May is here, and many ladies around us will embark on new health and fitness regimens as they prepare for either bikini or wedding season. I also embarked on such a mission almost six years ago as I prepared for my wedding. My challenge was that I'm highly neurotic about food, so I had to figure out how to look my fittest, healthiest and shiniest without dieting. My brain can't think my body is on a "diet," or else I'll feel sorry for myself, self-destruct out of pity, and eat MORE.
The thing is, preparing for a wedding is a stressful time and many women will attempt to balance work, a wedding, their role as fiancé/daughter/CEO of the wedding, their health and sanity during this time. There are ways to stay motivated, healthy, and sane that don't involve counting calories, points, carbs or drinking your meals.
Although I didn't change my diet, I did clean up my act, acquire some great new habits, and experienced some planning fails. Whether you're looking to shed weight or maintain good health, here are my lessons:
1. Clean up.
Instead of adhering to a formal diet, I tweaked my existing one. I find it difficult to count calories or banish specific food groups, so I looked for areas for improvement. For example, I'd eat yogurt instead of dessert if I need one, or if I ate a salad for lunch I'd hold back on toppings, and I limited eating out as much as possible. Generally, if you stick to whole, unprocessed foods, the "diet" should take care of itself. There's already enough to worry about, so take it easy on yourself.
2. Carry snacks.
Visiting vendors, meeting your planner, shopping, and other activities might seem like it will take a short period of time but can turn into day-long ordeals. We would often drive out of the city and end up in places where you cannot easily pop into a deli for a piece of fruit. Carrying healthy snacks is a great way to prevent getting HANGRY as your glucose drops.
3. Stick to meal times.
Try to eat before you go out for the day but also pause and eat lunch or dinner at your usual time. There were times when I accidentally skipped a meal during a long day and then ended up finishing up a pizza with my now husband. Sticking to a routine will keep your body and mind under control.
4. Eat (almost) the same foods every day.
Eating regular meals at the same time, as well as the same clean foods will not only help you in terms of sticking to a clean diet during an unpredictable time, but also take the edge off planning. Pick a day (such as Sunday) to grocery shop and cook some meals for the week. If this gets boring then pick a day (I suggest Saturday) to enjoy whatever you want for brunch or dinner, and see number 7.
The reason I like numbers 2-4 is that they add stability to what can be a very hectic time.
5. Try something new or kick it up a notch.
I wanted to try something new to switch up my routine. I picked up Bikram yoga, which helped in many ways — it gave me great skin, helped alleviate stress and stiffness from running, and became a lifelong passion I continue to practice. Try something different, whether it is a dance class, get a trainer, or signing up for a race to give your body a new challenge and your mind an outlet to de-stress. If you're already in the habit of exercising then a new activity is a way to recommit, add further motivation, and keep things fresh.
6. Get rest.
I failed to get adequate rest leading up to my big day and some people told me I looked tired. Some days I was busy all day and would hit the treadmill at 10 pm, even though I was exhausted. Today I realize it probably made no difference and only took off some short-term water weight! Looking back, I wish I'd gotten more sleep, exercised less and gotten a massage instead.
7. Picture yourself.
If you need motivation to stay on track while your colleagues eat cupcakes at 3 pm or during summer BBQs then just picture yourself in your wedding dress, walking down the aisle and everyone looking at you. If that fails, picture all the delicious food you will eat during your honeymoon and save your food budget!
View this opportunity to develop or pick up new habits that you can take into your new life. I continue to practice most of these things even after nearly six years, and some of them (such as Saturday brunches and cooking on Sunday) have rubbed off on my husband. Any new healthy cooking, eating, or exercise habits you have can be transferred to your life together and set the tone for a healthy and happy life together. After all, a wedding is not just a party but the blending of two unique lifestyles so bring good health practices instead of a "diet" into your union.