Thursday, 15 December 2016

On Weddings and Body Image

Hi, everyone! There's nothing like an upcoming wedding to amplify any feelings of body dissatisfaction. A terribly unfortunate truth, but a serious reality for so many brides and grooms to be. Whether it be pressures from friends and family (and not always malicious; sometimes in the form of benign (not so benign) comments like "what will you be doing to get in shape before the big day?"), unrealistic portrayals in bridal or health magazines, or a ramping up of existing insecurities, the expectations to lose weight and be "the best version of yourself" on your wedding day is omnipresent. 

So in a burst of honesty and an attempt to shatter these expectations, I'll drop a truth bomb: I weighed 200 pounds on my wedding day. Being completely transparent, I've totally been procrastinating on writing this post, because I knew I wanted to share this fact, but the lingering internalized shame and embarrassment around that number still makes it an incredibly intimidating thing to disclose. But in an amazing personal breakthrough, I have another reality to share: I weighed 200 lbs on my wedding day and I felt beautiful

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

I have struggled with my weight since childhood, yo-yoing here and there, but with a consistent theme that losing weight is not easy for me. I'd envy those who would give up cream in their coffee and suddenly lose 10 pounds, while I was there working out several times per week and feeling hungry half the time to the tune of a one pound drop. To be honest, that still drives me crazy. 

Throughout my teens and early twenties, my being overweight was a core part of my identity. I was convinced it was the first thing that people noticed about me, and that skewed belief prevented me from dating, from being confident at work and school, and, to be honest, from fully being able to like myself. My self-worth was so entangled with the number on the scale or the size tag in my dress.  I was never one to crash diet  (for which my body likely thanks me), as I knew that wasn't a healthy option and, more selfishly, that I feel so sick when I'm hungry that it was never worth it for me. I knew that severely restricting calories was so unsafe, but I did still hold resentment for those who were "brave" enough or had bodies less sensitive than mine that would allow them to do so. 

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

I am in no way saying that I'm now free of body insecurity, but I can say that over the past several years I have experienced a meaningful shift. Perhaps it was when I realized that the reason I hadn't been dating was my shyness and self-loathing, rather than my weight. I hate to admit my confidence was boosted by the reaction of boyfriends, but it was such an eye-opening experience to finally delve into the world of dating (without waiting to lose 50 pounds first) and to never be criticized for my body, not once. It was through these experiences that my perception started to shift. My thinking became less black and white. Would some people's first impression of me be "she's pretty for a fat girl"? Sure. Would I be too heavy for some people to want to date me? Certainly. But who cares? Those aren't my people. Those aren't all people. And those perceptions have nothing to do with my self-worth.

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

I'm pretty sure the shift was gradual, but about 5-6 years ago I started to move through the world regarding myself as a person. Not a fat person. My confidence, though still far from perfect (who's is?) began to build and for the first time, I was being approached and asked out by men spontaneously. Again, I hate to use attractiveness to men as any sort of benchmark, but perhaps it's one many of us can relate to. But the most surprising thing? I was at my very heaviest when this started to happen. The idea that weight and attractiveness were fully correlated (at least for myself; how we are able to be gentler with others) was totally shattered. I think I was being approached because I was carrying myself differently. As someone who recognized themselves at dateable, likeable. And I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't a bit satisfying to tell these potential suitors that I already had a boyfriend ;)

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

So all of this isn't to say that fat shaming and sizeism are things of the past. They are unfortunately alive and well. Discrimination in these areas happens to people daily, with often devastating consequences.The message instead, I suppose, is that once someone learns to love and accept themself despite the numbers on the scale or size of their clothing, not only will you feel so much lighter (pardon the pun) day to day, but good things will start coming your way because you know believe you deserve them. At least that was my experience. 

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

  So  back to the topic of my wedding. When I got engaged last March, one of the first tasks on my radar was getting in better shape. Because I'd already come to a more solid place of acceptance with my body, I had no grand illusions of losing 50 lbs or getting totally ripped. But I did have loose goals of whittling down my waist and toning my arms. That societal pressure to look amazing (i.e., thin and toned) in my wedding dress did not go unnoticed by me. Because I'd developed a deep love of yoga over the past couple of years, I definitely did have goals of practicing daily, developing lean muscle in my arms, and shaping the tiniest waistline I could. 

As the wedding approached, however, this did not come to pass. In fact, in the month leading up to the wedding, I did not work out once. Do I regret this? Yes, but mainly because a regular yoga practice might have helped me better manage pre-wedding stress and perhaps have been a sign that I was devoting more time to self-care during those months. 

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

 So  as I look through my wedding photos, do I have thoughts of regret regarding my shape and size? I'd be lying if I said no. In a most human way, I definitely have passing thoughts of "ah, you can really see my belly there" and "I wish my arms didn't look so wobbly in this one". But the predominant thoughts when I click through my wedding pictures? I look damn pretty. I love the way my dress hugged my curves. And even more importantly, I look so happy. And I was! And isn't that the most important thing as a bride?

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

If  someone would have asked me ten years ago (or even a year ago) how I would feel about being 200 lbs on my wedding day, I would have responded with a variety of negative emotions, ranging from disappointed to horrified. It feels like such an accomplishment that that is not how I felt the day of my wedding. That there is nothing inherently horrifying about a number, aside from the unfortunate stigma attached to it. 

And by accepting my body on my wedding day, it does not mean that I don't have ongoing goals of improving my fitness (i.e., not fearing that a medic will be needed when I go for a jog), building strength, achieving a yoga handstand, or hey, even shedding a few pounds. What it does mean is that I allowed myself the basic right to feel beautiful on my wedding day. And I also believe that any health-related goals must be driven by self-love to successful. When we try to change our bodies because of self-loathing, it is so hard to treat our bodies well when we're in that state of mind. 

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

I'm sure this topic will breed varying reactions, and that's to be expected. I'm sure there are some of you thinking (no matter how much you like or love me or how accepting you are of others) "geez, I would not be ok with weighing that much on  my wedding day, or ever. Not acceptable". I get you, I've been there. And there may be some others of you thinking "ok, I could love my body at 200 pounds, but what about at the 300 I currently weigh?" or "at 200 pounds you don't fully understand or experience the plight of fat shaming". All of those opinions have aspects of truth to them, and I respect them. 

I do not claim to speak for all overweight people, overweight women, or those who have been at the 200 lb mark. But I hope that my story might resonate with you. Or help you to understand me better. Or to let you off the hook if you don't want to crash diet or hate your body leading up to your wedding or any other special occasion when the pressure is on. You can just be you and you are beautiful.

And with that, I leave you with a few more of my favourite wedding photos that really capture the spirit of the day and the smile of a happy bride. 

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani
  
Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani


Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani


Photo Credit: Photography by Shivani

Also, I would be remiss not to hugely thank our wedding photographer for the day, Shivani. She really brought out our smiles and personality so well! All photos in this post are credited to Photography by Shivani

Have a wonderful weekend and thank you so much for stopping by! 

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24 comments:

  1. i LOVE this post. i know we've talked about this topic before an its really awesome that you wrote about it. and you are so right, the people that are going to see you as 'a fat girl' aren't you kinda people.
    hugs hugs :)

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  2. SO INSPIRING YOU ARE!! And you look BEAUTIFUL. So so beautiful. You've inspired me-I avoid pics because I'm not happy about my weight. I'm going to try and embrace the moment and just have fun!

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  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I know this post must have been extremely hard to write, but it's beautifully written and exactly what I need at this time in my life. It really captures the struggles and the thoughts I have about my own body - knowing that I'm beautiful and worthy of love, but also still being somewhat disappointed with myself on bad days.

    The last photo is also my favourite - silly couples make my heart all warm and fuzzy!

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  4. I love this! Seriously, Jen, can you just write a book about yourself, with a chapter for me on daily affirmations? Pleeeease???? Gorgeous, smart, kind, and all things good, you are!

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  5. So much love in every photo, so much kindness, thoughtfulness and brilliance in every word, so much beauty surrounding you, and the world around you. My favourite photo is the two of you in front of the tree. And you look spectacular in that dress! Keep being you, you are fabulous!

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  6. First of all, congratulations again on your wedding, Jennifer and secondly, I love you for speaking up and sharing your perspectives on the pressure of being toned and slim. People need to realize that we all come in different sizes and no one should be criticized and shamed to be someone they are not. Lately I have been seeing the rise of skinny shaming too and it's not alright either way.

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

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  7. You're so right that the most noticeable thing in all of your beautiful wedding photos is how happy you look. You look absolutely radiant, gorgeous, and full of joy. This is such a lovely post. It's so important to love ourselves, whoever we are and however we look. Your happiness and confidence are so evident in these photos and that's what I wish for everyone!

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  8. I read this last night and didn't get a chance to respond from my phone. This was wonderful to read Jen. I'm so glad you posted it because it's important to say. You are gorgeous no matter what size you are and numbers do not define us (no matter how much they may make us feel certain ways). Love you. <3

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  9. First of all: You look beautiful, and your smile is the first thing I notice when looking at your pictures. And secondly, than you for speaking up on that topic. I married twice, and went through great efforts to fit into my dream dress for the first one when I probably should have listened more to myself and my feelings and not get married at all. On my second wedding day I was heavily pregnant, and even though I fully embrace the wonder that is my daughter, I still look back and secretly wish I would have been "in shape". It is sad that I feel that way. Being fit and of a healthy weight still is important to me, especially now after having my second child, but giving myself the acceptance and love I deserve should be more important.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

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  10. Jen, you looked absolutely beautiful on your wedding day! It sounds like you went through quite a journey to get to this place of being confident in yourself and your body, but I definitely think it was worth it! So happy for you, I feel like you have a very healthy outlook on body image. Hope you get tons of great feedback on this post, it was really lovely to read.

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  11. This is the best post I've read in a long time
    x

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  12. Congrats on your wedding! You looked beautiful, and very happy! Thank you for sharing this. Have a wonderful holidays!

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  13. You looked absolutely beautiful on your wedding day & your dress really compliments your figure. The most striking thing is how happy & in love you look! xx

    Beautylymin| LuxuryFragranceBundleGiveaway

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  14. What a wonderful post. And kudos to you for writing this post. I can imagine letting stuff like this on the internet can feel a bit uncomfortable. You looked so beautiful on your wedding day.

    www.themakeupaficionado.com
    https://www.instagram.com/themakeupaficionado17/
    https://au.pinterest.com/bernadette_95/

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  15. Jennifer!!! Congratulations! You look so so beautiful - wow! You always looks smashing on your FOTDs but the glow of a happy, confident, self-assured bride is incomparable! I love that you spoke about this because I absolutely am horrified at the lengths women go through to look their "best" aka "thinnest" for their wedding. I dont shame women who want to lose weight because if they feel their best and most confident in that - Go ahead! I just feel that the lengths some of those I know go through are too much - starving themselves, some even undergoing too many slimming procedures, etc and - and it shouldnt be the norm! Anyway, congratulations again and I wish for a blissful married life ahead! you and your husband are adorable

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  16. What a great post Jen. You looked amazing, beautiful and blissfully happy and you're hubby is looking at you like he's the luckiest man alive which is so lovely!!

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  17. You are gorgeous Jen! I loved reading this and your happiness truly shines through. I'm so happy for you!

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  18. You are incredible Jen - what a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing this - I am sure I'm not the only who finds it to be a powerful post ;-) Your dress is absolutely stunning <3

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  19. This post really hit home for me. I have been struggling with my weight lately, having reached the 200 mark as well. I have been using it as an excuse not to post pics or be in pics as well. You made me feel that it is ok to not be the 'ideal' and hopefully have the confidence to get in front of the camera!

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  20. Congrats and you look simply beautiful. loved this post.
    http://tipsoye.com/

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  21. This is such a brave thing to do to be so vulnerable and share such raw things. Thank you for doing this! I too felt that pressure when I was getting married and I beat myself up later when I saw the photos. It's so weird how much this type of things gets into your head and nobody else even actually cares lol

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  22. This post is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing! I think there is too much pressure on women to fit this certain image - especially when it comes to their wedding. You looked stunning and everyone's body should be considered beautiful, always!

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  23. I love this post and even got teary eyed at some points. Confidence conquers all and Jen you look absolutely radiant.

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All of your lovely comments make my day! Thanks for taking the time to share your musings, ideas, and opinions. Feel free to leave a link to your blog- I'd be happy to check it out :)