If you're anything like me, that engagement ring barely slipped on your finger before you started planning your nuptials. Although the cake, flowers and location are all vital, everyone knows that the bride's appearance at the top of that aisle is the truly gasp-inducing moment of any wedding. Naturally, you want to look your best for your big day. Since most brides have many months between question-popping and bouquet-tossing, you'll likely have plenty of time to achieve your appearance goals, as long as you keep them realistic and work hard. So, we've come up with a 12-month guide to getting the wedding body you want.
Month 1: Make a Plan
During that first month, you're still pretty high on the actual engagement, but it pays to get going on your fitness plan right away. Since every single woman is different, take a long look in the mirror and figure out what you hope to achieve over the next year. Maybe you have rockin' arms, but a flabby midsection, or you desire to get back to your college weight. Or, you don't have one particular feature for improvement, but want to ratchet up your overall physical fitness by engaging in a new exercise regime.
Once you've got your goals in mind, write them down and figure out how to document your progress. For example, you could chart your weight on a weekly or monthly basis. Or forego the scale in favor of taking regular measurements of the waist, hips, thighs, arms, etc. If weight is your benchmark, bear in mind that sometimes the scale doesn't fluctuate all that much, thanks to the addition of lean muscle, hormones and the amount of water weight you're carrying.
Now, let's learn more about the types of exercise that pack the most punch.
Month 2: Work on Strength-Building
Your eyes aren't deceiving you. Those body parts that used to be lean muscle really have turned to fat. Unfortunately, this is a significant side effect of aging. One of the most effective ways to combat this problem is by engaging in regular strength training. No one's saying you need to be able to bench press your betrothed. But some light weight training can be instrumental in burning fat and establishing lean muscle. As an added bonus, strength training helps you continue to burn calories after your workout is over. Programs like CrossFit, P90X and Zumba Toning are all excellent examples of workouts that incorporate strength-building with the next item on our list...
Month 3: Go Cardio Crazy
OK, you don't really have to wait until month 3 to engage in cardio. In fact, a healthy mix of cardio and strength workouts is ideal to getting your body in buff bridal form.
The benefits of cardio are numerous. If you really put out the effort, you'll burn a lot of calories in one "sitting," so to speak. Cardiovascular exercise also benefits heart and lung health (and really, how you look is secondary to your health, even during wedding prep). It will also keep from getting too fatigued on your wedding day.
The key to sticking out any workout plan is to find something you'll actually enjoy doing. If you detest running, but like to shake your money-maker, hit the gym for a cardio dance class or spin class a few times a week. Or, if you enjoy pounding the pavement, sign up for a 5K race or half-marathon, so that you're motivated to train regularly.
Month 4: Adjust Eating Habits
Repeat after me: Food is good. Food is your friend. Do not relegate yourself to months of rice cakes and mineral water. You'll probably pass out on your way down the aisle and then you'll totally miss out on that chocolate fountain you broke your budget for.
In fact, not eating enough can actually counteract your fitness plan because it'll send your body into starvation mode. In other words, your body will hold onto every calorie it can and turn it into fat.
Fortunately, there are about as many nutrition plans out there as there are brides. Do some research to figure out which reputable plan is right for you. Many will encourage you to embrace whole grains and avoid processed foods and foods high in sugar or fat. It sounds impossible at first, but is surprisingly easy with a little bit of planning and will-power. Soon, you might even find that your body will reject rich, fatty foods.
Consider also adopting a nutrition plan that allows you five small meals per day (plus snacks) rather than three big ones. When we go too long between meals our metabolisms slow down and we get so hungry that we overeat. By a lot.
Also, make sure to carry health snacks with you. Nothing derails a diet like getting too hungry and saying, "Oh, that one donut won't kill me."
Month 5: Treat Your Skin Right
All the exercise in the world isn't going to make you look radiant on your wedding day if your skin is dry and sallow. There are ways to transform your visage from rundown to radiant, fortunately!
Chronic acne and other bothersome skin issues are best addressed by a dermatologist.
If wrinkles or fine lines are the problem, reassess your skin care regimen. Consider adding a toner, wrinkle cream or firming cream to your repertoire. If you don't already, use a mild cleanser and moisturizer each and every day to keep skin looking fresh.
Also, a few simple dietary changes can also affect your skin's appearance. For example, the sodium found in diet soda and canned foods can make your eyes puffy, causing you to look tired. Also, consider incorporating almonds, tuna, salmon or halibut into your diet. These foods are rich in essential fatty acids, which help to slow the aging process and reduce blotchiness.
Above all else, use sunscreen. Obviously, you don't want to look burnt to a crisp on your big day, but wedding photos aside, it's also arguably the most important thing you can do to keep your skin looking young and supple. Just try and find me one person who doesn't appreciate supple.
Month 6: Reevaluate Your Goals
By this point, one of three things has happened. 1) You've rocked your goals and are ready to establish new target marks. 2) You're doing all right, but want to kick things up a notch. 3) Your goals seem about as attainable as an election without repeated mud-slinging.
Wherever you've landed, chances are good that you're ready to take a step back and assess your progress. If you're unhappy with how you've functioned solo, consider hiring a personal trainer and/or nutritionist to guide you. Dropping cash on an experienced professional will likely motivate you to hit the gym when you say you're going to. Plus, sometimes we all just need a little push. We're only human, after all!
Month 7: Buddy Up
If you'd love a trainer, but prefer to spend the money on Jimmy Choo's, look to a friend or family member for encouragement. As with many things in life, we're more likely to succeed at physical fitness or dieting if we feel like someone's got our back. So, pair up with a bridesmaid for regular workout sessions. Hit the grocery store and plan meals with your mom so that the two of you avoid unhealthy, processed junk at every meal. When you're feeling weak you'll be able to call on your buddy for motivation and vice versa. Some gyms offer a six-week bridal boot camp, on the theory that brides that exercise together will stick it out together.
Month 8: Amazing Abs
Whether you want a true six pack or just a fairly flat stomach, you're going to have to really make a concerted effort when it comes to strengthening your mid-section. All the crunches in the world aren't going to help you reach your goal if that's all you're doing. Instead, focus on an abdominal workout that targets your entire core. Many gyms offer abs-specific classes, or you can identify a series of exercises to do at home. Just be consistent in your pursuit of fantastic abs and vary your movements so that your muscles don't get bored. Make plans to target this area at least three times a week, preferably on nonconsecutive days, in order to see a major change. You'll be happy you did when you put on that honeymoon bikini.
Month 9: Up Your H20 Intake
Despite its natural awesomeness, water is possibly the most underappreciate substance in the world. People never seem to get enough of it, even though they constantly are told that they should.
So, here I am again, telling you that you should drink water. All day. Without fail. Not only is dehydration really dangerous and surprisingly prevalent, water also fulfills a number of cosmetic purposes.
First, it hydrates your skin, making you look young and vibrant. Also, if you splash your face with cold water it will reduce pore size. Water-drinkers also suffer from fewer bouts with acne.
As if all that's not enough, water has been repeatedly proven to help you lose weight faster. This is because people who drink more water eat fewer calories. It might sound like a lot, but the recommended intake of 11 8-ounce glasses per day is actually an easy goal to reach, once you get used to it. Keep a bottle on your desk at work and sip it through the day. And no, soda doesn't count.
Month 10: Go Shopping!
I'm not a fan of old-timey corsets, but man did they get the job done. Tiny waistline? Check. Flat abs? Check. Supple, perky boobs? Check, check.
Fortunately, the undergarment industry has come a long way since the days of Scarlett O'Hara. Consider "changing" your body temporarily with a specially designed bra, compression garment or even just some control-top pantyhose. I even have a friend (who shall remain nameless) who wore underwear featuring a fake butt under her wedding gown. She wanted a little extra curve in her booty and the undies did not disappoint.
Whatever you wear, make sure to take your undergarments along for all alterations appointments because they obviously affect how your gown will fit.
Month 11: Hit the Spa
Now that you're in the crunch time of showers, planning and paying the vendors, you're likely to really need some revitalizing spa treatments. Not only will you enjoy them, but they'll help your overall appearance. While you're booking your appointments, poll your attendants and family to find out who's in for a luxurious spa session.
So what service should you select? A good old-fashioned massage is always a stress reliever. Or, if you're concerned about a plunging backline, book a back facial to get your rear view in tip-top shape. A body scrub or wrap can get you glowing from head to toe, or you can stick with a facial to make sure your mug is in bridal-perfect condition.
Whatever you choose, never wait until the last minute for any type of skin treatment. Often, breakouts follow such services.
Month 12: Relax
You've stretched, strength-trained and cardio'd. Your skin is supple and your hair is glossy. Now all you have to do is make it down that aisle without tripping over your hemline!
By all means, keep up the good habits you've formed over the last twelve months, but don't be afraid to let your hair down, too. Forget about counting wedding cake calories and skip the occasional workout to veg out during what is likely a fairly high stress time.
Above all else, enjoy yourself! This is supposed to be the happiest time of your life, and I've seen enough brides wig out to know that it's not always enjoyed to the fullest. No one's going to remember if your groom's cake isn't perfect or if your hair frizzed out following a sweaty and frenetic rendition of "Shout." They'll just remember you and your husband -- happy, healthy and starting your lives together.
Take a look at this photo album to see all of our style suggestions for the unique and unexpected style bride!
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- Hall, Susan. "13 Surprising Benefits of Water." Ladies' Home Journal. 2012. (Sept. 18, 2012). http://www.lhj.com/health/news/13-surprising-benefits-of-water/
- Goins, Liesa. "Doctors share 15 secrets for Glowing Skin." Prevention. Sept. 26, 2010. (Sept. 18, 2012). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38682606/ns/health-skin_and_beauty/t/doctors-share-secrets-glowing-skin/#.UFkLwlE9jEJ
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier." Mayo Clinic. June 30, 2010. (Sept. 18, 2012). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01710
- Reader's Digest. "20+ Natural Ways to Have Great Hair for Less." 2012. (Sept. 18, 2012). http://www.rd.com/health/20-natural-ways-to-have-great-hair-for-less/
- Sharecare. "Is strength-training or cardio training more effective for weight loss?" 2012. (Sept. 18, 2012). http://www.sharecare.com/question/strength-cardio-effect-weight-loss
- Walters, Lexi. "The Buff Bride's Handbook: Get in Shape for Your Wedding Day." Fitness. 2012. (Sept. 18, 2012). http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/plans/get-in-shape-for-your-wedding-day/?page=1
- Wedding Channel. "Which Beauty Treatments are Most Popular With Brides?" 2012. (Sept. 18, 2012). http://weddings.weddingchannel.com/wedding-planning-ideas/wedding-hairstyles/qa/which-beauty-treatments-are-most-popular-with-brides.aspx?MsdVisit=1