I was a fat bride. I understand if this reads to you like one of those horror-show headlines on a certain type of women’s magazine. “I breastfeed my dad”, that kind of thing. For many women, it would be a nightmare, and entire industries exist around that fact. “Diet diaries” emblazoned with phrases like “Slimming down for the gown”, “Gotta squat before I tie the knot” and the slightly less elegant “Don’t listen to your inner fatty she’s an evil bitch” are purchased every day. I however, did not slim down for the gown, and on my wedding day I was approximately a size 20.
When I got engaged I thought about losing weight too. “I just want to feel my absolute best on the day,” I told a friend, “I don’t want any distractions, and I certainly don’t want to be thinking that I wish I’d lose weight.” In the end, I lost several stone in the year after I got engaged, and I didn’t even have to try. Cancer, in the form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, took care of it for me. Fortunately, my experience with cancer also transformed the way I felt about my body, so I was OK with the fact that by the time my wedding rolled around, I had put the weight back on.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have some negative body thoughts in the run-up to the big day. The idea of losing weight for your wedding is not one that any bride can avoid. In fact, I would say that being a bride is one of the most body-terrorised times in a woman’s life. There are the people who assume you’re losing weight, and ask you which diet you’ve decided to go with. There are the moments when shopping for your wedding dress, you are forced to squeeze yourself into dresses that don’t fit you and told to “imagine” what it might look like in your size. While scheduling your dress fittings, sales assistants reference the fact that there the dress will likely need to be taken in shortly before the wedding because “most brides lose a lot of weight”. The message is clear. Your body isn’t good enough as it is. The strange thing is it really doesn’t matter if you’re already a slim person, if you’re getting married, you’re going to lose weight.
I was a fat bride, with three size eight bridesmaids, and still I was the star of the show, because I was so happy
Lots of women do lose weight, of course. I have a friend who lost several stone ahead of her big day, because she felt that she would always look back on the photographs wishing she had made more of an effort if she didn’t. Now, a few years down the road, she looks nothing like the woman in her wedding photographs and feels ashamed of the fact that she hasn’t maintained her weight loss. I try to remind her of how miserable she was during those months when she existed solely on grilled fish and carrot sticks, but all she can see is her thinness, and all she can think about is how thin she isn’t now. I can’t help but think that she’d be happier looking at those photographs if she’d just stayed the way she was, at her body’s natural shape and size. Perhaps she’d look at the pictures and see how happy she was, rather than her size.
That’s what it comes down to for me when I look at my wedding photographs. I am fat, yes, but I have always been fat. I was put on my first diet at age seven. If I had devoted all my time and energy into becoming a thin person for my wedding day (and that’s what it would have taken, like all fat people I have tried), I wouldn’t have been myself. I wouldn’t have looked like myself. I might have felt delighted to be thin, but I wouldn’t have been able to maintain it, because my body is not built to be thin. I would be looking at my wedding photographs today unable to recognise myself because I am a fat person. I have accepted that. And so, I was a fat bride. I was a fat bride, with three size eight bridesmaids, and still I was the star of the show, because I was so happy.
It didn’t matter that I had hardly any hair after six months of chemotherapy. It wasn’t important that I was several sizes larger than many women would deem acceptable for a bride. I glowed. I laughed. I danced until five o’clock in the morning. I was beautiful. I was a size 20, I was beautiful and I was myself. Because I am not a work in progress. I am not a thin person trapped inside a fat person’s body. I am not waiting “until I lose the weight” to live my life. I have no “inner fatty”, because I am my inner fatty and my outer fatty and every kind of fatty and that’s OK. Even on my wedding day.