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How to say 'I don't' to diet culture

I remember my engagement like it was yesterday: a romantic date night in downtown Halifax at a fancy restaurant, complete with champagne and even more love in my boo’s eyes than usual. As we were leaving, he got down on one knee and popped the question.

I was elated to say yes but I couldn’t help and think about how I looked when I did. Yes, I was drunk, crying uncontrollably and sweating from shock, but that’s not what I was self conscious about (surprisingly).

Questions start to swirl: How will I look in our wedding photos? How will dress shopping go? Should I wear Spanx? What will people think when they see me walk down the aisle? Will they be focusing on the love my husband and I share for each other, or be focusing on the weight I’ve gained?

As a bride-to-be, you're constantly bombarded with ads and articles for extreme fad diets and fitness plans to shred for the wedding. There’s an expectation if you’re not already in the best shape of your life, you better get there. Once the excitement wears off, your wedding day can feel like a looming deadline to lose those last 10 pounds (or 20).

Combatting the pressure
Leah Cain, a dietician/nutritionist at Nourish Your Nutrition is very familiar with the societal pressure brides unfortunately know so well. See her 6 tips below to help you make peace with your body and keep the focus of your wedding day on you and your partner, not your dress size.

Tip #1: Acknowledge the power of diet culture
Diet culture is a bitch, acknowledge it as such. Its influence is strong, and you're not to blame for feeling the pressure. We're taught from a young age that thinness equals beauty, but in reality, it doesn't equal body confidence or body love.

You might feel inclined to hit the gym heavily or start a new diet but be careful! Diet culture is really thriving and sneaky these days, often masking itself as “wellness.” This multi-billion-dollar industry makes you feel this way in order to sell you supplements, and unrealistic fitness and diet plans. Try to remember that 95% of people don't stick with diets, simply because they don't work long term. The diet is never the answer, but we are taught that it is.

Tip #2: Practice self compassion
Remember you don't need to look a certain way to be beautiful and be loved. Try to swap the judgement with self-love and patience. Take a step back, take a breath and meet yourself where you’re at now.

Tip #3: Kick the comparison mindset
Everybody is different, and every body is different. Our shape is 70% determined by our genetics. You may think “My friend looks great in her dress, I could never pull that off.” Try shifting your mindset to “Maybe that wouldn’t look the best on my shape, but she looks amazing and I’m going to look amazing too.”

Tip #4: Dress for your body today, not your body tomorrow

When the time comes to flip through the clothing racks, choose a wedding dress that makes you feel beautiful, confident, comfortable or sexy now. You’re the only one wearing it - you need to love the dress before you show anyone else and invite their opinions.

When you choose a dress based on your current body, you’re still going to feel good in it on your wedding day whether you lose a few pounds or not. There’s no pressure to manipulate or change your body because you already feel amazing. However, it’s important to remember that it’s okay if you don’t fully accept or love your body. Regardless of your shape, your value is not dependent on it.

Tip #5: Prioritize stress management and sleep
Let’s be real, wedding planning is stressful. Guest lists, decorations, vendors, and a million other little details can quickly weigh on your mind. To make matters worse, you may feel stressed about looking “perfect” on your big day.

Some factors that increase the level of cortisol (stress hormone) your body releases are high stress, lack of sleep, extreme diets and over-exercising. Increased cortisol can cause your body to hold onto weight or gain weight. It can snowball even more so if you're not sleeping well. So, even if you’re working out consistently and calorie counting, it won’t make the difference you’re hoping for. In fact, managing stress levels and getting adequate sleep will put your body in a better position to lose weight, if that is a goal of yours. Overall, stress management and sleep are so important to prioritize so that you are in the right headspace to truly enjoy the experience.

Tip #6: Focus on the positive and practice gratitude
It’s proven that when people can express gratitude daily, it shifts the way we think in a more positive direction. For example, adopt writing in a gratitude journal twice a week or carve out some time in the morning when getting ready to talk out loud to yourself about what you’re grateful for that day. This could be body-related or otherwise. You will start to feel a shift in your everyday mood, because mindset is half the battle.

Wellness goals are individualized – there isn’t one approach that is better than another. If you are looking for someone to help you feel your best on your big day, reach out to Leah Cain for more guidance. or