Aisle be there

Our bride has changed ut­terly

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Do­minique Mc­Mul­lan

If you had told me three months ago that my wed­ding dress would need zero al­ter­ations and I would be able to dance in cir­cles with­out feel­ing self-con­scious about my body, I would have kissed you. All I wanted was to feel good in my skin on the day I got hitched. I wanted to be able to con­cen­trate on ev­ery­thing won­der­ful that was hap­pen­ing around me and not on suck­ing in my stom­ach. Our wed­ding day would be the best day of our lives, the “day we would re­mem­ber for­ever”, but all I could think was that the magic would be ru­ined by my bingo-wing-in­duced self-con­scious­ness.

To­day, with three weeks to go be­fore the big day, I reached my goal; I felt com­fort­able in my wed­ding dress. But, as of­ten hap­pens, I didn’t feel like I thought I would. As I stood in the shop in front of the mir­ror and looked at my re­flec­tion, I felt happy, I felt grand, but it wasn’t the Rocky-run­ning-up-the-steps-gold-medal-mo­ment I thought it would be. There was no air-punch­ing. As I twisted my body at odd an­gles and ev­ery­thing stayed where it was meant to, it felt nice but I wasn’t ec­static.

It took some con­tem­pla­tion to un­der­stand my lack­lus­tre re­sponse. My body has un­de­ni­ably changed; not dra­mat­i­cally, but no­tice­ably. There are lit­tle mus­cles ap­pear­ing all over the place and ev­ery­thing is a lit­tle bit “lifted”. I’ve still got bingo wings. They are much smaller, but they are still there. The sig­nif­i­cant change is the way I feel about them. My mini-bingo wings are made from glasses of wine with old friends who are home from for­eign lands. My arm chub con­sists of cho­co­late bis­cuits shared kindly by col­leagues, and chips stolen off my fu­ture hus­band’s plate. When it re­ally comes down to it, I would pre­fer wine and mini-bingo wings to Madonna-toned arms and an early night.

Along­side the bingo wings there are proper mus­cles. My armpits are so toned that I hon­estly can’t stop look­ing at them. I have a new-found love of my ap­pendages; it’s as if I’ve freshly sprouted them. I am end­lessly im­pressed by how much I can lift and squat. My friends and fam­ily are bear­ing the brunt of this by be­ing con­stantly chal­lenged to arm wrestling and asked to “just touch it”. I’ve lifted my T-shirt in pub­lic on more than one oc­ca­sion to dis­play stom­ach mus­cles that can now be seen to move un­der the sur­face on com­mand. It’s like magic, trust me.

I’m mak­ing it sound like it’s all been a walk in the park. It hasn’t. In fact it’s been dif­fi­cult. Peo­ple ex­pected me to be “ad­dicted” or “lov­ing it”, but I didn’t. I never craved the gym like I crave a cheese toastie and chips af­ter a few gin and ton­ics. I never loved it. Brides rarely talk about how bloody hard it is, but let me tell you a se­cret: or­gan­is­ing a wed­ding and hav­ing a full-time job, while eat­ing and ex­er­cis­ing like a Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret An­gel, is no fun.

In my first column I de­scribed John Bel­ton as scary. In re­al­ity, he was scary when scary was what I needed to get me go­ing. When I needed some­one to tell me that I was en­dan­ger­ing my health by do­ing no ex­er­cise and force­fully sug­gest that I stop eat­ing all that white bread, that’s what he did. But Bel­ton, his two broth­ers, Kevin and Liam, and Adri­enne, are not just scary “fit­ness” peo­ple. They are also nor­mal hu­mans who drink and eat chips some­times. They can be kind. They do things like make sure you don’t sweat too much when you rather stupidly had your fake tan done be­fore head­ing to train­ing. They are hard-bod­ied he­roes who will coax you along your fit­ness path, drip-feed­ing you what you need to hear just at the mo­ment you are ready to hear it. They never push you beyond your lim­its, but they un­der­stand how to bring you rightto the edge of them.

I’ve put off writ­ing this fi­nal column for weeks, and it was only to­day that I re­alised why I was hav­ing such a hard time put­ting pen to paper. A fi­nal column feels like it should have a nice neat end­ing, but for me this doesn’t feel like an end. This has not been a trans­for­ma­tional story. There are no “af­ter” pho­tos, be­cause this is not the “af­ter” and be­cause, hon­estly, the ma­jor­ity of the difference isn’t vis­i­ble.

I’ve al­ways, like so many women, had a com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship with my body. I was the girl hid­ing be­hind the bike shed, try­ing to get out of games in school, mor­ti­fied at the thought of hav­ing to get changed in front of other girls. For a month in my 20s I ate only crisps and cup-a-soups. I’ve treated my body ter­ri­bly; deny­ing it, over-in­dulging it and pun­ish­ing it. But now I’m the woman with baby guns (touch them).

I know the way I feel about my body is al­ways go­ing to be com­pli­cated. Un­for­tu­nately, some of that seems to be the ef­fect of the world in which I live. But now I un­der­stand that. It’s okay to feel a bit s**t some­times. The key is to let it go, be kind to your­self (this doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean eat­ing chips) and move on. I never thought go­ing to the gym was be­ing kind to your­self, but turns out some­times, it is.

I’ve a new re­spect and awe for my body. It makes more sense to me now. My orig­i­nal goal seems so in­signif­i­cant, even a lit­tle bit em­bar­rass­ing. As a step­ping stone it brought me to the big dreams I have. I want to feel good in my skin all the time. I want to feel good in ev­ery dress. I want to (whis­per it) feel good in no dress. That’s why I felt the way I did in that wed­ding-dress chang­ing room. Why put so much fo­cus on one day? There will be other bril­liant days, and I want to be happy and healthy for all of them. Call me greedy, but now I have a taste of this, there’s no way I am giv­ing it back.


Here comes the bride (and her new tummy mus­cles): Do­minique Mc­Mul­lan in the Gar­den Flower Shop at Pow­er­scourt Town­house Cen­tre, Dublin.

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