Before I got engaged, I never understood the whole losing weight for your wedding thing. It seemed to me that wedding dresses were the most flattering thing a woman could wear, especially in my case because a long gown would hide the hobbit-like lower half I've never been a fan of.
But then my fiance started lobbying for a destination wedding, and my level head started to wander. It wasn't the dress, necessarily, that I was worried about looking good in (although I ended up going with a mermaid style just to further torture myself). It was the thought of spending a week in a bikini with 80 of our family members, friends... and their 20-year-old girlfriends that undid my Women's Studies education and feminist body image.
And so when I got on board with the destination wedding idea, I gave myself an excuse to start descending what I knew was a slippery slope. While I did try to eat healthier, my love of food saved me from going overboard on any kind of crazy diet. What I may have gone overboard on, however, was exercise.
I bumped my workouts up from a class or run 3-5 times a week to multiple classes or a run/class combo 6-7 days a week. I obsessively consulted my gym's fitness schedule to plan my week, got irrationally irritated when something came up that interfered with a class I wanted to take and almost had a nervous breakdown when their power went out for a few days (perhaps an extreme reaction, but days without power? A little ridiculous). At one point I was supplementing my gym membership with class packages at two different fitness studios.
Ironically, while looking for healthy recipes and new workouts in Women's Health, I came across an article on "New Eating Disorders" that included a description of "anorexia athletica." Signs of the disorder include: working out religiously (check); gym time interfering with your job or relationships (check); and feeling tremendous anxiety or guilt when you skip a workout (guilty). But to be honest, I think there are worse things to be addicted to than exercise... It wasn't the article that brought me to my senses.
While I was happy with the progress the scale showed, the mirror was more complicated. What I saw was a slightly smaller, definitely more muscular version of myself, legs still more hobbit than super model. My thighs seemed virtually unchanged, but my boobs had abandoned me, which I, and my new husband, were rather fond of... Something he wasn't fond of? My six-pack (although I thought it was kind of bad-ass). He actually found my new muscles slightly creepy and missed the softer, somewhat saner girlfriend of years past. Turns out the woman he wanted to marry was exactly who I was without trying.
Although the hours and hours I spent in the gym could have been spent doing other things -- like planning my wedding, or keeping up with my blog... I learned some important lessons. Extreme exercising will never fundamentally change my shape. And that's okay. I'm pretty lucky to have the body I'm stuck with, and even luckier to have the man I chose to be stuck with.