Whether you’re aiming for Michelle Obama arms, an exaggerated waist-to-hip ratio, or you’re trying to get back to your college weight, the concept of the wedding diet is nothing new. We’ve heard “the photos last a lifetime” more times than we can count—and we know most brides have, too. In fact, a study from the Journal of Health Psychology revealed just how much the #weddingdiet mentality pervades the planning experience. The study found that 75% of brides polled intended to exercise more and follow a healthy eating plan and 35% planned to cut out fat or carbs from their diets entirely before their wedding day.
We understand the desire to “look your best” on your wedding day. However, we like to think that your best is actually you, happy and healthy, surrounded by your loved ones, marrying your partner. Does it get better? That said, we know breaking the wedding diet urge is easier said than done. So, we talked to dietitians and mental health experts about the underlying issues of the wedding diet culture and how to focus less on weight and more on wellness.
Photo Credit // Mantas Kubilinskas Photography
Don't cave to pressure.
Social media is an accessible source for inspiration and an easy way to share your wedding planning journey with a wider circle. If you’re one for regular sharing, the pressure to impress your social media circle may feel heavy. You know how many eyes see your posts after all. Plus. if you’re active in any wedding communities or follow a lot of new brides on Instagram, you already know how easy it is to fall into the comparison trap. Comparison is the thief of joy, though. The key here is to apply blinders, as necessary.
Even though we know social media isn’t always reality, it’s hard to break out of that mental state. Fortunately, there are tools you can use when you’re feeling particularly triggered or down. Mute any accounts that distract you from your planning journey, unfollow anyone who you regularly compare yourself to in a negative way, and even take a full break from social media if you need it.
A good test that it’s time for a break? If you feel like you have to post or that you have to post certain things to live up to an ideal aesthetic, it’s time to step away from the screen.
Avoid setting specific goals.
One of the main rules of goal-setting is to “make it specific.” Well, allow us to unravel that thinking and recommend avoiding specificity as you can. Common specific wedding diet goals include:
- “I want to lose 10 pounds.”
- “I want to fit into my college size 6.”
- “I want to eat 1400 calories per day.
- “I want to work out four times per week.”
While these goals create benchmarks you can work towards or that help you track clear progress, they can be damaging—especially as you take on planning a wedding. “Wedding planning can be financially and mentally stressful enough,” says Janis Isaman, owner of Calgary’s My Body Couture. “You don’t need to add more strain to your body by bombarding it with strenuous exercises [and food restrictions] that the body isn't used to.”
Reduce stress with exercise.
Isaman recommends prioritizing exercise that makes your body feel good while also reducing stress. “Add a block of time three or so days a week to your calendar so that you can balance [wedding planning]stress with feel-good, body-and-mind restorative activities.” She suggests riding bikes with your partner, going for a walk or hiking in the woods, and yin or restorative yoga.
Nourish your Mental Wellbeing
One of the best ways to move away from so much focus on the body and weight is to focus on the mind. Living in a body-positive mental headspace can help alleviate feelings of inadequacy or that pull to perfect or change the healthy body you have.
How to Feel More Body Positive
Dr. Nicole Siegfried, a leading psychiatrist and Chief Clinical Officer at Alsana, lays out actionable tips to practice body positivity as you wedding plan:
- Move to a place of gratitude. “Gratitude is the most powerful way to address negativity and is one of the only emotions that can be generated on command or demand,” Siegfried says. Practice latching onto gratitude in a variety of ways, especially when it comes to appreciating your body. “For instance, rather than focusing on the size of your stomach, think about why you are grateful for your stomach: [it provides] the ability to consume valuable nutrients.”
- Focus on function rather than appearance. “Shift your thinking to focus on what your body can do rather than what your body looks like,” she says. For example, instead of thinking, “my legs look huge,” try thinking about all of the activities you can do with your legs: walking your dog, going for a run, standing in line at the coffee shop, etc.
- Realize your body is a gift. “Our bodies are our friends that take care of us in a way we often misinterpret and don’t recognize,” she says. “When we develop an illness or injury, whether big or small, our bodies work to heal us.” Concentrate more on the marvel of your body than the mistakes.
- Silence the bully in your head. “Women are conditioned to think negatively about themselves due to negative influences in society. It’s time to break that cycle and silence internal bullies by shifting that language into words of encouragement and positivity,” Siegfried says. Practice pretending you’re talking to your little sister or daughter. If the words you’re telling yourself aren’t something you would say to them, then you shouldn’t say it to yourself.
- Power of self-compassion. “From gratitude comes the advanced emotion of compassion,” she says. Practice directing feelings of compassion to your relationship with your body. Apologize and begin making amends to your body for all the negative things you may have said or done to it.
Photo Credit // CMK Photography
Eat to feel good, not look good.
Eating in a way that makes us feel good, without focusing on the number on the scale, is bound to cause less stress before the big day. According to Registered Dietitian Diana Gariglio-Clelland, not only can eating nutritious foods better our bodies physically, but it can also lead to wedding day benefits that go beyond what we imagine. So, basically, focusing on a balanced, nutritious diet can also have some attractive (pun intended) outward side effects, too.
Nutrient-dense food can help promote a healthy digestive system. This helps to reduce bloating and other digestive discomforts, which means you’ll feel fabulous during both your wedding planning and celebration. Additionally, avoiding inflammatory foods like processed carbs or sugar can reduce painful breakouts and other skin related issues.
Update your eating habits.
When it comes to changing your diet habits, don’t go too big too soon. Forget specific calorie counts. Instead, release the pressure of specific numbers and focus on more general wellness milestones. Cut back on soda, swap half of your spaghetti with zucchini noodles, and start your morning with a full glass of water. You’ll be surprised how small changes add up to make you physically feel better.
Have fun planning your wedding day.
If your wedding planning process is too fixated on looking a certain way or fitting into a certain outfit or gown, you won’t enjoy it. Take this time to be present with your partner, the person who reminds you how beautiful you really are. There are one million large and small details that go into a wedding. Don’t let an intense focus on a #weddingdiet or other absurd physical pursuit distract you from the actual point of it all.
There’s no denying that wedding planning comes with its share of stress points and difficult times—worrying about your appearance shouldn’t be one of them. If it is a little, that’s OK—again, it’s normal to want to look your best. Just stay aware of how much emphasis you’re really putting on looks. Engage in healthy mind and body practices and you’ll guarantee that a wedding filled with positivity and optimism.