Meet the women whose wedding days were ruined by diet culture

84% of brides said they felt pressure to lose weight for the day.
Wedding Diet Culture Is Rife And It Ruined These Womens' Day
Future Publishing

Trigger warning: eating disorders.

“You asked, so here’s what I ate on my wedding day,” says fitness influencer Sam Cutler in her now-viral video, before going on to describe what has been branded as ‘an eating disorder themed wedding,’ in one TikTok comment.

Beginning the day by breakfasting on protein green smoothies, she provides ‘anti bloat’ diet pills to her guests as a wedding favour, dishes up sugar, gluten, and dairy free cake, and selects which wine to serve based on the sugar content.

TikTok content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Although extreme, the video reflects a societal preoccupation with thinness that has become intertwined with weddings. The #weddingdiet hashtag has 21.7m views on TikTok, personal trainers promote ‘bridal fitness packages’, and sayings like ‘shred for the wed’ dominate in bridal magazines. So unsurprisingly, a recent poll of 1,009 Hitched users revealed that 84% said they felt pressure to lose weight for the day, 85% have been comparing themselves to others online since becoming engaged, and 51% don’t think their body image is represented in wedding content enough.

For many women, this has had a significant impact on their entire experience of getting married. Erica, 41, recalls changing how she thought about her body following her engagement. “Two different women said, ‘what's your plan?’ As in, how was I going to get in shape? I was quite shocked and offended. But it also put this idea into my head like, ‘oh my God, what is my plan?’ And although at first, I brushed it off, it started to add to the idea I already had, that I wasn’t thin enough.”

This ignited a pattern of disordered eating for the secondary school art teacher, who began starving herself to look thinner in her dress. Recalling the night before her wedding, she says: “I remember feeling so pleased that I was really thin. I think I was happier about that, in a way, than I was about getting married.”

Hannah, a 34-year-old marketing coach and trainer, felt a similar pressure in the run up to her celebrations. “I think losing weight is an expectation that’s bred into you when you have a wedding. And my whole life has been dictated by my weight, since I joined Weight Watchers when I was 11, so this was no different.”

Read More
How to plan a considerate wedding during the cost of living crisis

From who should pay for bridesmaids dresses to whether a destination wedding is bad taste

article image

A size 16-18 at the time, she talks about trying to find dresses and being told, ‘we don't cater to brides like you,’ which led to her decision not to invite anyone to her bridal fittings. “I didn't enjoy the entire experience and I basically saw it as a chore,” she explains.

On the day itself she wasn’t even able to enjoy the food she had carefully planned, especially after falling pregnant shortly before the wedding, which exacerbated her worries about how she looked. “We had a donut tower as our cake because that’s my desert island dish and Mexican food, which is my favourite meal, but I didn’t eat anything.”

For 45-year-old Debbie, her wedding day was dominated by a feeling of discomfort. She squeezed herself into restrictive shapewear and wore a dress with a corset back, which was pulled so tightly she felt dizzy. Desperate for relief, she had to retreat to her honeymoon suite halfway through to have her new husband undo her corset temporarily, just to catch her breath.

“I wish I had just enjoyed myself and been comfortable, instead of worrying about how I looked and being squished all day. I was just wanting it over with,” she says.

So, what can brides do to avoid letting body image concerns dominate on the day? For Registered Nutritionist Laura Thomas, author of intuitive eating, anti-diet culture books including Just Eat It, unfollowing idealised portrayals of weddings on social media is key.

“I’d suggest seeking out diverse images of bodies that are getting married,” she advises. “The fat activist Lindy West is a great person to check out on Instagram, and I also like Rock n Roll Bride, who showcase body diversity and all different kinds of weddings, taking the pressure off having this picture-perfect wedding.”

She also recommends taking pictures of yourself and your body from all different angles in the run up, to help with becoming more comfortable with your appearance. “Something that I see with a lot with brides is a real fear about how they will look in their wedding photographs,” she says.

If an obsession with weight becomes particularly troublesome, seeking out professional psychotherapy could be important. But other practical things that can support you include having a dress which fits and sending emails ahead of bridal fittings saying you don’t want to talk about your body size, weight loss or diets during your appointment. However, it can be tricky to overcome the messages we may have internalised about what sorts of bodies are the ‘right’ ones to get married, especially for those who are bigger.

“It helps to think, who is making money off of me feeling bad about my body?” says Laura. “The diet industry is worth billions annually. So, someone is profiting from this and there's a lot of power that can be reclaimed by saying, I'm not going to hand over my body, my money, or my mind to these companies. If it gets to the point where you're too afraid to have a couple of drinks or go out for a nice meal on your hen do because you're worried about the calories, then it defeats the purpose of creating those memories and being with the people that you care about.

“Dieting for most of us will end up in some form of disordered eating and this has implications for virtually every system in our body, our menstrual cycle, our digestion, and our cardiovascular health, so the cost can be high. We think of it as something that we must do to get ready for our wedding. But it's optional. And the more we disengage, the better off we all are.”

If you have been affected by the topics discussed in this article, please call the Beat helpline on 0808 801 0677.