It began well before the day I said "yes."
I had a pretty good idea the moment was coming and was already planning how to answer the question: How thin and perfect can I get my body before our wedding day?
I fantasized about walking down the aisle with long, lean arms, a waistline that would make his eyeballs bounce out of his head when he saw me in a form-fitting dress, firm hips that marked a dedicated runner and a strong stomach. After all, I loved him so much and he deserved the best … the optimal me.
Well, what started off as the "optimal me" was quickly replaced by the obsessive me. I fanatically posted diet plans, pictures of thin women and workouts that promised I'd look like a real-life Photoshop image. I decided I was not going to be a fat bride.
I bought a 14-day juice cleanse program and at the end of not eating for two weeks, I dizzily went to try on wedding dresses. I even skipped the celebratory champagne offered during my fitting — too many calories.
And then … all of the dress samples were a size 6. Despite days of only drinking juice, I was still twice that size. Running through my head like an old broken record was the thought that I should just walk out now and spare myself the embarrassment. That because I was bigger than the dresses on the rack, I didn't deserve to be a bride at all.
The very sweet attendant assured me it would be OK. "We can make the gown bigger or smaller with this ribbon lace up the back. You'll get a good idea of what dress you want and we can order the right size when you decide on the gown."
But the first dress I wanted was a sample size 2 and couldn't even get my hips past the bottom of the zipper. I eventually found a gown and hoped it would look as great in my size as it did in the dressing room.
I left thinking about how the majority of the samples had been a size 6, and yet I was a 12. To fit into the average sample dress, to be an average bride, I had to lose three sizes? My mental dialog persisted: How is my husband going to say yes, going to love me, if I'm not the size of an average bride? (I should have realized right then and there that being an average bride is not something anyone should ever want. We are all extraordinary, bride or not.)
Two months before the wedding, I was still around the same size even with all the dieting and workouts. I felt good, if not a bit overworked, but with little evidence of the promised results I started to fantasize about liposuction. Would a body-altering surgery be the cure to make me feel worthy as a beautiful bride? I inquired. I grieved. I debated. I obsessed. I was the unhappiest I had been since I'd met my incredible fiance.
I was getting married, something that's supposed to be the best day of my life, and all I could do was swim in body shame.
Miraculously, I eventually had a moment of total clarity. I had to spin out of control into total darkness, but I did bounce back full of resilience. I surfaced, and I was calm. I was torturing myself over the idea that "perfect" was synonymous with "average," but really, who wants to be just OK? Average bride I will not be. I hadn't dreamt of this moment my entire life just to be average.
Here's the truth it took hitting rock bottom for me to understand: My husband did not ask me to marry him because of my dress size. It wasn't because of my determination to look thin for him. And it certainly wasn't my tight stomach or leans limbs because those are things I've never had.
He asked to marry me because he loves the spirit in my vehicle, the body that transports my soul. He asked to marry me because I have an immense respect for my impersonal flesh: I'm healthy and I move with intention every day because it feels good to my spirit.
Here's another truth: I was going to marry a man that accepted my "flaws" as his idea of perfection. My made-up shortcomings weren't even on his radar. What he DID see in me was his beautiful future-wife, his life-long partner in crime. Someone to grow old and wrinkly with.
It was with these two truths that I realized I didn't need to change to become something he wanted because I already was. No diet, amount of weight loss or workout plan could make him love me more. So I submitted to trusting that this realization was absolutely true. And it was.
I married my husband at a happy size 12. Self-tanner and juice cleanses were abandoned as I began to remember what and who had mattered to me before. I was overjoyed, spinning circles wearing the wedding dress that was made for MY perfect size.
When I stopped and looked around at the people who had travelled incredible distances to be part of our day, I realized they weren't celebrating my journey of "sweating for the wedding." They were there because they loved us. They were there to toast two families coming together, the commitment of love between us, our two souls becoming one.
I'm so happy that I realized that what I was — what I am — is absolutely perfect for the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with. I'm not a size, I'm a spirit. I'm not my body, I'm the energy I put into our everlasting love.
Changing anything about my physical body wasn't, and isn't, going to change what's real: Two beautiful spirits in two healthy life-vehicles coming together for the sake of love. No size or appearance could change that.
Love is not a look. It's a feeling. And we are all perfect just the way we are.
Photo by Parker J Photo