Best Ways to Get Buff Before a Wedding

Experts offer tips for shaping up for the wedding, whether you're the bride, a bridesmaid, or a guest.

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It used to be that getting ready to walk down the aisle meant finding the perfect dress, the best hair stylist, and the right makeup. But today's brides -- and their bridesmaids -- have added another "must do" before the "I dos": Getting in the best shape of their lives!

And it can have an effect that lasts long past the honeymoon bikini. For many women, becoming a buff bride (or bridesmaid) kick-starts a fitness lifestyle they've been putting off for years, experts say.

"The wedding is the trigger that motivates many women to get in shape, and the best part is that many women continue long after that march down the aisle," says personal trainer Sue Fleming, creator of the original Buff Brides book and workout videos as well as the Buff Brides show on the Discovery Channel.

In fact, says Fleming, getting married is an ideal time for a woman to get motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle overall.

"You're beginning a new chapter in your life, it's a fresh start, it's a new experience, so why not go into this new time of your life looking and feeling as good as you can?" says Fleming.

Buff Brides: Get With the Program

But whether you're the bride, bridesmaid, or mother of the bride how much can you really change before the big event?

Experts say that depends on how much time you have, and how much you want to accomplish.

"Obviously, the more time you have, the more you can change. But also, the more time you have, the less stressful it will be to accomplish those changes, simply because you don't have to work at such a high intensity level," says personal trainer Keith Wrightington, whose FitWright studio in Dedham, Mass., offers a "Blushing Bride Fitness Mini Intensive Makeover" package.

As such, both Fleming and Wrightington say the ideal time to begin is about six months before the wedding.

"In this time frame, you can literally look like an entirely different person. It can be a complete transformation," says Wrightington.

But what if your wedding is sooner? Not to worry. In her Buff Bride program, Fleming offers both six-month and three-month regimens. She says that starting even six weeks before the wedding can net results.

"You just have to realize that you're not going to lose more than a couple of pounds. But you can strengthen and tone some key muscles so that even if you don't lose a significant amount of weight, you will stand taller, you'll have more energy and feel better, and your gown will definitely fit and look better," she says.

What First?

While everyone who starts an exercise program can benefit from some guidance, experts say that when it comes to bridal fitness, it's imperative to get the extra help, whether via a personal trainer or a DVD program. Why?

"First, you're working with a time element, so you want to make sure you get the most out of your workouts, and that means making sure you're doing them right," says Wrightington.

Equally important, Fleming says, is that you want to make sure you're selecting the right workouts for what you want to accomplish. And you want to minimize the risk of injury by not overtraining.

"The biggest mistakes brides and bridesmaids make is overtraining, trying to do too much, too soon, and continuing to do too much too close to the wedding day," says Fleming. "Bumping up your activity levels the week before your wedding isn't going to make that much difference, and you could get injured."

Also important: Don't try to lose more than a pound a week. So, if it's a six-week count down, Fleming says, don't look for more than a 5-pound loss.

"Don't starve yourself in the weeks before the wedding. Not only is it not healthy, but it can also affect the way you will look on the wedding day, including your skin and your hair," she says.

Instead, she says, use those six weeks to improve your shape and muscle tone - not to try to change your dress size.

Fitness expert Marie Forleo agrees: "Now is not the time to try to lose half your body weight - but much can be done to add shape to the areas your dress will highlight," says Forleo, star of the Women's Health: The Wedding Workout DVD.

To this end, experts remind brides not to buy the dress they hope will look good, but to shop for one that looks good now.

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