Whether you're the one getting married or you're celebrating two other people who are committing to each other, wedding season typically involves a lot of planning. There's the dress (or bridesmaid dress), the registry (or gift-shopping), the sickeningly cute Instagram wedding hashtag (#WeSaidIDo), and, for some people, a weight-loss plan — or, at least, the pressure to start a weight-loss plan.
In fact, a 2008 study from Cornell University found that most engaged women (70% of the study's participants) envisioned an ideal "wedding weight" that was, on average, 23 pounds lighter than their current weight.
While this trend isn't exactly new, millennials might feel more pressure than other generations. A study published in Psychological Bulletin earlier this year suggested that millennials are more likely to be perfectionists, thanks in part to social media. Now, more than ever, it's easier to compare ourselves to each other, and often not in the healthiest ways. It makes sense: Many of us can relate to seeing someone's sun-soaked beach wedding on Instagram and wanting to recreate it (or do it better).
Katharine Phillips, MD, a psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine, says that some people, even if they don't necessarily want to change their bodies, might feel like they should.
"Some people overly buy into the idea that they're supposed to look a certain way, when in reality there is an infinite array of body types and sizes," Dr. Phillips says. "The constant pressure of media messages can fuel a type of thinking error called 'should statements,' meaning that we think we 'should' look a certain way or be a certain weight, even when it's not realistic or right for us."
It doesn't help that weddings often involve so many photos that you'll frame in your home or share with your family and friends for years to come. Plus, being captured on camera can open a Pandora's box of insecurities that are only heightened if you already suffer from body image issues like eating disorders or body dysmorphia. And, just like we may have noticed wedding photos that found their way onto our Instagram feeds, we might be worried that others will judge our photos harshly.
Some people overly buy into the idea that they're supposed to look a certain way.
Katharine Phillips, MD
"[People] believe the photos to be representative of a blissful or 'happiest time' of their life and might believe they need to look their absolute best," Kitley says. "Plus, I’ve heard people say, 'These are going to be pictures you will look at for the rest of my life, so I want to look my best.'"
But, losing weight isn't a prerequisite to a wedding, and losing weight is definitely not a requirement in order for you to look good. It's far more important to be healthy, and to enjoy yourself, no matter your weight.
"There is so much more to be grateful for and excited about for your wedding — the partner you chose to spend your life with, the friends and family who are coming to support you, the honeymoon you might be taking," Kitley says.
If you find yourself feeling pressure to lose weight before a wedding, Dr. Phillips suggests reminding yourself that people are there to celebrate two people that they care about, not what you might look like.
"Tell yourself that you don't need to look perfect (no one does) and that the focus of the wedding will not be on you and your weight. Refocus your attention on connecting with friends and new acquaintances and enjoying the celebration," Dr. Phillips says.
"You want to look back at your pictures and say, 'Yep, that was me! Pure joy,'" Kitley says.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
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