By Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C
The love of your life just got down on one knee and popped the question you’ve been waiting for ‘will you marry me?’ It feels so surreal and you don’t remember the last time you’ll felt this level of happiness. You are so excited to tell your family and friends. This is a moment you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
And then, comes wedding planning. From photographers and makeup artists whose Instagram feeds are filled exclusively with thin brides, to the pressure around ‘looking your best for the big day,’ to dress shopping where most dresses run 3 sizes too big and sales attendants may make diet culture-y comments-there is a hot bed of triggers for those actively in eating disorder recovery.
As an upcoming bride, eating disorder therapist, and individual who is recovered from my own eating disorder-I wanted to provide some coping tips for brides to be in recovery.
***It’s important to acknowledge that I live with thin privilege and while I can empathize, I cannot fully understand how difficult it must be to be a bride to be in a larger body in recovery (in our fat-phobic world).
1. Recognize that your body IS NOT the problem. The problem is diet culture and fat phobia in the wedding industry-and world at large.
First off, it’s important to recognize that the wedding industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry. There are so many individuals and companies who stand to make a profit off of brides feeling terrible about their bodies.
After all, if you felt great about yourself, you would not be tempted to sign up for a “bridal boot camp,” makeover package, or diet program. Thus, it’s important to recognize the diet-culture and body-shaming messages that you are being fed from the wedding industry.
I know it may feel tempting to blame your body if sample size dresses aren’t fitting, you are struggling to find a dress you like (or in your size! I’m looking at you retailers who don’t carry larger sizes), or you are struggling with negative body image-however the problem is NOT and will never be your body.
The problem is diet culture and cultural fat phobia, as well as the other systems of oppression.
2. Set boundaries as best you can with vendors, sales assistants, and family.
Of course, it’s impossible to eliminate diet culture and fat-phobia from your life, so part of the work is going to be helping you to manage triggers as they come up.
However, it’s also important to recognize that you deserve to be able to set boundaries with people who are on this wedding planning ride with you.
For instance, you could call the bridal shop ahead of your dress fitting and ask that the sales associate not make comments on your weight or body.
You also might set boundaries with family members who ask if you plan to lose weight for the wedding-or anyone who is putting lots of appearance based pressure on you.
For instance, when I was trying on my wedding dress-the shop owner walked by and commented on how ‘slimming’ the dress was. I know if I was in a larger body, I potentially would have gotten more comments and THIS IS NOT OK.
It’s ok and can feel empowering to stand up for yourself and set boundaries.
Anyone who is commenting on your weight or body is simply demonstrating their own struggles and what THEY think about.
3. Come up with a cope ahead plan with your treatment team and get more support if you need it.
In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, one skill we might use is a cope ahead plan.
This is where you can work with your therapist to think about upcoming potentially difficult situations i.e. dress fittings, cake tasting, and think about how you can best set yourself up for success when it comes to recovery.
You might also consider reaching out for more support during this stressful time period i.e. a recovery coach (if you can access this).
Part of your cope ahead plan could also look at the media you are consuming around the wedding industry. You action step here could include unfollowing toxic wedding industry diet culture on Instagram or Tik Tok for instance and adding in more positive wedding inspiration.
4. Reconnect with your true values vs. the eating disorder’s values.
If you are struggling with eating disorder urges to want to try to ‘lose weight’ before our wedding, I would urge you to imagine yourself and your future partner in your 80s. When you look back on the wedding planning process, do you think you will be fondly reminiscing about skipping dinners out, obsessively exercising, crash-dieting, and being filled with guilt at your cake tasting?
It’s far too easy to lose sight of the reason why you are getting married in the first place. Your wedding is a celebration of the love and commitment that you are making to another person. You are lucky to have found love and to be taking a huge step in your life.
Instead of focusing on what you wish to change about your body, try to pay attention to the things that you have to be grateful for in the present moment and your true life values. I know this isn't easy, however you can work to practice mindfulness skills when eating disorder thoughts come up.
If you are struggling with poor body image or increased eating disorder thoughts leading up to your wedding, you are certainly not alone in feeling this way. Instead of beating yourself up for this, try practicing some self-compassion. Self-compassion is simply extending the same kindness that you would to a loved one. It's understandable that you might be having a tough time during a very stressful period of your life. You are not broken and this doesn't mean that 'you'll never recover.'
The Bottom Line
Getting married is exciting AND the process leading up to it is stressful. During times of stress eating disorders love to try to swoop in and promise you ‘that they will help you to feel more in control.’ It’s important to remember that your eating disorder is full of false promises and lies.
I know it’s not easy, however it is so worth it to practice leaning on healthier more values-aligning coping strategies in times of stress.
If you are deeply struggling it’s so important to consider reaching out for professional help-as no one should have to struggle with this alone.
Appearance based pressure and diet culture in the wedding industry is wildly problematic, however you can work to take your power back by doing everything that you can to not buy into it. Even if mentally this feels really difficult, you can work to take actions that are in alignment with your true values vs. your eating disorder’s values.
Your worth and your value do not come from your appearance or body. And the person who is marrying you hopefully is not marrying you because of what you look like (if they are this is problematic).
Your value lies in the kindness that you extend to others, the spark in your eyes when you laugh, the way that you pursue your passions, and your relationships. You are worthy of love and belonging. You are enough, just as you are.
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The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also provide eating disorder therapy in Arlington, Virginia and virtually throughout Virginia. Additionally, we offer eating disorder therapy virtually in New York (NYC), Florida, Pennsylvania, and California, serving those in cities including Palo Alto, San Francisco, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, San Jose, and Beverly Hills. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
Kellie Zundel, MSW, LCSW, has now joined The Eating Disorder Center Team-expanding their eating disorder therapy services to Arlington, Virginia.
Kellie is new to the team-but has multiple years of experience working in a residential eating disorder facility, working with individuals struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, orthorexia, and OSFED.
Kellie provides therapy to clients with eating disorders virtually via video to individuals throughout Virginia-including those residing in McLean, Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, and Woodbridge.
Contact us: https://www.theeatingdisordercenter.com/contact.html
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.