"Are you shedding for the wedding?вЂќ a friend asked when I ordered a salad during a recent dinner date. (Shocker, I know.) I must've looked confused because she hurriedly explained the concept of dropping a dress size for the big day and scrambled to change the subject. I mean, I'd heard of wedding diets, but I was surprised this was considered OK dinner conversation. What bothered me most: that cutesy phrase. It made a seriously loaded question sound offhand, and it made me wonder just how typical it was to assume that brides were losing weight for their weddings. So as soon as I got home, I googled вЂњshedding for the wedding.вЂќ The first result was a Wikipedia page about a reality show that was-to my satisfaction-evidently canceled after a season. The second result was an article titled вЂњCan We Please Stop the Shedding-for-the-Wedding Madness?вЂќ But behind the click-bait headline, the story was about shrinking slowly instead of crash dieting. I rolled my eyes and skipped the remaining 33-plus million results, realizing how I felt that shedding was, in fact, normal. To sum it up: pissed.
And I deserved to be! No bride needs to вЂњget a new, healthier lifestyle,вЂќ thankyouverymuch. Why is losing weight a prerequisite for marriage? How are we not done telling people that being skinny is a legit goal? Though body positivity has infiltrated the zeitgeist, size acceptance has been a little late to the wedding industry. Yes, the tide is turning (shout-out to Lovely Bride and David's Bridal!), but the lack of representation for women above sample size perpetuates the notion that thin=happily ever after. Even more troubling-and stay with me here-this ideal tells us that bigger people, we aren't as deserving of love.
For a long time, I myself believed the bullshit. I'd been trying to slim down since I started dating at age 14 (sorry, Mom). I wrote my goal weight on my hand to stay motivated. I counted calories in a notebook. I put pictures of models on the insides of cupboards, as if to say, вЂњThis, not that!вЂќ when looking for the Oreos. I was five-foot-ten and a size 4.
Over the next few years, I filled out into a size 8, which felt humongous compared with my size 0 friends. Every time a love interest disappointed me, I blamed it on my body. When Drew* dumped me out of nowhere, I channeled my sadness into psychotically long treadmill sessions. When Cole* was, ahem, earning extra credit with someone else, I bought diet pills.
And when Tyler* followed me up with a petite blonde, I just decided to stop competing altogether with girls who were smaller than me.
By the time college was in full swing, I was a size 12 and I didn't spend time chasing boys. Instead, I focused on starting a career in fashion. I'd skip class (sorry again, Mom) to edit the school paper, intern at magazines, or volunteer at fashion events. It was at an after-party for one of those events that I met Alan, now my fiancГ©. He was six-foot-eight and made me feel, well, normal size. (Sweetheart, if you're reading this, it was just one of the many things I immediately liked about you.) I asked him out and we never looked back. I honestly can't recall how I felt about my body in the early days with Alan. I was so blissed out barhopping, lake-housing, and lazy Sunday-ing that the memories mash together to form one big heart-eyes emoji in my mind. There was one time, a few months in, when he called me curvy. He meant it as a compliment-poor guy-but I was still brainwashed into thinking that curvy was code for unattractive.
It wasn't until I became a plus-size model that my mind started to change. At my agency, models like Ashley Graham, Crystal Renn, and Precious Lee made it clear that size isn't a measure of attractiveness. (I mean, have you seen them?) Still, modeling was hard: I'd attend castings and rarely get jobs-and when I did land one, I'd have to pad the hips and butt of my shapewear because my figure didn't fit the hourglass plus-size ideal. Comparing myself to that body standard and other models was so exhausting, I stepped away from the gig altogether.
After much hustle, I landed as an editor at Glamour. There, I leaned into the message I needed: The way you look does not define you, period. With the help of influencers like Graham, Gabrielle Gregg, and Tess Holliday, the culture had become more accepting of all bodies, and I spent years turning out content for women above size 12. When it was all said and done, I genuinely believed my own message. I also happened to have grown into a size 18. And I loved myself at that size. So did Alan! So much so, that that's when he proposed.
I felt better than ever about my body-until I began dog-earring wedding magazines and going to Bridal Fashion Week. And things took a real turn for the worse when I went dress shopping. Things you would've overheard in my dressing room: вЂњYou can add a corset to make your waist smaller.вЂќ вЂњDon't worry, you won't see Spanx through this fabric.вЂќ And вЂњWhat if you buy a size down and lose some weight?вЂќ What you would've seen: a dress four sizes too small gaping open in the back, an attendant trying not to break the zipper of said dress, and me sweating while holding back tears. I was so defeated, I gave up on my bridal vision and let myself stew in self-doubt.
After days of sulking, the little voice in my head got fed up and told me something I will never forget: вЂњYou got engaged, learned to love yourself, and will get married at your heaviest. If the best things happened when you were bigger, what would being thin get you?вЂќ I posted that with a picture of me in a wedding dress on Instagram (@lcchan), and it triggered comments, like, вЂњI can't tell you how embarrassing and upsetting dress shopping wasвЂ¦ I cried.вЂќ
Here's what I wrote back: We need to stop believing that in order to live our best lives, we need to be peak skinny. Let's use the time we spend measuring ourselves up to others, feeling bad about our bodies, or hell, crying in fitting rooms, to create our own happily ever after. (I ended up getting my dress from Fame and Partners' size-inclusive line and splurged on tailoring at Selene in New York City.)
See more: How to Love Your Body In Your Wedding Dress
And reader, if you feel the way I did, please remember that the person who asked you to marry them-to be legally bound to them, to take on the role of forever roommate, to maybe have their kids or at least adopt a dog, to share their debt no matter its magnitude, to fight and make up, and fight and make up, and fight and make up-fucking loves you as you are. So don't you dare let anyone-or any dress or Google search-tell you to shed for your goddamn wedding.
Courtesy of Lauren Chan
*Some names have been changed to protect the idiots.