Wedding weight loss: fighting pressure to lose weight for your wedding

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How to deal pressure to lose weight for your wedding

I am not a skinny girl, and I have been trying to justify loving myself as I am, feeling beautiful in the body I have and trying to accept my body no matter what size. My boyfriend (who wants to propose this year) loves me the way I am, and I love him the way he is. But I have serious anxieties about my mother scrutinizing my weight all through the engagement process… “No wedding dresses are going to look attractive on you if you don't lose a good XX pounds!” “MOM!” “Well, it's true.”

If my mother criticizes me and doesn't stop, how do I deal with it? How do I tell her to back off without pissing her off or giving her a brush-off answer? -Sarah

Hoo boy.

We all know that weight loss is a hot button issue in women's publications, and it's one we normally avoid on Offbeat Bride. We avoid it not because it isn't important, but because it's incredibly pervasive and talked about everywhere — and I don't think it should be tied to wedding planning.

As we said in the Code of Conduct of the old Offbeat Bride Tribe forum:

No weight-loss/negative body image talk

This is a touchy subject, and without a doubt our most controversial rule: The Tribe is not the place to talk about weight loss, or negative body image. Too many wedding communities are overtaken by unhealthy, triggering discussions, and our aim on the Tribe is to promote positive attitudes of self-acceptance.

We are about celebrating all body shapes, sizes, and abilities, and encourage our members to find ways not to snark or talk negatively about their own bodies. We discourage insulting anyone's body — and includes your own!

I am all for making the decision to lose weight — but strongly believe the decision should NOT have anything to do with A) wedding planning, or B) pressure from others, even family members who love you.

That said, I do have two potential communication strategies for how you could handle this situation with your mother.

The quick boundary with wedding weight loss pressure

The next time the issue comes up, simply tell your mother “It means so much to me that you care so much about me. That said, I hope you can respect that I've put a lot of thought into this issue, and honor the fact that I've made a different decision than you might. Please trust my ability to make choices about my body that work best for me. I don't want to talk about this any more.”

If she presses the issue, make the line very clear: “Again, I really appreciate that this means so much to you, but I've told you where I stand on the issue. If you bring it up again, I'm going to have to end this conversation.”

If she pushes it again, try this: reach out and hold her hand in yours (if that feels right), look into her eyes and say, “I love you, and I'm done talking about this.” Then get up, and walk the fuck away.

Lather, rinse, and repeat as the issue comes up. I know it feels harsh (…walk away?) but really all you're doing is articulating that A) you love her, B) you hear her, C) you're clear about where you stand on the issue, and willing to draw very clear boundaries around talking about it.

This glorious Sun Goddess dress is by KMKDesigns

The longer discussion about wedding weight loss

Ok, so maybe you want to use this as an opportunity to have a longer discussion about the issue. That's awesome, if you've got the energy for it. (I'm not sure I would, if I were in the thick of wedding planning.)

Here are the conversation tools I'd use:

  • First, recognize that your mother is coming from a place of concern — however misguided it may be. She wants you to look pretty and feel good and be healthy — all things you likely want too (even if you disagree with how to get there). Frame all conversations around recognizing this common ground.
  • Pick a few of your favorite self-identified plus-size brides from our site to show your mother. Show her clear examples of how beautiful and happy brides of ALL sizes look on their wedding days.
  • Talk about the feelings that come up for you when she talks about weight loss and your wedding. Does it make you feel like she doesn't support you? Does it bring up feelings of fear around her being disappointed in you? Avoid blame (“You make me feel sad!”), but articulate the emotions that come up after these conversations.
  • Share the process you've gone through to get to the place of body positivity. Tell her about what makes you feel confident and good in your body. Give her clear ideas about how she could contribute to those feelings.
  • Read together — print out a few posts from our body image archive, and talk over what you relate to there, and what you disagree with. I also highly recommend the Fat Bride Survival Guide.

I'd love to hear from brides who've dealt with this issue: how do you deal with pressure from family? I want to be very, VERY clear here: I'm not interested in hearing about whether anyone should or should not lose weight for their wedding. That's a personal decision, and not one that people on the internet have any place telling you how to make.

What I want to hear from y'all about is this: if someone has made the decision NOT to lose weight, how can they constructively deal with pressure from friends, families, or vendors?

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Comments on Wedding weight loss: fighting pressure to lose weight for your wedding

  1. Size never matters- it is how you live that matters. Are you happy? Are you healthy as you can be? Do you make others happy? Then who cares about anything more?!?

    There are dresses and designs out there for any body type and shape, find one that looks good on you in the way that makes you FEEL great about yourself and that is all you need!

    My husband and I did lose weight for ours, but not because of the wedding– we both went on a health spree and have mostly maintained it– our choice and the timing happened to line up (engaged for over a year and make a New Year’s goal simply to get healthy and fit). It was surprising how many calories juice was! Small changes for us and a daily walk together (also to relieve wedding planning stress) was all we changed. The week before I did get so nervous I barely ate…

    I have friends who did not lose any for their wedding- they fell in love with each other as is. Simple as that. In fact, I believe one of my friends’s words to her mother were “I do not need to change myself for him to love me, so why change myself when we declare our love to the world?”

    • “I do not need to change myself for him to love me, so why change myself when we declare our love to the world?” – this is so true! And something definitely worth bearing in mind.

    • Rock on, I totally agree with you! The decision to lose or not to lose weight should really come from YOU, not from any outside forces. Do it to feel good for YOU, not to fit some unrealistic magazine aesthetic.

      I truly relate to this and could have written this letter word for word…literally. I was always very waifish, about a size petite 0 (as in, less than a size 0, even). Like most women, once I entered my 30s my metabolism slowed and I started gaining weight. Now I tend to fluctuate between a size 2 and size 4.

      According to my mother I’m now a fat ugly mess. I was unbelievably hurt when I overheard my mother and my aunt talking about me at my rehearsal dinner, saying how fat I’ve gotten and how much it pains my mother to look at me. Mind you, this was while I was wearing a size 2 dress! (and it was a beautiful one too, by Carmen Marc Valvo–and my husband loved the way I looked in it)

      Well my husband would have none of that talk. He gently but firmly told them that he thinks I’m beautiful–and that if anything, I’m thin! That shut them up really quickly.

      I tell this story to show how some people will just NEVER think you’re thin enough, or will always have unrealistic expectations–where even a size 2 is “plus” size. There’s no point in trying to always meet other people’s expectations because some are just impossible to meet. Sorry I couldn’t defy nature and be a size sub-0 forever!

      I will say that on the wedding day, I never looked or felt more beautiful. I seriously don’t care if my mother and/or aunt thought I looked fat. My husband beamed as I came down the aisle and one of my friends told me later that his jaw DROPPED when he first saw me! When he took my hands into his, and I saw that look in his eyes…I no longer cared about my dress size or any other such stupid, irrelevant things. All I cared about was that I finally met my soulmate, and was about to embark on an amazing life journey with him.

      He has given me really good advice to not let that sort of talk affect me so much. No, none of us can change other people or what their expectations are. However, we can change how we respond to that. I have firmly made up my mind to just let that chatter go in one ear and out the other. No one else thinks I’m fat and everyone else thought I looked absolutely beautiful on the wedding day…and no, I can’t believe everyone else is all wrong or crazy and my mother is the only one who’s right. 🙂

      We’re all adults here and dealing with the pressure starts within us…and with the decision to seek internal validation, not external validation.

    • Wow, this is a really wonderful resource and SO relevant to Sarah’s question!

      I have a way that I insist upon being treated. If you can’t live up to that then you just don’t get to be in my life and it doesn’t matter if you’re the mailman or my father. I give people clear information, and several chances, but I don’t keep anybody in my life who consistently fails to treat to me with the level of respect that I require.

      Highly recommended reading:

        • Seriously! I’m going to keep this in mind when I have to deal with difficult people everywhere!

      • This IS fantastic! I have always found that remembering this excellent point helps me deal with the judgments of others:

        “As with so many situations where people lash out at you, remember that this is about their issues and has nothing to do with you.”

        In any situation where anyone says anything to you about your body, it’s ALWAYS about them and their issues and NOT you!

        • It’s ridiculous how true this is. Honestly, I feel like (especially in weight-obsessed situations) it could be helpful to turn the conversation around from your mom being all “you are chunking up a bit, be careful about eating that ice cream!” to “Mom, why are you so insecure about my body? Are you or were you insecure in yours? I’m sorry you feel such passion over this, I hope I can help you learn to love all body types, and especially your own body.” Definitely have a friend whose mom needs to hear that.

  2. I’m not plus size, but I’m not skinny either. I was hit very hard while wedding planning to become much, much thinner.

    Honestly, so long as you are healthy and taking care of yourself (a good idea in general) I don’t see how I matters one bit what size you are. I’m no size six but I stay active and eat a balanced diet and my doctor says I’m doing fine. Not everyone has to look like a supermodel.

  3. I was a plus size bride just last October (and featured on OBB cuz you’re awesome!). My family never pressured me about my weight, but one of my best friends did. She continued to tell me I didn’t look good in the dresses I was picking out and made me feel very self conscious about everything. In my case, I ended up not talking to her about my wedding anymore in order to avoid the comments.

    With family members, that’s obviously a bit more difficult. Personally, I would just say that I feel comfortable and know I look beautiful and that’s what matters. Who cares what everyone else thinks? You and your future hubby are what matter most. As long as he thinks you’re gorgeous, and you’re feeling awesome, that’s all that matters. If you keep telling yourself that, you can get through it.

  4. 1st of all, congrads on the impending engagement.

    2nd of all, and I will quote my aunt on this…

    “You are a strong, independent, and beautiful young woman. No matter what you do in your life, hold your head high. Some people, though well meaning, will try to bring you down. But don’t you dare let them for a moment. You. Are. Beautiful.”

    On the end note, do some independent dress research. Learn what looks good on you, and what doesn’t. Thankfully, prom dresses are being marked down and homecoming dresses are coming out, so find a store, grab a few and try them on. Learn what accentuates your body best before you walk into any store. And who knows, you might find the perfect style for your body shape.

    Now, I’m going to hop on my bike and off my high horse. 🙂

    • I just spend like, 20 mins trying to find your comment! (I read it before, lost it, finally found it again..) You’re aunt is a freakin superstar!! This is the best quote ever and I’m going to steal it, memorize it, and bloody well use it 🙂

  5. I’m getting married in 2 months and have faced what Sarah is going through. My mother was the one to plant the seed, and then my head took over and I considered crash dieting. However, the more involved I got with wedding planning, the less I concerned myself with what people think about me. I KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT ME, and that’s what matters.

    My mother is still very involved in my wedding, but she has also taken a back seat without much interference from me. I think our turning point was when she saw me eating a slice of chocolate cake at a family gathering. She asked, “I thought you were trying to ‘cut back’ on things like that?” I retorted, “…Don’t remember saying that. My dress fits just fine, and this is my treat for today!” Nom omnom… I’m guessing she realized since I wasn’t stressing over my weight, she shouldn’t, either.

    I also don’t think any bride should have to put up with criticism from vendors. Weddings are a HUGE business, so there are a lot of options for us plus-sized brides (yay!). In saying that, always always always choose a bridal shop that carries sample dresses in plus sizes; if they carry 2’s and 10’s only, what fair shot do you have of trying on a gown that looks and FEELS right on you? When a consultant tried to squeeze me in to a size 14 dress, I laughed and told her to find me something similar in my size, 24. (I was nice about it, of course!) Don’t be afraid to ask. People are there to make money and cater to YOU– you are the bride, of course!

    What matters most is knowing who you are and why your hubby-to-be is in love with you. Maybe it’s your brains and your butt… but whatever it may be, he put a ring on your finger and made the biggest decision of his life to be with you until his dying day. (*swoon*)
    Thinking of your wedding in a bigger picture like that makes every other worry seem so very small…

  6. The biggest place where I faced “misguided concern” about my weight was in dress shopping – both from loved ones and vendors. (That oh so subtle “what diet are you going on?” “um none”)I ended up just having to be choosey about who could come dress shopping with me, which ended up being just me and my husband. In fact I ended up only going to two wedding dress shops, just to see what silhouettes I liked. Then I hired a seamstress to make my dress. It was less expensive, exactly what I wanted, and I didn’t have to deal with other people taking issue with my size. You’re a beautiful woman! Your partner loves you and at the end of the day that’s what you’re celebrating. (Congrats on the upcoming engagement!)

  7. My mom’s the type who occasionally made what she thought were “helpful” comments about my body size in a pleasant yet intrusive way (“That skirt looks a little tight on you!” “That dress makes you look hippy.”). You know. The well-meaning nagger.

    She recently asked me (post-wedding) why I didn’t try doing more exercises to reduce the size of my hips and thighs (a quite curvy part of my body that I inherited, interestingly, directly from her).

    I looked at her and calmly but firmly said something along the lines of: “I am well aware of what my body looks like. I need you to not talk to me about this anymore. I don’t talk to you about your body. My body is not any of your business, only mine, so please don’t bring it up again.”

    She looked a little surprised, but she hasn’t actually said anything about my body again since then. I think realizing that my body is only my business, not hers, sank in.

    I really do believe that reminding people that your body is private property that is not up for public speculation can really help. It can seem SO obvious, but apparently people need a reminder that other people’s bodies are not public property!

    If it’s a loved one, you may need to have several conversations along these lines so that things can really sink in. But if it’s a vendor, chances are you’ll never have to see him/her again after the wedding, so remember that you won’t have to deal with them for very long.

    And if a vendor is REALLY being a jerk who won’t understand where you’re coming from, you can always choose to take your business elsewhere and let them know exactly why you are doing so: “Your judgmental comments/attitudes about a person’s body size are unacceptable to me, so I’m leaving.”

    It always helps to remember that you’re marrying or partnered with someone who KNOWS you’re hot as hell regardless of your size!

    In conclusion, there is a dress/garment for EVERY body shape and size and you will look and feel gorgeous when you find that special garment. Conventional wisdom said I shouldn’t wear a fitted trumpet dress because of my body shape and my weight. Guess what? I wore a fitted trumpet dress (in purple!) and looked absolutely bangin’. Breaking the rules rocks.

    • “I am well aware of what my body looks like. I need you to not talk to me about this anymore. I don’t talk to you about your body. My body is not any of your business, only mine, so please don’t bring it up again.”

      This is most excellent.

      I like Ariel’s suggested response as well and it all goes to personality type. I am quite comfortable being firm and direct, so a shortened version of what you said would be my response. Probably, “I’m well aware of what my body looks like and plan on dressing it the way it is.” Then silence. Let mom decide where the conversation is going. I think those sort of direct and short answers take people by surprise and force them to really think about the words that just came out of their mouth. I find this very effective, much more than changing the subject.

    • Your comment struck me as very interesting. I think for mothers it is all the more difficult not to worry about our physical appearance because for so long that was part of their job as our mother. It truly was their responsibility to make sure we ate well and dressed well, and it reflected on them if we didn’t. Our weddings are big occasions and most likely bring that feeling back. Not that I am excusing such behavior but I think it helps put it into their perspective. That most of what they are saying is well meaning and they truly want us to look and feel our best. They just might have different ideas of what that best is.

    • thank you for what you shared. i’m in a position (expecting my first little in a few months) where my body has become public property in a way no blog or advice column could prepare me for. thank you for sharing your words as i think they are appropriate for SO many settings.

    • I could have written your first few paragraphs word for word, thighs and all!

      I happen not to be skinny, and I have the usual occasional self-esteem issues about it, but I’m in the “normal” BMI range and try hard to maintain a positive self-image. My mother is a well-meaning person who has a few times in my life flipped out in an extremely un-constructive way about any perceived weight gain of mine.

      A few days after my engagement my mom and I went on a cross-country road trip to move me into a new city. Along one highway there were no restaurants besides McDonald’s for a dozen exits, so we stopped at one. We got up to the counter and my Mom said, “Get whatever you want.” I took her at her word and ordered a hamburger and small fries, no drink, and she gasped and admonished me IN FRONT OF THE CASHIER for ordering fries, and took it off the order. I was speechless with outrage until we got in the car, when we looked at each other and she had this smug “I just saved your ass, literally,” look on her face and told me that now I really should give up eating such things.

      I had to calm myself down, but then I gave her a talking-to about her attitude, recounting how I felt about every hurtful thing she’s said or done about my weight (luckily there were only a few– I can’t imagine what it’s like to be nagged or insulted constantly about it), and told her that I’d finally reached a point of acceptance and good self-esteem and she should back off. She looked sheepish and kind of apologized, saying she’d never bring it up again, and I told her that that wasn’t necessarily the point. I wanted her to accept my decision not to freak out about my weight and to trust that I would maintain a healthy (mental and physical) perspective and do what I needed to do.

      If you can take your conversation to the point where they’re willing to drop the subject, you might try asking them to accept you as you are rather than just keeping their opinion bottled up. They can be happy for you that you are happy WITH you– as everyone seems to agree, that’s so hard to do in this society– and maybe only discuss it when it is in a neutral (not diet-centered, e.g.) context and with a constructive attitude.

      So, Mom under control. Now, my already pretty thin, goal-oriented and overachieving fiancé has decided (and is succeeding) to whittle down to a defined six-pack. I visited him recently and found that to do so he’s been calorie counting and generally paying way too much attention to his food intake for my taste, and he couldn’t help but mention it nearly every time we ate. And he started voicing his observations on MY eating, and I had to start again with the positive body-image talk. WTH? What is it about weddings that makes people go nuts?

  8. Full disclosure: I’ve not yet been a bride.

    However, like so much on OBB, this topic hits very close to home. I apologize for the length of this in advance.

    The personal decision I recently made to NOT attempt to lose weight anymore is one that I have struggled with for a long time. I no longer consider myself “fat” or “unattractive”– and it has taken me YEARS to develop the self confidence that I can be just as pretty/smart/funny/attractive as a size *gasp* 14 or 16 as I was when I was starving myself and vomiting to achieve a size 4.

    Yes, my issues may be more specifically related to those who have gone through an eating disorder, but having to deal with the seemingly negative comments and judgements I’ve been getting recently about my very public decision to stop giving a f%#$* has been a frustrating process.

    Mostly, and I know this is totally cliche, but what has come across the strongest is that my *real* friends don’t give a crap– most of them have seen me as a size 0 and a size 18, and they accept me however I look- big or small, blue hair or brown. Non-supportive friends are the easiest to deal with– you get to choose your friends, and I refuse to spend time with someone who would pass judgement on the size of my ass.

    I also am an actor, and recently the paper ran a story on some people who came to a show and made fun of me DURING the performance for being “fat”. (true story). There were some really cruel comments made on the article about how ridiculous it was that a girl who was a size 14 could ever hope to be an actress.
    Once upon a time, those comments would have upset me for months, but I’ve realized that I am more than a jeans size— I suppose what I’m getting at here is that it’s not ABOUT what your friends or family or vendors think– it’s about YOU, and your personal journey.

    I’ve worked in bridal alterations, and I very vividly remember one girl who came in– she was a size 28, and just gushed over how wonderful a job we were doing, how happy she was that we were so accommodating, and I remember saying to her, ‘You have EVERY right to be here. You have EVERY right to be happy. You have EVERY right to feel beautiful and if anyone tells you differently, kick them in the nuts”. Maybe not the most professional, but I made my point.

    That’s where I stand on this issue. It’s your right to be happy no matter HOW you look– and you’re getting married because the person you love has accepted you for how you are– why would you change it?

    • “I also am an actor, and recently the paper ran a story on some people who came to a show and made fun of me DURING the performance for being “fat”. (true story). There were some really cruel comments made on the article about how ridiculous it was that a girl who was a size 14 could ever hope to be an actress.”

      Can I just point out that these a**holes were the ones in the AUDIENCE. While they’re talking about how ridiculous it is that you could “ever hope to be” an actress.. you were up there, BEING ONE.

      If they were hating on your for being comfortable in your own body AND getting to do what you love, then that says a whoooole lot about who they all are and what they think of themselves.

  9. I am by no means a plus-sized person, but that doesn’t mean that in this process of wedding planning weight isn’t still an issue. My sister’s a recovering anorexic and I’ve had my own struggles with my appearance, so the issue is definitely there. I know that people are going to/have all ready hinted that since I’m a bride I must want to work out and loose weight; that the wedding must be why I’m eating healthier, and working out. Nobody cares to think that it’s just because I want to be healthier with my life. I know people will only push this as the time to go dress shopping gets closer. My family and friends mean well, but they are driven by the attitude “bride = must loose weight, must look look a certain way, etc,” so I know that it’ll come up or be an issue that I need to work out. My plan is to kindly say “I’m sorry you see something wrong with me that you think needs changing, but I love myself the way I am.” It sounds confrontational, but I think it’ll be best because it’s clear and to the point that I love myself, and they shouldn’t think otherwise.

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