From The Heart: Dieting Has No Place Within a Wedding

dieting has no place within a wedding

Happy Valentines day lovely ones! I hope that your day is sprinkled with love and smiles.  In our second ‘From the Heart’ post, one of our regular readers shares her thoughts on the matter of dieting and weddings – a contentious, if not controversial issue for many of our readers at the best of times.  She also has some rather important points to make before the end of her feature, which I urge and  positively encourage you to take note of, since she is a Specialist Eating Disorders Dietitian and knows what she’s talking about. Over to you Clare…


I’m an overly excited bride-to-be and a Love My Dress obsessive, the kind of person who has pictured their wedding from a very young age. So much so in fact, I told my now-fiance that the first thing I’d said about him to another was ‘I’m going to marry him he just doesn’t know it yet’. And I told him that less than 30 minutes into our first date – bold! I have since concluded that the fact that we’re still together says more about him than it does about me.  We met almost 7 years ago on a hospital ward where he was a very young Doctor and I was a student Dietitian. I suppose that brings me nicely to my other defining role: I’m a Specialist Eating Disorders Dietitian.Dieting has no place within a weddingI’ve worked predominantly with anorexia for many years now and I will never feel complacent towards the illness and its’ capacity to destroy lives. Working in this area and seeing anorexia’s consequences has taught me so much about self-compassion, self-acceptance and about the dangers of trying to conform to a societal perception.

It’s been a learning curve but these days, I feel the most comfortable with my body that I ever have, and that’s not to say it is ‘perfect’ (whatever that is). It absolutely isn’t, but it’s mine and we’re working together, and so far we’re doing ok. I suppose that’s why I felt so surprised by my reaction when I went for my wedding dress appointment.

I didn’t especially enjoy dress shopping (which is a whole new story) but eventually I found my dress and didn’t want to take it off, even signing the paperwork in it and having a good old swish. They took my measurements at the time and explained I was between sizes so to expect a call back about which size to order. A few days later I got a phone call and was told (in a perfectly lovely way) that my top half was technically ‘off the sizing chart’, as it was so small, and my bottom half was ‘at least 3 sizes bigger’.Despite ordinarily being wholly comfortable with having a big bum (thanks Mum!) I found myself immediately wanting it to be smaller.  I felt compelled to blurt out my bra size just to prove I was a woman.  This was followed by a week or so of thinking about dieting so that I could eventually fit a neat size, which arm and back exercises I needed to do to tone up, and when I should start trying to be ready for my dress – as if I should mould my body to the dress and not the other way around.

On reflection, this was the accumulation of years of longing and the subsequent need to be ‘the perfect bride’ colliding with a bombardment of powerful messages about pre-wedding diet expectations that you get from almost everywhere.

Dieting has no place within a wedding

I came out of this way of thinking pretty quickly as it’s not a road I ever want to go down. Though it dawned on me; if I, the person utterly against dieting, can be so affected by that experience then I can only imagine how others could feel and how over-whelming that must be for them.

As a modern society, we seem to have ended up in a bizarre and unhealthy wedding world where everyone from the bride to the wedding party and even the guests are dieting for your wedding.

How we ended up here is perhaps another story, but it does seem to create a huge volume of pressure for the bride herself, and it could quite easily drive you crazy. It was this experience that made me want to write this post. I wanted to share what I’d been through in an open and honest way, and then to offer some of my professional thoughts on to how to approach the pressures of dieting leading up to a wedding.

If you want to make healthy changes for yourself anyway that’s fine, but if it’s because you think you ‘should’ perhaps re-evaluate and ask if the added pressure before your wedding day is actually a helpful idea.

Below, I share my ‘Top 9 Thoughts’ (random number, I know) on this topic, and I really hope that any fellow Love My Dress adorer out there who may be battling with self image issues, will find them encouraging and useful.

  1. You don’t need to change. It’s so easy to get swept along by an industry that is trying to make money and those peddling ideas of what a bride should be. Your husband/wife-to-be asked you to marry them. There are 8-billion people on this planet and the one person that you want to spend the rest of your life with wants you! That’s breathtakingly beautiful when you think about it. They wanted you just as you are right now. Not you as a promise of what you might be or you as a dress size smaller. They wanted you, and all of you, just as you are; as the beautiful person they recognise and are proud to have as their wife.
  2. Try and love your body. This is definitely the ‘easier said than done’ one but try to spend a little time realising that your body has been through so much with you. It’s an incredible machine. It has healed when you’ve broken, it has kept going when you’ve wanted to sleep, it has (in some cases) carried your children, it has grown, travelled and experienced with you. Try ‘positive affirmations’ and say something positive about yourself each day rather than the usual negative dialogue that we like to tell ourselves. You might be surprised at how effective this really is. A little quote that Annabel shared with me when I presented her with this post went ‘remember there are people who would love your bad days’. 
  3. Move because you want to, rather than because you should. I like to run, though I’m a bit rubbish at it, and I’m working on saying thanks to my legs for all the hard work they do, rather than feeling bad that it isn’t good enough (body positive). For those who want to exercise in the run up to a wedding, this isn’t a ‘bad’ thing! Exercise can be really helpful in offering a distraction, as a means of regulating mood and for releasing endorphins (happy hormones). Exercise can be healthful but it can also be harmful so try to remember this: exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it. Perhaps it’s worth considering yoga or pilates as alternatives? Activities like these that focus on mindset and health rather than aesthetics and calorie burning can often have a much healthier impact on our general wellbeing.
  4. Ban the scales – for some, weighing can help them to self monitor, in some cases so their weight doesn’t go too low, and there are no blanket rules for everyone. However think about how you feel when you get on the scales? Often weighing is associated with low self-confidence and a sense of failure. Our weight is influenced by so many things: food, water fluctuations, glycogen levels, hormone changes, and the scales don’t differentiate. Ever heard of ‘muscle weighs more than fat’? that is actually incorrect – 1kg of fat weighs the same as 1kg of muscle (they’re both 1kg) – but the density is different. This means (as a demonstrative example) that 1kg of fat could fit into a bucket whilst 1kg of muscle could fit into a pint glass. If you’re moving more you could lose inches but gain weight. Getting on the scales will wrongly reinforce a sense of failure. Try going off how you feel, rather than focusing on a number. I like to take away the emotion of ‘that number’ by remembering that truthfully weight just describes your mass relative to gravity. It’s hard to feel upset by something so arbitually scientific!
  5. Stop the restriction – Your body is the only place that you’ve got to live so you need to take care of it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of restricting your intake and panic dieting but studies have shown that yo-yo dieting and severe restriction slow your bodies’ metabolism and make it harder to lose weight in the long term. On top of that you’re likely to experience poor sleep, irritability, low mood, constant thoughts of food, extreme hunger and if you’re anything like me, decision making becomes near impossible. Thinking of extrapolating that into a pre-wedding bride and it doesn’t sound like you’ll enjoy those precious weeks and months of planning and excitement. If your restriction is severe or prolonged you may also experience a dip in your blood cells making you susceptible to illness and fatigue, as well as dry skin, hair loss and brittle nails – again the last thing you want pre-wedding! Your body is like a fire, it needs constant fuel to keep burning. Instead of restriction, if you want to change the way you look, try eating small amounts of nutritious foods regularly – every 4 hours. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, include all food groups at your meals and try making small realistic reductions in portion sizes.
  6. Carbs aren’t ‘bad’ – I hear often that carbs are bad, fats are unhealthy, sugars are poison and so forth. Our bodies need all nutrition, in the right amounts to function and be healthy. ‘Healthy eating’ means eating for health so there are no blanket terms as we’re all different with different needs – the ‘Instagram experts’ really have got this wrong. We also need variety to help us manage cravings. Studies show that if we take all enjoyable tastes and textures from our diet we crave them significantly and this often leads to over-eating: again reinforcing that we ‘failed’. Instead try not to deny yourself certain foods and ‘ban’ them but instead keep moderation and balance.
  7. Don’t buy into ‘clean eating’ – when we give labels to food like ‘clean eating’ ‘good’ ‘bad’ ‘dirty’ ‘sin’ ‘junk’ we are ascribing judgements to them, and consequently to you as a person. A post I read recently by Nutritionist Naomi Mead said this perfectly; ‘Your eating habits do not reflect your worth as a person and you should never feel guilty about eating. Ever’.
  8. Listen to your body – rather than following a prescribed plan, try listening to your body. Think carefully about when it’s actually hungry, what it needs to eat and what it will enjoy too. This is called Mindful Eating and there are so many helpful books, apps, exercises and classes out there which can teach you much more about your body than a diet book from an author who doesn’t know you exist can.
  9. Be realistic – when we buy a house we don’t think ‘I’m going to decorate every room, tomorrow, and it’s going to look like a catalogue by the end of the day’ we take one room at a time and do what we can. So why should we treat our bodies differently and expect the unachievable? Try doing everything and you’ll fail, just like you would in any other task. Instead be reasonable and you’re more likely to succeed, sustain and enjoy.

Dieting has no place within a wedding

I strongly believe that food is there to be enjoyed and that a wedding is a time of joy, not a time of stress and pressure and guilt-ridden diet cycles. Try and remember that the people you invited to your wedding are the people you know and love. They are expecting and wanting to see you – not Gigi Hadid! They are the least likely to judge you and they don’t care if you’re a size 6, a 14, a 22 or anything above and between – they just love you, plain and simple.

Of all the beautiful brides I’ve had the pleasure of seeing over the years, my resounding memory is of their happiness, and they are impossibly beautiful because of it. Don’t get so swept along in the messages and opinions of a diet industry that wants your money that you forget how to be you and how to enjoy one of the most special days of your life and all its’ exciting build up.

Oh, and to the many ‘get wedding ready’ messages out there – bore off.  You have no place in my happy wedding world. And me, and my disproportionate bottom, are once again in harmony.

With Love,

Clare x


You can read more ‘From the Heart‘ posts here on Love My Dress. If you would like to contribute your own feature, please email [email protected] or complete the form on this page.

16 thoughts on “From The Heart: Dieting Has No Place Within a Wedding

  1. This article is amazing and a much needed sane, helpful and pro-women voice in the sea of craziness that is the wedding world. Thank you for writing this Claire and for publishing it Love My Dress.
    For someone who had a first dress fitting yesterday, this is extremely pertinent and has got me thinking clearly again after starting to have those exact toxic thoughts you mention in your article. Thank you! x

    1. I’m so very pleased you like the article so much Katie.
      May you very much enjoy the rest of your wedding planning – dress fittings and all!
      Much love to you,
      Annabel xXx

  2. This is just the most positive blog post I’ve read. Day in day out I,’m at the sharp end with brides doing fittings and see first hand how this pressure to lose weight, really is damaging. I get it, I’ve been there and was obsessed on the run up to my day too and it made me miserable. I love food, enjoy cooking….I look back on that angst ridden run up now and just wish I’d been more at peace with my body and not been trying to fit some cookie cutter image. I try to reassure my brides but the pressure is so overwhelming., I’ve had brides lose two dress sizes in as many months and it does worry me.

    So yesterday, when I was fitting a bride and she arrived apologising for having developed a Jaffa cake fetish and had incidentally eaten a packet with her bridesmaid on the way up in the car I just wanted to hug her. She s off to NY next month and is looking forward to eating……can you imagine dieting there for a romantic break away…ummmm NO. She’s got it right.

    1. Pretty sure those Jaffa Cakes are on offer down at the Co-op right now *adds to shopping list* 🙂
      The post makes such a refreshing read doesn’t it?
      Thank you for commenting Vicky,
      Love Annabel xx

  3. Writing this after wiping away tears from point number 1! As a size 8-10 who has always battled with my weight (I’ve lost 3 stone over the last 4 years) I was horrified to find that I needed a size 14 wedding dress. There is nothing wrong with a size 14, at all, it’s just that at 5’1″ I had battled to get to a healthy size and after my dress appointment immediately signed up to slimming world despite my fiancée telling me I am beautiful as I am. Reading this has bought a whole load of perspective back. With less than 10 weeks to go, I will try harder to love me for me and stop criticising my lumps and bumps and wobbly arms and just enjoy the very final stages of planning and a day of happiness (at which I will no doubt drink enough prosseco to not give two hoots as to whether or not my bum looks big in this dress!)
    Thanks Clare 🙂

  4. What a wonderful post. Im completely guilty of feeling a lot of negative emotions about my body- like somehow it’s detached from myself and something to abuse and dislike instead of an amazing, powerful thing. It’s good to be reminded of this and not put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect for the big day. What’s perfect is finding that one other person in the whole world who is going to stand by your side forever! So important to remember this, perfect post shared at a perfect time. Thank you xx

    1. I think if we’re honest, most of us are guilty of it Emily. I’ve got into yoga recently and the way the experience so far has reinforced the message that I have an amazing body capable of so much which needs nourishment and love is just wonderful. I’m loving getting to know my body more, respecting it loving the yoga path that I’m on.
      Sending you much love,
      Annabel xx

  5. Excellent article Clare, thank you for reminding us all that our bodies are a powerful machine and how important it is that we treat it kindly and with respect. I’ve had food issues for many years and am once again trying to lose weight at the moment. I’ll be continuing to do so for health and confidence reasons, but will be trying very hard to be kinder to myself and using the house decorating anaology- one room at a time xx

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Shona, I’m so pleased you enjoyed this feature, I knew our readers would enjoy this post, so well written. Like you, I too have had ‘food’ and body image issues for a long time. I’m in my 40’s now and feel healthier and better than ever, not because I’ve lost any huge amount of weight, but because I’m finally learning to nourish, respect and love my body!
      Sending much love,
      Annabel xxx

  6. This blog has made me feel so much better about myself and given me the confidence boost I needed! Since buying my dress I have been stressing about my weight and saddle bags and am constantly looking for ways to drop weight! I have just wasted £130 on a diet plan by a leading personal trainer that has launched this year! And for what – for him to tell me what I already know.
    It’s so hard for brides to not get swept along with wanting to feel and look their best on their special day – but when have you ever heard someone say she was an ugly bride or she should have lost more weight for that dress. EVERY bride is beautiful and all of them shine on the day! I will definitely be taking a leaf from this post and learn to appreciate my body and learn to love it more!!!

  7. As someone who has battled with anorexia and negative body image for most of my life, this was a really inspiring and helpful read. My now fiancé helped me to love myself again, and over the last 7 years I have recovered from this paralysing illness. Planning our wedding has brought up a lot of my old negative thoughts, but this has been a much needed reminder that I am ‘perfect’ the healthy size I am now, and like Clare says my partner is marrying me for I am, not an unobtainable image in my head.

  8. Thank you Claire. I am blown away, almost in tears reading this. I plan to re-read this however many times I need to for the next 499 days until my wedding, to stay sane.

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