Recently engaged, I embarked on wedding planning duties, including shopping for my wedding dress. For anyone who has gone through this before, I’m sure you can relate. It’s fun and stressful at the same time.
After trying on what seemed like a hundred dresses, I started thinking about the unconscious and unnecessary pressure we may put on ourselves and how that pressure can negatively affect our body image. For even the most body-positive person, being pinned into sample dresses, measured with a measuring tape, and told what alterations are needed for your dream dress to look good--all in the presence of a stranger--can negatively impact your body image.
A study that surveyed brides-to-be found that over 50% wanted to lose weight before their wedding, and 40% intended to diet. Additionally, more than 10% were told by others that they needed to lose weight. Another study reported that brides who lost weight before their wedding used one or more weight loss methods, including at least one or more extreme dieting behaviors. Extreme dieting may involve low-caloric, highly restrictive behaviors that eliminate essential food groups containing vital nutrients.
Being aware of how vulnerable we can be, how do we take action to avoid falling into the trap of body image negativity?
Exercise body positivity.
Focusing on what you love about yourself is extremely powerful--more powerful than focusing on what you hate. If you find yourself gazing at yourself too long in the mirror, tell yourself to snap out of it.
Take a moment and recreate for yourself an online dating profile. We typically write the best about ourselves in dating profiles--the things things we want other people to see about us. Include things like:
5 adjectives that best describe you
Your favorite pastimes
Topics you want to learn more about
Your top accomplishments
Your talents (like being able to stand on your tip-toes for 10 minutes straight!)
Strut your amazing qualities and humbly accept compliments. You have a lot to offer, even if you don’t quite believe it yourself.
Which brings me to my next point -
Surround yourself with a positive vibe squad. Favorite humans only.
No one is better at cheering you on and making you feel good than your loved ones. It’s possible for friends and family to have honest opinions without being hurtful. Bring 1 to 3 friends along to dress appointments to help choose a dress you love rather than what you think everyone else will like. On the flip side, if you know you’d rather go alone to these appointments, go ahead! You can chat with your squad later about the dresses you liked. Showing them pictures of you in these sample dresses can be just as helpful.
For even the most body-positive person, being pinned into sample dresses, measured with a measuring tape, and told what alterations are needed for your dream dress to look good--all in the presence of a stranger--can negatively impact your body image.
Reflect on your thoughts. Dump the harmful ones.
Sometimes we have thoughts that come out of left field. Taking a moment to think about those thoughts can be eye-opening. What caused you to have this particular thought? Was it because of something you read or in reaction to a negative interaction you had with something or someone? If you find yourself in a negative place, reflecting on the why and how you got where you are may be the answer out.
Think sustainability. Eating is a life-long relationship.
Shortcuts rarely lead to success, so why do you think crash diets can? It’s great to want to look and feel healthier on your wedding day, but look beyond that one day. I think being healthy for your future family is a better long-term goal. So if nutrition is one of your wedding priorities, focus on eating a wholesome diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fat, and protein. Don’t forget some sweet treats and savory snacks too. If you want to be more physically active, choose something you love to do. Exercising should bring smiles, not grunts.