Written By Julie Ohlemacher,
Intuitive Eating + Body Image Coach
Photography by Rachel Joy Barehl
I get it. I remember being in college, in the thick of my exercise and “healthy eating” obsession, weighing myself like my life depended on it. I remember thinking (before I even had a boyfriend) that I had to ‘get my body ready for my wedding.’
Honestly, I’m thankful I hit my rock bottom with my own disordered eating and exercise obsession when I was in college. It paved the way for my own healing through body image and intuitive eating work over the next 5 years and beyond. It allowed me to thrive when I met my partner and unlock the keys to a wedding day better than my wildest dreams.
When I got engaged in 2017, I was also just starting my body image and intuitive eating coaching biz. I had become so empowered in my body and in my relationship with food and exercise. I was psyched to help other women do the same.
I stepped into the engagement world excited as could be. I was the girl that always dreamt of her wedding. I spent days buried in wedding blogs, Pinterest boards, wedding Instagram accounts and even print magazines. I couldn’t get enough.
Unfortunately, what hit me hard was the rampant diet culture in the wedding world. Messages everywhere of “tone up for your wedding day,” “blast fat with these moves to rock your dress on your big day,” and “shed before you wed!”
But grounded in my work of intuitive eating and body acceptance, I knew better. And over the past three years, I’ve supported many engaged clients in overcoming these harmful messages so that they too, can have the wedding day of their dreams.
Here are the top five ways dieting ruins your engagement and wedding day, and what you can do instead.
DON’T: Diet. It sets you up for failure.
Plain and simple, trying to “shed before the wed” sets you up for failure. Intentional weight-loss doesn’t work. Not because of your own failing, but because of biology. Diet culture has invested heavily into making us think otherwise so that they can sell us their products and make a massive profit.
Over 70 years of research show us that 98% of people regain the weight that they lose, and 60% regain more than they started with. These studies even show that dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain. There actually isn’t a single long-term medical study to show us that any diet is sustainable. (Check out my free Masterclass here to learn more about this, or the books Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison and Body Respect by Lindo Bacon and Lucy Aphramore!)
Maybe you do lose some weight short term, but you will gain it back. Maybe it’s after the wedding, but maybe it’s before. This can cause all sorts of stress and feelings of failure.
DO: Ditch the dieting and begin intuitive eating.
Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based process that empowers you to let go of the food rules and discover what true connection to your body looks like. You’ll make peace with food and begin to respect your body in ways you never have before. It unlocks a life of freedom and joy from dieting, not to mention true health and wellbeing (mentally, physically and emotionally).
My clients rave about the brain space and energy that is freed up when they embark on this process.
Can you do it alone? Sure! You can read books like Intuitive Eating, Body Respect, and Anti-Diet or listen to podcasts like The Babesment for help. But it’s much easier when you have support. Check out my program, The Diet Detox 180 if you’re looking for a community and coach (me!) to guide you through this process.
DON’T: Stress about your body — it RUINS the dress-buying process.
When we’re stuck in diet culture, we’re stuck focusing on all the ways our bodies are wrong. Trying to find your dream dress when you’re stuck hating your body and wishing she looked different is a struggle.
And then there’s the old “buy a dress a size small so that you HAVE to lose weight to fit into it.” My friend, that is the worst possible thing you can do. The stress of losing the weight or keeping it off will haunt you all the way through your honeymoon.
DO: Buy a dress that you love on the body you have right now.
This is key. Buy the dress for the body you have right now. Find the dress that lights you up. The dress that celebrates YOU. The one you can’t wait to wear. The one you don’t have to worry about fitting into. This will help you be excited to put on your dress, rather than freaked out!
And when you begin the alterations process, be clear that weight-loss is not on your agenda. They often ask questions that can be triggering for many women in this body acceptance journey. Set the simple boundary to let them know that’s not the case with you.
DON’T: Miss out on the fun season of engagement.
When we’re in dieting mode, we’re trying to follow a strict set of rules. We’re constantly in our head about what we can eat, what we can’t eat, and when we’re going to get that workout in. Forget about being present… we’re totally stressed and distracted.
I think we can all agree there’s enough stress when it comes to things like, you know, the guest list. Pretty sure we don’t need to add any unnecessary stress to our plate from dieting, am I right?
And what about all the beautiful, fun things like your engagement party, your tastings, your engagement photos, the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the shower!?
Enjoying your wedding is about more than just enjoying the day. It’s about savoring these fun moments that make up the entire engagement season. And I think we all know too well how hard it is to enjoy moments like these when we’re stuck stressing over calories, macros or points.
DO: ENJOY EVERY FUN PART OF THE ENGAGEMENT SEASON!
Mindset is key. If you’re focusing on how stressful the wedding planning process is, then, yes, it will be more stressful! But if you focus instead on having fun with it, well then, you’ll have way more fun.
Are there some things that will be stressful? Sure! For me it was the guest list and making sure I had the addresses just right.
But for everything else, I was able to go with the flow and enjoy. Remember: you’re planning a big party to celebrate your love and commitment to your partner. Let’s step back and not take things so seriously, yeah?!
Savor every little piece. It’ll make your wedding season so much sweeter. And when the day comes, it won’t just “fly by” because you’ll have been so present in each part leading up to it.
DON’T: Drown in a scarcity mindset.
When we’re trying to lose weight, we’re focusing on all the things we don’t like about our bodies. Our ‘problem spots.” (Spoiler: they’re not actually problems.) Diet culture thrives on scarcity mindset. Nothing is ever quite enough. My last diet, for example, I hit my goal weight, only to look in the mirror and realize I still hated my body. (Spoiler: the weight came back, because biology).
This mindset keeps us thinking we’re not good enough. Typically, the more we focus on losing weight and ‘toning up,’ the more we obsess and stress over our bodies, even when we’ve lost the weight.
DO: Say good-bye to that scarcity mindset, and HELLO abundance.
Beginning a journey to accept and respect our bodies is key. It doesn’t happen overnight, but there are key steps you can take to begin to relate to your body in a whole new light.
I outline ten key practices in my 10 Day Body Acceptance Mini Course you can access here for 70% off using the code WEDDING.
But one of the biggest ones? Stop focusing on all the things you hate, and start appreciating all that your body does for you every day.
Catch the negative self talk, and switch it. Thank your belly for digesting your food, for housing your inner wisdom and intuition. Thank your legs for being so strong, for carrying you through life. Thank your heart for beating, your lungs for breathing, your arms for hugging your partner.
Not everyone has two legs, the ability to walk or to hug. If you do? Appreciate it. It’s such a gift.
DON’T: Think that the most important thing about your wedding day is looking like diet culture’s “perfect” bride.
Woof. This one’s tough. We live in a world that praises the thin body. But the truth is, we’re all meant to come in different shapes and sizes, and thus, praising thin bodies over large bodies (aka fatphobia) is stigmatizing, discriminatory and oppressive. (Read Body Respect and Anti-Diet for more on this!)
This mindset forces us to think the most important thing about us, especially on our wedding day, is how we look.
Ya’ll: it’s not. Ever.
And when it comes to our wedding day? It keeps us focusing on the superficial: on how we look (by society’s oppressive standards) rather than what actually matters: who we ARE.
It distracts us from actually enjoying the day by keeping us concerned about how we look.
It’s *really hard* to be present and enjoy our wedding day when we’re in our head worrying about our body.
DO: Focus on who you want to be and how you want to feel on your wedding day.
The version of you who has the best day ever—who is she? How does he feel? What is she focusing on? What is she NOT focusing on? Where is his attention? What does she do? What doesn’t she do?
What matters most is who we are BEING and what kind of day we want to experience. Spend time journaling about who this best version of you is.
When we focus on who we want to be and how we want to feel, rather than what we look like, we take our wedding day from superficial to the deep and meaningful experience of our dreams.
About Julie Ohlemacher
Julie Ohlemacher is an intuitive eating and body image coach. Her mission is to empower women to live their biggest, boldest, most authentic lives. She does this by helping them heal their relationship with food, body, exercise and self. Through her health coaching, she provides women with the right system, support, and accountability to help them make permanent—and healthy—transformations, freeing them from the cyclical diet culture.julieohlemacher.com | @julie.ohlemacher