This week (May 14th-20th) is Mental Health Awareness week in the UK so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to revisit this article. Written for Rock n Roll Bride magazine issue 18 by body positive blogger Megan Jayne Crabbe (aka @bodyposipanda), the message is something I’ve been proudly fighting for since the inception of this blog – that you do not have to lose weight for your wedding!
What colour will your flowers be?”
“Which caterer did you choose?”
“Will there be live music at the reception?”
“How much weight are you going to lose?”
23 pounds. That was the average amount that brides-to-be wanted to lose in a study conducted by Cornell University in 2008. In a study of 272 women, 70% wanted to lose weight, some by any means necessary. Out of all the pre-wedding dieters, 40% used at least one extreme weight control behaviour such as weight loss pills, skipping meals and fasting. Of women surveyed who had already bought their bridal gowns, 14% purposely bought a wedding dress one or more sizes smaller than their then-current dress size.
I wish that those numbers were surprising. But they’re not. Because as soon as that first ‘yes’ brushes past a bride-to-be’s lips with a ring full of promise gliding onto her finger, the expectation is there. Hovering over everything until the day she goes down the aisle.
Meet the Brides Who Lost 100 Pounds for their Big Day!
The Skinny Bride’s Guide to Wedding Dress Weight Loss!
What to Eat to Shed the Pounds before You Tie the Knot!
If you didn’t know any better you might think that every wedding came with a mandatory weigh-in before anyone was allowed to say ‘I do’. Didn’t shrink yourself down small enough? Sorry, try again in 6 months.
The message is inescapable – getting married in the body you already have just isn’t an option. Losing weight for your wedding seems more like an unquestionable commandment than a choice. But honestly? It is a choice. One that you have full, unrelenting permission to opt out of. Before you decide on that though, maybe we should do some questioning of the unquestionable, starting with where the ‘Every Bride Must Lose Weight for the Wedding’ commandment comes from. To do that we have to talk about two things: Money, and what it means to be a woman in our society.
We live in a world that’s obsessed with weight loss whether there’s a wedding to plan or not. Everywhere we turn we’re being fed the message that thinner is better and that changing our bodies is the ultimate key to happiness. The message comes in many forms: Adverts on TV for a special drink that expands in your stomach. Billboards miles high with ‘I lost 5lbs my first week at *insert weight loss group here*!’ plastered above a smiling face. Supermarket aisles filled with guilt-free, low-calorie, no-sugar desserts, and overheard whispers in every public place we go about pounds dropped and calories cut.
What all of these messages add up to is a culture that prizes weight loss above all else; a diet culture. And make no mistake – although it’s packaged up as happiness, beauty, and often even health, it’s rooted in cold hard cash. The diet industry in the UK is worth around £2 billion (and in the US, closer to $60 billion). That’s how much money we spend trying to shrink our bodies, and the people on the receiving end of the cash know exactly how to make us keep spending.
The diet industry was born out of the fact that advertisers needed a reliable way to make money. What better way than convincing half the population that their bodies are wrong and selling them the solution? What started over a hundred years ago as a quaint advert for ‘reducing cream’ printed in the newspaper has now become one of the most profitable industries of all time. Which is even more impressive considering they’re always selling us a product that doesn’t work (no really, if any weight loss method truly worked, none of the others would exist, and we’d all be thin by now).
One thing that the diet industry does sickeningly well is prey on women at times when they are the most susceptible to feeling insecure. There are two moments especially that this is clear as can be: Pre-wedding and post-baby. Both milestones that we’re taught to see as quintessential moments of womanhood. Both life-altering, powerful, unforgettable events. Both distilled by our culture into the number that flashes on the scale when they happen.
Which brings us to the second answer of why weight loss is such an inescapable part of getting married. Because ultimately, the driving force of diet culture, is the message that how women look is the most important thing about them. So, of course, on a day that’s seen as an expected milestone of womanhood, everything boils down to our bodies. It’s no wonder that once the flowers are arranged and the families are seated, a bride can feel more like an ornament than a person fully participating in the day.