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No One Warned Me About the 'Best Day of My Life'

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

The first time I found out I was overweight, an immediate thought was, “How am I going to look in a wedding dress?” I wasn’t even engaged.

The doctor told me I had a BMI close to being labeled “obese.” Until then, my weight wasn’t something I had ever thought about. I was the heaviest I had ever been, but I didn’t notice. I was happy and confident in who I was.

But hearing the word “obese” instantly triggered insecurity. Being in a long-term relationship at the time, I imagined engagement would soon be coming around the corner. I pictured how I might look and feel in a range of dress silhouettes, what my photos would look like and whether people would say I looked beautiful as I walked down the aisle. I didn’t like what my imagination brought to life, so I seared that mental footage into my mind as motivation to ignite my weight loss journey.

At first, the changes were gradual. I downloaded an app to log my food intake and calorie count throughout the day. I bought an elliptical off an online marketplace and used it a few times a week. I ordered a cheap scale and began weekly weigh-ins.

But watching the number on the scale quickly drop became addictive. Each time it plateaued, I’d find new and more restrictive dieting techniques and increase my exercise intensity until I broke through and continued to see progress.

By the time my boyfriend proposed, I had already lost weight. I felt good knowing I’d had time to get an early start, and with a year and a half-long engagement, I knew I could reach my goals by the wedding. But each time I met a goal, I formed a new one, and I felt a desperation to do anything to achieve it.

Soon, my daily calorie intake was restricted, alongside an exercise routine that had me running every day on top of walking logged on my fitness app. No matter how tired or hungry I was, I met my daily step count, pushing to the brink of exhaustion. I also began intermittent fasting and weighed myself multiple times a day, keeping a close eye and log of the numbers I felt defined my worth. I avoided drinking water for fear of how it might affect the scale.

That year a half held a lot of first-time arguments with my fiancé, which I attributed to the stress of wedding planning. I now realize it was because I was starving.

I was thrilled to have lost more weight by the spring of 2020. But when my April mountain wedding was less than four weeks away, COVID-19 – an uninvited guest – pushed it back another six months. That meant six more months for progress, which I used to lose even more weight.

The wedding took place last September, but the pandemic pushed back our reception by another full year to September of 2021. I felt absolutely beautiful on my wedding day, but the delayed reception meant a lingering pressure to maintain my weight to fit into my dress and feel just as good this year. It set an expectation by comparison.

Still, I thought, I had a full year’s time, and I’d been working so hard for so long. I deserved a break.

That’s when the binging began. After weeks of eating family-sized boxes of Lucky Charms in 20 minutes and keeling over on the kitchen floor after consuming an entire loaf of bread straight from the package, I decided to seek help for my mental health for the third time in my life. With more than a decade of anxiety and depression behind me, the idea of falling back down and adding a third label – bulimia – to the intricacies of my mind was alarming.

Although it’s not regularly talked about, I am confident that I am not alone in this journey. I believe society and the Instagram-oriented culture in which we live sets expectations that are unrealistic and, to be honest, dangerous. And those realities are only exacerbated when you’re trained to believe that your wedding day is supposed to be “the happiest day of your life,” as if it’s all downhill from there.

I have friends who have had Pinterest boards of their dream wedding dresses since they were in middle school. The expectations can start young, and the verbiage we use to describe weddings – perfect, stunning, a dream come true – only enhances the pressure. Ironically, “love” is not the first word that comes to mind for me as an association with wedding.

Instead of spending this season of my life counting the RSVPs of those who love and cherish me, I spent it counting carbs, calories and the slightest fluctuations on the scale. My wedding quickly became something I wished would be over. While my eating disorder delivered on the dress-ready body I so desperately desired, it took away the joy of celebrating unity and a lifelong commitment to another person. To my person.

If you are struggling with body image surrounding your wedding, know you are not alone. I see you. I hear you. Your value is rooted so much deeper than the thoughts and pressures you are facing.

The truth of the matter is that the person who loves you enough to commit to forever did so based on the way you already are. I realize now that love will never be wavered by a number on a scale. And I’m learning to let my self-love follow suit.

Image via contributor

Originally published: January 20, 2022
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