It started as a simple hashtag I would use on Instagram. A cute tank I would sport to the gym. A harmless phrase that just happened to rhyme almost perfectly.
“Sweating for the wedding.”
Last summer, it occurred to me that my go-to pair of jeans that I wear regularly is from high school. This is reflective of a few things. One, I clearly need to shop more frequently. Two, the brand I chose lasts forever. Three, I have managed to lead a balanced lifestyle and maintain my healthy, natural weight for a significant period of time.
Normally, my frugality and healthy lifestyle is something I take pride in. And then I got engaged.
Before long, what started out as the innocent use of a catchy hashtag morphed into an obsession. I started to care about the impression I was making on people. I’m getting married. I should be eating only greens and working out all the time. What would people think of me if I didn’t? How embarrassing would it be if I split a pizza with my fiancé? Nope. No pizza for me. I’ll have the chopped salad, no cheese or dressing, please. Hang on, I have to schedule my next workout.
At one point, I was almost unrecognizable. I’m the girl who tried to help you to consider options to juice cleanses; the girl who gave you a highly recommended list of workout and brunch pairings; the girl who presented you with multiple ways to healthfully consume an entire avocado in one sitting.
Still, I’m not going to tell you that practicing mindful eating and enjoying indulgences is effortless for me. I try my best to practice what I preach, but it can be challenging.
The absolute worst moment for me was at my first dress fitting. The dress fit just the same as it did when I said “yes” to it 10 months prior. And instead of feeling proud that I went almost another year maintaining my natural weight, I was devastated. I had this image in my head that I was going to put it on, and everyone was going to be shocked by how loose it was.
“Wow Ashley! All of those salads and workouts have really paid off! You look amazing!” is what I wanted to hear.
No one said that. And as my mom watched me, her eyes welling up with tears, I fought to hold my own tears back. Yet, mine were coming from a totally different place.
The next day, I realized I was long overdue for some reflection and self-talk. I checked in with myself, and I asked what had changed. How did I go from the girl everyone could count on as a reliable workout buddy AND cheat-meal-date, to this?
What may seem so obvious throughout this entire post only became evident to me in that moment. I used to work out to feel strong. I used to eat the foods I loved to feel happy. And I used to do both for no one else but me. Why the heck was I letting the thought of my image get to me so much? What was I trying to prove?
From that groundbreaking moment on, I have come up with many more realistic hashtags that represent me: #sweatingforpreventionofhereditarydiseases, #sweatingforalonghappylifewithmyhubby, #sweatingfortheloveofseeingfriendsinclass, #sweatingformychanceofkeepingupwithmyfuturekids and, my very favorite, #sweatingforme.
Of course, those aren’t as catchy. But they are what truly motivate me each day.
To all the brides-to-be in this community, keep killing it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel your best on one of the biggest days of you life. Despite my journey, I still sport my “Sweating for the Wedding” tank regularly. However, while you continue to sweat for your big day, I encourage you to stop and reflect on what else you are sweating for. In those reasons, you may find meaning and motivation that can last a lifetime.