I have always had low self-esteem. More specifically, I can’t remember a time I’ve ever actually liked my body. The second I was aware of it, I decided I hated it. For some reason, all these years later, I’ve never been able to shake that feeling.
I’ve shared this before on my blog, but I’ve always been tremendously self-conscious in bathing suits. Year after year, the warm weather gives me immense anxiety that I won’t be able to cover up. When I got engaged in July, a louder alarm went off in my head. Instead of feeling joy and bliss and excitement to marry the love of my life, I felt fear. Intense and overwhelming fear. The worst part is that it felt so shallow. I am marrying someone I’ve been in love with for ELEVEN YEARS and all I could think about is my weight. It kept me up at night. I had nightmares several times a week. I cried into my pillow. I wanted to feel overjoyed and not feeling that way made me even sadder. I hated my body and every day that passed was one day closer to a wedding where I wouldn’t look the way I wanted.
Over the years, I’ve tried elimination diets, “lifestyle” diets, point tracking, intense workouts, weight loss meditations, health coaches and just about everything else you can think of. My engagement has been no different. But what I’m realizing now at 26 years old is that my weight has never been the problem.
So, with five more months to go, I decided I’m not going to diet anymore. I deleted the Weight Watchers app for the first time since 2013. I’ve stopped tracking points. I’ve stopped depriving myself. I have stopped trying to focus my energy in all the wrong places. Most importantly, I am getting help. I have needed help with this problem for so long and an engagement was what it took to help me realize I needed it.
Here’s a photo from our recent engagement shoot that I was terrified of doing. Luckily, Liz at White Pear Photography did a fantastic job and put me at ease without knowing it.
Admitting, owning and dealing with this problem terrifies me…but it’s also incredibly liberating.
Over the last few weeks, I have eaten pizza and bagels and pad thai and cookies and things that I love; foods that would have previously sent me into a spiral of despair. I have stopped convincing myself that kale is my favorite food. (How the fuck could kale be anyone’s favorite food?) And yet, as freeing as it is, I almost felt I owed the world an explanation as to why I would ever have a slice of cake when my wedding is on the horizon.
It’s actually quite sad when I took a step back and thought about it. The pressure to be alarmingly thin on my wedding day was not only mounting but felt like a legitimate obligation. And is that the expectation and trend; that every bride you know will basically half themselves before the big day? It is all so wrong. The phrases “shredding/shedding/sweating before the wedding,” are all societal reinforcements that certainly didn’t help my “Brideorexia.”
Furthermore, the sentiment deviates so far beyond what we should feel leading up to a wedding.
In my case, I’ve been with Bryan for several years and we own both a house and a dog together. This wedding is about officially and FINALLY becoming a family in the eyes of everyone else. It’s about celebrating our longstanding love with family and friends. The sickest part of obsessing over my appearance is not just that it’s asinine in comparison to our accomplishments together, but that it makes the assumption that he hasn’t been perfectly in love with me at the weight that I am and always have been. Of course, this is all logical thinking I’ve been given the gift of finally feeling.
To my friends and acquaintances, there are a few things I want you to know. First, just because someone appears to be a normal weight does not mean they are immune to a problem. This is the mentality that prevented me from getting help for a long time. I found this article very helpful.
Second, I beg you to stop telling me I look skinny. I know that your intentions are good (and that it seems like it might be helpful), but I have never felt skinny and this is a painful reminder. Furthermore, it’s a reinforcement that that’s what you want me to be as a bride and as a woman– and the pressure makes me miserable. Plus, I really think we should start validating women more for real accomplishments anyway. I will work on this, too.
Third, I want you all to know that I am in recovery, but I am not recovered. I am doing so much better, but I have so much further to go. I still feel a LOT of anxiety about my weight and how I will look on my wedding day, but I am so happy I found a wonderful therapist who has been changing my life.
Lastly, if you or someone you know needs help with an eating disorder, low self-esteem or with any food-related anxiety, know that I’m here to talk and that I have a fabulous referral to give in Chicago.
P.S. In regards to veganism, I did attempt it for two months and I think it is a wonderful thing to do for animals, the environment, and the world. Right now, eliminating more foods from my diet will do more harm than good. Instead, I have happily been a vegetarian and will continue to do so because of my love of animals. My close friends know that vegan food still gets me WAY too excited, though. (How do they make things so delicious without cheese?! It really IS possible!)