“My best tip for brides looking to lose weight or get in shape is to avoid fad diets and short-term exercise programs,” said Laurie Towers, a fitness expert, former professional bodybuilder and founder and CEO of The Bridal Body Shop in New York City. “The problem with these diets is that they are not customized to the individual, and they do not make a lasting change in eating and exercise habits.” Towers said that short-term programs are too drastic and extreme to maintain over longer periods of time and usually lead to weight gainafter the wedding. Instead of taking the extreme route, follow these tips and guidelines so you can look and feel incredible on your big day and then maintain your health and fitness many, many years after saying I do.
“Set a realistic goal and take baby steps to reach it,” says Shannon Higgins, a fitness expert and founder of Studio Barre, a boutique, fitness brand that offers an effective barre workout in a luxury setting. “You can't expect to drop two dress sizes in a month.” Keep in mind that most people can effectively and safely lose weight at a rate of about one to two pounds per week, so make sure to give yourself enough time based on this rate and it’s even a good idea to plan for a few extra weeks. Additionally, Higgins also suggests writing down your goal and placing it somewhere you’ll see it often. “Keep it nearby to be reviewed when you need inspiration,” she said.
Aim to exercise at least five days per week. You’ll want to include both strength and cardio training in your weekly routine with at least two strength workouts and at least three cardio workouts, depending on how intensely you plan on exercising. See our complete “Bridal Boot Camp” guidelines for a detailed overview of what your weekly workout schedule should look like. Set your schedule up and commit to it. Treat each workout like an important appointment. “I recommend you pack your gym bag with everything you need, and set out your workout outfit the night before,” said Steve Collins, an exercise and cardiac physiologist and co-founder of The Way Up, a fitness and nutrition training program. “You would never think of skipping your dress fitting, and your workout is just as important. Schedule it, commit to it and get it done. Plan ahead and add your workouts to your calendar before anything else can get in the way.”
“Research along with experience has shown that intensity over duration will offer the best and quickest results for a lean sculpted physique,” said Kevin Smyth, owner of Fit Cleveland, an Ohio-based personal training studio. “The goal is to encourage muscle growth with resistance and to increase heart rate for metabolic effect.” When it comes to strength training, Smyth recommends performing circuits of three to five exercises repeated for as many rounds as possible in a given time. For example, for five minutes, perform as many rounds of eight push-ups, eight squats, eight burpees and eight lunges as you can without resting. Repeat the circuit two or three times with two minutes of rest in between each five-minute circuit. As you get stronger and progress you can add weights to some of the exercises for an increased challenge.
“Make time in your week to go grocery shopping and clean out your fridge and pantry,” Collins said. “Get rid of any tempting treats or food items that aren’t contributing to your goal and ask your fiancé to support you, or better yet, join you.” In other words, make sure you have a solid plan when it comes to your eating habits and plan ahead to make sure it can be effectively implemented and that you have plenty of healthy foods on hand.
“Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day,” Higgins suggested. “Don't eliminate too many calories because you won't have the energy to keep up your workout routine and will slow down your metabolism.” Additionally, Collins said you should avoid completely cutting carbs from your diet. “They are important and best processed by your body after an intense workout,” he said. Focus on nutritionally dense carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grains and quinoa and avoid refined carbs like white rice, bread, chips, crackers and sugary cereals. Collins also suggests eating at least three one-cup servings of veggies per day. See our complete “Bridal Boot Camp” guidelines for more info on diet and nutrition.
Not only will this help to reduce bloating and potentially improve the clarity of your skin, but it can also help to promote weight loss. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go, not just when you’re working out. By making sure to drink enough water throughout the day you can stave off fake hunger cues, keep your metabolism working properly and increase your energy levels. “When you're craving anything, drink a couple cups of water before reaching for a snack since thirst is sometimes disguised as hunger,” Higgins said.
Continually missing out on quality sleep will likely throw your goals way off track. In fact, results from one recent study even suggested that sleep may be more important than exercise when it comes to weight loss. This is because sleep regulates hormones that deal with everything from your metabolism to your hunger cues. When we sleep too little, we produce more ghrelin, a hormone secreted by the stomach that tells the brain that we want to keep eating, and less leptin, a hormone that tells the brain we’re full and satisfied,” says Rebecca Q. Scott, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at the New York Sleep Institute and an Assistant Research Professor in the NYU School of Medicine. Not to mention, if you’re perpetually tired you’ll have less energy and motivation for exercise.
Stress causes the body to produce more of hormone called cortisol, which promotes fat storage. “It’s sort of a double whammy because the type of fat that’s more likely to be stored is problematic from a health standpoint,” says Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. “Stress signals the storage of visceral fat, which gets stored around the midsection deep within the abdominal region and around organs and is associated with an increased risk for things like insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.” So not only could too much stress threaten your goals, but it’s also a hazard to your health. Dr. Suzanne Fuchs, a podiatric foot and ankle surgeon and health and wellness expert recommends five to 10 minutes of a simple daily meditation.
“Add in a little more cardio to your routine, even if it's not your plan,” Higgins said. “A nightly 30-minute walk can make a huge difference after just a couple weeks.” She also suggests implementing exercise into your social life. “Substitute activities like happy hour for a night at the barre studio with your best girlfriend,” she said.
“Instead get your size and be surprised and delighted when your tailor has to take it in more than you planned,” Higgins said. Towers, added, “Focus on looking and feeling your best—on being the best and most beautiful version of you. Then find a dress that flatters your figure and makes you feel magical, whatever size that may be.”