Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Reconciling Post-Holiday Gluttony with Wedding Image Overload

For me, January 1 usually brings a real reckoning in terms of my weight gain, and this year did not disappoint.  Those five to ten new pounds are noticeably present in my vacation photos and in my tightening pants size. As someone who's spent most of her life overweight, those holiday pounds tend to freak me out.  As someone who's spent far too much time recently looking at wedding photos of slim, white, traditionally attractive brides I should probably be in weight panic overdrive.  Well, I'm not.  And I refuse to be all that bothered that I spent a month fully appreciating thanksgiving, holiday parties, Christmas and our recent foodie vacation (gourmet Nirvana begins to describe all the incredible meals we tried in San Francisco.) 

Unfortunately, there's immense cultural pressure that equates being beautiful with being slim.  And with the confluence of the WIC, New Years resolutions, engagement photos, and the d*mn expectation that all brides are out to lose ten pounds, it's really easy to hate January and hate myself for being "fat" and to jump into must-lose-weight overdrive. 

F*ck that noise.

I refuse to feel guilty about all the incredible deliciousness I ate in December.  I could spent three blog posts detailing all of the incredible family meals, the melt-in-your-mouth richness of our office holiday party food, and the explosion of complex flavors at Dosa in San Francisco (which may be my new favorite restaurant ever... or at least this week.)  And yet, I was feeling pretty alone in feeling grateful for experiencing all this amazing food as I started seeing weight loss ads all over Facebook and as women in my office began with the inevitable I-feel-so-gross "bonding" conversations in the kitchen.  Don't get me wrong - I don't want to participate in overindulgence all year long, but I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a season (or weekend, or evening) to really appreciate our food, given that we strive for an overall sense of balance and health.  I got back to counting my weight watchers points yesterday, fully aware that I'm a few more points away from my weight/health goal, and not too bothered.

And so, I really appreciated catching up on my reading and finding two incredible weight-related posts from some of my favorite thoughtful blogging ladies.  A over at Accordions and Lace described some of my frustration with New Years weight loss overload so well (emphasis mine):
...This has been particularly on our minds lately not only because we spent our time off having so much fun with food and reading such interesting stuff, but also because of the usual dysfunctional chatter that punctuates holiday celebrations: newspaper articles about how not to “overindulge” at Christmas dinner (you eat it once a year! Dear lord, are we not allowed to just let loose and enjoy our food even once a year?), and the inevitable new year’s talk of resolutions, with the gym memberships, diet plans, and weight loss goals that they always seem to involve. None of those ideas are inherently problematic in and of themselves... but what gets to me is, again, the pathological attitudes: going to the gym because we’re fat and unhappy, and not because we want to live a balanced lifestyle and physical fitness is a huge part of that... Is it possible for us to live well-rounded lifestyles without the guilt? Perhaps even with a little bit of joy? I hope so. I want to believe I can care about my health and my body without having to hate both food and myself.
I love my food. I love feeling healthy. And I'm learning to love my body, and fiercely want to know, to really and truly understand, what is is that Jason finds so definitely attractive about me, ten extra pounds and all.  Because we're pathologizing food-related pleasure because we're unsatisfied with how we look.  And we're unhappy with how we look because we have less cultural currency as women if we're not slim-attractive.  And we're not "real" brides unless we achieve a blog-worthy size four (or preferably size 2) picture-perfect body.

Here's my New Years promise to you: this blog will not provide diet tips or celebrate only one type of bride or beauty.  Instead, as I focus on creating an authentic wedding I want to celebrate my authentic beauty, backfat and all. I wanted to email all my girlfriends when I read A's musings about weight and food and I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read Cupcake Wedding's celebration of her authentic beauty:
But, as you start your wedding diet or stress over which industrial strength corset will best suck in your back fat, please remember:  You shouldn’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on makeup, diet pills, gym memberships, hair extensions or teeth whitening to feel like a beautiful queen on your wedding day.

If the look of wanton happiness radiating off your face isn’t enough to cinch your title as Most Beautiful Woman in the Room, consider this: Another person is willingly standing next to you agreeing to sex you, and only you, up for their rest of their lives. They are committing to your soft stomach and double chin and hairy feet because they think you are wonderfully imperfect.

Doesn’t that make you feel sexier already?
So perhaps like me, you're cheering and nodding along.  And perhaps like me, you're still gearing up for some health-related weight loss efforts and balance.  And perhaps, also like me, you want to believe this and embrace the weight loss healthy living zen, but sometimes it's too d*mn hard and the cultural and wedding pressure is too d*mn much, particularly when we don't have reference points for seeing larger women as beautiful.  Well, if you're anything like me, then these pictures from V Magazine's plus-size spring issue will make you dance a little jig of fist-pumping joy.  And if your partner is anything like Jason, the photos will catch his attention from the corner of his eye, and he will literally stop what he's doing on his computer to stare and appreciate this incredible beauty.  

More images and commentary on the V Magazine plus-size issue at Jezebel.com

Images of women and beauty who look like us tend to be alien in our popular culture landscape, unless we're directing scorn at celebrity weight gain.  But these photos show us that "plus-size beauty" shouldn't be relegated to Lane Bryant catalogs or out-of-the-norm concepts.  These women are me, or your girlfriend, or your mother, and they are stunning in their own right, without any "plus-size" descriptor.  
Own your beauty.  Own your body.  Own your food-related pleasure.  And this year, let's all try to focus on the process of health and not on the product of some prescribed notion of bridal beauty as we approach our wedding preparation efforts.  Because these women look stunningly sexy and beautiful, fat be d*mned, and we will too, on our wedding days and every day thereafter.   


  1. So obviously I love this post, and I think it relates well to other stuff you've written re: wanting to look your best at your wedding without buying into atrocious cultural pressure. I think we cannot emphasize the point about how women tend to "bond" over their self-hatred and food-hatred--as someone said on my blog, food guilt is contageous. I think this happens a lot in the wedding world too--bloggers bond over weight loss plans and it becomes a normalized part of the experience. Where is the space in there to say, "actually I kind of like food and also I kind of like myself"?

  2. I love this post!

    As someone who just created homemade cinnamon buns for breakfast (and enjoyed every last bite) I agree that there is no reason to not indulge when you feel like it. I had so much stupid pressure from my seamstress to lose weight before the wedding that it drove me crazy, and I totally freaked out for a few weeks before I talked myself out of it, calmed down, and continued to eat like the normal, healthy person I am.

    There is ample backfat in my photos. I am ok with this!

  3. I hate the constant cultural pressure to loose weight and that this is the time of year to punish yourself for what you indulged in over the holidays.

    Indulging is called indulging because you allow yourself to enjoy something pleasurable. Why should be feel guilty for enjoying pleasure? Isn't that kind of the point of life — enjoying living?

    For me, I work out to feel comfortable in my body, not what it looks like in a mirror. Sometimes my back hurts when I haven't gotten moving in a few days, but sometimes I like feeling a little extra squish around my midsection because it's soft. Making our bodies feel good should be the goal of exercise, not slimming down because someone I don't know will judge my size.

  4. I saw these photos too and was about to blog about them. I honestly think the first and third shots are beautiful.

    Yet, I will still try and make myself healthier this year. I need too. I simply cannot turn up at another dying patient's bedside with purple spots in front of my eyes from the running.

  5. Also, these woman are just beautiful. They would be beautiful with or without the weight. The weight is not the issue really.

  6. these women are so hot. it's about self-confidence and feeling healthy, not being rail-thin. i love food and i love people who love food. honestly, people who deprive themselves are no fun to be around.
    and i love these three sentences: "Own your beauty. Own your body. Own your food-related pleasure."

  7. @anna - yes these women are beautiful (oh goodness that bone structure) but it's also the composition and the CONFIDENCE. I'm taking these photos to my boudoir shoot as a reminder of who I want to be.

  8. Oh I could not agree more. They just ooze sexiness. I am going to channel their confidence on a daily basis, me thinks!

  9. @megan marie - your photos were stunning. Your dress, your hair, the setting, and your smile. If there was any backfat, I certainly didn't notice it over the dress-and-venue-and-wedding envy.

    @ms bunny - yes yes yes. I think we need to start reclaiming the word "indulge" so people stop thinking it's just a precursor to guilt (or an everyday way of life.)

    @accordiansandlace - I actually think you created that space on your yummy Monday blog posts. Yay.

  10. awesome post. Marilyn Monroe was a size 16.....

    cultural trends on weight can and do change. We just have to start saying NO to what the dieting industry wants us to believe-see as beautiful :)

    Thank you :)

  11. @Eco Yogini - Thanks for your support here. We need to start believing our own eyes and stop holding up fashion mags/wedding mags/wedding blogs as arbiters of attractiveness. (and pst - Marilyn's side 16 is more like today's size 8. Still significantly larger than our current cultural trend, but it's an important distinction for comparative purposes.)

  12. Fuck that noise, indeed.

    I love pictures of hot sexy women and I would give anything for magazines and television shows to showcase this more often. I hate when the only fat women you see in the media are gag characters (Mimi from the Drew Carey Show) or women of color (because I, as a Latina, think that Latin and AA cultures are more accepting of big women.)

    Also, I have seen you in your dress pictures and I think you have a lovely figure.

  13. @cupcake - I agree with you on the cultural difference. There was a long period when only non-white men bothered talking to me at bars and it gave me a real appreciation for other standards of beauty. Hear that, media?!

    And thank you for the compliment. I'm not going to do the culturally-approved-female thing where I turn around and undercut myself by also saying "oh, but you haven't seen me when..." Just, thank you.

  14. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I so needed this because just yesterday I was looking at my wedding pictures and thinking about one of my father-in-law's favorite sayings, "...ten pounds of hog shoved in a five pound sack..." But I felt gorgeous on my wedding day, so I'm just going to hold on to that and ignore my big hips and arm fat. Because thinking like that was what made me run twice a day for a month before the wedding. And starve myself and then cheat and feel even worse. And even though I hit wedding zen about two days before the day, I slept in saran wrap the night before my wedding. (Which is weird. Don't do it.)

    But one of my goals this year is not to lose weight, but to be healthier. Because dang it, I felt better about myself when I was thinner because I just plain FELT BETTER. And looking at those lovely gorgeous women up there, who are so pretty that people pay them to be looked at...that makes me even more motivated. Because I'm shaped like them now and they look damn good. So I'm going to use them as a reference and not strive to lose weight, but to just eat better and work out to feel better and get my confidence back up.

    So thank you thank you for reminding me that I'm dead sexy. Besides, according to the husband, it was my "big boobs, big butt and shiny red hooker heels" that got me him in the first place. Can't lose those and disappoint him, now can I? :-)

  15. Great post! There's so much pressure on women to lose weight no matter what, but the extra helping foisted upon engaged women is incredibly obnoxious, and the more it's called out and ridiculed the better. Less than twenty-four hours after I made our engagement "Facebook official," every. single. sidebar ad was for some sort of wedding diet. "Skinny bride secrets!" "Look great on your wedding day!" "Fit into that dress!" It was enough to make a girl want to take a machete to her computer. I settled for giving those ads the "thumbs down" and listing the reason as "offensive."

  16. So much good stuff here!

    My philosophy is to never apologize for eating good, REAL food. Let's throw out the word indulge. Good food should be celebrated. Every damn day. When yet another girlfriend tells me she's giving up carbs, fat and dairy I feel sad inside. How does one live without Carbonara? And cheesy bread? Maybe if our attitude towards food were healthier, WE would be healthier.

  17. i was happy just with the title of this post then i read it and was even happier! sometimes i can't deal with this wedding industry and it is so refreshing and real to read something like this. i am never (unless i saw myself in half) going to be anything smaller than a size 8 (and that is in my wildest dreams!)so i embrace it and love it and just hope to tighten it up a bit. but i got it and i am shakin it!

  18. i really appreciate this post for the message of loving yourself and your health. it's very though out and truly real. here's to a great year!

  19. Love love love this post - which I told you earlier. But there need to be more wedding positive role models out there!

  20. This was awesome! I cried. I love to get emotional so thank you for moving me. I am getting married this october and I have been scared out of mind to go dress shopping for fear of being to big to be stylish and beautiful. Before the holidays I had been working out hard but I decided to just enjoy the warmth and yumminess of Nov thru early Jan. This week I started to stress and feel bad for having such a great time. Your writing has been a nice slap in the face reminder that the only life worth living is one where you are loving and happy. Thank you so much. I am so glad Dana (brokeAssBride)put us together. And thank you again for all the dress resources.

  21. I love this post. It really hits home b/c i just went in for my first fitting a couple weeks ago, and as beautiful as the dress was and how well it fit in most areas, all i could notice was where it didnt' fit. The back fat, the muffin top hangin over the bra/back strap area... and it was very sad.

    Why couldn't i focus on the beauty of the dress elsewhere... why was i only drawn to the negative?

    It helps to know i'm not the only one feeling a little pressure and it is a GREAT reminder that its the look on my face on that special day and not the amount of fat on my body that people will remember!

  22. Awesome post. Trying on wedding dresses is kind of kicking my ass (thank you sample size 8). This was just the antidote.

  23. a-the hell-men! thanks so much for this, it made my day, my new year and my T-minus 4 months til the wedding!


I love active conversations, including (civil) disagreement. I don't love spam or people who use internet anonymity to be rude and disparaging. Spam and rudeness will be deleted.