The Dos and Don'ts of Wedding Weight Loss

How to lose weight before the big day -- and avoid 'heavier ever after'

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

The wedding cake, the flowers, the rings ... the personal trainer? For some brides- and grooms-to-be, getting in shape for the big day is an important part of wedding planning.

But could they be setting themselves up for failure? Not only do last-ditch dieting efforts usually fail, but new research shows that married people tend to gain more weight over the years than singles or people who are widowed or divorced.

Still, saying "I do" doesn't have to lead to a lifetime of excess poundage.

Just as getting married is a major lifestyle change, so is successful weight loss, experts say. It's natural for brides and grooms to want to look their best for their wedding day, and going about it the right way can make the difference between living healthier, or heavier, ever after.

Losing Weight Before the Wedding

"I wanted to look nicer for the wedding, mostly for the pictures," says newlywed Donna Eck-David, who was married on April 3, 2004. She tried watching what she ate and avoiding the cafeteria at work for months before the big day. But she finally resorted to drinking a dieter's tea containing laxatives a few weeks before the wedding, to speed up her weight-loss efforts.

Eventually, Eck-David says, she lost about 5-8 pounds before the ceremony -- then gained most of it back during the weeklong honeymoon cruise.

Resorting to drastic measures like fad diets or pills for quick weight loss before a wedding may not only be dangerous, but can also set you up for a future of yo-yo dieting rather than permanent weight loss.

Planning a wedding can be a big job for future brides (and grooms), says Nelda Mercer, RD. If they're not getting proper nutrition, they may feel faint or suffer other health consequences.

"It's not a good thing to stress the body at an already stressful time," says Mercer. "It's best to plan ahead, join a health club, exercise, get a personal trainer if needed, and see a nutritionist or registered dietitian to set up not only a well-balanced diet, but a lifestyle change."

Personal trainer Sue Fleming says many women see their wedding day as the most important day of their lives and want to look their best. "It's the time where a lot of women finally decide to incorporate a fitness program because of that goal," says Fleming, author of the book Buff Brides.

Wedding dresses today are sleeker and more revealing than in years past, says Fleming, which means that the shoulders, back, and arms are usually top areas of concern for her clients.

Fleming recommends starting a bridal "boot camp" at least six months before the wedding that includes a balance of cardiovascular and strength training for about an hour a day, three to four days per week. Procrastinating brides and grooms who have less than six months to work with should plan on spending more time in the gym.

"The less time you have, the more time you have to dedicate to working out," says Fleming. Fleming says it's normal for brides-to-be to experience a slight weight gain after starting an exercise program, as they build lean muscle mass. But that's what will give them the kind of muscle tone they'll want to show off in a strapless wedding dress.

Experts say a weight loss goal of about a pound a week is reasonable. For those with weddings many months away, Mercer recommends setting short-term goals -- like a couple pounds per month, rather than just 20 pounds before the wedding. This will allow them to enjoy short-term successes and not get discouraged.

For brides- and grooms-to-be who want to achieve sensible and lasting weight loss before their weddings, Mercer has this dietary advice:

  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Identify sources of empty calories in your diet, such as high-fat and high-sugar snacks, and limit them.
  • Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet. They're powerhouses of nutrition and can fill you up on fewer calories.
  • Choose leaner, lower-fat meat and dairy products.
  • Eat your calories, don't drink them. Engagement is a time for celebrations and parties, so choose your beverages wisely. Alcoholic beverages generally have at least 100 calories or more.

Once future brides and grooms set their minds to a weight-loss and fitness plan, Fleming says, they are usually successful. Many pick up healthy habits that last a lifetime.


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