It’s wedding and engagement season. And while you don’t have to be in the wedding planning world to be inundated with the message that your body isn’t good enough, there is perhaps no other time when your size and body shape becomes everyone else’s business, whether you like it or not, than the months leading up to your wedding. When I got engaged and started the process of wedding planning, one of the first thoughts I had was about weight loss. All you have to do is go on Pinterest or other popular wedding planning websites to find all kinds of wedding weight loss tips and tricks and fad diets and exercise routines. From comments about how “You’ve got x amount of time to get rid of x” to well meaning accolades of how beautiful you’ll look on your wedding day “if you just lose a few pounds,” there does not seem to be any room for looking beautiful the way you are. After my first dress fitting, I completely bought into all of it, and worked as hard as I could to achieve “perfection.” But I eventually gave up, because what I was doing was not sustainable, and I felt like a failure.
However, at some point in the months between then and my wedding, I decided to focus on trying to accept my body as it was and had been for years, and to stop fighting it and insulting it for the first time. I found that once I stopped treating my body like an enemy, I felt much more comfortable in my skin. But most importantly, I was setting a precedent for my marriage of genuineness. Marriage is a commitment to love and stay with each other “for better or for worse,” and if I believed my husband couldn’t love me at my normal, or if I gave him the false impression that my contrived “best” was normal, I knew I would be setting myself up for a marriage full of insecurity and constant wondering if changes in my body would mean changes in my husband’s love and commitment to me.
I know that as a woman I am not alone in being constantly conscious of my body and attributing my worth and desirability as a person to my pant size or how I look in a certain outfit. And it is heartbreaking that this pressure is magnified on what should be one of the best and most special days of a woman’s life. The constant striving for perfection and being smaller never leads to contentment or satisfaction. That road only leads to dissatisfaction and magnification of other imperfections in your own eyes. I know that if I had spent the months leading up to my wedding dieting and exercising obsessively, I would have been so much more aware of what I was not able to accomplish than what I did. And for the rest of my life, once my body inevitably returned to its natural size, I would compare myself to the way I looked on my wedding day, and assume my husband did as well.
But instead, I decided to do what seemed radical at the time and just let my body be. I was still surrounded with messages saying that I was wrong and I would regret it, but I determined to keep fighting these messages instead of myself. And on my wedding day, I felt comfortable with myself. Sure, my dress was a little snug and some of the buttons kept undoing themselves when I hugged my friends and family, but the focus wasn’t on these little issues. I was marrying my best friend and was surrounded with the people I loved and who loved me. When I look at my wedding pictures, I don’t see a body that is more desirable than the one I have now. Instead, I see me: happy and excited and comfortable in my own skin.
I know that it isn’t at all simple or easy to make this change in thinking or seeing yourself. But the first step is changing your mindset from seeing your body as the enemy to seeing it as a partner. Your body can do amazing things. It keeps you alive, without you ever having to tell it to do that. Your body is your helper; with it you accomplish things and do activities that make you happy. Like you, it is more than just parts to be criticized and picked apart; it is a beautiful and well-designed tool and partner. When you choose to stop fighting your body and start working together and getting to know it like a friend, you may discover that it is a much better ally than enemy.
Laura Lanier is an LPC Intern supervised by Christy Graham, LPC S. You can schedule an appointment with her right away by going to the pull down menu and clicking on Schedule with Laura L. You can also call her at 940-222-8703 ext 705. She prefers to work with adolescents and adults.