too long, and this wedding just gives me a reason to be motivated about it.

    Yes, I’m one of those brides who isn’t trying on dresses until January because I’m hoping to be down 15-20 lbs by then (which is a completely healthy rate of loss). I don’t want to try on a dress and have to imagine what it will look like 20 lbs from now, or have to try on dresses I really don’t like because they will flatter my figure. I am also going about it in a completely healthy way. I’m not starving myself, I’m not taking dies pills, I’m just eating right and exercising. I don’t have a complex, I don’t think I’m every going to be a size 2, nor do I want to. I just want to be healthy, be able to walk around for a week on my honeymoon and be ok, be able to look at myself in my wedding dress and be proud of my accomplishments.

    I think you guys are looking at it all wrong. It isn’t society or the covers of magazines that motivate most of us to lose weight, I really believe that. I think it is a desire to be healthy, and a wedding is a commitment to someone that you will take care of them for the rest of your life, and you can not take care of them if you don’t take care of yourself.

    My fiance is also on this weight loss journey with me, and he is doing it for himself also, and because we want to be healthy for each other. Sure, ‘skinny’ photographs will be great, but they aren’t the reason we’re doing it.

  15. De says:

    I started my weight loss journey in March of last year – it had nothing to do with a wedding, and everything to do with me not only being at my highest weight ever at age 29, but also being sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time due to obesity (so says the dreaded BMI Chart).

    IF I get engaged before I finish losing the weight (which is a possibility – I have 100 lbs total to lose: it’s going to take a while!*), I won’t change what I’m doing. This journey and goal was set before any other and I am going to honor the commitment no matter what else is going on.

    *For the record, I have so far lost 31 of those lbs, in about 5 months. I just broke my plateau, and I’m very happy about it. 😀

  16. TeleriB says:

    Bodies are funny.

    Long before I got engaged, I decided it was time to “get healthy.” I consulted with a nutritionist and started working out with a personal trainer. I did the whole grains, low fat, more fruits and veggies; I did my prescribed mix of aerobics, weight training and stretching.

    And I enjoyed it. I really loved working out; I loved lifting more weight and being stronger, and going farther and harder on the elliptical.

    I never lost a single pound. I did lose some fat and did gain some muscle, but I’ve got lots of fat. I was rather expecting some of it to, you know, go away, because I was Eating Right and Exercising. It works for some people, and more power to them. But not apparently for me, not for weight loss. For health? Sure. But health != weight.

    With a new, longer commute and a baby, I can’t do the gym anymore; I’m trying to figure out how to fit some kind of fitness routine back into my life. Chances are great I’ll contract cancer around age 50 and I want to be in fighting trim for it. But long before my wedding, I lost any expectation that I could really sculpt or change my body shape. I bought a plus-sized halter top gown with princess seams that flattered and fit me as I actually am.

  17. Dianasaur says:

    Wow, go De and Casablancabride! It sounds like you both were really wise and healthy in your choices. I’ve seen brides passing out because of not eating to fit in their dresses.

    I had the opposite problem. When I designed and my mom made my dress I weighed 10 pounds more than on my wedding day. I was nice and curvy and womanly and felt gorgeous in my dress. But I got African mono 4 months before the wedding and was so sick I lost those 10 pounds and my dress which had a lace up back bunched up funny over my butt because of the extra fabric.

    Fortunately my mom is an amazing seamstress and was able to fix it and I still looked fantastic in it. I’ve also gained the weight back and am thankful for that. My husband’s glad I have those curves back!

  18. I totally agree that their is way too much pressure out there to “get skinny” for the wedding day. Unfortunately, I think a lot of times the real pressure comes from the ones who are closest to us – best friends, moms, coworkers. What is the deal??? It is silly to take on some extreme weight loss regimen just because you are getting married. Your fiancee obviously asked to marry him but he loves you just the way you are! Planning a wedding is stressful enough without having to constantly count calories. While I am all for eating well and working out to live a healthy life I think it is ridiculous to think that in order to be beautiful on your wedding day you have to be thin.

  19. La BellaDonna says:

    @TeleriB: If, God forbid, you do find yourself fighting cancer at around 50, that may very well BE the reason your body is hanging onto the weight that frustrates you! If cancer is a possibility in your genetic future, that weight may be programmed to be there to keep you alive while you fight the cancer. In this instance, it’s one down/one up, in terms of your body trying to stay alive. Skinny people don’t fight cancer as well – especially if there’s chemo involved and weight loss due to that, due to nausea from other treatments, etc.

    It sounds as if you’ve been doing the right things all along: eating healthy, working out to become fit and strong. In your case, that extra poundage is money in the bank for coming hard times.