Why wedding diets are so scary

I’m getting to the age where a lot of women I know are engaged to be married or have recently got married. The process these days seems to involve a variety of photoshoots – the engagement, the wedding invitation, and of course the millions of photographs that are taken on the wedding day.

Suffice to say that when you decide to get married there is a lot of emphasis placed on your physical appearance and because you hopefully only get married once, you want to look good. What I find really concerning however is the emphasis that continues to be placed on good meaning thin.

It seems as though the minute someone says ‘yes’ the shrink begins.

I see women around me donning exercise gear and making meal shakes in replacement for the normally balanced lives they used to lead before they were engaged – women shrinking to achieve some mysterious goal of being the perfect wedding weight. What I see then is women getting smaller for their big day.

First, the desire for smallness is worrying because it shows me that women exist in a state outside their bodies. They treat their bodies as separate from themselves – as projects that they must work on and improve, rather than part of themselves.

This is part of broader social norms that it is ‘healthy’ to ‘take care of’ yourself, and taking care of yourself means not carrying any ‘extra’ weight. The suggestion is that health is worn on the outside of the body.  The emphasis is on looking and appearing to be healthy rather than feeling it.  Previously associated with ill health, the thin body is now associated with health and control.

‘Fat-phobia’ is prolific.  ‘Overweight’ is seen as out of control, and to be thin is to ‘take control’ of your life. To eat then, is to give in to desire – it is to let oneself go. In choosing to treat our bodies like this, we alienate ourselves from enjoying the pleasure our bodies can bring.

Second, the desire to be small, or thin, feels scary to me because it says women shouldn’t be big or powerful. Susan Bordo makes some interesting points in her book Unbearable Weight. Two of these are that thinness has the effects of weakness and passivity; the celebration of a weak, fragile woman as an ideal means that men remain the stronger sex.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, for many women the norm of ‘attainable slenderness’ (it’s just one squat, diet shake, run away) is joined to the existence of constant anxiety that they will be unable to meet its restrictions.

Thus, women constantly seek to control their weight and their body shape through regimes of diet and exercise.  They exist in a state of constant anxiety.

I guess for me it comes down to this – you have had the luck to meet someone who you think it is a worthwhile investment to spend your life with. This is truly rare. They love you, in all the various ways that are possible to love a person.

 Yet, you spend the months before you tie the knot trying to change your body, to grow smaller, to alienate yourself from the only body you live in. Why would you want this to be the start of a life together?

How does that frame the power that you will be giving away each day of your married life?

Follow Women24 on Twitter and like our Facebook page.
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.