On Body Weight and Weddings

(Why I was so happy to be a ‘Plus Size’ bride.)

I’m a woman who wears a size 16 / 18, which puts me firmly into what is described as the ‘plus sized’ bracket, although I’m fairly sure it’s decidedly average. (Seriously, I’m tall and thick and I’ve got plenty of bits that wobble, but I’m pretty sure I’m an average sized person. The High Street refers to 14+ as above average size, which is bollocks). I’m also, incidentally, a woman who got married this summer.

I have been, plenty of times in my life, what the media and fashion industry would have us call ‘average sized’, and definitely even ‘skinny’. Bereavement, escaping from an abusive relationship, work anxiety, heartbreak, mental ill-health – going through all these things over the years has made me thinner, and of course, miserable. My body is this size and shape right now because I am happy and active and busy and hungry, so I eat well. This, in turn, is due to the support of brilliant friends and family and my (now) husband.

Perhaps this is naivety on my part (on the whole I make as much effort as possible to avoid the more insidious messages of the diet and fashion industry for my own wellbeing) but when I started sharing with people that I was going to be getting married, I was completely bowled over by how far-reaching and certain and presumptuous the idea was that, as a woman, I would of course be going on a diet ahead of my ‘big day’. What I mean is, it was such a powerful and clear message, and one that was coming from all directions (films, TV, wedding magazines and websites, some friends and associates, bridal advertising) that I genuinely didn’t even question it at first. My thought process was something like: I probably should make an effort to lose some weight if I’m going to be wearing a dress, and people will be looking at me all day.

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Seriously.

But here is the thing: dieting, for me, is dangerous. It is a narrow, winding mountain path, which I can drive down easily, but it is almost impossible for me find anywhere to turn around, or reverse back up it. Diets are a way of controlling the food I eat, which gives me a false sense of control over the rest of my life. So I control it some more, and then some more, in smaller and smaller portions. Going on a diet whilst doing something as stressful as planning a wedding? Bad idea.

Moreover, there is a bigger picture to be considered here. I suppose it’s great that I have reached a stage in my life where I am able to recognise those dangerous patterns in my own eating habits, and try to avoid them. But then real question is, why is it such an accepted narrative that we should try lose weight for our wedding day? I know for certain that some people will read this and think ‘but it’s your wedding, don’t you want to look your best?’ I know some people will think that, because sometimes I thought that aometimes, too.

It is so difficult, in the face of messages coming from every angle of the media (and our own selves, sometimes), to remember and accept the idea that our bodies are ever changing, evolving vessels for us to live in, and that we are allowed to feel good about them whatever shape, size or state they happen to be right now. My body is this shape, at this stage in my life, because I don’t spend much time thinking about what it looks like. I eat food and drink beer and go dancing and camping and hiking with my friends and my family and my husband, I work hard and write poems, and I don’t have much time to obsess about every line and shade of my silhouette. This is simply the way my body is right now, nothing could be less complicated.

There will, no doubt, be hard or sad or stressful times to come in the future, and maybe this will cause my weight to fluctuate again. Maybe my weight will fluctuate just because I’m a 21st century woman, and my work and life and lifestyle changes from year to year. The point is, I don’t want it to matter. I don’t want it to mean anything. I don’t want any value to be placed on the shape that we are, or are not. And for me, making this idea into a reality meant starting with my own wedding day.

Last thing. Obvious but important – most of the diet, fashion and beauty industry is basically negging on us, like a desperate night club sleaze. And it’s working. They have got us believing that our entirely average, healthy bodies are ‘plus-sized’, ie ‘above average’ size, to keep us feeling like outsiders; meek and subservient, and buying into their narrow concept of what beauty can be (both idealistically and financially).

So I didn’t going a wedding diet. I was what wedding magazines would have us believe is a ‘plus-sized’ bride. Right now – the dimples on my arms, and the squashy bits of flesh by my armpits, that catch the light in photos? The rolls of my belly which hang over the waistband of my leggings? The second chin that pops out to say hello when I’m laughing? They are all bi-products of me being happy. They are me looking my best. And I hope the photographs of my wedding day to document that happiness.

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Me and my husband and all my chins having a great time gettin’ hitched at glamourous Doncaster Registry Office. (Photo by Duncan Stokes.)

 

Note – of course there are exceptions to the insidious wedding industry media that I’m complaining about! It’s not all bad. I loved apracticalwedding.com and thefeministbride.com