For the past three years, I’ve spent an hour every Friday morning on a Pilates reformer. My instructor Samira and I have become good friends and we talk a lot while she kicks my butt. Pilates is one of those weird workouts where you rarely sweat, but the next day you’re nursing sore muscles you never knew you had. Ouch. Since starting Pilates, I’ve gained serious strength and stability, created some ab definition, ridded myself of chronic neck and back pain and grown about an inch. Yes, I got taller. It’s awesome.
Anyhow, prior to owning her own studio, Samira worked at a big gym (you’ve heard of it), where among many things, she worked one-on-one with brides-to-be. Dubbed “buff bride” sessions, she helped ladies sculpt their arms and whittle down their waistlines so they’d look extra fab on their big day. I can totally get behind that! I understand wanting to look like a million bucks for your wedding—it’s an important day and the photos will live on long after "Till death do us part." However, Sam said buff bride sessions kinda bummed her out. Most clients let all their hard work slip away within six months after saying, “I do.” Hmm . . . not encouraging news.
I’d say, in general, I tend to lean more toward a “healthy” lifestyle, but I’ve kicked it up a notch (not a lot!) as a part of the wedding prep. I’ve always been fairly active and appreciate semi-healthy foods (but trust me, there will always be a place for a dirty-delicious Tombstone pizza).
For a long time, spinning classes and hitting the treadmill were my jam, but about a year ago, I started CrossFit. I’d always been way too afraid to go—partially, because the workouts seem intense, partly because the people seemed so bro-y. I decided to try it as a part of my Hey Eleanor! blog, where I do one thing every day that scares me.
my friend Jill & I after a CrossFit workout
Guess what? It’s great. I’ve tried to go twice a week. I can do pull-ups for the first time in my life AND my butt is no longer pancake-like in shape. It’s the least boring and most effective exercise I’ve ever done in my entire life. And for me, two days a week is completely sustainable. I’ve been mixing in some Pilates and yoga, as well as taking my dog around Lake of the Isles as many times a week as possible (which is never, EVER enough when you’ve got a radioactive pup like mine). I don’t feel like exercise is dominating my schedule. I try to keep it fun and simple, which makes it easy to do on the regular.
Of course diet plays a huge role in general wellness. After years of what I’ll call “tummy issues,” I recently committed to the Whole30. I thought it might help me fix my belly and maybe—just maybe—de-puff my face and help me find those tricep muscles I can feel, but can’t see. Maybe you’ve heard of Whole30—and yes, it sounds awful. For 30 days, you say bye-bye to dairy, all grains, booze/wine/beer—even in cooking, all added sugar (fruit is okay . . . but even so-called healthy sugars like honey and agave are out of the question!), artificial sugar, soy, peanuts, canola oil, and a few other random things. The first week was miserable. I even cried myself to sleep one night. Really. I was experiencing major sugar withdrawal and even grieving the loss of certain foods. Foods I wasn’t so sure I even like that much, like packaged chocolate chip cookies and ice cream!
Within two weeks, my sadness had dissipated. My skinny jeans slipped right on, my skin glowed, and most importantly, I felt the best I have in a very long time. You can check out the before and after pictures here. Yes, I know. Shocking! By the end of 30 days, it was easier to stick with the program than return to my old, albeit seemingly healthy, eating habits. After the initial 30 days wrapped, I’ve indulged in plenty of non-Whole30 foods. But for the most part, I enjoy how I feel when I avoid eating loads of dairy or deep-dish pizza. My mindset about food has changed completely, and I look and feel better than ever.
An awesome, delicious Whole30 meal I prepared
Did my upcoming wedding play a role in starting CrossFit and the Whole30? Sure, and maybe that was the tipping point for me. These were things I had always wanted to try, but never could fully commit to. But the day after “the big day” is not where I’m quitting. I want to be healthy for me, but also for my future husband and the family that we’re pretty sure we’re going to have (eventually. Simmer down, Mom and Dad!). I’m not a stick figure, nor will I ever be. I’m cool with that, as long as I feel well.
So, for all of us trying to squeeze into a wedding dress in the next few months (or plan to in the future, or are the mother of the bride, or a bridesmaid, or a groom, or anyone with a weight loss goal specifically for a special occasion), let me ask you this:
What’s so important about a day that isn’t important for the rest of your life?
Go ahead and sign up for that boot camp. Try that 10-day, pre-wedding juice cleanse (though I do think your tendency to be a bridezilla would increase tenfold . . . but I’ve never tried it, so who am I to judge?). But consider making some sustainable changes, too. For me, that’s committing to group fitness twice a week and a mostly paleo diet. For you, that might be walking every other morning, trying hot yoga, drinking more water, or simply cooking more meals at home with real, whole ingredients. When the "I dos" have been said and the booze has been drunk and the Electric Slide (yuck) has been danced, you’re left with one thing: a marriage. Call me crazy, but I want the best version of myself for the days, months, and years to follow.
I would love to hear what other brides or grooms are doing to ramp up their exercise routine/diet in anticipation of the big day. What’s working, what’s not? What will you continue? And for those of you who are now married, did you continue on with your pre-wedding fitness/diet? Why or why not?