As the expert shares, small lifestyle tweaks always win.
If you're searching the Internet for a wedding diet, chances are you're soon-to-be-wed and feeling like you'd like to drop a few dress sizes before the big day.
Now ask yourself this: why, exactly, do you feel like you need to lose weight? Do you think being slimmer will make you happier, or ease your stress? Nine times out of ten, insecurities that present themselves in the form of needing to lose weight can't be fixed with a fad diet or HIIT training - rather, need you to take time to work on your body confidence, self-image, and self-love, too.
That said, if you do want to boost your health before the big day and in turn improve your mental health, too, there are plenty of small, sustainable lifestyle tweaks you can make that'll help you to feel amazing - not to mention calm - come the wedding (meditation, we're looking at you).
Here, Faye Townsend, registered associate nutritionist at Protein World, shares the small, sustainable lifestyle changes you can adopt twelve, six, three and one month before your big day. Keep scrolling.
Wedding diet: 12 to 6 months before
First things first: well done for being so organised and having the exercise motivation to make long-lasting lifestyle changes. "With this amount of time, you'll likely be able to lose weight sustainably and gradually which normally results in keeping the weight off permanently," shares Townsend.
Do note here: weight loss, ultimately, is about achieving a healthy and sustainable calorie deficit. The below steps are the nutritionist's top tips for achieving this, sans crash diet.
1. Up your protein intake
Did you know? Upping your protein intake and consuming a portion with every meal and snack will not only keep you satiated - that is, fuller for longer and therefore less likely to mindlessly snack - but also helps to repair and build muscle, too.
"Not only that, but protein requires more energy to be broken down by the stomach, increasing your metabolism," advises Townsend.
As per the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) website, women should aim for around 0.75g protein per kg body weight per day, but the nutritionist advises aiming for around double that if you're keen to try a wedding diet to lose weight, build muscle, or are highly active - 1.5g of protein per kg of body weight. But do note, though: your body can only absorb 20 to 30g of protein in one sitting, shares the expert, so it's advised to spread this out throughout the day.
2. Remember carbs are your friend
Another diet fad? Cutting out carbs - because while research has shown that reducing your carb intake can lead to initial weight loss, it's not the easiest of lifestyles to maintain in the long term, which also means you'll likely put the weight back on once you've lost it.
The key with carbs is not to avoid them completely but to focus on unrefined (complex) carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes and quinoa, according to the nutritionist. "These all have a low glycemic index (GI), which means the sugar released into your body is consumed at a slower rate,'" she shares.
While simple sugars or refined carbs have similar calories to complex carbs, not all calories are created equal. Why? Well, as Townsend explains, refined carbs have a higher GI, meaning they satisfy you quicker thanks to the sugar spike but you'll also get hungry again shortly after eating.
3. Eat enough fibre
Another important factor of any wedding diet or healthy lifestyle? Fibre, which is key for achieving a feeling of fullness and satiety - plus, most foods that are high in fibre, like fruit, vegetables and grains, are usually low in calories and help to aid digestion, as well as taking longer to digest, burning more calories and suppresses hunger."
Did you know? Hitting your recommended daily intake of fibre is even harder if you avoid carbs - hence why you shouldn't opt for ditching them altogether. "An increase in fibre from fruit and grains will also help you hit your target," adds Townsend.
4. Don't skip breakfast
You've heard it called the most important meal of the day, right? And for good reason - one 2017 International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science study found that breakfast has a "profound" effects on your health, well-being, and cognitive performance.
So why is breakfast so important and useful for any wedding diet, weight loss plan or health kick? "When we're sleeping, your bodies exhaust your glycogen, aka energy, stores," says Townsend. "Breakfast is your first opportunity to refuel and by skipping it, your body goes straight to the next best option, your fat stores."
Although it might sound great, it's not, stresses the nutritionist. Why? Because fat doesn't work as well as glycogen in providing fast energy so you'll likely be left feeling more fatigued.
Try this: Make sure to have a balanced meal - our round-up of healthy breakfast ideas will help - like wholewheat toast with eggs and spinach, porridge with fruit and seeds, or Greek yoghurt with nuts and honey.
5. Little and often is key
Townsend advises aiming to eat five smaller meals, instead of three larger ones, each day.
Why? Well, it'll not only help you moderate your hunger but it'll also help to regulate sugar levels, meaning cravings will be curbed, she explains.
Try this: Aim for three meals and two balanced snacks, like avocado and egg rice cakes, greek yoghurt and fruit, or houmous and crackers. Our healthy snack ideas round up will help, too.
6. Don't make anything "out of bounds"
No wedding diet, weight loss plan or health boost should be about eliminating certain food groups - rather eating them in moderation. "Cutting anything out that makes you gain weight isn’t going to stop it from doing so when it’s reintroduced," says Townsend.
Try this: Allow yourself to have that piece of indulgence every so often. Boosting your health for your wedding day shouldn't be a punishment - rather, it should be a positive way of boosting both your physical and mental wellbeing before the big day. "It’s not about good or bad foods, rather making informed decisions and creating a good relationship with food."
3 months before the wedding
Although it might seem like a short amount of time, twelve weeks is still a long enough time to make some noticeable changes to both your body and mind, Townsend explains. Do note here though: it is possible to look and feel different in three months, but starving yourself is never the way.
Do make sure you're trying the above tips - eating protein, fibre and carbs, not restricting, and focusing on healthy balanced meals on snacks - but also focus a little more on your calories in vs calories out. As a rough guide, aim for around 1,500 calories - that's three big meals and a snack, or five smaller meals - across the course of the day if you're looking to tone up. As per the NHS website, you're recommended to eat 2,000 calories a day to maintain your current weight.
You can do this by using an TDEE online calculator - that's your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, FYI.
Never heard of it? "Your TDEE is an estimation of how many calories you burn per day just by existing," shares the nutritionist. Think about it - your body needs the energy to run, walk, and so on, and your TDEE is calculated by multiplying BMR (basal metabolic rate) with your activity level (you'll burn more base calories if you're more active).
Try this: Consuming fewer calories per day than your TDEE value will allow you to lose weight as you'll be burning more calories than you are consuming, in turn creating a calorie deficit, shares Townsend. Similarly, hitting your daily steps (read up on the benefits of walking, here) or working out more regularly (the NHS advises anything between two and five sweat sessions a week) will give you more calories to play with.
Tempted to restrict your calories further than this during your wedding diet? The nutritionist warns that you should never let your calorie intake fall below 1,200 calories per day. "Eating too little can slow your metabolism, leading to a loss of muscle and possible nutrient deficiencies, plus it'll impact your mood," she shares.
4 weeks before the wedding
Realistically, four weeks is the minimum amount of time you can change your lifestyle and expect to feel an improvement physically and mentally pre the wedding. "Any less than this - or fads such as juicing or liquid diets - can actually lead to a retention of water weight and leave you feeling heavier than you actually are," warns Townsend.
Don't be tempted by a short term wedding diet like the Cambridge diet, 4:3 diet, Sirtfood diet, or foods for flat stomach diet, advises the nutritionist. Instead, aim for healthy balanced lifestyle tweaks that'll benefit both body and mind.
Wedding diet tips: 5 final thoughts, according to a nutritionist
1. Manage your stress levels
Sure, managing a wedding budget and browsing endless wedding dresses to find the perfect one doesn't exactly sound stress-free, but know this: chronic stress can affect both your mental and physical wellbeing. How? Well, it can cause an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which can impact your mood, reduce your sleep quality and make you irritable (not helpful when you're trying to make decisions).
Try this: Make time in your busy schedule to practice some self care ideas – this could be taking a bubble bath or spending ten minutes on meditation or breathwork training. You won't be in the right frame of mind to focus on eating well and looking after your body and mind if you've got too much else on.
2. Be mindful when sampling
Of course, a lot of wedding planning involves food sampling and it's important that you enjoy every minute of it - you'll likely only do it once, after all.
That said, being mindful with your sampling so as not to totally overindulge isn't a bad idea. If you really want another taste of the cake, starter and so on, go for it - it's all about mindfully acknowledging your eating habits and doing so because you want to, not grazing mindlessly just because the food is in front of you.
3. Watch your alcohol consumption
Did you know that alcohol is actually extremely energy-dense and high in calories? "It also enhances appetite which can lead to an increase in hunger signals (hello, 2am McDonalds)," explains Townsend.
While most people (us included) aren't interested in steering clear of alcohol completely - each to their own - practice some moderation in the lead up to the big day to boost both your physical and mental health recommends the nutritionist.
4. Set realistic goals
Goal setting is key when it comes to making healthy lifestyle tweaks, and the more realistic, the better, as the more likely you are to stick to them.
Townsend recommends attainable goals such as working out three times this week or eating more fruit and veg every day.
5. Don't stress about the wedding dress fitting
Did you know that an ill-fitting dress is one of the top 10 fears brides have on their wedding day?
Don't stress too much if your dress doesn't fit perfectly - you can always book a fitting a couple of weeks before your wedding.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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