On August 13, 2016, I get to marry the love of my life. Every fiber of my soul cannot wait to be this man's wife. It took 13 years of dating, but I found him!
I always imagined that meeting the right man would, to some degree, heal my body image issues. If someone else found me beautiful, certainly, I would finally be able to see the beauty in myself. Right??
For me, it was always the physical aspect I struggled with. I was raised to be very clear about my worth. I always believed that I was smart and kind and worthy of love, that I had a lot to offer someone. But I feared that if I wasn't thin enough, if I didn't meet the typical standards of "beauty", then that love may not happen for me.
Before you scoff in disapproval, you should know how difficult it is to write that about oneself. Admitting that one worries deeply about his or her appearance indicates a level of shallowness that I would not characterize myself with. The fact is, though, this was my truth. I had a deep-seeded fear that my body wouldn't be acceptable enough to attract a man.
I was wrong, as we usually are when we are blinded by our own insecurities. I met my perfect man, who tells me often how beautiful I am. And I guess I believed that would be enough. Falling in love does seem to have that effect on humans. It feels so good that it can, at least temporarily, mask a lot of the pain that might still be at play in your life. The truth is, however, that the love of someone else cannot heal something that is broken within you.
So, here we are. I am so fortunate to be planning a beautiful wedding to celebrate spending the rest of my life with this wonderful man, yet I find myself experiencing many of those all-too-familiar self-loathing thoughts about my body. Sure, every bride wants to look and feel her best on her wedding day, so it's no surprise that anxiety about my body would be heightened right now. But over the last couple of months I catch myself falling into old habits; feeling uncomfortable in my skin and removing his hand from my belly, berating myself with negative thoughts that I spent so many years a prisoner to.
As a health coach who fundamentally does not believe in dieting, it's a provocative place to find myself in. I very much believe that traditional dieting methods are not a positive option for me and I know how deeply important self-kindness is when it comes to how I take care of my body. In other words, when I am cruel to myself, I don't treat my body well. Those are the days I skip my workout or binge on foods that don't feel good in my body. When I am gentle and kind to myself, that is when I take the best care of my body and when my body responds well in turn.
I don't just know these things intellectually and preach them to my clients. I have experienced them and I trust in them deeply. But there is this bizarre element of weddings -- this desire to put on a flawless performance, when we really should be focused on celebrating a partnership that is guaranteed NOT to work if treated like a performance -- that can make us lose our way. I'm lucky to have a partner and a family that reminds me of this fact - the fact that the best part of all of this excitement is what happens when it's over: I get to be married to this person for the rest of my life!
Does this mean I won't stress about my upcoming dress fitting? No. Does it mean I won't have days where I revert to my old ways of trying to punish myself into the body I think I "should" have? Ummm no. I wish I could say otherwise, but I have committed to being real in this space. And that would not be real.
The difference for me now is that I have the tools to keep these feelings at bay. I can allow myself to experience these feelings, as crappy as they feel, without allowing them to debilitate me. I can be open and share these feelings with others who support me, rather than keeping them hidden where they do the most damage. I can trust in the belief that I am loved as I am today. And I will be loved as I am tomorrow. And if I feed my body, mind, and soul with that belief, I'll also rock that dress, which will be icing on the proverbial wedding cake.
Bio: After years of battling and recovering from her own eating disorders, Emily Light founded The Sustainable Body Project. A Certified Health Coach, Emily specializes in how to break free from a lifetime of chronic dieting to find peace around food in a body you love.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.