Psychology Today: Fighting the Unhealthy Cultural Push for Wedding Weight Loss

Posted by
Collage made from google images search results.
Collage made from google images search results.

I've written in the past about the pressure put on so many brides to lose weight for their weddings (and how I suggest people handle it). I love that Psychology Today is now tackling this sticky subject with their article, Fighting the Unhealthy Cultural Push for Wedding Weight Loss:

For heterosexual couples, wedding preparations are often “all about the bride.” From every angle, wedding media is largely marketed towards women, and while these outlets certainly offer helpful ideas and suggestions for the wedding stuff (e.g., flowers, caterers, and music), they also offer potentially harmful ideas and suggestions about brides' bodies.

Diets, cleanses, bridal boot camps, wedding-dress workouts…losing weight for a wedding can become an obsession, a distraction, and a source for stress during an already stressful time.

It’s estimated that 33% of women are advised by someone important in their lives (e.g., parents, friends, even fiancés) to lose weight before walking down the aisle (Prichard & Tiggemann, 2009), with heavier women hearing these comments more often.

Why do women, who are no more weight-conscious than the average person, turn into brides-to-be who are so motivated to lose weight for their weddings and what can we do to help them?

The article starts with obvious suggestions like Don't suggest a bride lose weight for her wedding, but gets into some more nuanced ideas as well, including Talk about the wedding as more than pictures. It's a great question to consider: how has wedding photography increased the pressure on brides to look “perfect” at their weddings? I also like this article because it doesn't demonize those who want to lose weight — it simply asks how people can manage the pressure applied to lose weight during wedding planning.

You can read the full article here.

Comments on Psychology Today: Fighting the Unhealthy Cultural Push for Wedding Weight Loss

  1. So many people have been giving me specific instructions to tell my wedding photographer, regarding highlighting their bodies in a “positive” way (i.e., so they look thin or their nose looks small or their arms looked toned, etc) that it feels constricting to me, as the bride, because I don’t want to have to worry about that all day AND I’m sure it will feel doubly constricting to my photographer for obvious reasons.

    I’m trying to figure out how to balance my own insecurities with enjoying my day (it’s not like I’m immune to worrying about my “good side” and my round belly – working on it though!), but also how to concurrently respect other people’s wishes/insecurities without explicitly telling my photographer that he’s not allowed to ever take a picture of my future MIL in profile (very specific, very difficult request) since I feel like if my photographer is on eggshells, that will reflect in the pictures. I don’t *want* perfectly posed photos of my friends and family looking like magazine models; I want real pictures of them enjoying our wedding. But I also don’t want those with insecurities to hate the pictures and themselves in it because I ignored their requests — regardless of how befuddling and, frankly, silly I think they are. It’s tough stuff to reconcile and just shows how icky and pervasive beauty standards have become.

  2. I have to say I love my curves, but I dont like how full my face is. So I will be trying to loose a small amount of weight to slim my face down. I wont be going all crazy and starving myself, and if I dont end up loosing then I dont. But I do think it is a shame, that is the first thing mentioned. And of course, I heard it from a few people when I told them I was getting married.

  3. Amusingly, while I have made it quite clear that I have no plans to lose weight for my wedding, all my female family members have been dropping hints that *they* will be dieting to fit into *their* dresses. It’s bizarre. I keep telling them they don’t have to, and indeed I don’t want them to, but my words are falling on deaf ears.

      • Thanks! I remember reading that post a while ago, but couldn’t remember whether it was on the Tribe or on the main blog. (So… many… posts… *grin*)

    • That was actually something that drove me crazy. I had a bridesmaid who went crazy applying acid treatments to her skin (!!!!) so she would “look good in pictures.” It’s been six months and I’m still not really over that.

    • I actually had my best friend of 20+ years ask me “if I’m pregnant in time for your wedding, do you still want me in it?” It just blew my mind. I was upset and hurt; Like somehow just because I’m getting married I flipped into a total superficial, shallow bitch that would toss a friend out for putting on a little second baby weight.

      • Last year, while I was in my friends wedding, her aunt asked me how far along I was, and I certainly wasnt pregnant, so it could be worse….

    • If they’re saying they have to diet to fit into their dresses, I’d tell them they should have just bought dresses that fit them in the first place!

  4. Amusing that I read this right after coming home from the gym, where I just kicked my own butt as part of my wedding preparations…but not because I’m trying to lose weight for my wedding. Rather, this is how I deal with stress and all of the crazy emotions that go along with wedding planning. My fiancé is the only one who seems to get that though. Most people just smile and nod like “yeah, OK, sure, that’s what you SAY, but you’ll be so much happier when you’ve lost a few pound.” Nope, I’ll be happy if we can continue to wedding plan without fighting, which is happening because I’m not stressed. My fiancé knows what I look like and he loves me anyway. I’m doing this for my own health (mental and physical, because let’s be real, it will be better for me if I’m healthier. Not skinny. Healthier.) and not the pictures.

    • Oh, yes, that is super annoying. I also already went to the gym regularly as part of my mental, physical, and emotional health and I’ve also gotten the little smirks and things like, “Wow, someone’s getting ready for their BIG day!!” every. single. time. I get back from the gym. And when I say, “Oh, it helps with stress, plus it was always part of my routine” it’s just more of the, “Mhmm, suuuuuure” attitude and winky-winks.

      Drives me bonkers.

  5. I have lost a significant amount weight in the last year, but the motivation was not my wedding — it was my health. The wedding just gave me a deadline 🙂 And after doing yoga for a year, I’ve built some pretty sweet muscles that I can’t wait to show off. For me it’s all about feeling healthy and strong. And my honey’s not complaining!

    • Me too! I started losing weight in July of last year, got engaged in September and people still comment on how I’m getting in shape for the wedding. I lost the bulk of that before I was even engaged so… no. I’m losing weight because I had gained a lot due to quitting smoking and being in a happy relationship that made me want to go out and eat lots of food and realized that if said happy relationship was going to stick around and I was going to continue not smoking I had to do something about that. I did not spend hundreds of hours working out so I could look nice for a couple hours. Talk about poor ROI…

  6. “Why do women, who are no more weight-conscious than the average person, turn into brides-to-be who are so motivated to lose weight for their weddings and what can we do to help them?”

    Maybe this is off-topic, but I think this is a TERRIBLE question on the part of Psychology Today. First of all, the use of “the average person” right after “women” implies that only men are people and women are women. Second of all, women are WAY more weight-conscious than men, so this is a dumb question.

    What they are probably trying to ask is, “Why do women who may not normally be weight conscious become motivated to lose weight for their weddings?”

    It’s still kind of a dumb question though because there aren’t very many women who aren’t already weight-conscious to some degree. Having a high pressure social event just amplifies already existing anxiety about the subject, which drives people to try to do something about it in order to reduce said anxiety.

    If we want to have a discussion about women and weight consciousness, we need to have a discussion about beauty norms, sexism, and the ways that we police women’s bodies and looks. I think just addressing “wedding weight loss” is short-sighted and doesn’t get at the actual root of the problem, which is that women are judged on their looks first and their accomplishments second, where the reverse is true for men.

    • “The average person” in psychological terms is genderless. It’s supposed to be, figuratively, if you grabbed someone off the street, regardless of whom, what would their inclinations most likely look like. So, in the mythical race, gender, sex, color, ethnic, religion blind world of mass statistics, the average person typically believes X or Y about A or B.

      I see where you’re coming from with your critique, but in considering the source, it’s typical psychological parlance for “an amorphous blob person who, in reality, probably doesn’t exist”.

      • It’s the commas that make the sentence ambiguous. They set off “who are no more weight-conscious than the average person” as a contrast to “women” as if all women are the same, and as if these strange creatures called women are not, in fact, people. It’s terrible phrasing. Were I the editor, I would have rephrased it this way: “Why are some women who are normally no more weight-conscious than the average person . . .”

        /English teacher

        • Yeah, the editor in me also twigged out at “women, who are no more weight-conscious than the average person…” While “average person” might have a specific meaning in psychology, the editors of an article for general consumption — even one in Psychology Today — can’t assume their readers will be aware of that restricted usage. And counterposing “women” with “the average person” implies that the “average person” must necessarily be defined as “people who are not women.”

          Bad editing on that part, definitely.

    • Yes, agreed. Using women after average people is a really heavy implication that women aren’t people. But also, seriously the question is why are women like this? I DON’T KNOW, are there still constant and varied forms of media and discussion about how terrible women’s bodies are and how they should definitely be improved in a million ways? Yes? That might be the answer.

  7. PT has been pretty shitty in the past, with articles about how “feminism is the anti-viagra”, all geared around misunderstandings of evolutionary psychology. I’m glad they’re tackling the subject from this angle, rather than trying to add to the pressure, but it still seems to skirt the issue of sexism.

  8. Weight loss pressure is horrible any time but the article is right that weddings bring out the worst of it. Just like it seems to bring out the worst of behaviors over everything.

    A friend I was a bridesmaid for a couple years ago handled the pressure on her to drop weight really well. When she got her dress, it was an old sample and fit off the rack (miracle for a plus size bride I say). So when people would ask if she was loosing weight she could gladly say no because she didn’t want to pay to have the dress taken in. And you know what, she looked beautiful on her wedding day.

  9. I didn’t plan on losing any weight for my wedding. I had planned on eating healthier the week of so my sensitive stomach wouldn’t freak out for any reason. What ended up happening was a few months ago (my wedding is in less than two weeks) I got a nasty stomach flu. I got the normal 24-hr bug but then I completely lost my appetite and anything I ate made me look and feel like I ate my body weight at a buffet. A doctor told me I was reacting to yeast in things after my flu and put me on a diet of veggies and water and yogurt until my appetite came back. I ended up losing about a pound a day from when I was sick. People joke to me that at least I got a good “result” but it was absolute misery.

    It’s funny because my seamstress told me I’m not allowed to gain or lose any weight because my dress ended up fitting perfectly and they aren’t doing a final fitting.

Read more comments

Comments are closed.