I may be married almost a year and a half, but I still love chatting about weddings and sharing as much advice as I can with future brides. It’s such a momentous and hugely anticipated day in your life, and it’s natural to want everything to be perfect. I wouldn’t have called myself a bridezilla, but I was definitely a perfectionist about every last detail, and worked really hard to make my wedding vision a reality.
For most brides, an important aspect of the day is how you look and feel. You want to feel at your most confident, radiant and glowing on your big day, when all eyes (and plenty of cameras) are on you. Although every bride has a special glow of happiness on her wedding day 🙂
My priority for my own wedding last year, was to feel my most confident and healthy! Every woman will have a different aim for how they want to look on their big day. We come in all shapes and sizes, and the focus should be on maximising your individual strengths and really highlighting the areas you feel most confident about.
I didn’t want to lose weight, but I did want to feel lean, toned and healthy. You want to be the best version of you, while still looking like you! So I focused on these ten steps in the lead up to the day, and they really helped me to feel my best. I wanted to share them with any of you brides to be, and hopefully they will work as well for you as they did for helping me to feel really calm and confident on the day 🙂
1. Avoid Refined Sugar
As many of you are already aware, refined sugar can cause a wide array of problems in the body. Found in a huge range of both sweet and savoury foods, from packaged goods, such as biscuits, cakes, crackers and baked treats, to sweets, ice-cream, sorbet, cereal, jam, yoghurts, chocolate, soups, pasta sauces, breads, sweetened plant milks and fizzy drinks.
Refined sugar is one of the most damaging foods you can eat as it creates extreme fluctuations in energy, intense cravings for another sugar hit, and may lead to emotions including anxiety, depression, anger and negativity.
Simple carbs offer a quick burst of energy to the body, but this can also cause your blood sugar to quickly raise as it triggers the pancreas to release insulin, which stores the excess glucose as fat.
If you’re somebody who battles with their weight, constantly snacks on sugary treats, and suffers with energy highs and lows, then you may find yourself caught in an addictive cycle, which can be challenging to break. Sugar is the worst type of food you can eat if you’re trying to lose body fat and improve your energy levels. It also depletes your body of vital nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin C needed for plump skin and B vitamins for energy production and weight loss.
It can encourage weight gain around the middle, it disrupts appetite hormone regulation, triggering you to eat more, and places unnecessary stress on your body. It can also damage the special cells of the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to colds and other illnesses. You need to be in the best possible health on the run-up to your wedding day – generally a stressful time for the couple.
Refined sugar can also cause your body to look and feel more bloated than normal, as glycogen is stored with molecules of water to be eventually used as energy.
Having been a complete sugar addict in my early twenties, I finally banished sugar from my diet completely a few years and haven’t looked back since! It is so worth it.
The very best way to stabilise blood sugar levels to feel calm, balanced and satisfied throughout the day is by eating a diet high in fibre, lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbs. All of my recipes are free from refined sugar and designed to stabilise blood sugar levels 🙂
Check out my blog post on how to break the cycle of sugar addiction, and if you’re a bit of a sugar addict, try to wean yourself off it in plenty of time before your wedding day. Get into the habit of reading labels carefully. It takes around 21 days to break the habit and really feel the benefits. I promise, you will look and feel so much better! Plus, there will be plenty of opportunity after the photos have been taken to indulge in wedding cake!
2. Manage Stress Levels
Have you ever heard about the connection between high stress levels and weight gain around the middle? Let’s face it, making table plans and seating arrangements before your wedding is fairly stress-inducing!
Adrenaline is released when stress levels are raised. It increases levels of cortisol circulating the body, which is the stress hormone that encourages fat to be stored around your middle. When you factor in the refined sugar that many people eat daily (think of the few teaspoons of white sugar that many people put into their tea or coffee), and there’s a serious insulin spike to add to the cortisol levels. Together, these hormones are a disaster for anybody trying shift belly fat and that bloated look.
As I explained above, insulin is the fat-storing hormone, which instructs the body to store fat around your middle to be easily accessed for quick energy. So cortisol and insulin can work together to store belly fat and increase your cravings for more sugar and caffeine. That vicious cycle!
I find that taking time out each day to exercise and simply relax, really helps to lower stress levels. But everybody is different and what matters is finding the time to regularly relax and unwind. Spending time with friends and family, meditation, yoga, watching a movie, having a bath, going for a massage, cuddling your pet… they can all help you to feel good and lower those cortisol levels to help you look and feel your best.
3. Banish Bloating Foods
Feeling bloated? How to combat bloating is one of the questions I’m asked most frequently. I definitely struggle with more bloated days too, when my jeans barely close!
There may be a large number of reasons as to why you get bloated. Constipation can be an issue for a lot of people, and is undoubtedly one of the main causes of bloating. Eating a diet high in fibre-rich plant foods and drinking more water can make a big difference for a lot of people.
For many women, it’s simply hormonal and an annoying symptom of that time of the month. For others, it can be a result of eating too quickly and gulping in excess air, not chewing food correctly, eating foods that your body may find difficult to digest and is sensitive to, or the carbon dioxide in fizzy drinks. A sluggish thyroid can even be to blame.
However, there’s another reason to consider: bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
Humans naturally have more bacteria in their bodies than actual body cells. The ‘friendly’ bacteria work hard to maintain an optimal environment for food digestion, immune system health and they synthesise certain vitamins amongst many other necessary tasks. Their job is to also keep the unfriendly bacteria, yeasts and parasites at bay. The upper section of your intestine has been designed to remain quite low in bacteria of all types, but if bacteria multiply in high amounts in the first two sections of the intestine, they will compete with you for nutrition.
Bloating, excessive gas production, nausea, diarrhoea and feelings of being too full after eating can occur when bacteria or yeast reach the food in the upper intestine and ferment the carbohydrates in your food or putrefy the protein.
Foods that are high in refined sugar and flour are especially prone to causing bacterial overgrowth and bloating for you. Some people also get very bloated from excess fructose in their diet and improve from avoiding sweet fruits like banana, grapes and pineapple, as well as fruit juices, honey and many other sweet foods.
A compromised immune system may also be a cause for excess bacterial growth, or a diet low in dietary fibre. Gut bacteria is a complex area because there are at least 500 different species of microflora living in the normal human gut. But the recipes on this site and the Eat Yourself Beautiful way of eating in my book are all designed to maximise your intake of fibre and build your immune system to help resist infections.
One of the best ways of controlling excess bacteria and its effects is to take probiotics daily or enjoy fermented foods and drinks regularly.
We’re all different, so certain foods that can cause bloating for some, may have no effect on others. If you do suffer from bloating, then I would encourage you to keep a food diary and try to find a link between the foods you’re eating regularly, and when you feel excessively bloated. I have discovered that gluten and wheat-based foods, yeast, dairy, refined sugar and salt all cause me to look and feel bloated, so I have to be careful to avoid them. I was extra vigilant on the lead-up to my wedding.
4. Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Alcohol is an enemy for your waistline too. And in the run-up to your wedding, my advice is to really cut back on alcohol if you drink it regularly and want to look and feel your best on the day.
It can cause you to gain many unwanted pounds, due in part to the hundreds of extra calories drank in sugary cocktails and mixers. But alcohol itself is a simple sugar, which hits your bloodstream fast and causes insulin levels to increase.
Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, which is just under the nine calories per gram of fat. Being a liquid devoid of fibre, it can be easy to overdo it quickly and really add a lot of excess calories to your body.
On top of all of this, drinking also pauses your metabolism because the liver has to metabolise alcohol before it can process any food you have eaten. So for a certain period of time, it actually stops your body from burning fat, because your body doesn’t store alcohol calories to use later on. It must stop burning off the calories from your last meal while the alcohol is broken down, which stores whatever you’ve eaten as fat.
The government recommendations for low-risk drinking are up to eleven standard drinks in a week for women and up to seventeen standard drinks for a man.
5. Take Probiotics
In my experience, this is one of the most important things to introduce to your daily life, and especially with a wedding on the horizon! I take them daily to boost my digestion and reduce bloating, and was vigilant about taking them in the few months before our wedding.
The benefits of probiotics to your digestive system and overall health and well-being are immense. They play a critical role in immune system health, as 80% of your immune system is based in your gut. Good bacteria improve digestion, liver function, allergy resistance, B vitamin synthesis in the gut, increase overall energy, enhance nutrient absorption which also improves your skin… plus they help to get rid of bloating. I cannot recommend probiotics enough!
The easiest way to take them daily is in capsule form. I like Udo’s Choice Super 8 probiotics (€25.99).
6. Drink Your Greens
I’m always going on about leafy greens, but they’re the most nutritionally dense type of food that we can eat, and many people find it easier to enjoy them in smoothie or juice form than in a salad!
I was really disciplined about drinking my Green Goddess Smoothie everyday in the few months leading up to our big day, and it really helps to boost your complexion, hair growth and encourage a flat stomach. All the fibre remains in the smoothie, which is so important for a healthy digestive system and to encourage fat burning.
7. Fill up on Nutrient-Dense Foods
It makes sense that the more you fill your body with nutrient-dense foods, the more satisfied you will feel and will hopefully be far less likely to overeat or snack on sugary foods. It can sometimes be the case that those who make less healthy food choices, or base their diet on processed foods, can be driven to continue eating long after they’re full, because their body is not receiving the variety of nutrients it needs for normal everyday function. It continues to demand food, and these hunger signals are often interpreted by the individual as needing fatty or sugary foods.
But if you aim to make sure that everything you eat is based on whole, nutrient-rich foods, then your body will feel far more satisfied and less likely to crave junk food and sugar. Well, that’s the theory at least! Filling up on plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, healthy fats and lean protein, will naturally encourage your weight to stabilise at what is ideal for your height and build.
8. Eat Healthy Fats
There is absolutely no need to fear fat. The right type of essential fat is so important for building a beautiful smooth and soft complexion, growing glossy hair, encouraging normal hormone function, and so much more. And your wedding is when you want your skin to look its very best!
Aim to eat fat each day from sources including avocado, nuts and seeds and their butter, coconut oil and other high-quality cold-pressed oils such as hemp seed and walnut, and wild salmon if you’re a fish eater. But as fat is a concentrated macronutrient, you don’t need to eat too much of it to reap its many health benefits. Two tablespoons of hemp, chia or ground flaxseeds on your porridge each morning, a handful of raw walnuts as a snack, or half an avocado each day are sufficient quantities.
Fat can also help you to lose weight, because it helps to keep you feeling full and satiated for a number of hours, and less likely to snack on unhealthy foods. If I’m in a rush, I’ll have a couple of teaspoons of almond butter to keep me going until I can get a proper meal. It really helps!
9. Train Your Upper Body
Plenty of people step up their exercise regime ahead of their big day, and there are few more powerful motivations to get fit than an upcoming wedding!
I try to keep fit all year ’round, but I did increase my workouts in the lead up to our wedding. It’s obviously important to train all of your major muscle groups each week, but as my dress had a full skirt and a fitted waist with my shoulders and arms on show, I placed plenty of focus on training my upper body. I made sure to train my chest, shoulder, triceps, biceps and back each week.
I like to lift heavy weights to the point of failure, but it’s really important to work with a fitness professional if you’re new to training as an injury before your wedding is definitely not ideal.
Pilates is another excellent form of exercise to strengthen and lengthen muscles and improve posture, and I did plenty of Pilates before my wedding too.
10. Water, Water, Water!
So simple but so effective! It can be surprisingly easy to go through your day without drinking enough water, not realising that you’re becoming increasingly dehydrated. If you’re a regular tea or coffee drinker, then the caffeine can also contribute to dehydration.
If you feel a little bloated, try drinking more water. It really helps to boost kidney function, improve lymphatic drainage and help your body to flush out toxins. And on the lead-up to your wedding, it’s even more essential to drink plenty of water, for both your skin and body! Eight glasses of water a day is the usual recommendation, and more in warm weather or if you exercise regularly. Try to reduce caffeine intake too, and replace caffeinated drinks with caffeine-free herbal teas. Pop a couple of slices of lemon and lime into water or a sprig of mint if you find the taste too plain!