Every woman wants to feel their best on their wedding day - but at 23 stone, Rai Powell Hart was terrified of being judged and labelled a 'fat bride'. When she finally walked down the aisle, she realised it didn't matter at all. In this open letter, she urges other not to let their body insecurities hold them back...
Hello fellow curvy girls!
Like me, I’m sure you’ll remember your first.
No, not kiss. Diet! I was age 14 and a size 16. And that wasn’t the last time I vowed to slim and then quit.
As I got older, and bigger, I hid away from the world. ‘Next summer, I’ll definitely come,’ I said to pals when I refused yet another girlie holiday. You’ve guessed it… I didn’t want to lay next to my skinny mates, feeling like a beached whale.
As for dressing up in skimpy dresses and heels for a night out dancing? Not a blooming chance! You know as well as I do the tent-sized frock I’d be forced to wear. Every time I turned down another offer with friends, I told myself that soon things would be different.
One day, I’d shed half my body weight and be a size 10, just like them. The fun could wait till then. Only, the fad diets and extreme exercise regimes never worked. In fact, I just got bigger.
By the time I got together with Nikki, then 25, in the summer of 2012, I weighed 23st and wore a size 24. So in love, after four months together, I got down on one knee. Nikki said yes and we planned to marry the following year.
‘I won’t be a fat bride, though,’ I said. ‘I love you the way you are,’ Nikki frowned. Still, I vowed to shed 12st – half my body weight – and threw myself into boot camps and diets. I even lived on powdered soup for three days – hell!
But nothing worked, and I postponed our wedding. And then I kept pushing back the big day. Poor Nikki was getting frustrated. ‘Let’s just do it,’ she said in 2014. Only, the stigma of being a fat bride still haunted me.
‘Everyone will be judging,’ I sobbed.‘ They won’t!’ Nikki soothed. She talked me into setting the date for July 2015. And the night before the big day, I wrapped my stomach and face in cling film in the hope of temporarily shrinking my flab. When I woke up the next day, it was all there. But something else had changed.
Looking at myself in the mirror, I smiled. My whole life, I’d waited for the magical day when I’d finally be slim. Only, maybe it was just never going to happen.
‘This is who I am,’ I said to myself.
Walking down the aisle towards Nikki, with my family and friends grinning up at me, I realised it wasn’t my size that mattered. What mattered was that I was happy.
Now, I don’t hide away. I’m in my cossie by the pool, and dancing away in whatever clothes I fancy.
So, to all the curvy ladies like me, please don’t put off your dreams until you have a ‘dream body’. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t. But one thing’s for sure, the magic formula for happiness isn’t eating powdered soup and hating yourself. Love and respect your body, jiggly belly and bingo wings included. Life is too short not to get out there and live it.
Love, Rai x
(Rai Powell Hart, 33, Fleetwood, Blackpool)