WEDDINGS & DIET CULTURE
As soon as we get engaged and being to plan our wedding day, many of us feel an immediate pull to change our bodies. We might tell ourselves we need to ‘start shedding for the wedding’, buckling under the societal pressure that you must be in the best shape of your life on your wedding day. Wedding diet culture tries to convince you that your body must be smaller to be considered beautiful, that you are not acceptable the way you are, and that your appearance is central to your wedding day. The messages we internalise about body image and diet culture are damaging, leading to increased feelings of anxiety, self-judgement, and negative thoughts. Some couples engage in radical methods to achieve their desired look, putting their body through extremes such as restricting and purging food or prolonged, intense exercise to achieve their goal. Engaging in these unhealthy behaviours can lead to increased stress and place unwanted strain on your relationship leading up to your wedding day. Clinical Psychologist Tesni Rowlands makes the following suggestions of how you can push back on wedding diet culture and enjoy your day just the way you are:
Choose Body Acceptance
It is important to understand that no child is born hating their body and that over time we are shaped to place judgement on bodies and learn what is ‘acceptable’ or ‘ideal’. We are taught that our bodies are an object open to judgement and criticism and that we are encouraged to either hate or alternatively love our bodies with no in-between. Instead of placing judgement, body acceptance helps individuals to wholly accept themselves just the way they are. Accepting your body does not mean always loving your body, something many people struggle to do; but simply acknowledging “this is my body and I accept it the way it is”. By removing all judgement and allowing your body to just be helps us to focus attention on other things which are more meaningful and bring us joy.
Tip: create a daily mantra that you can repeat to yourself to help decrease judgement around your body. Focus on the function of your body, rather than its appearance. The more we focus on what our body can do (dance, run, hug, watch, listen) the more we will feel content and appreciate all our body does for us.
Diversify your socials
The saying “you only know what you know”, also applies to how we digest social media content. Constantly scrolling through a stream of images that idealise certain body types can invoke negative feelings and can have a significant impact on our body image. Though we know images on social media are highly curated, edited and filtered, frequent consumption of ‘idealised’ body types can lead you to feeling as if there is something wrong with the way you look if your body doesn’t match what you see. Luckily, 2022 has seen a rise of body positivity and inclusive content, helping to challenge traditional beauty norms. A 2019 Australian study surveyed women after viewing body positive content on Instagram; researchers found that after viewing diverse content that celebrated all women’s bodies, the women not only experienced increased self-esteem but also reported improved mood overall.
Tip: When on social media, pay close attention to how content makes you feel. Any content that leads to negative thoughts or feelings should be unfollowed. Similarly, search for new accounts through hashtags such as #bodypositivity and #bodyneutrality. Additionally, truly diversify your feed and search for pages that have content celebrating people of different sizes, races, ethnicities, genders, and abilities.
Focus on your relationship
When speaking to married couples, most would agree that how they looked was not the most important thing of their wedding day. Many couples report focusing too much on their appearance prior to their wedding, only to find that the stress and pressure they placed on themselves didn’t matter on the day. When reflecting on their wedding, couples will speak about how much enjoyment they had or how much love they felt. If you find you are becoming preoccupied with how you will look on your wedding day, refocus your attention on the purpose of the day: celebrating your relationship and declaring your love in front of friends and family. The moment your partner proposes, they have shown that they love you and accept you for who you are. There are many reasons why two people fall in love - while initial attraction is important, love comes from kindness, mutual interests, enjoyment of company, common values and shared sense of humour.
Tip: Sit down with your partner and ask them what they most love about you and repeat the exercise back to them. Remind yourself of these leading up to the wedding to help shift your focus back to what is important.
If you are feeling overwhelmed about your appearance on your wedding day, it may be helpful to speak to your friends, family and fiancé about how you are feeling. Your partner, friends and family may be able to help you to refocus your attention and prioritise what’s important to you. If you think you are engaging in behaviours that are impacting your health or your mental health is declining, please speak with your doctor or mental health professional to help with treatment and find a path to recovery. Additionally, The Butterfly Foundation’s national hotline is available 8am-12am, 7 days a week: 1800 334 673.