Pre-wedding weight loss is nothing new, but according to a recent article in the New York Times, "Bridal Hunger Games", the measures women are willing to go to in order to look thin on their special day have gotten more extreme. Translation: women have lost their minds in pursuit of the perfect wedding day body.
Juice "cleanses," the Dukan diet and marathon personal training sessions are practically for novices - some brides will try vitamin B shots and prescription pills to fit into their bridal gowns. For the truly hardcore, there are more harrowing options at their disposal: daily injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (a pregnancy hormone, which needs to be combined with a restrictive 500-calorie diet), and the K-E diet, which involves using a feeding tube that connects from nose to stomach to get all your nourishment (no carbs, natch), for 10 days.
To add further indignity, the privilege of having uncomfortable and rather embarrassing tubes shoved up your nose costs $1,500. According to one woman quoted in the article, the feeding tube can be awkward since it confuses people into thinking she's "sick" or "dying."
That's because people who normally have tubes sticking out of their noses are ill, dying or recovering from surgery of some kind. Unlike healthy people who can chew and swallow, those who are ill often struggle to consume food, so rely on tubes and IVs for nutrients. But I suppose that anyone who voluntarily puts themselves through the discomfort and cost of wearing a feeding tube for no reason other than vanity is probably a little sick, too (or will be after 10 days of near-starvation).
While I would never begrudge a woman who wants to look special on her wedding day and think a wedding is a legitimate reason to cut out sugar or add a personal training session or two to the weekly schedule, the pressure that women place on themselves to reach a certain weight by their wedding day is bordering on insanity. I may be wrong, but in my mind, a wedding is meant to celebrate and cement a loving, supportive relationship and provide a joyful occasion for friends and family. I don't see where waistline inches fit into matrimonial vows, or why turning your life upside down, damaging your metabolism and potentially creating other health and emotional issues is worth it for the "big day."
In our increasingly delusional society, looking the part of the "perfect" bride is one of the crucial labours women must perform (others include supremacy over the domestic sector, appearing well-groomed and ageless at all times, delivering children on cue and ideally, looking hot in a bikini within two weeks of giving birth). Just look at Victoria Beckham - mother of many, size of a toothpick, successful designer and entrepreneur, who, in addition to flaunting her amazing figure and fashions, still feels the need to tweet pictures of the baked goods she makes for her children.
Like most other things, the road to marriage has turned into a competition that starts with dating and ends with how big your diamond ring is. Women are competing amongst themselves and using celebrities as their barometers, which is perhaps why reality is starting to look so skewed. Losing weight for the wedding day is just another futile contest where the thinnest/prettiest/most toned person is somehow crowned the winner because she has triumphed over nature and her body in the shortest possible amount of time.
These weight-loss measures are often irresponsible, selfish and can be to the detriment of families. The above-quoted woman told the New York Times that the tubes made her look too terrifying to venture to her daughter's school. How depressing is the idea that fitting into a dress that will be worn one time somehow trumps being able to engage with your child and her friends? And what message is the daughter gleaning from this behaviour?
There is no respite from our current obsession with vanity and self-perfection: the media, social networking, the fashion industry, the diet industry, cosmetic surgery - everywhere you look, the mantra that women should be thinner, younger and prettier is repeated and women are gobbling it up - insecurity, unfortunately, is calorie-free.
As Susie Orbach has argued, we live in a world "in which preoccupation with how the body appears has become a crucial aspect of the female experience." Which I suppose these days translates to the belief that fitting into that wedding dress is worth being miserable in the lead-up to what is supposed to be one of the best days of your life.
Of course, not all women are susceptible and many would never resort to the tactics mentioned in the NY Times article. But what of the ones who do? Their perfect wedding day pictures may immortalise their beautiful bodies forever, but they risk developing seriously disordered eating habits or starting on a lifelong cycle of crash dieting, damaging to long-term health, mental state and metabolism.
I'm worried that because we see celebrities abusing their bodies and turning to the cult of the quick-fix (surgery, extreme diets, crazy workouts) in the quest for perfection, we think it's a feasible option that sounds more palatable than moderation in our diets and workouts, which takes patience and time. A February 2012 Guardian article, points out that for the seriously overweight, surgery is often considered the first port of call by physicians and nutritionists - not the final step after all other options have been exhausted.
I confess, I may be bitter. I am a woman who wasn't at her "fighting weight" when she got married. I had given birth four months prior to my wedding day and was breastfeeding and not really thinking of my body as anything other than a food source. I was eating everything in sight and had been to a few Pilates classes (my first exercise in months) because I felt I should, but I was too exhausted to really care. For once, I felt I could really relax about my body and just enjoy myself.
Which is what these brides need to do. They're getting married! I somehow doubt that when women imagine their ideal wedding day, they fantasise about feeding tubes and no solids along with their perfect dress and first dance.
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