I'm guessing that your groom-to-be thinks you're perfect just the way you are, otherwise he wouldn't have proposed his everlasting commitment to you. Even so, many brides embark on a fitness and diet regimen fit for a supermodel once that ring is put snugly in place.
It makes sense for a little bit of self-consciousness to kick in. After all, you'll be standing up in front of dozens or even hundreds of your closest friends, family members and co-workers while you say your vows. I'd like to say that their gazes will be split 50/50 between you and the groom, but in reality, they'll be transfixed by you in all your bridal glory (he's probably not sporting professionally applied makeup, a chic up-do and a gown that costs more than a month's rent).
Whether your wedding is going to be a big hoopla or not, it's always a great idea to kick off your marriage with better nutrition and fitness goals -- as long as you're dieting safely. Keep reading for our best dieting tips for brides who are preparing for their 15 minutes of bridal fame.
I'd love to be a size two. While I'm naming unrealistic goals, I should also disclose that I want to be fabulously wealthy without having to expend any effort whatsoever. And I want a unicorn.
A girl can dream, right? The point is that what we want and what's in line with reality are often two different things. So be realistic when setting your wedding day weight goals. Start by calculating your body mass index (BMI), which uses your height and weight to estimate your body fat (see sidebar). Once you've identified that number, consider how much time you have to lose weight before the big day. It's simply not healthy -- or even possible -- to drop 20 pounds in two weeks, no matter what the diet commercials say. Setting sky-high goals is the best way to be disappointed and possibly damage your health for the long term if you abuse yourself with fad diets and unsafe pills.
Before you begin your wedding diet, you should identify the ideal way(s) to consistently track your results. Some people gauge success solely by pounds lost, determined by weekly weigh-ins. Others, particularly dieters who are also heavy into exercise and muscle-building, take measurements of their waists, thighs, arms and other so-called problem areas. This is because more muscle mass can actually increase your weight, even though you're dropping fat and flab all over the place. Fitting into your skinny jeans or noting a significant increase in energy are less tangible, but still valid benchmarks for dieting success.
Annemarie C. of Cumming, Ga., took a significant risk when she ordered her bridal gown a size smaller than her weight at the time called for. In addition to ramping up her existing physical activity routine, she adopted a diet high in fiber and low in fat to help her reach her goal. By foregoing booze and eating meals rich in fish, lean meats, fruits and veggies, Annemarie managed to drop a whopping 25 pounds in the three months before her nuptials. "I hit my size goal, and my dress ended up being a little too big!" Annemarie explains. "It was a corset style, though, so I was able to make it work."
Recruit a Partner in Crime
You know the drill. You start off a diet with all of the good intentions and resolve in the world. Then, as the hunger pangs and monotony of diet food get the best of you, the enthusiasm wanes until you're left with a freezer full of uneaten Lean Cuisines (or in my case, a bag of unopened rice cakes -- what was I thinking when I bought those?). If you're competitive by nature, the answer to your problem could be as simple as recruiting a diet buddy to keep you motivated. The perfect partner in your quest for fitness could be anyone looking to shape up in time for your nuptials, including your maid of honor, your husband-to-be or even your mom. Perhaps you could take turns cooking healthy meals, meeting for early morning workouts or just keeping each other motivated with tons of positive reinforcement. If no one's willing to jump on the diet and exercise bandwagon with you, consider finding a virtual buddy to keep you motivated. Many Web sites have message boards where dieters can trade secrets and war stories. Others, such as Shape magazine's site, offer free virtual trainers who help you plan and track your exercise schedule, caloric intake and success.
Diversify Your Activities
Doesn't it seem like most social activities revolve around food, alcohol or both? Happy hour, birthday dinners and holiday parties might all be tons of fun, but they pack the potential for totally throwing your diet off track.
Consider making a conscious effort to make plans that don't involve -- gulp -- food or alcohol. If you look hard enough, there are many options for outings that are easier on your waistline than a decadent dinner. Attend a yoga class with a friend, or arrange to meet pooch-loving pals for walks in the park. Furnish that new house with vintage finds you scored while antiquing, or invite friends over for game night. Who knows? You might just broaden your horizons with a new hobby or two.
Food-related temptation lurks around every corner, particularly if you're a sweets junkie like I am (it's truly unhealthy how many times a day I refer to chocolate in conversation). Avoid succumbing to a major case of the munchies by packing healthy snacks wherever you go.
If you're headed out to the movies, forego the popcorn and soda in favor of trail mix and bottled water stashed in your purse. Come to work armed with fresh, sliced fruit and nut butter, which is sure to harden your resolve against the leftover birthday cake in the break room. Whatever your plans are for the day, a smattering of healthy snacks at your fingertips will give you the physical and mental strength to turn down any nutritionally deficient, calorie-laden temptation that comes your way.
Stay Relatively Full
I share several traits with many members of my family. We all have terrible eyesight, an unnatural love of college football and can turn on a dime from full stomachs to starving in about three seconds flat. Over the years, I've learned that eating frequently is the best way to avoid resembling Cookie Monster at mealtime.
As it turns out, my great "epiphany" has been scientifically proven over and over again. Frequent, healthy grazing can effectively keep a person from overindulging at lunch and dinner. In fact, many experts advocate five small meals per day, rather than three big ones. Not only will you be less likely to gorge yourself on pasta and bread at restaurants, this dining style encourages your metabolism to perform at peak levels, helping you burn more calories in the process. It's not necessary to prepare five homemade meals -- simply pack a couple of extra healthy snacks larger in size than you normally would.
Eat at Home
Eating out too often isn't just hard on your wallet -- it seriously impacts your waistline and overall health.
A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) identified lunchtime meal outings as the main culprit in weight gain, averaging 158 more calories than a homemade lunch (dinners out average an extra 144 calories). Brides and grooms interested in cutting spending and calories can turn to cooking at home as a thrifty and lean way to eat.
There's no need to totally eliminate date nights in the name of fitness, however. Simply cutting back on your restaurant visits or making smarter choices when you do eat out (salmon instead of pizza, perhaps?), can help you reach your goals. Baby steps like these will help you get your lifestyle in check … and your wallet will thank you, too!
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Research shows that my beverage choices are surely impairing my diet, however. In fact, many people who head to the pantry are actually thirsty, not hungry. Experts suggest that would-be snackers should try drinking water instead, then waiting a little while to determine if the urge to snack is still rampant.
By filling up on water instead of empty calories, you aid your diet's effectiveness and encourage dewy, glowing skin for your wedding day. Sure, your maid of honor might get a little jealous that your water bottle is your new best friend, but I'm betting she'll get over it. She might even pick up one of her own once she sees your results firsthand.
Have a Cheat Day
Clearly, any diet is only as effective as you make it. Keep a short leash on your willpower most of the time, but allow yourself to let loose a little bit one day a week. Indulge yourself with tasty Sunday pancakes, Friday night pizza parties or margarita Mondays with the girls.
By allowing yourself the occasional splurge, you'll feel less deprived and be more likely to successfully continue your diet. Brides who strictly deprive themselves 100 percent of the time often end up bingeing at much higher levels than they would have otherwise. So, when presented with a tray of treats, do your diet a favor: Pick the healthiest option and eat one, rather than five.
It's easy to become jaded during the wedding planning process. Maybe your maid of honor is less than enthusiastic, the flowers you want are out of season and your digital scale isn't being as cooperative as you would like. Whether you lose one pound or 100, remember that it's not the end of the world if you don't reach your weight loss goal. The world will go on, your fiancé will continue to adore you, and you'll still be the loveliest woman at your wedding. The bride always is. It's just a rule.
How can I avoid post-wedding weight gain? Visit TLC Weddings to find out how you can avoid post-wedding weight gain.
- 10 Diet Destroyers Lurking at Your Bridal Shower
- Buff for the Big Day: 10 Best Exercises for Brides
- 10 Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Newlywed Weight Gain
- 10 Slimming Snacks and Meals for Your Wedding Diet
- 5 Tips for Relieving Wedding Stress
- How much weight is safe (and realistic) to lose before your wedding?
- "Calculate Your Body Mass Index." National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. (Oct. 19, 2010). http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/
- Sukalo, Jennifer. "Can Eating Five to Six Small Meals Help You Lose Weight?" Livestrong. Sept. 2, 2010. (Oct. 20, 2010). http://www.livestrong.com/article/222983-can-eating-five-to-six-small-meals-help-you-lose-weight/
- "The 20 Worst Restaurant Foods in America." Women's Health. (Oct. 20, 2010). http://eatthis.womenshealthmag.com/node/98431
- Todd, Jessica E. and Lisa Mancino. "Eating Out Increases Daily Calorie Intake." Amber Waves. June, 2010. (Oct. 20, 2010). http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/June10/Findings/EatingOut.htm
- Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Drinking Water Can Help Your Diet. ScienceDaily. Feb. 5, 2003. (Oct. 19, 2010). http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030205073358.htm
- Zelman, Kathleen M., MPH, RD, LD. "How to Cheat On Your Diet and Still Lose Weight." WebMD. Oc. 15, 2009. (Oct. 21, 2010). http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/cheat-on-your-diet-and-still-lose-weight