How much weight is safe (and realistic) to lose before your wedding?

Image Gallery: Diet Fads Want to lose a little weight before your wedding? Get serious about veggies! See pictures of fad diets.
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You push open a set of doors and walk into a room as dozens, perhaps hundreds, of faces turn to look at you. You're wearing a gorgeous, ridiculously expensive dress, and your hair and makeup have been styled and applied by pros. You look amazing, but you still feel burdened by those few extra pounds you just couldn't lose. For some reason, the crash diets you tried didn't work, and every pound that disappeared quickly came back (and brought some friends).

What happened? Did you set yourself up for failure by setting an unreasonable goal? How much weight can you realistically -- and safely -- expect to lose before your big day? Read the next page to find out.

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That Magic Number

Your total weight loss will depend on your initial weight, percentage of body fat, body type and other factors, such as when you begin dieting, but you shouldn't ever try to lose more than 1/2 a pound to 2 pounds per week. Anything more than that, and you'll just be burning off water weight or lean muscle mass (which is directly related to your metabolism), neither one of which is beneficial and can actually make losing weight even more difficult.

And it gets worse. Losing more than 2 pounds per week will result in low energy, low blood sugar, fatigue and dehydration -- none of which are ideal conditions when you're planning a wedding. Plus, all the weight you lost is almost guaranteed to come back as soon as you stop dieting.

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However, don't be too alarmed if your diet and exercise regimens help you start shedding 3, 4 or even more pounds per week. Women who weigh more to begin with may see rapid loss at first, but after a few weeks, the weight loss will plateau to a more average (and realistic) number.

Setting Weight-loss Goals and Expectations

Success on the scale comes from consistency and commitment to your fitness regimen.
Success on the scale comes from consistency and commitment to your fitness regimen.
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It normally takes six to eight months to plan a wedding, so if you have a lot of weight to lose, start immediately. Two pounds a week might not sound like much, but stick with it for half a year (26 weeks) and you'll lose 52 pounds, which is more than a few dress sizes slimmer.

If your wedding is more than a month or two away, try setting smaller goals for yourself that will serve as checkpoints on your way to your ideal weight.

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So, for example, if you're determined to lose 30 pounds before your wedding, which is six months away, just focus on losing 2 or 3 pounds those first two weeks. Once that's accomplished, try to shed an additional pound or two before the end of the month.

This way, you're setting realistic, accessible goals for yourself and aren't focusing on a huge, imposing number that, even when you're losing weight, can still seem unattainable.

Did you know that stressed out brides-to-be who are planning their own weddings are more likely to lose weight than other dieting women? Find out why on the next page.

Diet and Exercise, Sitting in a Tree

Yes, you've heard it before, and it's true -- if you want to lose weight, you need to exercise and watch what you eat.

Rachel Brandeis, an Atlanta-based registered dietitian who runs a private practice, assures weight-conscious brides that there is a foolproof way to lose those unwanted pounds. Brandeis says, "Stick to at least 1,200 calories per day, and exercise five to seven times a week for at least 45 minutes a session, and you'll see results."

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And when Brandeis mentions exercise, she's not talking about light walks with your sweetheart or taking the stairs instead of the escalator when you're registering for wedding gifts at the mall (though those types of activities certainly won't hurt). She explains that brides must adhere to a routine of "vigorous cardiovascular exercise" if they want to lose the weight and that "the key is to be consistent -- you really have to commit yourself if you want to make it work."

So what, exactly, counts as vigorous cardiovascular exercise? Cardio means working your heart and lungs, typically by exercising your legs. You can engage in cardio by taking a jog, riding a bike, hopping onto a treadmill or working out on an elliptical. If you're unsure of the difference between light exercise and cardio, try running a 15-minute mile. Now do that three or four times in a single session to start really losing weight. If that's a bit too much when you first begin your exercise routine, don't worry -- you'll get there. Just start with whatever you're capable of doing.

About Stress and Sweat

Stress isn't any fun to experience, but fighting off nerves may whittle your waist.
Stress isn't any fun to experience, but fighting off nerves may whittle your waist.
©iStockphoto.com/YanLev

Finding time each day for exercise can seem like a real chore, but you're practically guaranteed results if you get moving. You should always avoid weight-loss programs and schemes that can trigger dehydration, so forget about using those quick weight-loss wraps or any plan that focuses on shedding pounds just by sweating. Sure, it's good to work up a sweat when you're working out, but don't sit in a sauna for four hours and expect to see any sort of lasting improvement. All that weight is going to come right back almost as soon as you have a few glasses of water. And what's the point of slimming down for your wedding if all the weight comes back during your honeymoon?

Luckily, busy brides have a better chance of losing weight than most other women. Brandeis acknowledges that most brides who are stressed out lose weight regardless of their exercise plan because they end up eating less. Giving up mindless snacking? Good! Starvation diets? Bad! Remember that weight-loss success comes from eating a sensible diet of at least 1,200 calories a day and adhering to a strict workout plan. But starting out with an advantage never hurts, especially when it comes to how you look at your wedding!

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Sources

  • Brandeis, Rachel, registered dietitian. Personal interview conducted by Chris Obenschain. Oct. 15, 2010.
  • Hatfield, Heather. "Kick It Up With Cardio Exercise." WebMD. 2010. (Oct. 16, 2010).http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/kick-up-with-cardio-exercise
  • Warner, Jennifer. "The Dos and Don'ts of Wedding Weight Loss." MedicineNet.com. 2010. (Oct. 16, 2010).http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55647