A Practical Guide to Losing Weight for Your Wedding

Bridesmaids helping bride into wedding dress

JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Many people want to lose weight for their wedding day, but that doesn't mean you should feel pressured to do so. If you are hoping to look and feel like your best self on your big day, it's important to look beyond a certain number on the scale. Instead, you can modify your lifestyle to include a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight for the long term.

As your wedding day approaches, you may be feeling more motivated than ever to reach your weight loss goal—perhaps even in a short timeframe. But it's important to pursue your goal safely.

Getting Started

Weddings can cause jitters for everyone. Jumping straight into a crash diet will only add to your anxiety. So-called "crash" or "fad diets" are often based on eating far fewer calories than is sustainable.

With these diets, you may see a change in the scale, but it can be deceiving. Often, your body is losing water rather than weight. If restriction goes on long enough, your body will conserve fat and start using up muscle (including heart muscle) to provide energy.

Weight loss that results from extreme caloric restriction may also be accompanied by a host of unpleasant symptoms, many of which are the result of nutritional deficiencies: fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, heart palpitations, and changes to your hair, nails, and skin. None of those are ever welcome, but especially not on your wedding day.

Try taking the same strategic approach to weight loss as is recommended for wedding planning; set clear goals for yourself each week and make a to-do list. Putting it all down on paper can also help you stay objective and committed.

Set realistic goals for yourself. In the same way that you might meet with a caterer to plan a menu based on your tastes and budget, consider consulting with a registered dietitian to outline a weight loss plan based on your goals and timeline.

Diets that promote significant caloric restriction aren't just unsustainable, they also deprive your body of the energy it needs to function.

Cutting Calories

To most people, dieting means cutting calories. Based on broad estimates, one pound of fat is equal to approximately 3,500 calories. To lose one pound of fat per week, you would need to cut an average of about 500 calories each day. But cutting too many calories can backfire.

First, there is a minimum number of calories you need to eat in a day for your body to function. Depending on a variety of factors unique to you, such as what you eat and how active you are, the number of calories you burn in a day won't be exact.

It's also important to remember that while you can make decent estimates of the calories in the foods you eat, these numbers aren't exact either. While the math can serve as a guide, it isn't a concrete directive.

Average Daily Caloric Needs for Women
  • To maintain weight: 2,000 to 2,400 calories

  • To lose a pound/week: 1,500 to 1,900 calories

Average Daily Caloric Needs for Men
  • To maintain weight: 2,400 to 3,000 calories

  • To lose a pound/week: 2,000 calories

The number of calories an individual person needs also depends on other factors, such as age and activity level. If you eat too few calories, you'll be doing more harm than good—and not just in terms of meeting your short-term weight loss goal.

The long-term health consequences of extreme caloric deficits can affect everything from cardiovascular health to fertility. If you are eating fewer than 1,000 calories a day, you could be putting your health in danger.

Calculating Your Calorie Needs

An online calorie counter can help you estimate the calories you should eat each day. Again, while the numbers aren't exact, tracking what you eat, how much you eat, and even when you eat can help you stay accountable.

These tasks can also help you curb mindless eating and help you identify extra added calories, such as milk in your coffee or butter on your toast, that you hadn't thought of before.

You can also use an online weight loss calculator to get an idea of how many calories you need to eat each day. These calculators use one of several formulas based on your age, height, and current weight. Some may also incorporate the target date for reaching your goal (your wedding, in this case) and how many pounds you would like to lose.

If your reduced calorie intake approaches 1,200 per day, you'll need to speak with your doctor to see if this is safe and advisable based on your age and current health.

Planning Your Diet

While you may be tempted to cut out entire food groups to promote weight loss, you want to make sure your diet is still nutritious, varied, and balanced. In fact, if you're eating fewer calories, the composition of each one will matter even more.

Wedding planning can be stressful enough without the mood swings and cravings that come from cutting carbs, or the fatigue from anemia and nutritional deficiencies. A balanced diet will provide you with the energy you need to stay focused and, most important of all, enjoy every moment of your day once it comes.

You can adjust the ratio of different food groups and macronutrients in your diet to promote safe weight loss without cutting them out entirely. Here are some guidelines to help get you started:

  • Reduce your intake of carbohydrates. People who eat a 2,000-calorie diet generally consume between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates, including complex carbs and simple carbs like sugar, each day. Try cutting back to around 50 to 150 grams of carbs per day while you work toward your goal.
  • Increase your protein intake. Dietary recommendations for protein generally state the macronutrient should account for 10% to 35% of your daily calorie intake. If your protein intake is at the lower end, try ramping it up by adding some quality high-protein foods to your diet. Research has shown that people who consumed 25% to 30% of their calories from lean protein lost more body fat and increased the number of calories that their bodies burned at rest.
  • Get enough fiber. The average recommended daily value for fiber is 25 to 28 grams per day for adult women and 31 to 34 grams for adult men. The benefits of fiber are well-known when it comes to preventing constipation, but dietary fiber is also important to the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It also helps you feel more satisfied and less hungry, especially when you get fiber from food sources rather than supplements.
  • Cut back on alcohol and caffeine. A single alcoholic drink can add 100 calories or more to your daily intake. If you want to imbibe, opt for a wine spritzer (75 calories and 0 grams carbs) or a flavored vodka with soda water (96 calories and 0 grams carbs) over more sugary or carb-rich beverages. In addition, excess alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration. While black coffee is a diet staple and caffeine can provide energy, it's also more likely to increase anxiety and the jitters.
  • Eat healthy fats. While "low fat" and "no fat" are an established part of diet vocabulary, fats are an important part of a balanced diet. All fats are not created equal, however. Try switching out saturated and trans fats for healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Stay hydrated. Most people need to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, but that can vary based on your activity level and health conditions. Proper hydration promotes good digestion and glowing skin, and it's especially important if you're adding exercise to your routine.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Try eating five or six smaller meals a day rather than three main meals. This helps stabilize your metabolism and can keep hunger and cravings at bay. If you get hungry between meals, keep healthy snacks on hand. Measure out the portions in advance.
  • Don't skip meals. If you skip breakfast or lunch, you're much more likely to overdo it at dinner. If you can, plan meals ahead. Cook with ingredients that will help you feel satisfied and provide all the nutrition you need.
  • Avoiding eating on the go. Sitting down at the table and eating your food on a plate with cutlery gives you a much more accurate sense of how much you're eating compared to eating from a takeout container or fast food bag.
  • Plan ahead. Weddings involve a lot of celebrations and many of them involve delicious food. To avoid overeating at a restaurant, check the menu online and figure out what you are going to eat before you arrive. You can also pick healthy venues for any pre-wedding event you're planning.
  • Have treats. You don't need to deprive yourself completely. Watching what you eat doesn't mean you have to forgo taste-testing your wedding cake or sampling some chocolates for your guests. Plan ahead for scheduled treats and try not to feel guilty about the occasional unexpected delight.

Adding Exercise

Diet isn't the only factor to consider when planning for weight loss. Exercise supports the process by ramping up your metabolism (the conversion of calories and oxygen into energy). You don't have to spend hours at the gym or run a marathon, but the goal is to burn more calories than you eat.

When you're planning a workout routine:

  1. Start slowly.
  2. Increase the intensity of your workout each week.
  3. Combine cardio exercises to increase metabolism with strength training to tone and build lean muscle.
  4. Have fun while you work out. Play music that you love and find a workout buddy who inspires you.
  5. Commit to a schedule as you would any appointment.

If you have never worked out before, start with 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. On your days off, try to fit in a 30-minute walk at moderate intensity (your breathing is heavier but you can still hold a conversation).

If you already exercise regularly, try switching to higher-intensity workouts (such as interval training, circuit training, or HIIT). These workouts stimulate weight loss and take less time than a regular workout. You may want to work with a personal trainer who can help you stay focused and motivated, but also provide guidance so you don't overtrain.

As with diet, you don't want to overexercise. Exercising too much will exhaust you, and also significantly increase your risk of injury.

Ideally, find a workout routine that includes fun and challenging activities you can stick to. Regular physical activity isn't just for weight loss. It can also help reduce anxiety and stimulate mood-boosting endorphins.

Managing Stress

If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't forget that between working out and meal planning, there are other important forms of self-care that will help you survive wedding planning and reach your weight loss goal if you have one.

  • Get support: Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your plans—you might even find that someone else in your wedding party has a similar goal and you can support each other.
  • Get plenty of rest: Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night, including weekends. Take steps to improve your sleep hygiene if you don't feel like you're getting good rest.
  • Practice stress reduction techniques: If you're feeling more tension than you can handle, explore mind-body therapies such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, guided imagery, progressive muscle release, and deep breathing exercises.

A Word From Verywell

Every plan—whether for a wedding or weight loss—will have its challenges. To stay calm and focused, remember that losing weight is about more than fitting into a dress, suit, or tuxedo, or looking a certain way in photos. Think about it as a lifestyle change rather than a one-time goal.

Remember, every weight loss journey is different. Try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Being at a healthy weight will help you endure the ups and downs of wedding planning, allow you to enjoy your special day, and will stay with you long after you say "I do."

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I start to lose weight for my wedding?

    That depends on how much weight you are hoping to lose before your wedding day. A safe weight-loss rate is 1 to 2 pounds per week. If 5 pounds is your goal, you could probably meet that goal in about a month through a healthy diet and consistent exercise.

  • Can I lose weight two months before my wedding?

    Two months prior to your wedding day is plenty of time to lose up to 10 pounds by following a healthy weight loss plan. If you are trying to lose more than that, you may need to give yourself additional time.

  • How can I lose belly fat for my wedding?

    A combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise that includes cardio and strength training is a proven method to burn fat and build lean muscle. However, fat loss is almost always experienced all over the body and it is not possible to spot reduce abdominal fat.

  • Do most brides want to lose weight before their wedding?

    Many brides-to-be feel pressure to lose weight before their big day so that they feel good about how they look in their dress and in their wedding photos. But just because many people think they should lose weight for their wedding day doesn't necessarily mean that you have to.

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By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."