It’s 65 degrees as the sun sets in Glen Arbor, Michigan. My boyfriend and I are on the beach, finishing our picnic with our instafamous Bernese Mountain Dog, Maple, when he asks if I want to go for a walk along the shoreline.
He grabs my hand. We walk a few yards down from our blanket. I see a heart drawn in the sand. He gets down on one knee, sticks his hand into his pocket, and I don’t even hear what he says other than, “Marry me,” because I’m crying, and then he’s crying, and all of a sudden a ring is on my finger, and HOLY CRAP IT FINALLY HAPPENED!
A few weeks later we’re having fun picking our venue, photographer, florist… and then I get to go to a stunning wedding dress boutique downtown to try on dresses.
Yes, I was that girl who binge-watched Say Yes to the Dress. Mimosa, please!
I find The One. I’m glowing. Practically squealing. Definitely can’t stop looking at pictures.
A week later, I’m on the phone with a health coaching client of mine. I’ve been coaching her through the intuitive eating principles, empowering her, like I do all my clients, to break up with dieting, to get to know and trust her body, to love and respect her body, and to live a life free of food and body stress.
We’d been working together for about six weeks at this point when she tells me she knows her own engagement ring is coming.
She asked me for my honest answer: did I feel pulled back into the world of dieting when I got engaged? You know, because isn’t that what all brides are expected to do? Diet? We’re told we need to lose weight, to trim up for the wedding, to “look our best.”
I hadn’t even thought about it until she asked me. And that’s when it hit me hard, “No,” I told her. “I haven’t,” which is a HUGE victory for me.
Flash back to about eight years ago. I’m in college. I work out twice a day. I have a strict diet and stick my finger down my throat if I “mess up.” I’m distracted from living my life. I hate my body. I constantly feel ashamed: for who I tell the world I am (a confident, smart Boston College student and trainer at our rec center) and for who I actually am (a self-conscious, body-obsessed young adult on the brink of a full on eating disorder).
The me back then thought, “I need to look a certain way if anyone is ever going to love me. If I lose the weight now, and start this ‘lifestyle’ now, I’ll be ready for eventual my wedding day…”
I literally had that thought! “Better start dieting now so that when the wedding day finally does come, I’m ready for it!”
I remember going on my last diet before I’d say goodbye to them forever. I actually hit a pound below the number I had dreamed of seeing on the scale: 154.
But I remember getting off the scale. Looking in the mirror and still thinking, “This isn’t enough. I’m still not happy with my body.”
This realization was devastating. I thought this number would be the answer to loving my body once and for all. It wasn’t.
That’s the brilliance of the 60-billion dollar per year diet industry. They know I’m never going to be happy. They know I’m always going to want more (and will spend more). Why? Because perfection doesn’t exist. We always want more, more, more.
Perfection is the ultimate limiting belief.
When I stepped back and looked in the mirror, I saw the woman in front of me.
She was miserable.
She was obsessed with how her body looked. And when it didn’t look like a cover model, she wasn’t good enough. She equated her weight to her worth.
She was stressed out about what she ate. Every calorie was counted. On this last diet, she hid from social engagements on the weekend so that she could stick to it.
She withdrew from her life.
Stepping back and seeing reality was eye-opening for me. I realized that I had completely deprived myself not only of food, but of the joy for showing up for myself and the people in my life.
From then on, I committed myself to a mental transformation, rather than a physical one.
Today, an intuitive eating health coach who has healed my own relationship with food, exercise, my body and my self, I care more about who I am being rather than what I look like.
I set my own standards for beauty and celebrate body diversity. I see beauty in every size.
During that coaching call with my client, we broke down the limiting belief of “needing to be skinny to be beautiful” on her wedding day.
In her breakthrough, she realized, “I want to be my best self on my wedding day.”
I got the chills as she told me how she wants to show up on her wedding day, how she wants to be her best self for herself and for her future husband, for them as a unit. And how that means being able to show up fully. And how that means letting go of food and body stress so that she’s not distracted and instead genuinely happy inside and out, present for her wedding day and her life ahead.
“It’s about so much more than food,” she said. “It’s about who I am as a person.”
That’s who I want to show up as on my wedding day, too: my best self.
I know that my best self doesn’t look a certain way, she feels a certain way.
I know that my best self isn’t deprived and starving and distracted by food, she’s nourished and enjoying the moments she gets to share food with the people she loves.
She has the energy to dance all night long.
I know that my best self doesn’t have a six pack, or the “skinny wedding dress arms” because that would take an eating disorder to get to.
I know that my best self doesn’t believe that only a certain size is beautiful, she values all bodies as stunning.
I know that my best self doesn’t reduce myself or other women to what they look like in a wedding dress, or any dress for that matter. She see’s their unique brand of beauty, and she sees so much more.
In herself? She sees her passion. She see’s her empathy. Her intelligence. Her mental and physical strength. Her vulnerability. She sees her quirkiness. She sees her energy. She sees her compassion. She sees her grit. Her creativity.
So, no. I will not be going on any sort of diet, I will not be trying to lose a single pound for my wedding day. Because I want to begin my marriage as my absolute best self.
Author: Julie Wojno
Author Bio: Julie Wojno is a holistic health coach, yoga teacher and indoor cycling instructor based in Columbus, OH. Her mission is to empower women who have struggled with eating, exercise and body image to love their bodies and live their best lives, without another restrictive diet. When she’s not coaching, down-dogging or cycling, you can catch her snuggling her massive Bernese Mountain Dog, hanging at local breweries and spiralizing her favorite fruits and veggies (sweet potato pasta, anyone?). Follow along on her adventures at @julie.wojno
Link to social media or website: Instagram @julie.wojno | http://www.juliewojno.com