If you’re on your own self-love journey (yay!) and want to share it with your friends so they too can nix the diet chat and self-loathing, read on…
It’s near impossible to avoid internalising the message that certain bodies (young, thin, white, able-bodied) are more worthy than others. Diet culture and the beauty standard are like the two evil step sisters ruining many of our Cinderella stories.
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who has managed to opt out of diet culture it’s still a daily battle to love yourself.
At Rock n Roll Bride, we’re proud that you, the readers, are pretty switched on when it comes to knowing that happiness isn’t a number on a scale, but we also know that being body positive is still a niche compared to the amount of people believing that their body needs changing.
How can you create a more positive group of people around you? That’s what this article is all about! Your friend might be a few steps behind you on their bopo journey or might not have even taken their first step.
Before we crack on though, it’s important to note that a) you can never force change in anyone else, you can only change yourself (and that’s powerful) and b) we can never fully know the reality of another person’s experience, so staying compassionate and non-judgmental is absolutely essential when putting out your own body positive attitude.
Here are twenty small ways which can inspire positive change in your friendship group and family.
Regardless of how well or not well you think you did at adapting to change in the last year, the fact that you’re here reading this shows me that you made it. Congratulations!
We’re still not quite be out of the woods yet, and making plans (especially big wedding ones, particularly if you’ve had them dashed hard before) can feel really scary. What if you book something, get really excited about it and then find that everything has to be cancelled or postponed again?
I hear you honey, those thoughts are real and valid. It’s a tough time to try and get a big mixed generation group together (“Auntie Doris is 98, we can’t have her in the same room as little Jimmy’s 5-year-old-potential-germ-carrying-sticky-fingers!”) But here’s the thing, change is happening to us all the time.
We may wish the hands of time to stop turning but unless you happen to have Bernard’s watch*, we all have to deal with those calendar pages whipping away. (*For those of you who were not a small child in Britain in the 90s, this is an obscure reference to a BBC programme where a boy could stop time with his watch so as to get up to adventures and mischief and still be home in time for tea.)
Life is change. We must deal with changes in our relationships, mental health, communities, finances, physical health, job… there’s not a single place in our lives that isn’t subject to change. The problem is we need a balance of familiar and new, otherwise things feel incredibly stressful (it’s called Future Shock). 2020 was too much change, too quickly and that’s when many of us struggle to cope.
This is where resilience comes in. Researchers used to think that resilience was genetic. We all know someone who manages to cope with anything, right? We all used to believe that some people were just more able to cope with change than others. However, what the research has discovered is that resilience can be taught. If you haven’t heard, it turns out that our brains are malleable and we’re able to develop new neural pathways all the time. Look up neuroplasticity, it’s very cool. This scientific breakthrough means the saying is wrong, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Hurrah!
The question is, what does best practice in coping with change look like? (No, there’s no wine involved!) If you’re wobbly about change, here are a few healthy practices for increasing your level of resilience.
Social media, what a wonderful way to keep up to date with your pals, have infinite knowledge at the click of a button and lift your spirits via hilarious cat memes. And nowadays, it’s also one of the go-to places for gathering inspiration for your big day. But while Pinterest and Instagram are a magical wonderland of pastel colourways, confetti, rainbow cakes and pom poms galore, there is also the real danger of falling to the dark side: Overwhelm, comparison, despair and a desperate need for validation from strangers.
Let’s take a look at how to stay sane around social media during wedding planning, so that your time online lights you up (like those neon signs you’ve been eyeing up) instead of weighing you down (like your partner’s mate who offered to DJ but has gone rogue on your playlist selection).
The average person in the UK spends 24 hours a week online (twice as long as ten years ago) and on average, checks their phone every 12 minutes! Humans are social animals so it’s no surprise that we’re attracted to social media and the feelings of being connected. So, what happens when we scroll? When we’re checking our social media feeds, we’re triggering the yummy reward centres of our brains. All those comments, likes and follows give us a big dose of dopamine, which makes us feel good. The problem is, we’re all getting way too attached to this pleasure system and it’s leaving us wanting more and more.
And it’s all too easy to think that everyone else is living a life that’s much more fun, colourful and put together than yours.
There are parts of our brains which are super ancient. These parts are all the time thinking about how we’re measuring up in our tribe and cannot differentiate between a photo of your Auntie Beverly (i.e. someone in your tribe) and Beyonce at the Superbowl. Think about that for a moment. This is why we have to get tech savvy around the amount of time and what type of images we’re feeding ourselves.
What can begin as a fun way to collect ideas for your wedding, can easily tail spin into the ‘compare and despair’ trap leaving you feeling like you’re not measuring up against everyone else.
Nothing is more important than your mental health, so do not fear brides-to-be, here are some handy tips to turn your online life from woe to wow.
Wanting to have a ‘Instagrammable’ or magazine-worthy wedding isn’t a bad thing, but how do we stop ourselves from getting too swept up in making our wedding ‘cool’ and forgetting what the day is really about?
I have a confession for you. If I was to plan another wedding today there’s quite a lot of things I’d do differently. Don’t get me wrong, my wedding was an amazing day and one full of personal creative touches. I was beyond thrilled when it made it onto the Rock n Roll Bride blog (who knew that I’d be writing for Kat all these years later!) but looking back, I totally lost my head to wedding inspo. I stressed myself out unnecessarily because in my heart of hearts, I wanted it to be the coolest, most Instagrammable wedding any of my guests had ever been to and here’s another confession, I dreamed it would make it onto a blog.
If I think hard about that, that’s kinda wild, right? Why should we care whether or not our guests think our wedding is ‘cool’ or social media worthy? Why did bust my bridesmaid butts in a homemade pom pom sweatshop simply to create something as good as the professional one I saw on Pinterest?
The thing is, I hold my hands up and say I got entirely swept away in the (alternative) wedding circus. Yup, I really wanted to get married and not only that, I really, really wanted a fabulous wedding.
The biggest budget I’ve ever had for a party? Er, yes please! I wanted the perfect dress that suited my ‘quirky’ personality, the perfect venue, the perfect wedding favours, the perfect entertainment all topped off with fire dancers (for real, this happened).
There really is no other day like your wedding day. It’s the ultimate day for ‘all things you’. But it’s not just that. It’s also the excuse to throw your dream party where none of your close friends and family are allowed to complain (to your face anyway).
This is both a joy and a curse because what starts out as a day all about love can turn into a monster event for 250 people with bells, whistles and a horse and carriage.
Take it from me, I wanted a Rock n Roll Bride wedding of the highest order. I wanted my wedding to be the most fun, beautiful and memorable ‘do’ that any of my guests had ever been to. I wanted the best photographer, the best venue, the best flowers and the best entertainment. I even wanted (and was lucky enough to get) a pink Cadillac to arrive in. Not to mention, I wanted a free bar so that everyone would get drunk and have a good time.
I was very lucky to have a beautiful day. But looking back at the whole experience, should I ever have to plan another wedding (for anyone), I would say…chill. out. babe. You are only in competition with yourself (regardless of what you may think) and sadly competing in the ‘Competitive Games of You’ is really a losing battle as the expectations we put on ourselves are far higher than we’d ever put on anyone else. During this unprecedented time, it’s likely that some things in your life may have to change, that likely includes your wedding plans, too.
If you’ve been dreaming about your big day since you were little, this might be a huge blow. Even if you haven’t, I know how easy it is, once you decide to get hitched, to get totally swept away in all the Instagram confetti inspiration. When we hold our wedding up as having to be ‘THE BEST DAY OF OUR LIFE’ but come on now, that’s a lot of pressure. It means that when something goes wrong (and it likely will), the impact can feel devastating. There is so much pressure to have ‘the perfect day’ that you can lose sight of the reason you wanted to get married in the first place…LOVE!
HERE ARE MY TOP TIPS FOR NAVIGATING CHANGE AND SHIFTING YOUR EXPECTATIONS:
REMEMBER THE REASON YOU WANTED TO GET MARRIED
I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me, I barely saw my husband on my big day. I actually barely spent any time with my best friends because there were so many other people that I felt I needed to talk to. Write out your ‘why’:
Why do you really want to get married? Hopefully it’s about more than a big party. Then write out what you want to get out of your wedding (maybe include your partner in these
exercises, too!) Is it that you want to declare your love, or do you mostly want to see all the people you love together? How important is it to have a photo that you absolutely love of your grandma? Do you want to have a memory of you and your loved ones boogying on the dance floor? Let these be your North Stars when things start to change. When the planning seas get choppy, look at your list and let it guide you.
THINK OF THE ONE DETAIL THAT’S GOING TO MAKE YOUR HEART SOAR (AND LOOSEN UP ON THE REST)
It’s very hard to feel breezy about things when we’re holding the rope so tight on all our plans…so this is your invitation to ease your grip a bit. The likelihood is, your budget is not going to stretch to all that your heart thinks it needs for the big day. This can feel disheartening. In fact, when things change and we don’t want them to, it can really bloody suck! So, think of one really amazing detail that’s non-negotiable i.e. you really want an arch to get married under. Great, focus on this detail and go bananas on it. Make it THE thing you can feel most proud of. Then decide that whatever happens to the other plans, it really doesn’t matter.
2020 always felt like it was going to be numerologically significant number, didn’t it? I think it’s fair to say that it’s really not disappointing us! We are living through a bizarre and surreal moment in history, one that could be straight out of a Hollywood movie. While I’ve been heartened by the rise in community spirit, and have been so grateful that technology has lessened the impact of isolation (the internet, as always, proving to be a creative hotbed for humour), I have found myself despairing at the onslaught of exercise videos, healthy cooking advice and the normalisation of fatphobic ‘jokes’ and memes.
My coaching clients have shared that it’s not just the people who they expected might share such hurtful, thoughtless ‘jokes’, but even close friends who they had thought would be more considerate and respectful. Let’s not even fall down the rabbit hole talking about poor Adele.
For a vast chunk of the population, it appears that dying a horrible death isn’t their biggest fear during COVID-19, but rather it’s putting on the ‘quarantine 15’.
While the body positivity movement has made some strong inroads into diet culture, the tendrils of the thin ideal and fear of fat run deep. There is, sadly, still a lot of work to do before the poisonous idea that gaining weight is ‘bad’ and losing weight is ‘good’ can be fully debunked.
Come on people, it’s 2020. The future is here! Aren’t we past fat jokes now? Can’t we see the hurt they cause? And moreover, can’t we see that fatphobia is a form of discrimination? And the worship of thinness, especially in the tabloids (again, poor Adele), keeps us thinking that this is what we should all be striving for.
For me, I’m also noticing a total lack of regard that ‘jokes’ about overeating, restrictive eating and/or binge eating could be incredibly triggering for people recovering from, or coping with, disordered eating or eating disorders.
So, why has there been such a rise in diet culture?
It comes down to people grasping at things they feel they can control in a moment of collective uncertainty within the construct of a social narrative that says we must all be shrinking ourselves to be happy.
Diet culture is so ingrained in our shared culture that even during a time of unprecedented crisis it still permeates into our behaviour.
We are sold the idea that our bodies are easy to control if we can only be disciplined enough. We are also sold the myth that there is one correct way to have a body via the beauty standard (which currently puts thin, white, able bodies at the top of the hierarchy).
We are unable to move, eat and live how we would choose to at the moment, and a lot of people are trying to counter this by creating content that gives them the illusion of control.
Make no mistake, ‘health’ is often diet culture dressed up in lycra. Today, we are meant to be striving for ‘health’, which is, let’s be honest, frequently equated with gaining the ‘perfect body’. In reality, true health is holistic and a far wider reaching concept than a number on the scales. You can be thin and unhealthy and fat and healthy. Health should also include our mental health and we know that diet culture is a shit show for that.
Every time ‘should’, ‘ought’ or ‘must’ pop up in your mind with regards to food – challenge them. Is it just your pesky inner critic beating you up? Tell that bitch to leave the room, because judgement has no place in the most stressful and challenging moment we’ve experienced in generations!
I know that putting on weight might feel like a disaster if you have a wedding coming up, but it really isn’t unless you let it take over in your mind.
What has brought me a lot of solace during this time is seeing lockdown as the ultimate collective act of love. We have stayed home to protect the people we love, to keep the key workers from being too overwhelmed and to keep ourselves safe. If you manage to have a wedding this year, don’t let any changes in your body get you down. Focus on the reasons you wanted to get married, focus on having your favourite people around you or being able to sneak off on your own…and focus on the love. Because, at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters.