Despite the immense pressure to #shredforthewed, I vowed a long time ago not to succumb to diet culture and slip into an unhealthy, unsustainable diet for the sake of squeezing into a little white dress.
Instead, I'm going to prioritise my health and fitness in the only way I know how (read: running, cycling and regularly going to the gym), because when I prioritise exercise, I not only feel happier and more relaxed, but more confident and present, too. Which is exactly how I want to feel on my wedding day.
As a fitness writer with years of experience, I know all about how Pilates can strengthen and tone your core, the benefits of cold water therapy and supplements that claim to cure all ills – I've interviewed many personal trainers and nutritionists on the everyday tweaks we can make to live a healthier (and happier) life. This is how I know if you try to make lots of changes all at once, it usually fails – and, often, you're left feeling completely overwhelmed.
So, in order to look and feel my best self on my wedding day, I'm going to be picky about which habits I adopt in my daily life, and which I don't. From increasing my protein intake to strength training at least twice a week, here are the healthy habits I'm implementing into my pre-wedding routine.
Not a wedding diet in sight - 6 healthy habits to look and feel your best for the big day
1. Move every day
This doesn't mean suffering through a Barry's Bootcamp class every day - rather, this means taking a walk around the block in your lunch break or committing to going to Parkrun on a Saturday morning. The important thing is you find a workout you genuinely enjoy – that way, you're more likely to stick at it. So whether that's riding your bike or going to a yoga class, you don't need to follow a gruelling training plan, just start out small and move your body every day.
According to Laura Melia, PT at PureGym Manchester, moving every day has a whole host of health benefits - "including reducing blood pressure and risk of heart attack, improving cholesterol, and boosting mental health," she shares. "When it comes to wedding prep, there can be more specific advantages. As we all know, wedding planning can be stressful, and even a small amount of movement can alleviate stress and elevate energy levels."
2. Increase your water intake
Upping your water intake is an easy way to feel immediately healthier (and avoid fatigue, irritability and headaches).
The NHS recommends you should aim to drink six to eight cups or glasses of fluid a day – so as someone who will often survive on coffee alone before midday, this is definitely a small tweak I can implement. If, like me, you have trouble remembering to hydrate, do not leave the house without a reusable water bottle – that way you'll be able to tell exactly how much you've drunk.
Increasing your water intake be helpful, according to the PT, as many people may be suffering from mild dehydration and don't even realise. "You may notice your energy levels are poor, your ability to stay focused on your workout suffers, and your overall output in the session is below standard."
Outside of your gym sessions, drinking more water promises to aid digestion, skin health, and water retention (meaning you won’t feel as bloated or puffy).
3. Strength train
While I don't want to lose any weight, I do want to look fit and strong on my wedding day.
This means increasing the amount of strength training I do. I currently do just one weights session a week, so I'm going to start by increasing that to two, and then four to six months out, up my strength training to three times per week.
Melia is a fan of strength training, sharing that weight training can be an essential tool for pretty much any fitness goal. "Aside from improving your strength and muscle tone, strength training also promises great benefits for mental health and self-esteem," she shares.
4. Eat enough protein
In order to support my increased time in the gym, I need to get better at fuelling – and this means eating more protein.
Numerous studies show that eating plenty of protein can help increase muscle mass and strength, with Melia explaining that working out puts our bodies through the repeated process of breaking down our muscles. "Protein is essential for helping our muscles to repair and rebuild after exercise, so it’s important that we’re consuming enough of it in our diet to support this. Without adequate calories and protein, you’re much more likely to experience muscle loss – a side effect that most of us want to avoid."
5. Prioritise sleep
Sleep is essential for our health, which most of us know. Most studies seem to agree that people need at least seven hours of sleep a night, but the best person to determine how much sleep you really need is you.
Feeling tired? You probably need more sleep. Personally, I know I need at least eight hours – nine is optimum. This means going to bed earlier, trying to wake up at the same time every day and avoiding coffee in the afternoon.
The PT confirms that being well rested will help to promote almost every physical goal and help keep you on track. Think about it – if you've got more energy, you're far more likely to want to workout and eat well. "Good sleep will also help to maintain a strong immune system and help you avoid any illness ahead of your big day," she shares.
6. Create boundaries with your phone
Last but by no means least, I'll be reducing my screen time. Confession for you: I'm addicted to my phone and it's unhealthy. In fact, often, I'll have to leave my phone in another room just so I can get my work done. Planning a wedding hasn't helped – I'm on my phone even more than usual, sending emails to our wedding venue and searching on Pinterest for inspiration.
To caveat this, I've started carving out time in my day when I turn my phone on "Do Not Disturb" and, for example, read before bed instead of stalking brides on Instagram. Hopefully this last "tweak" or "healthy habit" will help me to recharge – not just my mind, but my body and relationship too.
Melia is a fan of this last tweak, adding that having technology at our fingertips 24/7 can be detrimental to our mental health. "Setting boundaries with your phone can help to improve your focus when it comes to specific tasks and also allows you to have real 'you time' in which you can recharge and restore."
Do I need to adopt a wedding diet?
We get it – it's a stressful time and you want to look your best. Know this, though: your health should always come first, and crash dieting will likely leave you feeling grouchy or tired come the big day.
If you're a 2023 or 2024 bride-to-be and you're stressing about getting into a dress that is possibly too small, my advice for you is to start small, and start early.
Fad diets never work, so give yourself enough time to implement a healthy diet and exercise routine that includes all the things you love. After all, working out should feel like self-care, not torture.
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