A Practical Guide to Losing Weight for Your Wedding
If you want to trim down before your big day, learn how to do so safely
Everyone wants to feel and look their best on their wedding day. If you're unhappy with your weight, you may be hoping to trim down or tone up before the big day arrives. Of course, if you're above a healthy weight, these efforts are admirable for far more important reasons than fitting into your wedding dress or tuxedo.
As your wedding day approaches, you may be feeling more motivated than ever to reach your weight loss goal—perhaps even in a short timeframe. While you might feel pressure as the date gets closer, it's important to pursue your goal safely and in a way that will help you sustain your results.
Here are a few guidelines to help you reach your wedding weight loss goal in time without putting your health at risk.
Weddings can cause jitters for everyone. Jumping straight into a crash diet will only add to your anxiety. So-called "crash" or "fad" diets are often based on eating far fewer calories than is sustainable. You may see a change in the scale, but looks can be deceiving—often, your body is losing water rather than weight. If restriction goes on long enough, your body will conserve fat and start using up muscle (including heart muscle) to provide energy.
Diets that promote significant caloric restriction aren't just unsustainable, they also deprive your body of the energy it needs to function.
Weight loss that results from extreme caloric restriction may also be accompanied by a host of unpleasant symptoms, many of which are the result of nutritional deficiencies (e.g., fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, heart palpitations, and changes to your hair, nails, and skin).
Try taking the same strategic approach to weight loss as is recommended for wedding planning: Set clear goals for yourself each week as you would for tackling guest lists, menu planning, venue scheduling, and wedding party fittings. Putting it all down on paper can also help you stay objective.
Set realistic goals for yourself. In the same way that you might meet with a caterer to plan a menu based on your tastes and budget, consider consulting with a dietitian to outline a weight loss plan based on your goals and timeline.
To most people, dieting means cutting calories. While this may be broadly true, for you to be successful in achieving your weight loss goals, you need to figure out not only how many calories to cut, but the sources you should target.
Consider calories from fat, for example. One pound of fat is equal to approximately 3,500 calories. To lose one pound of fat per week, you would need to cut about 500 calories each day from your diet.
If you're only looking at the numbers, you might be reasoning that if you cut 1,000 calories per day, you could easily lose two or more pounds a week. Weight loss is more than a number's game or a simple mathematical equation.
First, there is a minimum number of calories you need to eat in a day for your body to function. Depending on a variety of factors unique to you, such as what you eat and how active you are, the number of calories you burn in a day won't be exact.
It's also important to remember that while you can make decent estimates of the calories in the foods you eat, these numbers aren't exact either. While the math can serve as a guide, it isn't a concrete directive.
Daily Caloric Needs for Women
To maintain weight: 2,000 to 2,400 calories
To lose a pound/week:1,500 to 1,900 calories
Daily Caloric Needs for Men
To maintain weight: 2,400 to 3,000 calories
To lose a pound/week:2,000 calories
Note: The number of calories an individual person needs also depends on other factors, such as age and activity level.
You should also be aware that if you eat too few calories, you'll be doing more harm than good—and not just in terms of meeting your short-term weight loss goal. The long-term health consequences of extreme caloric deficits can affect everything from your cardiovascular health to fertility. If you find yourself eating fewer than 1,000 calories a day, you could be putting your health in danger.
Calculating Your Calorie Needs
When you're ready to set safe and realistic weight loss goals, an online calorie counter can help you estimate the calories you eat each day. Again, while the numbers aren't exact, tracking what you eat, how much you eat, and even when you eat can help you stay accountable. These tasks can also help you curb "mindless" eating and help you identify extra added calories, such as milk in your coffee or butter on your toast, that you hadn't thought of before.
You can also use an online weight loss calculator to get an idea of how many calories you need to eat each day. These calculators use one of several formulas based on your age, height, and current weight. Some may also incorporate the target date for reaching your goal (your wedding, in this case) and how many pounds you care to lose.
If your reduced calorie intake approaches 1,200 per day, you'll need to speak with your doctor to see if this is safe and advisable based on your age and current health.
Planning Your Diet
While you may be tempted to cut out entire food groups, you want to make sure your diet is still nutritious and varied. In fact, if you're eating fewer calories, the composition of each one will matter even more.
Wedding planning can be stressful enough without the mood swings and cravings that come from cutting carbs, or the fatigue from anemia and nutritional deficiencies. A balanced diet will provide you with the energy you need to stay focused and, most important of all, enjoy every moment of your day once it comes.
You can adjust the ratio of different food groups and macronutrients in your diet to promote safe weight loss without cutting them out entirely.
- Reduce your intake of carbohydrates: People who eat a 2000-calorie diet generally consume between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrate, including complex carbs and simple carbs like sugar, each day. Try cutting back to around 50 to 150 grams of carbs per day while you work toward your goal.
- Increase your protein intake: Dietary recommendations for protein generally state the macronutrient should account for 10 percent and 35 percent of your daily calorie intake. If your protein intake is at the lower end, try ramping it up by adding some quality high-protein foods to your diet.
Studies have found that dieters who consumed 25 percent to 30 percent of their calories from lean protein lost more body fat and increased the number of calories that their bodies burned at rest.
- Get enough fiber: The average recommended daily value for fiber is 25 grams per day. The benefits of fiber are well-known when it comes to preventing constipation, but fiber is also important to the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It also helps you feel more satisfied, curbing hunger, especially when you get fiber from food sources rather than supplements.
- Cut back on alcohol and caffeine: A single alcoholic drink can add 100 calories or more to your daily intake. If you want to imbibe, opt for a wine spritzer (75 calories and 0 grams carbs) or a flavored vodka with soda (96 calories and 0 grams carbs) over more sugary or carb-rich beverages. While black coffee is a diet staple and caffeine can provide energy, it's also more likely to increase anxiety and the jitters. Both beverages also have a diuretic effect, which can lead to dehydration.
- Eat healthy fats: While "low fat" and "no fat" are an established part of diet vocabulary, fats are an important part of a balanced diet. All fats are not created equal, however. Try switching out saturated and trans fatsfor healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Stay hydrated: Most people need to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. If you're overweight, you may need to drink more to avoid dehydration. Proper hydration promotes good digestion and glowing skin, but it's especially important if you're adding exercise to your routine.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Try eating five or six smaller meals a day rather than three main meals. This helps stabilize your metabolism and can keep hunger and cravings at bay. If you get hungry between meals, keep healthy snacks on hand. Measure out the portions in advance.
- Don't skip meals: If you skip breakfast or lunch, you're much more likely to overdo it at dinner. If you can, plan meals ahead. Cook with ingredients that will help you feel satisfied and provide all the nutrition you need.
- Avoiding eating on the go: Sitting down at the table and eating your food on a plate with cutlery gives you a much more accurate sense of how much you're eating compared to eating from a takeout container or fast food bag.
- Plan ahead: Weddings involve a lot of celebrations and many of them involve delicious food. To avoid overeating at a restaurant, check the menu online and figure out what you are going to eat before you arrive. You can also pick healthy venues for any pre-wedding event.
- Have treats: You don't need to deprive yourself completely. Watching what you eat doesn't mean you have to forgo taste-testing your wedding cake or sampling some chocolates for your guests. Plan ahead for scheduled treats and try not to feel guilty about the occasional unexpected delight.
Diet isn't the only factor to consider when planning for weight loss. Exercise supports the process by ramping up your metabolism (the conversion of calories and oxygen into energy). You don't have to spend hours at the gym or run a marathon, but thinking back to the weight loss equation, the goal is to burn more calories than you eat.
Here are four tips to keep in mind when you're planning a workout routine:
. Start slowly.
. Increase the intensity of your workout week on week.
. Combine cardio exercises to increase metabolism with strength training to tone and build lean muscle.
. Commit to a schedule as you would any appointment.
If you have never worked out before, start with 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. On your days off, try to fit in a 30-minute walk at moderate intensity (your breathing is heavier but you can still talk).
If you already exercise regularly, try switching to higher-intensity workouts (such as interval training, circuit training, or HIIT). These workouts stimulate weight loss and take less time than a regular workout. You may want to work with a personal trainer who can help you stay focused and motivated, but also provide guidance so you don't get carried away.
As with diet, you don't want to overexercise. Exercising too much won't just exhaust you, but also significantly increases your risk of injury.
Ideally, find a workout routine that includes fun and challenging activities you can stick to. Regular physical activity will aid your weight loss goals but exercise can also help reduce anxiety and stimulate mood-boosting endorphins.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't forget that between working out and meal planning, there are other important forms of self-care that will help you survive wedding planning and reach your weight loss goal.
- Get support: You don't have to do it alone. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your plans — you might even find that someone else in your wedding party has a similar goal and you can support each other.
- Get plenty of rest: Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night, including weekends. Take steps to improve your sleep hygiene if you don't feel like you're getting good rest.
- Manage your stress: Weddings are meant to be a time of joy. If you're feeling more tension than you can handle, explore mind-body therapiessuch as yoga, meditation, tai chi, guided imagery, progressive muscle release (PMR), and deep breathing exercises.