Wondering how to lose weight for your wedding? Do it with a healthy diet—don't be a starving bride.
Leading up to my wedding, I couldn't help but notice that many bridal magazines and websites featured headlines like "Drop 10 Lbs. Before the Big Day." It seemed that those in the bridal business just assumed that, if you were getting married, you were also dieting.
A woman in in the U.K., Samantha Clowe, showed just how dangerous this can be when she died in the fall of 2009 after losing 42 pounds in 11 weeks on a crash diet, eating just 530 calories a day. Why? She was determined not to be a "fat bride," her mother said. Here Comes The (Fat) Bride
While Clowe's story is not typical, most brides can relate to the pressure to look like a movie star when they walk down the aisle, and have thought about how to lose weight for the wedding. According to a 2007 study from Cornell University, more than 70 percent of brides-to-be want to lose weight before their wedding. To reach their ideal wedding-day weight, more than a third of them use extreme dieting tactics such as diet pills and fasting. And about one in seven buys a gown that is one or more dress sizes smaller than what she normally wears, the New York Times reported.
"There is definitely the push for losing weight, mostly because of photos—everyone knows the camera adds 10 pounds," said wedding expert Sharon Naylor, author of 35 wedding books including Your Wedding Your Way.
"There is a bride I have in mind...she dieted down to a size 4 from a size 12. She was on a celery diet, and she was the most unpleasant person you ever met in your life. Her hair was falling out, and she was angry and upset. After the wedding she gained 30 pounds," Naylor said.
Even celebrities become obsessed with their wedding weight. American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee confessed to being a "hungry" bride in a recent issue of Shape magazine.
"[I] envisioned what my perfect wedding would be like. I was going to be Cinderella in a carriage. Needless to say, I set myself up for disappointment. Yes, it was beautiful, but nothing like that! I was like, 'Oh, my God, my dress is so tight. I'm so hungry!'" Poll: How Much Did You Spend On Your Wedding Dress?
Why the Pressure to Lose?
So why do women feel this pressure to lose weight at precisely the point when they've presumably found someone who loves them just the way they are?
"When you get married, you're saying, 'I got my guy, I got my body, I'm one of the chosen ones,'" said Boston College sociologist and body image expert Sharlene Hesse-Biber. "[Brides] are trying to lose weight to fulfill some sort of fantasy of what it means to get married. It's like Cinderella with the shoe—she fit into the shoe, but her stepsisters didn't. The bride has the shape to fit into the dress—she's the one who got the guy."
And just like Cinderella, the fantasy often ends at the stroke of midnight (or whatever time the reception ends).
"After they get married, they gain all the weight back—it's crazy," Hesse-Biber said, pointing to Khloe Kardashian as an example of a star who slimmed down before her wedding and started putting on "love weight" soon afterward. Head Over Meals: How Love Makes You Fat
Sue Fleming, creator of the Buff Brides fitness program, said she started her company in the early 2000s because she saw what brides were doing to themselves. "A month before the wedding, clients stopped eating just to get that extra push. One client actually weighted down her bouquet to make her arms look a little more jacked as she walked down the aisle," she said.
Men, needless to say, don't face the same wedding weight-loss pressures. "How many weddings have you been to where people say, 'Wow, the bride looks beautiful'? How many have you been to where people say 'The groom looks great'? It's the society we live in," Fleming said.
According to Fleming, most brides want to lose about 10 to 20 pounds before their wedding day—a trend she attributes to today's dress cuts and styles being sleeker, tighter and more revealing than ever.
Hesse-Biber, on the other hand, blames Facebook and other social media for adding a new layer of pressure. "We are such a media culture now—our bodies have become much more public. Women's bodies are open for public scrutiny all the time," she said.
Losing Weight the Healthy Way
Thankfully, not every bride goes to drastic extremes. New York City newlywed Suzanne Rozdeba, 30, worked hard to lose weight for her wedding, but she did it the healthy way.
"I was never super-skinny or overweight," said Rozdeba, an editor at Star magazine. "My goal was to lose about 10 pounds, be more toned and have great arms in the strapless dress. I wasn't looking to drop 50 pounds and starve myself."
To achieve her goals, Rozdeba, who was already athletic, started hitting the gym a little harder and playing tennis and skiing on weekends.
"I did start way ahead of time so I wouldn't be starving myself the month before. I normally work out three times a week, but six months before, I started working out five times a week for an hour each time," she said.
She also made (permanent) changes to her eating habits.
"I tried to make it more of a lifelong thing. I had a healthy breakfast and enough lean protein, whole grains, carbs and healthy fruits and vegetables through the day. On days that I was working out, I ate a little more," she said.
But even Rozdeba admits to two "psycho bride" moments: "There was a point about a month before where I hadn't lost quite as much weight as I thought I was going to and I kind of freaked out. I think it was just the wedding jitters. Also, one of my girlfriends who does a seven-day liquid diet every now and then said, 'You should do this with me before the wedding.' I was working out so much and burning so many calories that I would have starved. But it was really tempting to lose a lot in a short period of time."
Rozdeba’s husband, Michael Holcomb, says he never thought his wife was taking her pre-wedding workouts too far. But he would have walked down the aisle with her now matter how much she weighed. "Would I love my wife minus 10 or plus 20 pounds? Of course I would!" he said. 7 Body Parts Men Love—Just The Way They Are
Since YourTango prefers a radiant, happy bride to a starving, cranky one, we asked Rozdeba's trainer, Adam Moore, celebrity fitness trainer Gunnar Peterson (who has worked with Jennifer Lopez and Tom Brady), registered dietician and author of The Wedding Dress Diet Robyn Flipse, and wedding expert Sharon Naylor how to get in shape for the big day—the healthy way. Here's what they advised.
1. Focus on your look, not your weight. Don't worry about the number on the scale, advises Peterson. Worry about the look. You want to make sure that what's visible looks right. If the dress is off the shoulder or has a low back, work those areas.
Buy the style of dress that flatters your body, says Naylor. It does some of the work for you and you don't have to lose as much weight as you think.
2. Exercise the right way. Get into some kind of regular workout routine, a minimum of three times a week, Moore advises. Focus on fat loss with cardio—high-intensity interval training is generally the quickest, most effective way to lose weight through exercise. Mix in some traditional body sculpting, especially for shoulders and arms, along with yoga and Pilates to look longer and leaner.
Work the bigger muscle groups, Peterson says—glutes, thighs and hamstrings. When these muscles are strong, the body burns fat at a higher rate.
3. Don't go overboard. Don't lose more than three pounds a month, a pound a week in the beginning, says Flipse. And be realistic about how much time you're going to spend on physical activity. Let your food plan do the rest of the work.
4. Eat right. Watch out for anything processed, advises Peterson. Stay away from sugars and be careful with natural sugars too, even too much fruit. The body will store them as fat.
Be prepared, Flipse says. Have the healthy food and snacks you'll need throughout the day at your disposal: whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, an abundance of fruits and veggies, even a healthy frozen dinner for lunch.
5. It's OK if you slip up. You will have drinks, potato skins and chicken wings when you're out with the girls, Flipse says. When you realize how "bad" you've been, stop. The next thing you eat still counts. Compensate throughout the day to minimize damage. A croissant followed by salad, fish and steamed veggies is still a pretty decent day.
6. Don't diet at all! Buy the dress too big, Naylor says. This gives seamstresses room to create the hang that best flatters you and makes you look even thinner. If you buy too small and they have to put in an extra panel, it ruins the dress and they charge extra.
7. If all else fails…Photoshop. Or let the camera do the work. Some digital cameras have a "slimming" feature that shaves off just a tiny bit, Naylor says. No one will ever know.