Hunter McGrady made history in 2017 as the curviest model—a size 16—to ever appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, amplifying her platform for body positivity and inclusive sizing. Ahead of her wedding, she opened up to Glamour about the pressure put on brides to lose weight, why she thinks that’s bullshit, and how she focused on feeling confident and excited—not thinner.
When I was younger, probably 18 or 19, I used to watch shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings and hear women say over and over, “Well, this is great, but I’m planning on dropping about 30 pounds.” I remember thinking, When did your wedding become your weight loss journey? Society is always trying to dictate what a woman’s body should look like, and that’s especially true when women become brides. We’re told we have to lose weight, that our arms have to look a certain way, that we need to change everything about ourselves before we walk down the aisle.
Planning your wedding is supposed to be so much fun, but the emphasis placed on weight makes it tainted, stressful. I made a vow with myself and my fiancé that I would not get stressed over this wedding—so I called bullshit on the idea that I should lose weight for my wedding.
When I started dress shopping, one of the first questions salespeople asked me was whether I was planning on staying this size for the wedding. It made my heart sink. I walked in feeling confident and dreaming of a dress that was romantic and whimsical, and suddenly all I could think was, Wait a second, should I lose weight? I even had salespeople say that they could cover certain areas to hide my hips or my tummy. Are you kidding? I want to accentuate my curves! Here’s another thing: We need to start educating the people who work in retail about how to speak to customers, because if they want to help, they need to do it the correct way.
Not every woman is ashamed of their body. We need to stop pushing that narrative.
The sizes on wedding dresses don’t help. In the wedding world the number is actually higher than the sizes of your street clothes. I’m a size 16/18, but in a wedding dress I’m a 22/24, which is wild to me. As women, we’re constantly pressured to fit into a certain size. There’s so much pressure placed on the number inside your dress, and we’ve been told our entire lives that larger numbers are bad—society has brainwashed us to believe that being anything larger in a number size is worth freaking out about it, and that’s bullshit.
Shopping—especially for your wedding dress—should not be a negative experience. I can tell you right now, putting on something that doesn’t fit you is so disheartening. Especially when it’s your wedding dress. As little girls or little boys, we dream of this day and what it looks like for so long—to be disappointed like that is such a sad thing. You should be able to walk in and find a dress that makes you look beautiful just as you are. So I spoke up. I made it clear that this body was the same one I’d have when I walked down the aisle, and I was perfectly happy with that.
Listen, I want to look my best on my wedding day; that’s just human nature. But that doesn’t mean I need to change my body. I’d be lying if I said I never thought, Gosh, I should really tone up my arms or I should really tone up my back because that’s what everyone thinks I should do. But that’s not the right reason to bust your butt in the gym. You should work out to make yourself feel good, to keep your body strong, to improve your mental health. Working out to appease someone else’s idea of what you should look like is just stressful.
I ultimately found my wedding dress at Watters Bridal. They were so wonderful and so inclusive, and we designed two dresses for my wedding together. I’m totally not that plus-size bride who wants to cover everything up. If anything I’m like, Here’s my body! You either take it or you leave it! They totally got my vision, and we created something really spectacular together. I’m excited because for so long I’ve been told to fit into a certain category or that I could only wear certain things, but I feel so amazing in my dress. At my last fitting I didn’t want to take it off.
As women, and especially plus-size women, we get told what we can and can’t do and what we can and can’t wear a lot. For my wedding dress a lot of people asked me if I was going to wear a figure-hiding ball gown. If you know me, you know I want to show off my body because I am proud of my body, damn it! I wasted too much of my life and too much of my time when I was younger obsessing over how I could change it, and how I could be different. It was exhausting.
I’m proud of every size that my body has gone through. I love it fully and wholly. I hope that can be a mantra for other brides as they’re inundated with messages about how they should look on their wedding day or what they should wear for their body type. Wear whatever the heck you want to wear! It’s your day: Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Originally Appeared on Glamour