For some women, it’s the most important day of their lives.
Brides spend months planning their guest list, booking a reception venue, and practicing for their first dance.
But increasingly, brides are feeling the pressure to fit into the perfect dress and are adding a pre-wedding diet to their list of preparations.
A bride in Texas has documented her journey to lose 115 pounds in the year between getting engaged and getting married.
It is a trend dieticians are seeing more frequently.
“Brides who dream of a church wedding with a reception afterward know they will be in the spotlight for the entire day. Every step they take will be captured in photographs and videos, so they want to look their very best,” Robyn Flipse, dietician and author of “The Wedding Dress Diet,” told Healthline.
Beautiful bride pressure
The emphasis our culture places on “beautiful brides” puts a tremendous amount of pressure on brides-to-be to transform themselves so they can look their personal best, Flipse said.
Unfortunately, she added, some do set unrealistic goals that can be dangerous.
Flipse has worked as a registered dietician for the past 25 years, and 16 years ago published her book to help brides safely lose weight for their wedding day.
“’The Wedding Dress Diet’ was triggered by the increase in the number of women coming to me for weight loss counselling in preparation for their wedding day … since then I believe the number of books and services marketed to brides looking for ways to get in shape before their wedding has grown steadily, and I don’t think all of the options are safe or reasonable,” she told Healthline.
Flipse isn’t the only one concerned by the number of brides seeking to lose weight leading up to their wedding day.
Claire Mysko, chief executive officer of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), says that some brides may feel so much pressure to be thin for their wedding day they could be at risk of developing eating disorders.
“As a culture, we’re surrounded by images that represent a very narrow definition of beauty and we see the same problem in bridal magazines and advertising,” Mysko told Healthline.
“This ‘thin ideal’ has become internalized, so not only are we feeling pressure to be thin from messages in the media, but brides also may be getting feedback from well-intentioned friends and family members who are encouraging brides to lose weight so that they ‘look their best’ on the big day,” she added.
Starts with a few pounds
Mysko says she often hears patients say their eating disorder started off due to an attempt to lose “just a few pounds.”
“Dieting is one of the most common triggers for an eating disorder. Thirty-five percent of ‘normal dieters’ progress to disordered eating, and of those, 20 to 25 percent progress to partial or full syndrome eating disorders. Once someone goes down the road of dieting and weight loss, it may be extremely difficult to notice when ‘normal’ dieting has crossed into dangerous territory,” she said.
Dieticians like Flipse suggest that before embarking on a weight loss program, brides should ask themselves if they would be able to safely maintain such a program forever. If the answer is no, they shouldn’t even begin.
Instead, Flipse advises brides to set realistic goals and shift their focus to adopting healthy eating behaviors and activities that can be maintained throughout their lives. She also advises brides to involve the groom in the process, so that they can both make a commitment to healthy living.
A healthy life
Although there is nothing wrong with brides trying to eat a healthy diet and exercise, experts say such habits become dangerous when they start to interfere with a bride’s life and well-being.
“We would also encourage brides to be mindful of how their pre-wedding regimen is impacting their lives. Are they becoming rigid and inflexible with habits? Exercising despite injury or exhaustion? Withdrawing from friends and activities that used to give them pleasure? These may be signs that weight loss attempts have gone too far,” Mysko said.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder and can have serious health consequences such as kidney failure and heart attack, so it is important symptoms aren’t ignored.
NEDA advises that friends and family should be honest and talk with a bride they fear may be struggling with eating or body image issues. If the problem persists or gets worse they should contact a professional.
“Friends and family members can also help by shifting the focus away from appearance and compliment the bride on their wonderful personality and accomplishments. Remind them that ‘true beauty’ is not skin deep,” Mysko said.