This past Saturday, I ordered my wedding dress. It’s gorgeous! I wish I was wearing it right now!
(Sidenote: The bridal world is bananas. Everything happens ten months ahead of schedule, whatever girl who helps you in and out of the dresses totally sees your nipples and you’re just supposed to act all casual about it, and with every decision you have to tease out what you actually want from the ‘shoulds’ of the world. Bananas!)
When I left a a deposit for the dress, I had to sign a piece of paper that said there would be a hefty charge if they had to make major changes to the dress beyond standard alternations. I inquired further because who even knows what you’re signing in this nipple-flashing, ahead-of-scheduling land?
Apparently when a bride loses significant amounts of weight (say, over 30 pounds) after her dress has already been ordered, it needs to be restructured, which costs money.
Wedding day weight loss is such a THING. You wouldn’t think that the hugeness of one’s thighs would be treated as a bigger deal than the hugeness of a lifelong commitment, but at first glance, it kinda is. There are bridal boot camps, and psychic Facebook started offering me diets in the sidebar from the moment we got engaged. At every bridal salon I’ve gone to, I see women (who are beautiful, by the way) gazing at their reflections in dresses and saying things like, “Well, this will be gone by the wedding” as they grab parts of their arms and bellies.
I get it, of course. Though I’m not trying to lose any weight for my wedding (more on that in a sec), I just spent $100 on a frigging makeup trial last night so I certainly can’t be all holier-than-thou about who values what. I want to look the best I’ve ever looked on my wedding day, too. We live in a society where many people believe that thinness equals beauty, so it makes sense that for so many of us our wedding day fantasies involve toned arms and a totally flat stomach or whatever.
This got me thinking about the terribly toxic thing we women do when we hang our hopes and dreams on a piece of clothing and think things like “I’ll finally be happy when I can fit into this”! (I’ve noticed thoughts like this often come with a time limit, too, either a wedding or a reunion or something – talk about pressure!) As if driving ourselves nuts enough with these loaded thoughts wasn’t enough, we give ourselves a physical representation of our feelings of inadequacy and hold the things we love away from ourselves in some kind of weirdo reinforcement exercise.
I’ve learned how badly this sucks the hard way. I did that mean-to-myself behavior of buying or holding on to clothes that don’t fit in preparation for the new skinny body that was coming someday for YEARS. Since my weight loss history included a big fat yo yo where I gained back all the weight I’d lost plus, at one point I had an entire wardrobe full of ‘skinny’ clothes that no longer fit. I held on to those babies for a long long time, telling myself they’d motivate me somehow. In particular, I had this one pair of Mavi size 29 jeans that I LOVED that had fit me for all of six months. I imagined that when I could zip them up again, it would be a total happily-ever-after for me, like the end of a romantic comedy when the couple finally gets together and the credits roll as and you just KNOW that they will be immune to life’s challenges from then on.
Planning for the future, visualizing it and fantasizing about it, and believing in its inevitability, is lovely. I would never want to take that away from you, or from myself. We just need to remember to plant those seeds in the healthy soil of accepting and loving where we already are.
When it comes to weight, that is particularly hard to do. I know it was for me. How was I supposed to love where I was when the only thing that fit me were yoga pants? Where could I find any confidence in that?
Trust me, no matter what, there IS something great about where you are. I’ve already talked about the click that occurred for me when I realized that I was DONE with being mean to my body. Another big click for me was seeing the meaning in my weight gain.
When I’d lost weight the first time, I lived in endless fear of gaining it back. With every pound lost, everyone encouraged me and told me how good I looked; so as each pound crept back on I felt they must be thinking the exact opposite.
Gaining it all back plus, while I couldn’t see it at the time, was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I saw that there was nothing terribly tragic waiting for me with weight gain. The point I was able to detach my brain from all the significance I’d attributed to thinness (that it represented beauty, self control, sexiness) and realize that my stress at my heavy weight had very little to do with my day to day experience of being a heavier person (which was not so bad, truthfully! I still laughed, I was still beautiful, I was still me). The stress mostly came from the way I was thinking about my extra weight (FAILURE FAILURE FAILURE NOT FIT TO BE SEEN OR LOVED BY ANY OTHER HUMAN! FAILUUUUUUUUUUUURE).
I also saw the opportunity to create a healthy life in my own, Marla way. In the past, I’d counted calories like a crazed mathematician to lose weight; which I never really liked and turned out to be ineffective for me anyway. Because I really didn’t know whether I’d lose weight or not (again, I’d decided that if that wasn’t what my body wanted that I’d still be nice to it), the noise in my head quieted down enough that I could actually figure out the food and activity level that worked for me.
As these truths dawned on me, it became clear that my body deserved to wear beautiful, flattering clothing right away; not the crappy ‘interim’ clothing I’d been wearing wishing it was an Invisibility Cloak. I donated everything that didn’t fit me, even those god-forsaken Mavi jeans. Of course, the weight came right off then. The moral of this story is not that my metabolism had an arrangement with Visa, but that once I let go of my demands for how my body needed to look in order for me to love it, it responded beautifully.
Last week I heard Michael Neill talking on the radio about how, when he was poor, he used to think that once he hit a certain amount of money in the bank, THEN the money worries would stop. As he earned more and more, he saw that money worry ceiling go up and up.
Weight works in exactly the same way. Size 6 will be filled with exactly the same amount of self love as size 16, I guarantee it. Think about it – does it really make sense to think that you’ll one day be flooded with confidence at a certain size, when all you’ve been practicing is disdain and shame? If you think that feeling good is waiting for you somewhere over there, then over there is just going to keep on moving as you approach it.
I’ve seen this play out in every single area of my life in which I’ve struggled. My love life, my weight, my finances, my career. I beat myself over the head, I get upset, I find where I am completely unacceptable. The whole ‘what you resist, persists’ thing proves itself as things get worse and worse and worse. After fighting it like a madwoman in every single way I know how (often for many years), I finally surrender to my current situation. I realize that I can live with this unacceptable thing, because I’m still ME and the present moment still holds plenty of joy and fun… I’m just so stressed out because of the way I’ve been thinking and talking to myself about it.
Then, when I’m not looking because I’ve accepted it anyway, a shift happens. Then I laugh at myself, because I realize it was never really about the money/man/dress anyway.
That’s why I’m buying the wedding dress that looks good on the body I’ve got, and why I hope you do too. The dress is just decoration, the real beauty is you just as you are.
Just remember that nipple thing.