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Bride Eating a Celery StickPlanning a wedding can be exciting, but it’s also an emotionally vulnerable time in many people’s lives. Insecurities about body image can creep to the surface, exacerbated by the pressure to lose weight. Even worse, this pressure isn't always obvious. Maybe someone casually suggests shaving off a few pounds to fit into your dress. Or you were the “chubby kid” growing up and now you’re shopping for suits, wishing that you didn't need a portly-sized jacket. Subtler patterns of disordered eating can develop, so it’s important to recognize them and know how to best take care of yourself in the months before the big day.

Understanding Eating Disorders

We’ve all heard about common eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, but there are subtler disordered eating patterns that casual observers can miss. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) describes orthorexia, an obsession with “clean eating” that restricts intake to a specifically narrow collection of foods. Anne Helen Petersen of Buzzfeed News describes hypergymnasia, or compulsive exercise in attempts to control body size and net caloric intake. In the recent Netflix documentary “Miss Americana,” musician Taylor Swift admitted to restrictive eating and compulsive exercise patterns that left her drained and exhausted.

Laxative abuse is another common behavior, arising from an incorrect belief that laxatives prevent the absorption of calories by rushing food out of the body. Orthorexia, compulsive exercise, and laxative abuse can occur by themselves, but orthorexia and hypergymnasia often go hand in hand. Anorexia and bulimia can also involve these three behaviors as sufferers try desperately to control their weight.

Weddings, Perfectionism, and Body Image Issues

It’s physically impossible to simultaneously be thin like Ariana Grande and have a figure like Kim Kardashian West, but that doesn’t stop pressure aimed at women to conform to narrowly defined and frequently conflicting beauty ideals. In a June 2019 Glamour piece, American plus-sized model Hunter McGrady describes how this pressure intensifies for brides-to-be. When shopping for her dress, salespeople repeatedly asked if she planned to remain at her size or lose weight. Others suggested ways to minimize her hips or abdomen. Huffington Post UK writer Rachel Moss adds that engaged women are bombarded by pro-diet messages from media and advertising.

Disordered eating isn’t a problem limited to heterosexual white women. The NEDA explains in detail how people of color, LGBTQ individuals, men, and other populations contend with unique risk factors. One in three people with eating disorders are men, and 42% of those diagnosed identify as gay. With the increased focus on Instagrammable weddings, anyone can fall prey to perfectionism, inflexibility, and greater anxiety. All these tendencies are closely linked, but they’re also psychological risk factors for developing an eating disorder.

Sound Advice for Your Wedding

Body image issues and outside pressures to lose weight aren’t easy to face. Fortunately, Inside Weddings offers some useful advice for combating these pressures:

  • Avoid restrictive diets.
  • Steer clear of overly ambitious exercise routines.
  • Choose your attire based on your body size right now.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people.

NEDA provides additional wisdom for those recovering from eating disorders. Your recovery is a top priority, so don’t worry about following tradition or making your event perfect. When using social media, block or unfollow triggering content and take a break if it becomes too toxic. Your therapist is a solid source of support, so talk to this person if you face stress or difficulties during the planning process.

Your Physical and Mental Health Are Paramount

Weddings are stressful enough as it is, especially for people struggling with body image issues or eating disorders. The bottom line: You deserve happiness at any size. After all, you’re marrying the person you love. Don’t forget to reach out if you need help. You can contact NEDA at (800) 931-2237 or text "NEDA" to 741741.

Category: Society

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