Posted by: VoiceinRecovery | January 12, 2011

5 Body Image Lessons from “Say Yes to the Dress”

Yes I am going to say a TV show has lessons to learn in body image, self acceptance, confidence, boundary setting, and being true to you!!

I started watching, on a whim, with my mentee on Netflix when indecisive over what to watch. If you are not familiar with the show – Say Yes to the Dress is on TLC and it follows brides-to-be search for the perfect wedding dress (for them!!)

I wanted to share some of my favorite lessons I have learned from this show. Sure, it isn’t a perfect show, but I watch it and always feel great after it, because it is all about helping these women feel their best, for their day.


On this show EVERYONE has an opinion, some will be blunt, some quiet, and others downright mean. I LOVE that the consultants ask “How do you feel in the dress?” This is what I love and what to learn in our body acceptance and body image journey. We have messages coming at us from the media, from people, from magazines, from everywhere! But we have to find our true self. We have to find our own acceptance. How do we feel, are our feelings coming from within us, or from the ideals in society?

I think when we look at ourselves from the inside, and work to self acceptance, it brings confidence, beauty, and self-love to the forefront. When women show confidence in the dress and when women say “I FEEL pretty” and start crying, my heart melts. I love that women of all sizes can find a dress they feel beautiful in, and feel confident in, and most of them go with their OWN opinions, but I do see other waiver and hear others more. This is why I think the consultants are wonderful, they listen to the to-be bride, and act as their biggest cheerleader and always bring it back to how they feel in the dress. Body image and body acceptance is a personal/individual journey, and finding our own voice and own visions of beauty and confidence, is when we feel most whole.

Fashion is very much a confidence booster and body image booster

I think how we approach everyday fashion can and should be the way these women look for wedding dresses. We need to ask ourselves how we feel in our clothing, do we feel confident, do we feel pretty, do we feel sexy, and does it feel right for us. I dislike some fashion blogs that criticize fashion for plus-sized women as “inappropriate” which I feel is sizism. If YOU feel wonderful in a pair of jeans, tights, shirt, shoes who cares what others think? Fashion is very personal! How would things change if we went shopping for clothing and approached it with the care of what they do when wedding dress shopping? When I heard “I absolutely don’t feel like a plus size girl” I wanted to hug her! Because we are NOT our size, our label, our weight, we are individuals, with individual beauty!

I absolutely love when women walk into the store, know what they like, and know their style and what feels like them. And often even those who do not know what they want, end up trying on something that they find perfect for them. I think this is about listening to who we are, knowing how we want to feel in clothing, and finding our own inner fashion rockstar!

Having a Voice & Boundaries are Crucial!

I yell at the tv a lot when watching this show! I yell at the family members/friends/fiance when they do not realize this is about the bride, her dress, and her wedding day. Isn’t that like life though? This is YOUR life, YOUR journey, and you have a right to live it the way you want! Opinions from some of the so-called “support systems” they bring say things that are not truly supportive. Sometimes they push onto the to-be bride what their visions, hopes, and ideas are. I see them often not even “get” that they are pushing their ways onto another person. I am pretty sure a lot of you have had a person or people who have been like this at one point in our life.

This is similar in life and in recovery – people we may “think” are supportive may not be completely supportive. People are not perfect, and voicing our concerns, our boundaries is crucial in life to establish healthy relationships. I often see the consultant act as therapist and listen to the girls cry, or share their frustrations in the closed room, and they get to voice their issues. I think voicing our concerns, and boundaries, are important because the other person may not even realize what they are saying is hurtful. When we establish boundaries and voice our concerns, then we are open and honest. If people decide they cannot respect your boundaries, then you may need to decide if this person is healthy for you. I see this when women leave the store without a dress and then later come back and get a dress without the crew they originally brought it, so their true voice is what goes into the dress choice. I loved hearing one women say “it is MY day and she (her mother) will just have to get over it!” And when they choose the dress that is right for them, they glow!

I know I feel most confident, and sure of who I am inside and out when my voice aligns with who I am and the actions I take in life. Inner and outer beauty coexist when our voice, our actions, our spirit all align.

Being Open Minded

Sometimes we think we know who we are, accept our fears, and aren’t open to new challenges, opportunities and trying new things. There are some brides-to-be who think they know what styles they love, and realize it doesn’t work for them, and they fall in love with the exact opposite of what they thought they wanted. This is where I challenge you to step outside your box in life and try new things! Sometimes how we think we will feel about something, will be absolutely different from when we actually try something. I always thought I would LOVE living in Boston, and when I moved there the reality was very different from what I thought. But I learned so much more about who I am, by daring to move across the county, experiencing a different culture, and in the end realized that home is more than a house. Home is the people, the feelings, the balance you feel in your surroundings. I dare you to try something new! See how you feel doing it!

I do this with fashion and makeup as well! I love to experiment with different looks, and I love trying new things, to see how I feel in a certain look, whether I feel confident, comfortable, sexy, hot, beautiful, calm, etc. I once when to work for months without makeup because I thought I couldn’t do it, and wanted to dare myself to find comfort in my skin. And after a week I loved the ease, loved that I wasn’t uncomfortable, and could put makeup on or leave it off and I would still be the same person! I realized that confidence comes from how I carry myself, how I feel about myself, and who I am and everything else is fun, an accessory to who I am.

Beauty Comes in ALL Sizes!

Beauty is so dynamic! I love the women who come into the store and love what they leave with. Beauty is more than what we look like. It is about how we feel about ourselves. I know women of all sizes struggle with body acceptance, even if they fit the “ideals”. I truly believe that women need to look inside, find who they are, work toward accepting who they are, because the most beautiful person is true to who they are, feel confident, know their boundaries, and are willing to find and be their true authentic self! Individuality is beautiful. Intelligence is beautiful. Having a voice is beautiful. Recovery is beautiful. LIFE is beautiful. We just need to look inside ourselves, and find our own definition of what beauty is, and NOT what everyone else is saying is beautiful. Find your true self and that is absolutely beautiful.

Randy, one of my favorites, said once on the show “it’s not the size of the dress, it’s the shape of the silhouette” and I love that. I also loved when one women had a baby, was worried about her post baby body, and he stepped in and said “Look at that beautiful silhouette, and guess what you have someone who loves you, that is marrying you, who obviously loves you the way you are, and that’s really important.”

I know for me, I couldn’t SEE myself truly in early recovery. I kept seeing something different from reality, because the eating disorder mind is truly distorted. I told people “I cannot see myself, so I will rely on how you see me instead.” It took away the power from my inner voice, and gave the power to the ones I love, who love me. In time, I was able to see that who I was on the inside is my power and ultimate beauty. Feeling comfortable and self accepting of my body came in time! I still have days where the inner voice says a comment, but I am able to voice my authentic voice very quickly and go back to my inner being, and quiet any voice. And if I struggle more, I voice it out loud, on twitter, and search out others who love me for support.

My mentee @BeliefHopeTrust said to me tonight “I just love how the brides face lights up. She could have never felt pretty before but she puts on the perfect wedding dress and tears come…it’s remarkable.”

Body image and body acceptance is a journey, and one where every step matters. I hope you seek out Body Image Warriors, Recovery Warriors, and can begin your journey to finding your true inner beauty, because that WILL radiate outwards!

Say yes to YOU!!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by VoiceinRecovery. VoiceinRecovery said: New ViR Post: 5 Body Image Lessons from “Say Yes to the Dress” #BodyImage… […]

  2. Wonderful life supportive thoughts, in this article. I didn’t know about this show.
    Sounds like it would be great to watch with a group and then discuss afterward as part of an eating disorder, body image support group.

    Thank you.

    Joanna Poppink
    Los Angeles psychotherapist
    author: Healing Your Hungry Heart, 08/11 Conari Press

  3. I think it’s really cool that you pulled such great messages from the show (one of my favorites, too)…but moreover I LOVE the attention your post is getting from other communities! Your observations are reaching a LOT of people – and that’s fantastic! I’m sure your helping so many more people than you may have originally imagined reaching with this post. Congrats!

    • Thank you SOOOO much Jenny! I truly hope to reach people and love looking into everyday things and seeing messages & lessons 🙂

  4. My husband and I actually watch this together and I am always screaming at the tv, he thinks it is hilarious. I sometimes want to just throw things.
    Great post today!

  5. Great advice. Beauty isn’t about following trends, but showing everyone who you are. I love this show and I love how you used it as a stepping board to discuss self image for every day, not just the special occasions.

  6. Another great post. I don’t know the programme but I do relate to wanting to scream at TV shows that don’t understand eating disorders or where people are mocked for their eating issues. There is an advert at the moment in the UK for a programme where overweight people are shouted at for their behaviours. I know I can’t watch it because these people need compassion not screaming at. If anyone had shouted at me as to why was I eating this or that (which they did) it would have had the reverse effect and I would have eaten more and more (which I did ultimately gained 2-4lbs / wk for a 10 month period until I reached my rock bottom.

    I got recovery from people who taught me how to show compassion to myself, who let me learn from my mistakes and who showed me how to put in boundaries. I know it’s worked as the other day someone commented about how boundaried I am today LOL.

    Anyway I’m drifting off the original topic of body image. I love that topic and am doing a workshop on it shortly. My body image was so poor even when I was at a normal weight. By the end my body image distress score was 72/72! Here’s a link if you haven’t worked yours out Today it’s more like 4/72 – true miracles happen in recovery.


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