By the time I walked down the aisle on May 9, 2015, I had been engaged for nearly two years. I'd read every article you could imagine -- including both sides of the "to lose weight and not to lose weight" war. And it is a war.
One thing you learn really quickly as a bride is that there is almost no middle ground when it comes to certain topics (weight loss, name changes) regarding your choices as a soon-to-be Mrs.
Weight loss is one of the topics that has a hard line.
Either you want to be fit and look up 30-day challenges for various parts of your body and drop the weight, or you defy the expectation and refuse to lose weight. Except that maybe you just want to lose a few pounds for yourself, not "for your wedding". Or maybe you're perfectly content with how you look and that's not a statement. These middle ground areas are hardly heard, but they are probably where the majority of brides fall.
Let me just put this out there: Three weeks before my wedding I had to go buy a brand new wedding dress, off the rack at David's Bridal, because I'd lost enough weight that my original dress couldn't be altered well enough. It's easy to call me a fitness fanatic bride and be done with it. But losing all that weight was never my goal -- and I didn't "do it for the wedding."
I just did it for me.
I've always been overweight. There are very few skinny people in my family. But even before I got engaged, I'd been on a weight loss journey. I stepped on a scale one morning and was tired of the number I saw so I went on a diet and started being proactively active. I initially lost 30 pounds and gained some back long before wedding bells were in my life.
When I bought my dress (14 months before my wedding) I didn't intend to lose a significant amount of weight. I wanted to lose maybe another 15 pounds to get me to my original goal weight.
And then this interesting, amazing thing happened: I fell in love with running. I had decided to start officially "sweating for the wedding" 10 months before the wedding. I'd been going to Zumba classes that I loved for a year already, and had seen a lot of changes in the shape of my body, but I was mostly maintaining.
I decided to start running. I used a couch to 5K program -- and with the support of my fiancé, I was running my first 5K race by the end of summer.
I hated running. I couldn't do it. I've had weak ankles my whole life. I underpronate. It was like asking to be tortured. And yet with couch to 5K I built up the muscles correctly. Less than a year later, I am now running 10K distances without ankle braces. I'm the one running out the door on the beautiful spring days to hit the pavement.
Running, mixed with Zumba, boot camps and a healthier diet, led me to lose 40 pounds (and numerous inches) from July 2014 to May 2015. My entire body type changed. I went from an apple to an hourglass. I dropped from a size 16 to an 8. I bought more clothes in various sizes in that time than I usually buy in years. It wasn't easy, but it was what I wanted. It was the continuation of a journey I started in August 2012 and one that I am sure I will always be on.
I went through the normal dress fitting process, starting a little early since I knew my dress would probably need extra alterations. My seamstress seemed a bit daunted by the challenge, but up for it. And then at my final fitting the dress just didn't fit right. It was meant for a bigger person and a different shape. It was perfect for a different me.
I cried. Don't get me wrong -- this was devastating. I cried while I looked online for new dresses. I held in tears as I worked my way through a Zumba class. And then I went to the store and stepped into what would become my new gown. It was perfect. It not only fit perfectly aside from needing a hem, but it hugged my new curves and showed off the smaller me I'd worked so hard to get.
I properly mourned the loss of my old dress and tucked it into a closet until I'm ready to try and sell it. But the old me would never have even tried on my new dress, and I can't imagine getting married in anything else.
My journey it isn't for everyone. It was hard. During that summer, I worked out sometimes six days a week between my C2K program and Zumba classes. I still ate ice cream, and we still enjoyed dinners out frequently, but I made a lifestyle change.
It's not easy. It's a choice I make every day.
Sometime in the future -- next week, one year, five, 10 -- this will just be a funny story I tell people about my wedding, but when it was happening, it was a heightened stressful experience for three weeks. But I don't regret losing the weight or learning to run or the stress it caused me.
While the wedding was the inspiration for losing weight, I didn't do it for anyone but me. I didn't feel pressured to lose weight. I don't look at my wedding pictures and see someone I don't recognize (a very popular notion in the world of anti-wedding-weight-loss stories), but rather just a smaller version of me. The me that I am today, and hopefully tomorrow, and a few days longer than that.
And when the weight comes back -- whether from pregnancy or just because -- I'll still love fitness. I'll still have the knowledge of what I can do when I put my mind to it. And I'll still have my husband -- and in the end nothing else really matters.