One month from today, I will be walking down the aisle and getting married. Since becoming engaged a year and a half ago, I have bought my wedding dress, designed invitations, mailed out invitations, selected table linens, picked a venue, chosen the father-daughter song, met with our officiant, and a myriad other things that I cannot remember at this point in time because my brain is too overwhelmed.
One thing I have not done in preparation for the wedding?
Gone on a diet.
There is an entire cottage industry of cutesy rhyming phrases that encourages women to dedicate their entire engagement towards losing weight:
Sweating for the wedding
Slimming down for the gown
Slaying for my wedding day
Gotta squat before I tie the knot
White dress workout
As if there isn’t enough shit to deal with while planning a wedding.
It’s really gross when you think about it: a woman (because, make no mistake, men are not being fed these messages) has found a person who wants to spend the rest of his/her/zir life with this woman and she’s still being told she’s not good enough.
Saying no to diet culture is still a radical notion and one that makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. Especially when it’s a fat woman saying no to diet culture. I’m supposed to want to be thin. I’m supposed to feel the need to starve myself in order to slim down. I am supposed to hate myself and I am supposed to be unhappy and I am supposed to be single forever and never, ever find love because I am fat.
I’m not really good at doing what I’m “supposed” to do.
I’m a fat woman. I was a fat girlfriend and then a fat fiancee and soon I’ll be a fat bride and then a fat wife. My husband-to-be knew exactly what he was getting when he first started dating me and then when he proposed. Again, I can’t and don’t hide the fact that I am fat.
Also, hi. We live together. He’s seen me naked sooooooo……
Hanging in my closet (in a garment bag, because despite being non-traditional, I don’t want him seeing it before the Big Day) is a gorgeous dress of lace and tulle that makes me feel like a goddamn Disney fucking princess. As someone with a complicated relationship with her body, buying the dress was a whole big thing and I bought it much earlier than I needed to, mostly as a means of combating my anxiety: I knew the longer I waited, the worse my anxiety about the process would be.
Here’s the thing, though: diet culture permeates our society so heavily, it is impossible to turn off the voice in my head that tells me I need to start dieting if I want to fit into that dress one month from today. Frequently I catch myself slipping back into old patterns of counting calories and wanting to weigh and measure food. I stop eating, even if I’m still hungry, because I “shouldn’t” keep eating. Because if I keep eating, I’ll consume more calories and if I consume more calories, I’ll gain weight and if I gain weight, I won’t fit into that dress.
EVEN THOUGH I know what I weighed nine months ago when I bought the dress and what I weigh now. EVEN THOUGH I know that dieting is bad for my mental health and enables my anxiety, depression, and especially my O.C.D.
This is how deep diet culture burrows into our bones. It never really goes away. It merely hibernates, waiting for the worst possible moment to stick its head up out of the sand. And, at this moment in time, diet culture has decided the appropriate time to resurface is in the middle of wedding planning, an already anxiety-inducing time.
Which is really at the heart of what is happening.
Because whatever I’m feeling right now, it’s not about the dress. It’s not about my weight or the number on the scale. This is about me feeling overwhelmed by work, and the wedding, and Memoir #2. This is about me wanting desperately to find one, single thing I can use as a fix point. It’s like in yoga class during balancing poses where the teacher instructs you to find a spot on a wall or the floor to center you.
I needed something to center me and my instinct was to turn to the illusion of control that diet culture provided. And it really is just an illusion. It didn’t actually provide me with any relief; if anything, twenty years of yo-yo dieting created more problems than it solved.
Even armed with that information, it’s not enough to silence the diet culture bullshit happening in my head. My brain is at war with itself: one side advocating for food restriction, the other shouting for the other side to just shut the fuck up. To be perfectly honest, this is kind of what it’s like inside my brain all the time because, again, diet culture never really goes away. It just feels more amplified at this moment in time and I still have a month to go.
And, of course, this is all happening on top of wedding planning and normal work stress and freelance deadlines and finishing up Memoir #2, which is due to my editor three months from today.
So, if you happen to run into me between now and September 1st and mention the wedding, don’t be surprised if this is the response you get: