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The Buff Bride's Handbook: Get in Shape for Your Wedding Day


Wedding Day Shape-Up 101

If you're altar-bound right now, odds are that as you're playing with your soon-to-be new signature and agonizing over centerpieces, you're also considering what you'll look like to your nearest and dearest as they stare at your backside on your way down the aisle. (To "Canon in D." For almost two minutes.)

Sound about right? Of the 2.3 million American weddings every year, 80 percent of brides and over half the wedding party and family members will take steps to change their eating or exercise habits for the big day, according to the 2006 American Wedding Study. And since you're reading this, well, we can only guess that you're one of them.

Start here:

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But why, in the midst of the centerpiece brainstorming and DJ haggling and bouquet choosing, should you add another to-do in the weeks leading up to your I Do's?

Why Work Out Now?

Of course losing your love handles isn't going to make you a better bride — or even a happier one, as anyone who's watched a carb-free wife-to-be lose her mind over place settings at the rehearsal dinner knows. No, getting yourself in shape before your wedding really can be summed up by two words: Super confidence! (Okay, and two more: Jealous cousins.)

Being engaged is an awesome time of relationship transition. You're starting a new life with the person you're mad for and you're about to spend the next couple of months getting used to what the rest of your lives will be like together. If that's not heavy enough, the chaos that comes with planning a wedding can quickly zap your feel-good mojo. Squabbles about seating, dimwit caterers, getting intimately acquainted with your soon-to-be mother-in-law — both your mind and your body are going to be running on overdrive until you've hugged your last guest goodbye.

But research shows that getting your heart rate up, working your muscles to capacity, and eating healthily can kick your brain into "I'm a superstar!" gear. So even if you won't have 300 eyes staring at your bare biceps on your wedding day, fitting in regular pre-matrimonial workouts can keep you focused and feeling great — and what better way to start your new life?

We asked Lynn Bode, a personal trainer with over 13 years of experience and the owner of the online fitness program, for her advice on how brides can keep their expectations and workouts in check before their big day. Her advice (featured on the following pages) can help you look and — more important — feel your best from "Yes, I Will" to "Yes, I Do."

Getting Started

Ready, set...skinny? Hold on, lady. Rather than using the time leading up to your big day to whittle yourself down to some magic number, take this time to become your healthiest you. In the same way a new year can mark a fresh start, so too can this emerging stage of your relationship. Consider your engagement to be a commitment to yourself — and let that set the tone for the rest of your marriage.

"It's imperative that a bride spend at least a little time educating herself on weight loss and fitness," says Bode. You don't necessarily have to hit the books and research — though meeting with a nutritionist or trainer can offer a solid indication of how you might start your regimen — but do simply get familiar with the basics. Bode advises focusing on what she says are the "four critical principles": cardiovascular exercise, good nutrition, strength training, and stretching. "All four components are necessary to reach your goals in a healthy way," she says.

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Find Your Perfect Workout Plan

Choosing an exercise and diet plan may seem harder than deciding on your reception venue. But as with any big decision, it just takes some narrowing of choices. Of course, whichever one you decide to follow, you'll want it to offer maximum energy and fun — both during and after your workouts and meals. Beyond that, use these factors as considerations when choosing the best program for you:

  • Your desired dress style: length, shape, and fabric. (Would you believe that 51 percent of you started thinking about your dress before or as soon as he popped the question?)
  • Your body's assets. Okay, and trouble spots.
  • Your current physical abilities. (Completing a marathon in 2 months is a lofty goal for someone who's never owned sneakers; beginning a regular jogging routine, however, isn't.)

"Even though a bride may feel she is drowning in all the planning involved in a wedding," Bode adds, "it will be very advantageous to also [create a detailed] weight-loss strategy." Get granular: Research recipes and plan meals in advance; schedule workouts in your calendar and keep them as you would any other appointment. As you're choosing your regimen, keep your expectations in check. "A good rule of thumb is that you can lose between 4 and 8 pounds in a month," Bode says. "If your wedding is only two months away, don't fool yourself and cause unnecessary stress by vowing to lose 40 pounds. This will set you up for failure and probably lead to complete abandonment of your weight-loss efforts. Determine the true timeline you are working within and accept the realistic number you can achieve."

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Yes, You Need to Keep Eating

You know that whole way-to-his-heart-through-his-stomach adage? The same goes for you, girl: Feed yourself well during this potentially nutty time, and we promise your relationship with yourself will be better, i.e., you'll remember your current last name — not to mention your rapport with your partner, your boss, your poor tailor, etc.

Whether or not you decide to start a new workout routine (or amp up your existing one), the amount of extra running around you'll be doing requires some serious fuel. Here are some easy guides to eating well while planning a wedding:

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"Not eating enough can sabotage your weight-loss efforts just as much as overeating can," adds Bode. "When you don't eat enough, your body begins holding on to all the calories you consume and turns them into fat. So, even if you lose weight on a starvation diet, you won't look good because the lack of nutrition will diminish your muscle mass while increasing your fat storage!" And, Bode says, consider the type of calories you consume. High sugar and high fat — typical fast food characteristics — will make losing weight more difficult and also make you feel sluggish. "If you just can't find the time for home cooking, head to a healthy grocery store and pick up frozen food meals that aren't drowning in chemicals and preservatives. Also, buy some healthy snacks that are portable for taking with you on-the-go."

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Combat Stress on Your Terms

A bride-to-be makes an average of 177 decisions during her engagement, according to the survey — so it's no wonder you're feeling a little, um, flighty these days. While it may seem laughable to add another Must to your list right now, scheduling in downtime to stand on your head, hit a matinee, cook something comforting, or nap in your car can change the dynamic of your whole day — and help keep Bridezilla at bay.

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Trainer tip: "Save time by working out at home. Dragging yourself to a gym can be extra tough when you're already overwhelmed." It sure may sound counterintuitive to sweat yourself tired when you're already dragging, but just by completing the workout you'd already scheduled time for (even if you decide to move it to your living room) will give you a sense of accomplishment.

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