The Nonconformist’s Bridal Diet

Why I’m working out like a maniac before the big “I Do.”

In the run-up to their weddings, brides often end up chewing obsessively on the most dull of questions: Am I pretty enough? Tan enough? Thin enough? Fully pruned and well-appointed?

Not me, not on my wedding day, now just around the corner. Conformity is profane; weddings, sacred. That’s what rituals are for, to carve out space for magic in a life ruled by ticking clocks, honking horns, and tabloid headlines; in relationships that are burdened by tiresome questions such as “what’s for dinner?” “who’s going to pay the insurance bill?” and “why is the cat’s tail vibrating?”
(Don’t ask.)

All that being said… bet your freakin’ bottom I’m on a diet. A gloriously radical pre-wedding shape up routine. In a fit of tipsy 1 a.m. exhilaration, my fiancé and I bought the uber-popular INSANITY mail-order fitness program, subject of a glowing (red-faced and dripping?) Atlantic profile earlier this summer. Package that up with some stringent diet guidelines and a 3-day juice cleanse with coworkers, and you’ve got a regimen that will almost certainly shave off a few pounds, and god help me, enough inches to save me from another round of dress alternations.

Insanity coach Shaun T getting crazy.

My wedding day is sacred, but I am human. You are human. We are material. Our interaction with the sacred, the spiritual, is fleeting and elusive. We’ve got a toolkit to help make contact—religious rituals, music, art, Pink Floyd, to name a few. But our trusty bodies are always on call, dutiful soldiers in the march toward this brighter, freer, unencumbered world we can imagine but rarely inhabit.

My fitness binge isn’t at all about conformity, or beauty, perse. Like the wedding day itself, it signifies all of my warm hopes for the future—or I should say, our hopes, since my fiancé (and his lovely round, hairy belly) are my committed partners in this endeavor.

As we approach the wedding, which our families are pouring their time, spirit, and finances into, we find ourselves wanting to be our very best selves. They are saying, “You are beautiful and loved,” and we want to rise to their estimation of us. They are honoring us, and we want to honor them, by, well, bringing it.

This isn’t really about the physical, and yet… it is. As Nancy Etcoff writes in The Survival of the Prettiest (thank you Brain Pickings), “Appearance is the most public part of the self. It is our sacrament, the visible self that the world assumes to be a mirror of the invisible, inner self. This assumption may not be fair, and not how the best of all moral worlds would conduct itself. But that does not make it any less true.”

Renoir’s City Dance (1883)

It’s natural and human to want to telegraph our spiritual and emotional state through our bodies. To deny it is to deny what we are. Mary Oliver brilliantly wrote of the spirit:

It could float, of course,
but would rather
plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
it needs
the metaphor of the body

My bridal diet is all about my soul polishing up its metaphor, the two checking in with each other, like, Hey Soul! … Hey Body—damn girl, you fine.

Together we—soul, body, and fiance—are taking care of ourselves, committing ourselves to a discipline, fulfilling one aspect of our potential through one of the few domains we control, more or less.

The Dominicans, among others, tried to meet their spiritual longings by mortifying the flesh. People today are too, by fasting on horsepills and cayenne cocktails, etc. But what Dan and I are feeling as we grunt and sweat in front of the television, and enjoy our abstemious meals of protein and veg, is the opposite of mortification.

We’re celebrating: Feeding ourselves well, putting our full weight on these muscles we’ve been given, enjoying the oneness with the world one feels most profoundly when flat on your back, sweating, heaving, and exhausted by the level of workout only an infomercial-backed home exercise DVD can provide. Thank you, Insanity Coach Shaun T, our new spiritual leader!

Before a wedding, we flirt and skirmish with beauty. On our wedding day, with the help of our families and friends, we transcend it.