When I got engaged, I vowed to get in the best shape of my life. What better reason than a wedding to really commit? Fast-forward to six months before the big day, when I was stuffing my face with a funfetti cookie dough cupcake—yes, it’s a real thing, and yes, it’s as amazing and indulgent as it sounds—and decided to tell a few of my girlfriends that I’d said yes to the dress. I took my phone out to share the picture, and as I started to pass it around, noticed that my hands were covered in blue frosting and rainbow-flecked crumbs.
“When did you start dieting?”
“A year before the wedding,” she said.
I dropped the second cupcake I’d scooped up mid-question and stared at a pile of veggies. It could’ve been the three glasses of prosecco I’d consumed with brunch, but I swear they were mocking me. It was then and there that I decided to create a game plan. Not based on what worked for my friend (no sugar, no gluten, no booze, no fun) or what the magazines told me to do (hot water with lemon, low- to no-carb diets, HIIT workouts galore), but instead on what I knew would work well for me.
A wedding is great motivation to reach for (and achieve!) those not-so-easy health goals, but it’s also easy to overstep and lose sight of what “healthy” actually looks and feels like. As someone who’s climbed that slippery slope before, I knew it’d be smarter to focus on what made me feel good as opposed to what would make me lose weight.
These seven tips are surprisingly straightforward wedding advice, but they made me feel incredible on my big day. No fuss, no pain, and a whole lot of mental and physical gain, I have no doubt they’ll make you feel the same.
1. Treat yourself.
I realize that sounds counterintuitive, but treating myself is actually one of the most impactful things I did leading up to the wedding. No, I’m not talking about a freezer full of Ben & Jerry’s or French fry Fridays. The “treat yourself” I’m referring to is a different kind of splurge. Have you been curious about a personal trainer or nutritionist but unable to swallow the cost? Or dying to invest in a Vitamix to whip up smoothies and homemade hummus, but can’t justify the hefty spend? Take this opportunity to finally say yes.
The impact it had on my health and emotional well-being was well worth the cost, in my opinion. Plus, there are plenty of ways to shave off spending on the wedding itself to create space for a (healthy) splurge. (Side note: When it comes to treating myself in the chocolate sense, this superfood chocolate recipe was my go-to.)
2. Eat with intention.
Whether you’re hoping to lose weight or not fussed in the slightest (that’s the spirit!), developing good eating habits is incredibly valuable—physically and mentally. For some people, this means saying sayonara to sugar or bon voyage to booze or good riddance to gluten. For some, it means all of the above. For others, it means packing in the protein and supercharging veggie intake. Everyone is different and everyone’s body responds to different ways of eating.
If you’re not sure what this looks like for you, try an elimination diet for 10 days. (This consists of going gluten-, dairy-, sugar-, legume-, caffeine-, and alcohol-free.) Afterward, slowly reintroduce foods to learn what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. It’s well documented that dairy and gluten can cause bloating—something every bride and groom want to avoid on the big day and leading up to it—but it’s likely you’ll also learn that some less-common foods make you feel meh. (Who knew almonds give me headaches?!)
Sussing out those trouble foods can help you sleep better (super important for wedding planning), give you more energy (you’re going to need it on the dance floor), quell anxiety (’nuff said), and many other wonderful perks. It also helped me kick my overeating habit to the curb.
3. Cut back on caffeine.
This one is going to be a bit controversial because coffee has many perks in addition to making you feel, well, perkier. It can improve digestion, is a killer source of antioxidants, boosts metabolism, and helps you burn fat… the list goes on. But coffee can also increase stress and inhibit high-quality sleep, which in turn can wreak havoc on your gut and overall well-being. Not to mention, planning a wedding comes with stress and sleepless nights as is!
If you’re one those people who “can’t LIVE” without coffee, stick to a cup in the morning and opt for organic beans, which have fewer toxins (and therefore fewer side effects). If you’re brave enough to go cold turkey—I believe in you!—say goodbye at least two weeks before the wedding. I saw an immediate difference in my skin (buh-bye, dark circles), slept better than ever, and was cool as a cucumber when my wedding started an hour late—well, coolish.
4. Talk it out.
Who knew planning the wedding of your dreams could be such a nightmare? No matter how organized and on top of it you are, no matter how compatible you and your partner are, or how laid-back and drama-free your family is, issues are bound to pop up. And when they do, they can be brutal. Cue stress eating, countless bottles of wine, and the inevitable squabble(s).
To help me find mental clarity when my brain was fogged with an impossible seating chart and invite list backlash, I talked to my therapist once a month (sometimes twice!) for an outside perspective and rational voice when I felt far from rational myself.
My now husband and I also had weekly check-ins where we’d talk through to-dos and divvy up tasks so neither of us felt overloaded. Letting tension fester on the inside can literally upset your insides, so find an outlet, whether it’s calling your best friend, talking to a mentor or therapist, or hashing things out with your boo. Better out than in, they say!
5. Trust your gut.
The microbiome is a complicated little place. So complicated that its condition can impact everything from digestion to mood to skin. A simple way to give it some love and encourage optimal functioning is to pop a daily probiotic and incorporate gut-friendly eats into your diet.
When I ignore my gut, I’m plagued with the likes of constipation, gas, bloating, mood swings, and insomnia. (Talk about a dream bride!) When I don’t, my digestion is regular, my skin glows, I’m more patient, and I don’t overeat. (That’s more like it.)
As someone who’s damaged their gut with the overuse of antibiotics, I took things a step further by drinking a powered pre- and probiotic concoction twice a day in addition to taking a probiotic in pill form. It’s hard to know whether powders like this truly work, but it tasted great, and my gut didn’t complain. It was also a nice stand-in for my morning coffee.
6. Relax. Just do it.
I know many people who work up until their rehearsal dinner. Though it’s tough to take extra days off, especially if you’re going on a honeymoon right after the wedding, I strongly encourage finding a way. (Trust me when I say that taking a couple unpaid days is well worth it if you have to go that route!)
Having a few days of downtime before the chaos commences—also known as the “best day of your life”—is a far better way to mellow out than a glass of wine, massage, or yoga class. Don’t get me wrong, all of the above are excellent ways to wind down, but their effects are short-lived and in some cases lead to more stress—I’m looking at you, unintentional wine hangover.
Having the extra time also ensures that when last-minute to-dos pop up, which they always do, you have the time to do them. Another bonus: You’ll have plenty of time to whip up healthy, homemade meals and squeeze in those last workouts and snuggle sessions before saying “I do.”
7. Booze less and drink smarter.
Sure, red wine is supposedly good for you, and whiskey has health benefits, but the downsides of drinking often outweigh the perks. As someone who loves a glass of vino while cooking or hanging out with friends—oh, and Friday night cocktails to celebrate the end of the workweek—this was one of the hardest things for me give up.
To make sure I stuck to it, I committed to the Whole30 for the two months leading up to the wedding. Having a concrete plan made me feel like there was less wiggle room, not to mention it made me more thoughtful about everything I was putting into my body. I didn’t lose weight in those two months, but I was bursting with energy and happiness, which is far better than being hangry and moderately smaller.
If total sobriety isn’t an option—which is a-OK—stick to low-sugar drinks like tequila on the rocks or vodka soda with fresh lime juice. And if you hate vodka sodas like I do, add a dash of bitters—it transforms the flavor.
While I’d always dreamed of getting in the best physical shape for the wedding, I ended up getting in the best mental shape. I developed a healthy relationship with food, learned how to listen to my body, and prioritized the important things like emotional well-being and my overall health—as opposed to my look. When I woke up the day of my wedding, I was filled with energy, serenity, and most importantly, happiness. And when I look back at my “wed prep,” I wouldn’t change a thing.