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A Brief History of #SheddingForTheWedding

How the popular bridal weight loss hashtag came to be

Click on the hashtag #sheddingforthewedding, and you’ll find over 30,000 posts from brides painstakingly documenting their quests to get in shape before their weddings. Artfully composed blueberries, chicken breasts, and plain-looking omelets take up many of the posts.


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There’s also photos of broccoli, some spammy posts with questionable methods like "body wraps," close-ups of fitness trackers, post-workout selfies, inspirational quotes, and screenshots of how many pounds brides have lost. And just about every day, Kirsten (bride.to.be.on.ww) uploads her own photos tagged #sheddingforthewedding.

"If I didn't have that Instagram, it wouldn't be the same," Kirsten told Racked. "It really holds me accountable because I have followers now. I actually have over a thousand followers, which I never thought would happen."

Kirsten’s been sharing photos on her fitness Instagram since May, and she’s already lost more than 40 pounds on her way to hitting her goal of losing 89 pounds by her October 2016 wedding. Just as she was getting committed to losing weight, Kirsten stumbled on the #sheddingforthewedding community while looking at Weight Watchers-tagged Instagram posts. #sheddingforthewedding is just one of a few popular tags for brides trying to lose weight, there’s also #operationweddingdress and #fitbride.

"Through my whole life I've always battled with my weight. When I graduated high school, when I graduated from the university, when I graduated from my teaching program," Kirsten said. "You always say, ‘Okay, I'm going to drop this weight by this time. I'm going to drop my weight by summer. I'm going to drop the weight so that when I graduate I'm at goal.’ You lose and then you gain and it never ends up happening. I just turned 30 too and I had just had a wake up call — like, this is it. I want to wear the dress I've always dreamed of. I don't want to have to buy a dress just because it fits my body style. I want to have choice."

Her goal is to lose five pounds a week, and she credits #sheddingforthewedding with keeping her going. "I've had a few people join Weight Watchers because they've seen my Instagram and I have some people at work that have been asking me about it. I feel like I can't stop because people follow me and I've inspired some people. I have to keep going," she said.

The women Kirsten follows on Instagram trade recipes, spur each other on, and even host giveaways and a book club of sorts. Holly Garrett, another bride who’s getting married in October 2016, also feels inspired by checking the tag. "By putting my progress out there with this hashtag it has helped me stay accountable. I know I have people following me and my progress and it helps me continue on my journey. I also like to look up the hashtag and connect with other women and follow their progress, get ideas for recipes," she told Racked.

Bridget (LittleBlackScrubs, more than 10,000 followers) made a separate Instagram to document her weight loss journey for her September 2015 wedding, like many #sheddingforthewedding brides. "When I first made it, it was easier to talk about [dieting and exercise with] people I didn't know." She said she didn't want to be "bombarding my friends and family with like, here's what I'm eating, here's [me] working out, you know?"

It turned out she’s made lasting friendships with the brides she’s met via Instagram posts. "I actually met a girl who lives in Pennsylvania and I'm in Mississippi and we've flown and we've seen each other. Literally, I consider her one of my best friends now. That's really kind of weird how you make those friendships. Using the different hashtags, I've met people that were in my area that live 10 minutes from me but I had no idea."

Thank you @michelleabration for my workout tank! Can't wait to wear this bad boy in the gym. #journeystrong

A photo posted by AndreaTapia, CPT, BS ExSci (@atappie) on

The brides using #sheddingforthewedding knew exactly what Bridget was going through, with simultaneously trying to plan her wedding, hit her goal weight, and go to work for her full-time job as a nurse. "It definitely helps because they understood everything else you had going on as well as trying to be healthy," she said.

As the wedding date approaches, however, there’s a doomsday countdown looming over the fitness and nutrition posts. In between all the before and after photo posts and success stories, there are also confessions about falling behind on workouts and getting off track on healthy eating over the weekend. You can almost hear the clock ticking.

"There's just that much more pressure to have a perfect wedding with social media, so when it comes to something like weight and body image, which has been so closely tied to wedding prep, I think social media really does just kind of magnify it for a lot of brides," said Jess Laird, managing editor of wedding website Loverly. "I think the hashtag is really driving a trend that's been around for a long time."

Loverly published a post calling the term "shedding for the wedding" a "popular yet troubling" phrase, stressing that working out before your wedding should be less about feeling like you have to lose weight and more about getting healthier and reducing stress.

"I feel like these days people are more and more knowledgeable about the importance of diet and fitness and not just in the context of being thin," Laid said. "I think that society is just more aware of how important it is to be in good shape for the sake of longevity. There are so many great reasons to workout before your wedding that aren't just about dropping 15 pounds, but really about feeling your best for your wedding."

The Knot Deputy Editor Kristen Maxwell Cooper first spotted "Shedding for The Wedding" on a tank top when she was engaged over two and a half years ago. "My husband and I used to say it to each other all the time because [we] actually started spinning together about five months before our wedding to, for lack of a better word, shed for the wedding. We used to always joke that we were going to get tank tops that said that," Maxwell jokes. "But I didn't see it like I see it now being used on social media so frequently." She explains that The Knot’s workout posts also focus more on achievable lifestyle changes, versus hardcore weight loss. "We would never recommend anyone crash diet," she said. "Essentially just adopting healthy habits is most of the time what we talk about. Hopefully you'll be able to sustain it even after the wedding. It's just adopting a healthier lifestyle."

But before #sheddingforthewedding was a hashtag, it was a television show. The Biggest Loser-inspired Shedding for the Wedding aired on CW for one season in 2011, pitting couples against each other to see which team could lose the most weight in exchange for a dream wedding. It got pretty intense, despite having a very, very cheesy theme song by Tinashe and Sara Rue as its host. Contestants said things like, "The wedding is very important to me but what I want is beating Dawn and Adam today and tomorrow and the next day," after competing in challenges like going to clubs and being tempted with bar food.

Valerie Joyner didn’t sign up for the show because she wanted to lose weight. While she explains that she was "like 300 pounds and really in an unhappy, unhealthy kind of place," her size wasn’t the thing she most wanted to change. Her job in PR was making her miserable. She wanted a new lifestyle and a new profession. "That environment had women that were very skinny and very into fashion and everything, and they would leave little notes on my computer. I'd be like, ‘What?’" Joyner said the notes would say things like "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

She started working out on her own and lost 50 pounds, and then signed up for Shedding for the Wedding with her fiance as a whim. The next morning, she had two missed calls from producers. She wasn’t sure what to expect, and told her fiance that the show would probably assign them chefs to cook for them.

"It was totally not like that. It was more like passenger vans driving you around in traffic to do a lot of filming. Waking up at like five in the morning to do a two-hour workout. Then filming for 12 hours. And then another workout." Joyner explained that they made their own food, but that, in terms of helping them with their goal, the process was "definitely good." Still, "We were staying somewhere beautiful, but we just couldn't appreciate it. You were just like ‘I hate this.’ You felt like you were going to die the first week," she said. "For people who had never run in our lives, we were running hill sprints and throwing up at the top and bottom of the hill."

They made it to the show’s fifth week out of seven before elimination. "But from that point we had kind of given up our jobs to do the show. So we just focused and made that our jobs for the mean time. We knew we were still going to compete for the honeymoon," Joyner said. "For like three months, all we did was wake up and go for a three to five mile walk and then run at home after lunch. That was our life, that was all we did. It was nice to have the time to dedicate to it. I wish I had three months to just do that again.

Together, Joyner and her fiance lost 200 pounds. She credits the show’s dietician with saving their lives. One of the other couples from Shedding has even moved near them and they’ve been working out together. It’s still a work in progress, Joyner says, even after all the weight loss success they achieved during the show. "We've all had some life situations over the past couple years that have caused natural weight gain, or you'll have a slip up." Her goal now is to work toward getting certified as a personal trainer, with hopes of helping other brides get in shape for their wedding. She’s already started her own company as a wedding and events planner.

And for someone who spent a few months shedding for the wedding like it was her job (it was), Joyner has a unique perspective on the term.

"I do think some brides put too much pressure on, having this unrealistic vision of what they want to be for one day. I think it’s more about accepting the body that you're in and the love that you have. That's what the day is really about. You're going to look good for the person who asked you to marry them, because that's how you looked when they asked you to marry them," Joyner said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with setting fitness goals for your wedding day... But you don’t have to be super disappointed if you don’t reach them. Everybody’s body is different."

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