Updated: Mar 6
Written by: Natalie Pirolli, MS RDN, LDN | December 15, 2022
For anyone who has planned a wedding or knows someone who has planned a wedding, you know it's a stressful time. Not only are there a million details to think about (and dollars to spend), but the ridiculously unnecessary pressure to look good that day. Hair, makeup, nails, skin, oh yes and your entire body feel like they are going to be under a spotlight and need to be “perfect.”
Plus, whether you are wearing a wedding dress or suit, that wedding day outfit is tailored to your body and needs to fit that day. This alone comes with immense pressure. Think about it—when else do you buy an outfit you’re going to wear over a year in advance? So not only do I need to still like this dress in a year, I need to make sure it fits, too. That’s where the alterations come in with their own layer of stress. Is it just me, or is there something about a tape measure coming at you that makes you instantly go tense and feel like you need to flex, hold in your stomach, or just not breathe entirely? It’s like not only are we standing in front of a full-length mirror under the worst possible fluorescent lighting, but now we’re going to have parts of our body measured and recorded by a stranger? Fantastic. Sign me up.
It’s really no wonder dieting before a wedding is so mainstream. There is a ton of pressure to be picture-perfect that day. And the diet industry eats this up with its "wedding diet" programs, supplements, and protocols marketed toward brides. Going into wedding planning knowing this, I knew it would be important for me to try to remain calm (LOL, good one), but most importantly to maintain my anti-diet stance. I told myself I wasn’t going to give in to the pressures and was going to continue eating and moving in the ways I enjoyed, not the ways I felt like I “should” to “prepare” for my wedding.
But saying it is only half the battle. There were many times when I was in a dress fitting (in that glorious tailor shop lighting) or at home and looking in the mirror and thinking “but what if I just lose a little weight here… or tone up a little bit there… should I see what botox is all about?” I could feel myself starting to pick my body and skin apart. I also noticed I was starting to think about my grocery lists and meals a little differently, too. There was a little bit of diet culture seeping in telling me I should eat a little more of this and less of that.
Then one night I was sitting on the couch after dinner with my soon-to-be husband while he (blissfully) enjoyed some Ben & Jerry’s and I was having my usual after-dinner dark chocolate and I thought "hmm his dessert looks pretty good. Why don’t I ever buy myself ice cream?" Besides the fact that I’m lactose intolerant (I tolerate frozen yogurt or dairy-free ice creams better) but still — why wasn’t I letting myself have the option to enjoy a frozen treat at night, too?
The next time I went to the grocery store I bought Pete’s favorite Ben & Jerry's and one of their dairy-free options for myself. That night I was so excited for dessert and it did not disappoint. I'll admit there was a part of me that was like “Crap. Why did you do this? This is all you’re going to want to eat now!” But there was also this other part of me that was like “This is awesome and there are so many more flavors and options to try. This is going to be fun!”
To combat the diet mentality that was trying to rob me of this new joy in my life and put dessert off-limits, I started buying my own ice cream options each week along with Pete’s. What I found was, after a few nights in a row of excitingly eating it after dinner, I didn’t continue to need it or crave it every night like I initially thought I would. I knew it was in my freezer and that I could have it whenever I was in the mood for it. I wasn’t telling myself I "should" have a piece of dark chocolate instead or that I could "only have it on the weekends." Instead, I was enjoying a bowl of it whenever I wanted (and had the room for it) after dinner.
I made sure I was doing that with other foods that my diet-culture thoughts were trying to tell me I should limit pre-wedding, too. Like pasta, for example. I made sure we always had some in the pantry and that I made it for dinner whenever Pete and I were in the mood for it.
This is considered an “abundance mindset.” It is quite literally the opposite of a diet or restrictive/scarcity mindset. It means you give yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want — not just when you have “been good all week” or “after the wedding” and is part of the idea of having food freedom. While this unrestricted view of eating can sound a little scary (remember my thought that I was going to eat cartons of ice cream every night?), it is actually what prevents us from obsessing over and losing "control" around foods.
Once we restrict something and make it off limits, the allure for it starts growing exponentially, AKA the “forbidden fruit” effect. The food can literally start to hold power over us; it’s the elephant in the room at a party, it’s something we can’t keep in the house because we’ll eat it all in one sitting if we allow ourselves a bite, it’s the first food we tell ourselves we’re enjoying once our “diet is over.” This isn’t because we’re weak or need more willpower, it’s the fact that we (or diet culture) labeled this food as “bad” or “off limits.” Because once we have permission to eat that food whenever we want, we take the power away from it and put it back into our own hands. We’re much less likely to find ourselves at the bottom of the pint, bag, or box after a bad day. It can sit in our fridge, freezer, or pantry without us even realizing it’s there or thinking about it 24/7. We also don’t have to eat it all in one sitting on a “cheat day” because we have permission to eat it (and all foods) whenever we want.
This is, of course, something that can take time to feel comfortable with, especially if there are many foods on our “forbidden” lists or if we’ve had diet mentality for a long time. It’s not uncommon when we first start practicing an abundance mindset to overeat the foods we previously restricted (it can feel kind of like we're a kid in a candy shop). But then these foods start to lose their allure or urgency because once we shift from a scarcity mindset ("I can't eat this food" or "I can't let myself eat this food often") we stop obsessing over those foods. It's human nature to obsess over things we feel are scarce or lacking. (For example, when you're low on money or budgeting, what are you always thinking about? Money and ways you wish you could spend it). By freeing up this mental space that was occupied by food rules, we’re able to see things more clearly — like how all foods can fit into the diet — and are better able to tune in and trust our intuition around eating (like honoring our hunger and fullness), which also helps prevent us from overeating these once forbidden foods.
I realize how embracing the abundance mindset helped keep me from caving into diet culture before my wedding and have continued to practice it and hope you will consider practicing it, too. And in the end, it’s almost funny to think about the pressure I felt at times to “look good” because the day goes by so quickly, there is nothing but love and support for you and your new spouse, and you are just so excited to officially become each other’s family that you throw your hair up and just want to celebrate on the dance floor. The tone of your arms and size of your waist are literally the furthest things from your mind.
Best day ever. 7-2-22.