Body Image & Wedding Dresses

I’m nervous about the whole process of wedding dress shopping.

There, I said it.

And this is not just because I’m literally the absolute worst at making a decision.

A surprise I never saw coming...#Wedding dress shopping - it turns out even 15 years strong in recovery, I can still be tripped up by thoughts about body image. #edrecovery #recovery #bodyimage #catholic #bridetobe #faith #christianity #engaged #ido
Anna May Photography

No, I nervous because this is really the first time in all 15 years of my recovery from anorexia that I’m actually going to have to scrutinize my reflection and the way my body looks in clothes.

Which, I know, on its face sounds absolutely absurd. Like…Come on, Caralyn. You look in the mirror every time you brush your teeth. What are you talking about?

And yeah, sure. But since adopting recovery, I have made it a conscious choice that I don’t focus on my body. It is a matter of will. I don’t own a full-length mirror, I don’t obsess over how my body looks in clothes. It is a foundation of my recovery: I will not obsess over my body.

Been there, done that. And folks, the results nearly killed me. Literally. Ask 78 pound, 18-year old me, and I’d tell ya: the mirror makes me absolutely pick apart every imperfection in my reflection.

So I have eliminated that from my life. It is a huge part of my recovery.

And I’m going to be really honest, the thought of standing on a pedestal in a bridal shop, with the spotlights and women pinning wedding dresses to fit every curve — or lack there of — on my body…I am admittedly, a little apprehensive.

This week, my mom was supposed to be in New York City, wedding dress shopping with me.

Now, if you’ve never been wedding dress shopping in New York, — it is, an event. You need to schedule bridal fitting appointments at least two months out if you want to even be able to enter the store. Many of which, cost a fee to have an hour try-on session.

So, I did that. Back at the end of May, I scheduled five appointments for the three days she was going to be in town…and over the weekend, I get a call from my parents…that they both have tested positive for Covid.

Now — first, let me say: thank you Jesus, they both have incredibly mild symptoms, akin to minor chills and a dry cough. Truly, thank you Lord that they have not had a bad response to the virus. However, this of course, meant that the trip to New York was off, and all of the bridal appointments…cancelled.

Obviously, my mom and I were bummed that our special mother/daughter adventure would have to be postponed.

But in that disappointment, at church on Sunday, I took to prayer all these “body apprehensive thoughts” I have been having recently, recognizing that just maybe, perhaps this was Jesus’ divine timing, allowing me to a) identify these thoughts, and b) use this time in the interim to “work on myself” (I hate that phrase) – or rather, prepare my heart for the intense body scrutiny that I’ll be doing when the time comes to fit a dress.

I knew this was a bigger issue than I had originally thought, when on Saturday, my fiancé and I were at a swanky rooftop pool in Manhattan. And, I don’t know if it’s because I have been looking at wedding gowns in magazines/online and seeing all these models with perfect bodies, or just being at that pool up close and personal to “high society” women who look like they should be on the cover of Maxim, with plastic “this and that” but I just got home from that pool and sobbed.

A surprise I never saw coming...#Wedding dress shopping - it turns out even 15 years strong in recovery, I can still be tripped up by thoughts about body image. #edrecovery #recovery #bodyimage #catholic #bridetobe #faith #christianity #engaged #ido

Never in 15 years have I cried over my body before, but I just felt so unwomanly.

Which, I know in today’s gender-bending climate might be taken very differently. But I just felt so inadequate that I ugly cried for a solid 20 minutes.

I don’t know – maybe this is sharing too much. But this is the “real real” of recovery. And sometimes things sneak into your “airtight recovery” that catch you by surprise, and this definitely did.

So you know, maybe this was all part of God’s perfect timing. Maybe I’m supposed to use this time to really remember who God says I am, which has been and always will be the foundation of my recovery.

A surprise I never saw coming...#Wedding dress shopping - it turns out even 15 years strong in recovery, I can still be tripped up by thoughts about body image. #edrecovery #recovery #bodyimage #catholic #bridetobe #faith #christianity #engaged #ido
Anna May Photography

Remembering that who I am is a forgiven, supremely loved child of God, made in His image, and reflecting His light. That is the source of beauty. Our outer shells are merely a vessel to house the Holy Spirit living in our hearts.

And a wedding dress…heck, I could be wearing a burlap sack and be just as ecstatic to be starting a life with the greatest man in the world.

A surprise I never saw coming...#Wedding dress shopping - it turns out even 15 years strong in recovery, I can still be tripped up by thoughts about body image. #edrecovery #recovery #bodyimage #catholic #bridetobe #faith #christianity #engaged #ido
Anna May Photography

What I’ve come to learn is this: anytime we take our eyes off of Jesus, just like Peter, we will surely sink. So, whenever I do get to be on that bridal fitting stand, Lord, help me see you standing by my side in that mirror’s reflection. And help me to see myself not with my own critical gaze, but through your eyes: eyes of love, gentleness and grace.

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48 thoughts on “Body Image & Wedding Dresses

    1. yes, that is very true — on the horizon! something to be very gratefu for! Hugs and love xox

  1. First congratulations.

    Second, the most powerful natural substance I found is zinc – zinc monomethionine (l-Optizinc, Now). I take about 200 mg (7 pills).

    1. Thank you! And yes! Since the pandemic everyone in my family has boosted our intake of zinc!!! it really is a powerhouse! so glad you stpped by! Hugs and love xox

  2. Your transparency is so refreshing. I’m truly thankful for how God is using you and working in you. I read your blog aloud to my 19 year old daughter, who at times, struggles with her body image as well. She has been encouraged by the blogs I’ve read her and how God has healed you and is still walking you through the process of learning to be thankful for the “tent” God placed your soul in. I’ll be praying this wedding dress event is a wonderful time for you and your mom and that you will build beautiful memories.

    1. Thank you Hooe, I really appreciate your beautiful words of encouragement. And gosh, I am truly so touched that you share my posts with your daughter. Wow, thank you for doing that. I will be keeping both of you in my prayers. 19 is a very formative year, and it sounds like she’s got a great support and friend in you! Amen – I am so grateful for the healing God has brought me through. Thank you for the prayers! sending big big hugs! xox

  3. I love the photos of you guys, beautiful! Please, have more confidence in your appearance, Caralyn, you are a beautiful young woman! Be well you guys. 🙏🏻

    1. Thank you so much John! And shucks, thank you – that means a lot. I am humbled by such kind words. so glad you stopped by tonight, my friend. Have a wonderful night. Hugs and love xox

  4. Hi C. First, I’m so glad your parents are having light symptoms with Covid. Please let them know I’m praying for them.
    Second, I’m saying this as gently as I can. I know your past makes you vulnerable to body image issues, but trust me, you are EXTREMELY womanly. Anorexia did not give you that body, God did. And He did an excellent job! The only standard you have to match is the one He sets for you. I’ll bet many of those women you saw went home wishing they were as confident and comfortable in their bodies as you were.
    Papa made you a unique individual, and a beautiful one, too. And every day He’s making you more like Jesus. Ask Him to open your eyes to see yourself as the wonderful masterpiece you are. Praying for you, always! 🤗🙏💛

    1. Thank you so much Kenneth – yeah me too — they’re almost back to “normal” now – they feel great, just waiting for the “quarantine time” to be over now. I will definitely let them know. thank you for the prayers. thank you Kenneth for such kind words of encouragement. That is really something great to remember — God gave me my body! i am so touched, thank you. big hugs to you xo x

  5. When I’m feeling anxious about something, I say a small prayer, offering up to God all of my fears and doubts that He may hold them in His hands and use them as He wills. It always helps.

    1. That is a great thing to do — he is always listening!! thanks for your kindness. Hugs and love xox

  6. I didn’t have the struggles you did, but I think virtually every woman has a story about the toxic messaging our culture give us about our bodies. For me, I started doing a LOT better when I focused on function over form –

    – What do I want to be able to do? (Yoga, pilates, weights, hiking, long bike rides)
    – Can I do those things at the level that I want to do them? (Two choices: a) yes; or b) not yet)
    – What should I do to help my body be more capable of the things I want to do? (Specific training, eating reasonably healthy, and keeping my drinking moderate)

    With this shift in mindset, it’s not that I love all the things I used to hate about my body, but I love my body as a whole because it can do awesome things. Yes, I do celebrate specific things (for example, I LOVE the fact that I’m more muscular and broad-shouldered than most women), but more than that I appreciate that my body can do the things that I like doing.

    Maybe for you – what do you love about life and how does your body help you do those things? It’s so individual. And then choose a dress that accentuates / exaggerates what you want. You mention you would love more curves – an A-line or a mermaid dress with a sweetheart neckline and halter straps would help with that.

    TL/DR: When you focus on function over form, you start to appreciate the form as well. 🙂

  7. My dear and precious internet friend. I could simply say you need glasses if you don’t see yourself as being beautiful as the rest of us can see and attest to as being absolute fact. Instead, as a father of two beautiful daughters, I am going to say what I would tell them and I have no doubt that your own father will agree with me. –Precious daughter of the living God, you are so beautiful. You need to relax and just enjoy this season that you have waited so long to see. By trying so hard to NOT focus on having a perfect body image, you actually are focusing on the very thing you are trying to avoid. Can you worry your way to adding an inch to your stature or alter your God given bone structure? The answer is NO. God made you as you are. You were a gift, first to your father, and now that you are grown you are a gift to your future husband who loves you EXACTLY as you are. Do not allow the enemy rob you of the joy that God has set before you. Do not believe his lies. The truth is You ARE a beautiful young woman of God. The truth is also that you were a beautiful young woman of God even when you didn’t think that was even possible… but it is true. So relax and enjoy this once in a lifetime season. You deserve it.

    Now, do yourself a favor and google “Dove Body Image”. There you will find several videos that you should watch. Here is a sample that shows that the models don’t have that perfect body image either. Take a look.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31k78poEexo

    Blessings,

    Mel

  8. So glad your parents are okay. You are going to be a wonderful bride. Just remember, as you noted, that you are loved by the Creator just as you are. You are an overcomer, and I believe that finding your dress will bring you more joy than anxiety. That will be my prayer. What beautiful pictures of you and your guy. I love seeing such love and joy!

  9. Don’t let that devil steal your joy! This is the blessing God gave you and that devil is out for your mind. Just tell him to shut up!

    You are so beautiful and whatever dress you decide on is YOUR dress and you will be stunning! I can’t wait for photos…. and am cheering for you even in a burlap sack! You didn’t come this far to be crying at a public pool.

    If it makes you feel better I went wedding dress shopping after NEVER looking at anything… and walked out with a dress from the first store.

    Don’t think too much about it…. Try on various shapes and styles rapid fire style and when you know you know (and tell that devil to shut up). <3

    I told my family, "Maybe I should go look at other dress stores just in case" and in unison they shouted, "NO! It'll be like the venue!"

    Haha…

    I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU. (and tell that devil to shut up) … 🙂

  10. Caralyn,
    You are a beautiful young woman, inside and out. Always remember that outer beauty(which you have, by the way!) fades, but the inner beauty, caused by Jesus shining out of you, lasts forever!! My prayers are with you!

  11. You’ve got this! Nothing can separate us from the Love of Christ – even our own fears.

    By the way, a lot of those “perfect looking models” in those magazines have the benefit of photo editing. There is no comparison between them and you, you’re beauty is real, and “refined by fire” so to speak. That gives inner beauty that shows on the outside as well.

    Now, understand this is a man talking here — but when I question how something fits or looks, I ask someone I trust to tell me the truth. In my case, usually my wife. Sometimes a daughter-in-law, or a granddaughter. 🙂

    I would say your mom is that person to you (since it’s supposedly “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride in her dress before the wedding).

    As the other comments also testify, you are going to be a beautiful bride!

    A final thought: Perhaps it can be more “dress scrutiny” than body scrutiny.

    Praying your parents suffer little from COVID.

  12. Hi Caralyn! So sorry to hear about your parents! Praying for their speedy recovery. When my beloved and I were engaged, I had nightmares that I was coming down the aisle dressed in a hot pink ruffled gown! Ha! You will be absolutely beautiful on your wedding day because your heart will feel like it’s about to burst with joy. If I knew then what I know now after 33 years (at the end of this week!) with a wonderful man, I wouldn’t have cared if we were wearing overalls and exchanging Bandaids instead of gold rings. When Christ is the third cord in your intertwined strand, you’ll see only His beautiful banner of love over you both on your special day!!

  13. Most important: You are absolutely GORGEOUS! Remember that this day is about you and Stephen being Happy as y’all are United. We are with you/y’all and ultimately God is there holding you. When that shopping day comes, just before stepping up on that pedestal just as God to help you to see yourself as He sees you. I believe, nope, know that you will have an amazing experience in your fittings and shopping. Hugs and Love 🤗 & ❤️!

  14. I understand you. But you know, the fisrt step would be to try a normal full lenght dress and ssee yourselft in a full lenght mirror in a store. It is okay to see yourself in a full lenght mirror. Everything you have to do the first time is scarry. I know.
    It’s all in our mind, what the ED has told us how to look, this time it’s the new you, understanding how BEAUTIFUL you actually are. How the Lord made you.
    To allow yourself to see that can be big, so take small steps is actually smart.
    That’s how I got over it myself. Doing things my way, allowing myself to take small steps and not make a big thing out of it.
    What everyone else thinks about the wedding dress isn’t as important as for you to see you in a full lenght mirror. And you don’t need to go to a big wedding dress store with lots of spotlights. Find the smaller stores. Take away the drama from your thought and do it your way. 💜💜💜💜

  15. Sending prayers for you as you approach this difficult step in the journey. God is with you, hugging you along the way. And sending prayers for your parents. 🙏♥️🙏

  16. The real recovery is about going to test process again. Marriage — Pregnancy — Raising Kids.
    Imagination is more important than knowledge -Albert Eisten
    You need to imagine and accept yourself beautiful with a bit of putting on of weight. Not to panic during/with your imagination but to have driven through the design tunnel make it less overwhelming. You need to expand and set range of your acceptance. Have a look at similar body weight/shape. If you get to the upper range of such body weight/ shape there will be no panic and if not you should still be happy and satisfied. Please put on that wedding dress without feeling unwomanly because you are already a woman.
    Congratulations to all your future endeavours.

  17. Praying for your parents and for you. God will protect you and watch over you always. Place yourself in His hands and He will guide you through. There will always be bumps in the road, it’s how we handle the bumps that matter. I think you have excellent insight and that, yes, it is awful that your parents are sick, but God will use this time to draw you closer to Him. You have an excellent outlook and the fact that you can look through the surface issue to what is underneath is what matters. God Bless!

  18. Prayers for your parents, Caralyn (mine have it, too, so I know the worry even if it’s mild). May the Lord stand beside you every day as you plan for the wedding of your dreams.

  19. Carolyn, Momma Mole here your body is perfect just the way it is. You will look stunning no matter what you chose. When I went dress shopping 31 years ago I told my mom I wanted a plain white dress. The first dress I tried on was Ivory with lace, buttons, beading you name it. I tried on three more and said I’ll take the first one. I absolutely hate shopping so I pray two or three try ons and you are done! And seriously if I had to do over I would have skipped the whole wedding and eloped. Way too stressful, too many fights between our families about alcohol. My oldest is planning to marry in Las Vegas and if anyone wants to come its on them. Im all for it! After all I paid for her college so wedding is on her! (she received way more college money than she ever would have wedding. All my girls picked college)
    Loved your blog since day 1
    Rachel M

  20. “Happy girls are the prettiest” My daughter is 13 and I tell her how beautiful she is everyday, but it is up to her to believe it. Right now she will not even leave the house without a mask on. Thanks Covid! In some ways, I am blessed because nuns do not dress as modestly as she does, but I have no joy from it knowing it is because she despises her body. I pray one day she will possess the joy you have knowing the transformative power of God’s love. The happiness of this knowledge is all the beauty anyone could ask for.

  21. God brought you and a wonderful man together. Your special day will be just as special—no matter the dress. It’s encouraging to know you still see yourself in recovery, at least in a way. This side of heaven, we never “arrive.”

  22. Praying for you sister. Sorry about your parents having Covid but I often see how the Lord stymies help from others, leading us more dependent upon Him.
    Focusing on our flesh is a stumbling block for all of us as the devil magnifies our perceived flaws and inadequacies.
    The answer is to MAGNIFY THE LORD!
    Let the Lord walk you, His daughter, through this wonderful season in your life.
    Looking forward to your next post! ❤

  23. Caralyn I am struggling to find the right words to share with you how this post stirred my heart . Recovery, healing, grief, growth,are all a process rather than a “one and done” moment. And that sometimes there is a need to revisit and continue healing in areas of life that seemed complete. God has those “let’s go deeper and let me love you here” moments with us that bring us closer to Him through the Cross. This moment where body image became a source of momentary suffering again led you to pray before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, giving all of this to Him, uniting it with His Suffering on the Cross.
    As you continue this journey towards your wedding and marriage may you continue healing and recovery, wrapping yourself in the Love of God.

  24. One of the things I love about your blog is your real transparency. I can completely understand your feelings regarding the pool and wedding dress selection. Our world makes such a huge deal out of what our bodies should look like. I agree with you and will be praying for you as you take Jesus wedding dress shopping. You are indeed a beautiful young woman, but I believe that comes from your sweet spirit first! I’ve never been to New York, but I wondered if it would be possible to find a dress in some smaller, unique stores in which you could enjoy the experience with your mother without the pressure of the “expectations” imposed by society. I do believe that you are the bride and it should be your choice for what makes you feel the most comfortable and beautiful. I know God has the perfect situation and dress for your special day! 😉

  25. It’s super hard to face the reality of our character defects, and even more so after years of recovery to see them surface once again; they are waiting “in the wings” of our life’s stage, ready and willing to get back in charge of us. But I agree, reliance on “The One Relationship we most need” puts us in a place to enjoy all the others. You have family behind you, readers and fans in the stands, and Jesus who goes before you. Run the race! No need to compare with others; God has given you beauty within AND without.

  26. That dress you’re wearing in the engagement photo shoot looked GREAT! Why not save a few hundred (thousand?? 😲) dollars and call it done!? Then you and your Mom can spend the time sharing stories and precious time together instead of trying to preen for some of those “high-society scrutinizers” that you can never please, anyway. It’s not burlap and you look fantastic in it (as you would in jeans and t-shirt!😉). Besides, Steven is marrying YOU, not the dress.
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

  27. I have to smile, Caralyn, because my daughter (a few years older than you) and you have been on the same exact path — finding a guy, dating, getting engaged, setting a date (her’s is June 24, 2023), and now wedding gown shopping. She’s doing her’s in DC this weekend with her mom, aunt, and three younger cousins (who she will ask to be in her wedding party).

    I can’t imagine what you went through in those tough years, so this is easy for me to say. Enjoy yourself. Don’t look at you but focus on the dress. Let go, let God. This is an amazing time in your life. Look forward, not back. God has you, and has your back. As with all His children, you are a wonderful creation.

    Ted

  28. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing this post Caralyn! Your family is in my prayers. Remember that you are first and foremost the bride of Christ. Let that be in your mind as you try on dresses! Also, even if you don’t think it’s your style, I highly recommend your first dress you try on be a ball gown style. You can’t help but feel like a beautiful, elegant princess in one. I never thought I’d like that style, but that’s what I ended up getting married in. It’s at least a confidence booster! Congrats. 💙

  29. You look great in your engagement photos, I think the dress matches you’re energy as a person, it’s classy, minimal, and friendly/unfussy, polished but ready for activity. Trying on dresses in a similar silhouette might be a great start, maybe with an extra chiffon layer with or without beading to play with detail levels.
    The right dress will make you feel in harmony with yourself while the wrong dress will make you worry about how you look. If you feel yourself scrutinizing yourself too much, focusing on how well the dress reflects your personality or how well it meshes with your venue might help.
    I hope you’ll enjoy the shopping process!

  30. Hi Caralyn,

    I love all the wonderful comments that people have left for you. They are right, you are a beautiful person inside and out! Never, never compare yourself or your body to anyone else. You are a unique creation of God and He made you, and He knew what He was doing! When you are in an environment with other women who you think are exceptionally attractive with “perfect” bodies just remember that they each have their own insecurities and feel less than perfect themselves and may even feel personally threatened by someone as beautiful as you.

    I had many feelings of inferiority as a young person, and then later as an adult, because of several physical and social challenges that set me apart from the rest. Even the boys made fun of me and called me names. As I grew up and changed from a very tall gangly “ugly duckling” into a “beautiful swan” (as people were telling me) then people would stare at me because I was very tall and attractive, but, I was ultra sensitive of their stares because I did not feel pretty or attractive and instead felt very insecure. So, then, I was still set apart and then other women resented me for my “looks”. It felt like “catch 22”. But, at the same time, I did not believe that I was beautiful because I had been ridiculed so much in the past and I had very low self-esteem. I worked very hard to try to make myself look attractive. It took many years, and even therapy, to become comfortable with my own body and image. It was a long hard journey but I finally worked through it.

    What I am trying to say to you is that I understand your feelings and I hope that you can see yourself as the lovely woman that you are. There are always going to be other attractive women, but the best thing to do is to look upon them and admire them, not to compare yourself to them or feel threatened by their “looks”.

    I wish you all the best in your life! You deserve it! You are a wonderful person!

  31. My dear girl,
    You ate beautiful, inside, outside, body, mind and spirit. The destroyer in us is comparisons.
    I did my time with bulimia, never measuring up to those who I viewed as perfection, hating myself. No one can be cruelty to me than myself.
    It deeply effected my then young daughter as well. What hope did she have if the person who she most viewed as “perfection” could not love herself but stood wretching on the other side of the bathroom door?
    I had to first learn to see myself, then teach her what I now say to you…
    You are intricately, delicately designed to the most minute detail…mysteriously, fearfully and beautifully made by God who see you as the most beautiful, perfect of His creations and woven together in His own image. You are the apple of His eye.
    You lady are perfection.

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