Girl, It’s just a Dress.

I debated for a couple of days on whether or not I would share this; but I think it’s something worth writing and my hope is that it resonates with someone else out there.

About a month ago, I received a phone call informing me that my wedding dress had arrived. I couldn’t believe it had nearly been a year since I had ordered it. So this past weekend I went down to visit my parents and we planned to go see the dress at the bridal shop. I knew we wouldn’t be starting the alteration process until the Summer, but I so impatiently wanted to at least try it on. We arrived at the store and the saleswoman showed me the dress. The details of it were as beautiful as I remembered. The saleswoman took the dress and set me up in one of the fitting rooms — with the worst kind of fluorescent lights — and left me to shimmy into the dress.

Let us rewind a bit, shall we?

This time last year, when I tried on and ordered my dress, I was pushing full steam ahead into one of my most recent bouts of overexercise. I was living and commuting in New York City, walking everywhere and easily hitting 15,000 steps a day, and also working out for about 60 minutes 5-6 days a week. Needless to say, I was “fit.” Trying on wedding dresses is simple yet complex. If you’re smaller than the sample size, you’re really just relying on the clipping skills of the saleswoman to accurately show you how the dress fits. After trying on only 8 dresses, I found a dress I was completely in love with.  So the saleswoman took my measurements, and in this moment she teetered back and forth between ordering my size or one size up, ultimately deciding to go with my exact size.

Unfortunately, this number became engrained into my head, slowly creating this fear of becoming any larger than I was at the time of trying on and finding my dress. This resulted in me being afraid to skip a workout and starting to low key obsess over “clean eating.” A few months later, I was battling acne I couldn’t get rid of, experiencing the worst self esteem I had had in years, and I just felt so.. blah. I had completely burned myself out. I was over-analyzing every sensation or symptom in my body and working so hard to try and stay in the best shape I could.

A few emotional breakdowns later, I started to realize, “I can’t live like this forever.” I tried to tone it down a bit, but felt like I started gaining weight (I probably wasn’t) and jumped back into my old habits. No surprise, I found myself battling the same issues as before. I, again, knew it was not a healthy or sustainable way to live. If I wanted to truly feel healthy, I needed to stop being so unhealthy. I started to seek advice in the form of helpful blogs, books and educational podcasts. These tools and my desire to finally break my cycle of habits led me down the windy road towards intuitive movement and eating.

Through the late fall and winter, I slowed things down and started to repair my relationship with my body. Its not perfect, but it’s tenfold better than it was. My skin is calming down and when I do break out its not nearly as vicious. I move in ways that feel good to me, and don’t force myself into workouts when I feel tired or stressed. I’ve cared less about trying to keep my eating completely clean, and instead just focus on eating whole foods whenever possible — and I’ve come to realize that when I eat things out of the norm, my body will digest it just the same. I’m learning how to listen to my body’s cravings and cues and trusting that what it’s asking for is what it needs. I’ve broken down many of my food barriers. This journey isn’t a linear one, but it’s steadily working its way up an overall incline.

These days, I feel good; better than I have in quite some time. I won’t sit here and say that some days I don’t struggle with body image or over analysis of my hunger and digestion. It’s all a work in progress. But I’m in a better place and I’m truly feeling healthier.

Now let’s fast forward back to the dress try-on this past weekend.

I pulled it off the hanger and stepped in. As I pulled it up, I felt myself start to panic over how tightly it hugged my hips. Breathe. I started to try and zip it up and it mostly zipped, until it got to the last inch and wouldn’t budge. Is this seriously not fitting me right now? I didn’t even look at myself in the mirror as I called my mom in to try and zip it up. She couldn’t get the last bit either and I think she could sense my panic. I started to internally and externally proclaim things like: “I’ll just have to start doing more pilates.” “Apparently i’ve gained weight.” “Ugh the holidays.” “I haven’t been walking as much as I should.” — Wait, WHAT?!

The saleswoman comes in and tells me it looks beautiful on me, and when we mention the zipper debacle she states, “Oh honey, they can just take it out a little at the seams, it’ll be totally fine, and unnoticeable. We do that for so many people.” I sighed.

I changed out of the dress and quietly pouted for a little longer until we got home and had some tea. I stopped thinking about it too much for the rest of the night, but still uttered “I just wish it would’ve zipped” a few more times. The next day, as I drove home, the only real emotion I felt about the situation was disappointment. Not with the dress, but with myself — I was disappointed in myself for being so quick to tear myself down and blame myself over a gorgeously perfect dress that was just a touch too snug. I was mad that I let my insecurities shadow the fact that I was trying on my wedding dress. I was mad at myself for thinking that the only way the dress would look/fit better was for me to work out harder, or eat “healthier.” I was disappointed that I nearly let this one moment in time send me back on a road of trying to control everything I eat and increasing my workout intensity.

But the saleswoman was right; it will be completely fine. You know why?

Because it is just a dress.

Why do we feel the need to place so much self worth into the way we look in certain clothing items or for certain events? So many women (and men) these days struggle with eating disorders or disorder eating habits and excessive exercise habits and so much of that is due to us believing we have to look a specific way to have value and worth. Media and societal expectations have caused us to place so much of ourselves and our energy into the way we look – especially for our weddings. Diet culture targets brides specifically, influencing them and making them feel like they must be “shredding for the wedding.” I have a theory that half of why so many brides get extremely stressed out during the wedding planning process (I, luckily, have not found it to be too stressful) is because they are also burning themselves out in trying to look perfect in a dress they will wear once. I am all for the idea of looking/feeling your best for the big day, but looking your best may not be synonymous with looking your skinniest, and that is O K A Y. Remember that being the size you are now, or even larger, will not make you any less beautiful on your wedding day, or any other day for that matter. Everyone that will be at your wedding, including the person you’re standing up to vow a lifetime of love and partnership to, loves you because of your heart and soul and personality. Not because you went to the gym religiously for the weeks, months, year(s) leading up to the big day or because you stopped eating carbs.

This isn’t to say there is any thing wrong with wanting to workout before your wedding. I just encourage you to make sure you’re exercising for the right reasons: because it makes you feel good/strong, not because you think you need to lose weight or because its required of you as a bride-to-be.

Life ebbs and flows and so do our bodies. To think you will be one exact size or number on a scale for your entire life is a little unrealistic. In the days since trying on the dress I’ve realized and committed to myself that A) I don’t want to intentionally lose any of the nominal amounts of weight I have maybe gained since I ordered my dress. and B) I am not going to make any changes to my exercise or eating habits in the name of my wedding dress/day. If I go to try on the dress in a few months and its a little tight, well, I’ll let the seamstress work her magic and she’ll just loosen it, because it is just a dress.

a little side note:
I do recognize my privilege of residing in a smaller body type and understand that I am not a marginalized body type/size. I don’t know what that feels like and can’t truly empathize. But size aside, that doesn’t change the fact that all bodies are beautiful. Skinny doesn’t always mean healthy and the same goes for the opposite. I just encourage everyone to treat themselves with compassion, nourish their body well, move it however feels best and trust that your body will find its own healthy and happy place.

 

I sincerely appreciate all who took the time to read this. I hope it resonates with you and I encourage you to share it with others! Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or to share your own experiences!