After much delay, we finally have brides to be that can actually have their weddings. Including my friend Chirstina, who delayed her May 2020 wedding by a year. She callled me in a panic last weekend with this. “I gained eight pounds!”
If your wedding is coming up, or if you just got engaged and want to look amazing on your wedding day, you are in the right place. I have been through the trenches of training and adjusting diet for the big day. Especially losing the weight you inevitably gain when you fall in love. Why is that? Decadent dinners, wine, ordering pizza with your boo while Netflixing. And then the rude awakening – a looming wedding and all the baggage it comes with.
Combat your stress about what you can’t control with what you can control
Let’s face it, weddings are stressful – even when you plan everything down to the tee. Due to a contract snafu, I almost lost my venue a week before the wedding. My dress, which I had slight buyer’s remorse for anyway, was a victim of faulty alterations. Found out it was ruined two weeks before the big day.
One thing I was not stressed about? My physique. In fact, getting in shape is what saved my ass and let me buy an off the rack sample size with less than two weeks to go.
I got much of the information I am sharing from the trainer I hired to train me for my wedding. He had three main huge adjustments for me to make:
- Up my protein to at least 140 grams a day, with protein being 50% of macros. Reduce fat intake to 50g a day. Reduce/eliminate added sugars and “white carbs” – e.g., flour.
- Cardio 5 times a week, including two sessions of high intensity cardio;
- Drink a gallon of water a day.
Good guidance for all fitness goals
As for the diet and exercise program, You don’t have to be a bride to follow this. You can use this to lose the “COVID-15,” or for any unwanted weight gain. Like it or not, medications, life events, and stress can make us put on weight.
Christina is following my program. Her wedding is in May, and I am a bridesmaid. So I will be back, with before and after pictures.
It is always better to lose any unwanted weight gradually. Crash dieting is likely to lead to overeating and backsliding any progress. So if you have more than 6 months to go, don’t delay because it takes more time than you think. Even if you have less then 3 months, you can still apply these principles. You may just need to accelerate the results with intermittent fasting, which I discuss here.
This brings up a question I get – what about dress shopping? Should you shop for a dress knowing that you are going to be losing weight? Conventional advice says yes, given the time it takes to order and design a dress. Nevertheless there are so many options – I ended up buying a sample size and getting minor alterations. It depeends on what you would rather have as your problem that you may not get a dress in time, or that you are standing in a fitting room super unhappy about the way you look in your dress. This is why it is important to work on getting your weight in the ideal range 6 months to a year before your wedding. If you already have a dress, and your wedding is closer, then you will definitely need to make sure you schedule frequent alterations appointments and try to get to your goal weight a month out.
The basic idea is to up the protein and down the starchy and high sugar carb intake. You want to feel full and not struggle with being hungry so you don’t give into stress eating. If you have an issue with stress eating, you will want to consult my post about stress eating here.
- Drink a shot of apple cider vinegar every morning – Bragg’s is best. If you can’t do a shot, just mix with water. If you can’t tolerate that, get an apple cider vinegar supplement . Apple cider vinegar helps curb appetite and lower blood sugar levels. If you are going to go the gummy route, then get gummies that are sugar free.
- Take advantage of the thermic effect of food. The thermic effect of food contributes to your overall calorie burn for a given day. So foods that take more effort for the body to break down actually make you lose more weight. Types of these foods include apples, carrots, eggs, eggwhites, kale, broccoli, nuts, and cottage cheese.
- Also take advantage of eating foods that you can eat a lot of but are low in calories. I will do a separate post about this, but it incudes all of the above foods, plus soups, and most types of fruits. Fruit is important, because it’s good for your skin. You will want to eat apples, all types of berries, watermelon, strawberry, waterlmelon, papaya, stick to fresh fruit, and limit dry fruit. Most dry fruit adds a sugar coating, and even if that is not the case it’s naturally concentrated with sugar. The same is true of fruit juice. Even if it says no added sugar, avoid it. Eat less of fruits that are higher in sugar, like mangoes and bananas.
- Keep snacks that have both of these benefits and are easy to munch on like blueberries, plain raw almonds, baby carrots, pickles, and olives handy and in the front of the fridge.
- Keeping the theme of the thermic effect of food. Use more hot sauce to spike up your metabolism. Make sure you choose one with no added sugar, like Crystal or Melinda’s.
- Healthy fats in smaller quantities are your friend, especially for your skin and hair. Make sure to get a 1/4 of a cup of avocado a day, either in a salad or with your eggs. I also have an avocado dessert recipe, below.
- Increase protein intake from whole foods only to at least 120 g a day. Getting enough protein is important to build lean muscle and ensure that you stay full. This is also one of those nutrients that have a high thermic effect (i.e., increasing metabolism), because it takes a lot for your body to break them down, especially for lean meats like chicken or turkey. NO protein bars and protein shakes. (Read my article on how protein bars sabotage you to understand why).
- Stick to healthy fats, including nuts, seeds, and olives. Use the “rule of 7” when eating nuts – no more than 7 nuts at a time, two servings a day. If you eat nut butter, use the unsweetened kind and then measure out by the tablespoon.
- Limit red meat intake to once a month, only eat chicken breast and white fish as protein.
- Decrease your carb intake. Try to position carbs around your workout. –sweet potato, fruit, steel cut oats or sprouted grain bread in the am. Try to avoid starchy carbs after lunch.
- Types of carbs to avoid :regular potato, beans, pasta, added sugars. You can totally pig out on your wedding cake so save dessert for that.
- Eliminate most dairy products. Greek yogurt is a good choice because of its high protein and fiber content plus ability to keep your microbiome strong.
– Breakfast – egg whites and steel cut oats
– Lunch – fish and chicken with salad
– Dinner – fish and chicken with veggies
– Snacks – fruit and nuts
Dessert avocado mousse for dessert (blend ¼ avocado with cacao,stevia, ice, and almond milk and refrigerate)
What to drink
Limit beverages to water, coffee, and green tea. Drink at least 3-4 liters of water a day. Mint tea also helps with bloat and appetite control. Another good type of tea to get is the get lost Tea, which includes green tea, herbal rooibos, and a cinnamon tea. The green tea and rooibos help with fat burning, and the cinnamon helps with appetite control. With coffee, watch the creamer and stick to unsweetened almond milk or a collagen creamer like PICNIK.
Green tea helps fire up the metabolism, and you may even consider taking a fat burner with green tea like Hum’s Skinny Bird supplement.
Do not consume water or other beverages WITH meals. Only consume 30 minutes before to maximize fullness. The reason for this is liquid consumption with meals disrupts the stomach’s breakdown of acids and also pushes the food through the stomach which diminishes satiation.
What not to drink
Steer clear of bubbly drinks and diet sodas. Diet Coke may seem harmless enough, but it can be responsible for spiking your blood sugar up and for you getting hungier faster. The bariatric society has this article explaining why that is with carbonated beverages (basically, it expands the size of your stomach and makes food go through your stomach faster, making you more hungry). So in general, steer clear of Diet Coke, La Croix, and Buble.
Limit coffee orders to plain black and BYOC (bring your own creamer). Even if you get almond or coconut milk lattes, you have no idea what type of milk they are using. For example a grande starbucks coconut milk latte has and an almond milk latte has
Limit it. A lot. Empty calories, bloat, and sugar is not a good idea to relieve stress. This should be something you start doing well ahead of the wedding. Not cutting out alcohol earlier in the process is a mistake that brides often make – and understandably, that is low hanging fruit for stressed out brides. Alcohol if absolutely needed limited to red wine or vodka. Dilute it with water so that your drink lasts longer. But especially now that happy hours aren’t a thing yet (again), you only have your home to contend with. Your partner should be supportive of this and understand that you don’t want to keep a bunch of alcohol in the house. To the extent possible, do not keep alcohol in the house, and at the very least, don’t keep half drunk wine bottles in the door of your fridge. It’s way too easy to just reach for it. Chamomile tea works wonders for stress. Also, no juices or smoothie drinks – those are like injecting sugar into your body, which is automatically stored as fat.
The best formula for burning fat and building lean muscle is:
- HIIT twice a week – for 15-20 minutes – HIIT. This can be a bodyweight workout, or cardio intervals. You can access my HIIT post for more guidance. HIIT makes sure you get your heart rate up and burn more calories for the rest of the day.
- Steady state cardio for 30-45 minutes 5 times a week, preferably in fasted state. Power walking or jogging is the best way to burn a lot of calories. Remember, CICO – calories in and calories out is the best way to control and reduce weight.
- Resistance training twice a week
- Full body workout once a week, and accessory training once a week (eg, biceps, shoulders, triceps). Be especially sure to incorporate a lot of shoulder raises and chest exercises, like chest flies. The tops of your shoulders and your arms are what really stand out in a bridal gown.
- Similarly, spend at least two sessions your week working on your back. Face pulls, cable and bent over rows are impactful. Mix up rows by doing them in plank or stability ball, that way you also get a full body exercise.
- And don’t forget your backside – especially that “smile” under your bum. We want that to be lifted. Think doing a lot of leg lifts and deadlifts. Remember how Pippa upstaged Kate Middleton at her wedding with the “Pippa Bum”?? Most of the wedding people will be looking at you from behind. Even though you can’t see it, you should work it.
- See my post on the DAO of strength training for more guidance on how to strength train most effectively.
- Precision training – yoga, Pilates or barre – 1-2 times a week. The exercises in these workouts are good to target the tinier accessory muscles in your abs, arms, and back. Yoga will especially get you that long and lean look. You can access my top recommended yoga and barre apps here.
- Ab-specific workouts – 3 times a week. This can be a simple 5-10 minute circuit of floor ab work. You will want to make sure that you target all the areas that your dress will hug, like your obliques, your lower abs, and the small of your back. The best exercises for these purposes are bicycles, lower ab crunches, V-ups, and squirms. You can tack this onto your daily workout or even do it later in front of the television. Since the HIIT workouts are shorter, that’s a good spot to do abs while your heart rate is coming down. The best apps with workouts targeted for abs are Jillian Michaels and Tone it up, which offer ab-focused workouts you can do in less than 10 minutes. You can access my review of those programs in my post here.
Closer to the wedding
4 weeks before
Sub regular strength training for more yoga and Pilates, because this will really work on the small muscles that pop out in your dress. Embracevinyasa and power yoga, classes that are challenging for strength and keep your heart rate up, but also make sure that you do restorative yoga once a week. I highly recommend the Alo app for this purpose. I also recommend the Blogilates app for good ab, arms, and Pilates workouts. For more app recommendations, click here for my post.
On the personal side: Hold off on all big decisions or life changes until after the nuptials. This isn’t the time to get a puppy, consider leaving your job, work remotely from Hawaii, or get bangs. Please. Do. Not. (especially the last one). You already have enough on your plate, trust me. Have blinders on.
2 weeks before
Do 30 minutes of light cardio followed by toning exercises, yoga, or Pilates. Consider workouts from the Tone it up app. HIIT actually causes your muscles to bulk up as they are broken down constantly, and may up the cortisol levels which make your stomach look more bloated. Doing low intensity cardio preferably in a fasted state (ie when you wake up and only black coffee before) will increase fat burn and fatigue muscles, which will then be more receptive to the slow twitch fibers activated by toning. For arms, consider bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, lateral and front raises, and alternating shoulder presses. Avoid back exercises such as rowing because you want a leaner back. Instead, for your back invest in a resistance band and do band pull aparts. For legs, stick to calf raises, backwards lunges, and goddess squats, which are common movements in yoga.
1 week before
This is the time to avoid outside food (exception of the rehearsal dinner, but try to stay in these guidelines) and minimize sugar and salt. Avoid salty foods such as olives, pickled snacks, tomato or hot sauces. Sea salt may be used sparingly. Black pepper is great as it speeds up metabolism. Drink plenty of water except in the 48 hours leading up to the big day. m.
3 days before
You are on a mission to minimize bloat and lose water weight. One, because that gets the real definiion you want of your arms and back in your dress, and two because you are not going to remember to suck your stomach in. There is just too much happening.
Meaning, if your wedding is on a Saturday, on Thursday – stop exercising. You will minimize your hunger and be able to stick to the stringent diet and water intake. Drink no more thana liter of water on these days. The confluence of the cessation of exercise and drinking less water will cause the muscles to be dehydrated, and that makes them really pop out. This is a trick of the trade for fitness competitions.
This is also a good time to get your pre-wedding spay tan. With the following caveats: 1) Have it professionally done with a personalized airbrush (NOT the machine); 2) Make sure that you do a “dry run” a few weeks/months before so you can see if the tan and intensity suits your skin tone.
Avoid any coffee or dark fruits to maximize whiteness of teeth. Eat bananas, in moderation, as those help debloat and make up for any loss of potassium from dehydration. No bloat causing foods, including:
- Onions or garlic
- carbonated beverages of any kind (including sparkling water).
- Sugarless gum
- Broccoli or cruciferous vegetables
- Red meat
- Excess salty foods (pickles, soy sauce, etc).
If you really need to move and manage your stress, stick to 30 minutes of walking or stretching.
Limit veggies to leafygreens including iceberg lettuce,spinach, romaine, arugula. For salad dressing try this combo – apple cider vinegar (minimizes bloat), mustard, 1tsp olive oil, pepper. No balsamic (added sugar and salt). By all means avoid chewing gum, and drinking out of water bottles, which cause bloat because of swallowing air. Also no artificial sweeteners, especially Splenda.
You only get one wedding day, hopefully. It isn’t easy to be disciplined and stay on course, but you have to look at it as focusing on yourself and your optimum health instead of a punishment. No one will tell if you eat that top layer of the cake on your wedding night!
I will leave you witth one more thought. Pay some attention to that poor, long-suffering groom of yours. Make him coffee, a nice dinner, and let him watch his favorite shows. Seirously, even the nicest of you are putting these fellas through all the engagement photos, and dance classes. Think of it as paying it forward for the hours of bridal photos!