Weddings and weight loss [Commentary]

Losing her heart to him, and then another 20 pounds

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As soon as my daughter got engaged, a wedding weight loss campaign was launched.

Mine.

She wasn't far behind me. She signed up for something called "cross fit," and she has been complaining of pain and soreness ever since. She might not be any thinner in October, but my guess is she'll be able to throw a kettle ball the length of the aisle, should it be necessary to do so.

Rob Kardashian's exit from his sister Kim's wedding spectacle after the family reportedly ganged up on him about his heft is evidence that this misery isn't just for women anymore. Like any bride, he is said to have worried about how fat he would look in the wedding pictures.

Fashion empress Jessica Simpson is talking openly about the 70 pounds in baby weight she has lost in anticipation of her July nuptials. (It is much easier to fit in a wedding dress if you wait to have the baby after.)

And actress Jennifer Aniston's buddies say she is aiming to lose 10 pounds before she marries. The fact that she looks fabulous now shows how bad things are out there for brides.

Theresa DiDonato, a social psychologist and assistant professor at Loyola University in Baltimore, published her survey of wedding weight loss studies in Psychology Today, and it isn't good news.

The more pressure brides get from family and friends to lose weight, the less likely it is to happen and the more stressed and unhappy they will feel as a result.

"The evidence suggests that brides-to-be are taking on dramatic goals that may or may not be met, followed by weight gain post-marriage," she writes in her column, "Meet, Catch, and Keep: A scientific look at the complexities of romantic relationships."

It doesn't make sense, she said, that health, fitness and weight be linked to a single day.

Ms. DiDonato found that brides were no more weight conscious than the average woman — until there is a ring on their finger. Then, she estimates, fully a third of the women are advised to lose weight by someone important in their lives, such as parents, friends or even their fiance.

"We call it 'fat talk,'" she said in an interview. "It can just be all the talk about weight. Other times, it is direct statements that are meant to be helpful. 'You'll lose a couple of pounds, right?'"

Clearly we are part of the problem — and the pressure backfires. Those brides who reported this pressure did not lose weight before the wedding and gained more (about 10 pounds compared with 3 pounds) after.

Dr. DiDonato reported on a survey of brides-to-be recruited at a wedding expo and 46 percent said they were aiming for a weight loss of 20 pounds. But only about half of those who expressed a desire to lose weight actually did and then it was only about 7 pounds.

And while more than half the grooms reported no weight gain or loss, the bridesmaids are apparently as worried about their weight as the bride, according to Dr. DiDonato. After all, everyone will be looking at them, too.

Weddings are full of expectations and they can require complicated negotiations and the navigation of feelings, she said. "Taking on a weight loss goal on top of all of that?" she said. "Weight loss requires self-control, and you are already using up those resources at a difficult time."

The wedding photos are the culprit, she suspects. "There is so much permanence attached to those photographs. This one chance to be immortalized forever." I know what she means. I want to look good in those photos, too.

She advises support for the bride whether she gains or loses weight. This time in her life is difficult enough. And perhaps someone wise in her circle of friends could say — often — what a beautiful bride she will be.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at sreimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.


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