For the past eight weeks I’ve been waking up and doing 135 crunches before I do anything else. I pad into the living room at 7:10 a.m., unroll my yoga mat, hook my toes under the hem of our IKEA couch, and crunch, barely awake. I do 15 where my wrists graze the tops of my knees, 15 where my fingertips tap the tops of my feet, and then 15 laying flat, lifting my legs straight up from the hips and lowering them slowly. I do three sets of these 15s. Then I take a shower, go to work, order an egg and cheese from the deli across the street, and house it hunched over at my desk like a shrew.
Then I think about how badly I want a muffin, and then three days out of five, I go get a muffin.
This is my bridal fitness plan.
Crunches. Nachos. Muffins. Pizza. Doubt. Regret. A strange, other-worldly detour to the gym. Cookies. Beer. Crunches. Muffins, now. One-thousand hours of The Voice on demand. Regret. Muffins.
This is my bridal fitness plan.
Let’s back up. It should be noted that for most of my life, I never thought much about fitness, for better or for worse. My metabolism was fast, is what I was told, and I could eat what I wanted without repercussion—even in college, when I’d storm the dining hall like a linebacker and afford myself a 16-course meal composed entirely of fried starches and processed cheese products. I ate McDonalds with bravado (“double-cheeseburger-small-fry-four-piece-mcnugget-oreo-mcflurry, please”), I drank gallons of beer, I only went to the campus gym once—to get a flu shot. And I looked fucking fabulous. I mean fine. I looked fucking fine.
It wasn’t until I moved in with Joe, two winters ago, that it all started to catch up with me and I started to gain the weight I should have been gaining all along, with a vengeance. What can I say? I got quite happy and comfortable, in so many ways, all at once: The anxiety-induced stomachaches that had been plaguing me for a few years prior ceased and my appetite returned, I got a new job and my income increased, and I was finally sharing a home with the man I love, meaning I had someone with great bone structure around to 24/7 condone my visceral hatred of cooking, order delivery with me instead, or meet me at the corner pub after work. It was a recipe for a, ahem, fuller life, and a new dress size.
And sure enough, my jeans stopped fitting. My silhouette… changed, particularly in the stomach, hip and thigh region. A photo of myself in a bikini made my blood run cold. It was all happening. Around the time of our engagement, I’d stopped buying the size of underwear I’d bought literally my entire adult life, and switched to the next size up. My face looked fuller in pictures. It was all happening, and it was happening right around the time that most women hire personal trainers and escape to weight-loss camps to turn themselves into giraffes before their weddings. It’s still happening. How wonderful. How fun! I want to thank irony and bad karma and and all those fucks I fucked off in a past life for this great, great timing.
Of all the infuriating hypocrisies of bridedom, the Get Fit, Bitch commandment has to be the most infuriating. Here you are, during one of the happiest times of your life, a time when you are meant to feel most loved, most yourself, most comfortable in your own skin, and you’re barraged with #sweatingforthewedding hashtags and creepy New York Times trend pieces. Here you are, told by every mag, blog, planner and friend to party it up, guzzle champagne, taste all the cake and try all the menu offerings, and live large, girl!, but also—be in the best goddamn shape of your life, or your dress will explode right at the altar, you lazy and enormous, undeserving wife-whale.
I have known brides who have worked out every day for the entire year before their weddings, without skipping even one. I have known brides who have gone on Adderall to snuff their appetites and shave off 20 pounds (Adderall their doctors gave them to help with wedding planning, mind you!). I have read about brides in magazines who just give up entire food groups, like all desserts and all fried grub, as if it is prescribed by law that they are to do so in order to receive a marriage license. I have read a New York Times trend piece about workout regimes for crop top dresses (there’s a sentence which, if said three times whilst staring into a mirror, conjures the bloody ghost of Carrie Bradshaw, abandoned at the altar and raging). I have even been invited to a bride-friend’s special Bachelorette SoulCycle class. Now I feel this supernatural grudge to join them all (did they feel it too, then?)—to go right ahead and push my body into the circus, since I’m already pushing my money, my time, my everything else.
And so, as usual, I’m stuck in the middle. Hating what is expected, but burning with anxiety as to what might happen if I don’t yield to what is expected. “You only have one wedding (ideally),” has become a routine refrain. And do I really want to go to my One Wedding having not done everything in my power to look and feel as good as I possibly can?
Hence: The crunches. My only commitment to any sort of wedding fitness whatsoever. The gym, on the other hand, I go to with varying frequency. Sometimes as often as four times a week, during which I feel like I’m soaring through a self-improvement montage smack in the middle of a movie about realizing an impossible dream, punctuated by an Ellie Goulding song. Other times (more often) I only go to the gym once a week, and it’s like taking a weird strenuous shit, or sneezing eight times in a row, or climbing the stairs to your desk at work because the elevators are down: Foreign. I blurt out 400 calories on the arc trainer, fueled entirely by hate, then go to the bar after work every other day of the week, having earned it.
I can’t lie—some weeks, I don’t go to the gym at all. When 4:30 crawls around and I feel like a microwaved potato at my desk, my eyes dry like rocks, my migraine-prone head hurting, I feel like I would truly rather eat roach meat than go beat myself to death on one of those machines in my loud, stinking, $10-a-month Planet Fitness, which is often filled with teen hyenas, dressed in street clothes, howling meanly.
I’ve also started doing something I really do not like, that I really did not expect, which is noticing calories. Not all the time, mostly just during lunchtime, when I’m prowling my work neighborhood for something to make me feel human, and all the cafes and counters have their calories listed (this is a New York thing, for people who do not live in New York). I pick things up, I put them down. It is overwhelming. When you’re staring at things listed in the hundreds, everything seems like too much—500? 400? 300? Do obedient brides only eat food in the 300s? Here is what happens: I pick up an avocado-tomato-turkey-etcetera sandwich on wheat and it turns out to be a big-joe 720 calories, I decide all is lost, I throw my hands up to the gods, I walk right out the cafe, I go to a Two Brothers Pizza, grab a slice to eat standing up on the sidewalk, and tell myself I am not going to buy into this wedding body bullshit.
Then the guilt. Then the next morning, the crunches. The breakfast. The remarkably strong urge to eat a muffin. The guilt. The worry. The wonder. The blog-reading. The lunch. My brain is on fire. And my abs really are not, which makes me wonder if I am even doing these 135 crunches per day correctly.
I have no insights to offer here. I have been able to find my own way through the muck of most of the shittiest parts of wedding planning so far, but I’m having a hard time getting around this “find time to get incredibly thin or perish” rule. I literally am at a loss for how these women do it without 1) quitting their jobs to find the time, 2) winning the lottery to find the money and 3) becoming literal Buddha to find the motivation. It hurts and it sucks. Being a woman blows sometimes, and its strange, suggested social requirements are only amplified when you become a bride.
And why am even I doing crunches at all? My dress is A-line.
Watch this space weekly as Lauren Rodrigue shares the victories and freakouts of planning her 2016 wedding and the marriage that’ll follow. Tweet her at @laurenzalita.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.