Do you see that girl in the dress?
What do you see? Just your typical early 2000s bride, really. This is pre-Pinterest (thank goodness.) Right here is a 22-year-old girl who is incredibly happy to have just married the man of her dreams.
Do you know what I see? All of that, of course. But I also know she’s wearing a dress that her mama made from scratch (as in no pattern, just a picture of a dress from David’s Bridal.) I know she was minutes away from throwing that bouquet (far too hard, actually) and running away with her husband of roughly 90 minutes. I know that, at that point, she didn’t care a whole lot about the wedding that had just taken place. It was a means to an end, really. She just wanted to start married life. I know she waited through years of friendship and uncertainty for this. I know that her hopes are simultaneously unrealistically high and nowhere near high enough to match the reality that’s coming.
Do you know what else I see?
I see a girl who thinks she’s fat.
At 5′ 10″ and 180 lbs, she has spent every single one of the last 22 years at war with that body. (In case you’re distracted by that fact, as I would be, let me explain. Early 80s had some bad medical advice to give about infant nutrition. So, yes, she had literally been fighting her weight every year of her life at that point.) She is, at this moment, one point away from the “normal” range of the BMI chart. Please don’t get me started on the BMI chart. (Speaking of bad medical advice…) But just the same, this is the closest she has ever been or likely will ever be to “not overweight.”
Not that it mattered. She tried so hard to drop weight. She lost about five of the 25 pounds she’d hoped to. And, as with every other time, it wasn’t for lack of effort or self-control. At this moment, she’s not thinking about it (probably), but there have been a hundred points today that she wished she’d been more successful than she was. A hundred points she inwardly called herself a failure.
I wish she could see what I see now… a lovely girl starting off on her greatest adventure.
I wish I could talk to her.
Dear girl in the dress,
There’s so much about this day that is wonderful. And so much you’re going to forget. There’s a lot about life and love that you’re going to learn soon, and I could talk about it for ages and for books. But really, it’s a pretty good journey, so I’ll let you figure it out.
I want to talk to you about your weight.
No, not like that. Not like every doctor’s appointment ever, where you get told if you just ate less and moved more, you’d be fine. (Not that anyone ever asked or took into account how much you moved or how little you ate, but whatever.)
You’ve worried your whole life about your size. You have never—and I do mean not ever—felt comfortable with the amount of space you’ve taken up. I’m pretty sure you suspect this (and felt crazy considering it, given the prevalence of “calories in, calories out” and, currently, Atkins), but the battle with the weight actually is your problem.
You’re not fat. It’s okay. Your body is your body and it’s going to do some pretty awesome things in the years ahead of you.
Please don’t let this freak you out, but in about 12 years, you’re going to be roughly 100 lbs more than you are right now. A lot of that is because you’re expecting yet another baby very soon, but a lot of it isn’t.
But it’s okay.
Because, with the extra weight and the changes in your body that occur, somehow you will have found more peace with it. And that fantastic man you married? He will still think you’re pretty and he will enjoy every phase of that beautiful body, even when you’re not so sure.
I want you to know you have been fine all along.
I want you to know that, once you let go of all the baggage you carry related to weight and worth, you will find a healthy version of yourself. And that healthy version of you weighs more than you do right now, but she is physically so well. You’ll find out that you love strength training (what?). You also like kale, in many different forms. Not only do you like it, but you mysteriously crave leafy greens. Like a lot. (I know.) Also? You love running. Totally serious. Save yourself some pain and do the strength training first, but even if you don’t, your body will heal and you will find that you are bizarrely addicted to running.
Occasionally, your shape will still annoy you, because it’s not especially easy to clothe. But you have a beautiful, strong, capable body. Also? You save money because you can’t just go buy all the clothes. So there’s that. It’s going to be fine.
And you’re not fat.
Your oldest thinks you’re beautiful and wishes she could be you. She thinks you look like a princess in this picture and she thinks you’re “as pretty as can be,” even fairly pregnant and much heavier than the princess version of her mama.
Give her (and everyone else) a version of you who doesn’t hate the body you were given. Mostly, give YOU that version of yourself.
This isn’t just for the baby version of me. This is also for you. You’re gonna be fine.