January 25, 2013 Bridal Boot Camp!
So you’ve got the ring on your finger and you’ve set the date. For most brides this means a new, healthier diet, spending record winning amounts of time at the gym, and trying to look their best for the big day!
This was definitely me. Thankfully I had already made the conscious decision to live a healthy lifestyle a couple of years before we got engaged, so for me it was just a matter of keeping with my good habits and maintaining. Once I picked my wedding dress and got a compliment from the bridal consultant that I had “rockin’ shoulders” and that I should style my hair in an updo to show them off, I wanted to focus on getting toned. I had a plan. I worked out at the gym 5-7 days a week, I ate whole grains, 5 small meals a day, a LOT of egg whites, I was doing awesome.
Despite my diligence, I still had a heartbreaking moment… that moment when I showed up to my wedding dress fitting and the seamstress had me sit down. The dress was tight. So tight, that if I ate anything more than a piece of lettuce on my wedding day, I might burst a seam. There was an incredibly uncomfortable conversation where she asked me if it was “my time of the month” and in the end, she needed to take the dress out 2 inches in the hips. Although it wasn’t a huge deal, and it’s very rare for someone to buy a gown and need no alterations whatsoever, by letting the dress out there was a crease from where it was original sewn that never went away, even with being steamed and pressed.
So this leads me to my first tidbit of advice: Buy a dress that fits you today, not that you hope to fit into tomorrow. When I tried on gowns at my bridal shop, I had tried on a sample size that fit like a glove. We ended up ordering one size up, even though my measurements (particularly the hip measurement–shocker) showed that I should have ordered two sizes up. Just because a sample size fits you perfectly, doesn’t mean that YOUR dress will fit you perfectly if you order it in that size. These samples have been tried on by dozens and dozens of brides in all shapes and sizes, and will fit very differently than a brand new fresh gown made especially for you.
Next tidbit of advice: In terms of diet, make small, maintainable changes. I am a junk food junkie. I always will be. But I made small changes and eased into them. First I switched from 2% milk to 1%. After a few months I switched to skim. It took a bit of adjusting to the taste, but now I prefer skim over any other milk! Eat egg whites, not whole eggs. Eat whole grains when possible. Everyone’s heard this advice. Rather than approaching healthy eating as a diet, take small steps towards a healthier lifestyle. These simple swaps can be made immediately and have an impact right away. Whole grains also help you stay fuller longer, which is always a good thing. I still eat my junk food, I just eat less of it. When I want a snack, I reach for fruit rather than hit the vending machine. It’s hard to ignore these cravings for the “bad stuff” at first, but in time you’ll find you’ll start craving the healthier foods!
Healthy foods will make you fuller for longer, and will be lower in calories. Whoever said eating healthy meant you had to starve? When I first started working on making healthy changes and making healthy living a priority I stumbled across this article online: What does 300 calories look like? It’s truly fascinating. By making healthier choices you can actually eat MORE food and still lose weight. Not to mention, these healthy foods can be downright tasty. Win-win! Speaking of healthy food– if you are looking for healthy and tasty meals, my favorite food blog is skinnytaste.com. There are so many amazingly delicious recipes that are as healthy as they are tasty. Steve’s favorite is the jalapeño popper baked chicken. That’s right! Look it up. Delicious.
If you want to lose weight, start a food log. Whether you just write down the food you’re eating, join a calorie tracking website like Livestrong.com, or join weight watchers– losing weight requires knowing what’s going into your body and being educated about your food choices. Websites like myfitnesspal.com and livestrong.com allow you to track your meals for the day and see how many calories or points you’re consuming, and also “earn” calories or points to “spend” based on what you burn for the day.
Even if you are just looking to maintain your weight, start a food log. I’m finally to the point in my life where my metabolism is slowing down and I can’t eat whatever I want and stay a twig. Darn. By logging my food each day, I can ensure that I don’t blow way past my recommended calorie intake for the day. (WHAAATT!? That Burger King chicken sandwich was FIFTEEN HUNDRED CALORIES!?)
Sidebar: to get a more accurate count of calories burned during a workout, get a heart rate monitor! I use a Polar F7 watch and I’ve had it for years. Throughout my workouts I can monitor my heart rate (if it’s getting too high I know to back down on the intensity, and conversely, if it’s not high enough I know I need to kick it into gear!) and also calories burned as I go along. When I’m in maintaining mode, I love to know how many calories I burned, so I can help justify a sweet treat at the end of the night ;)
Don’t drink your calories. If you have a goal of losing weight, this is especially important, but those sugar sweetened beverages are loaded with calories and can make a huge impact not only on your daily calorie intake but also on your waistline. Diet soft drinks are also under incredible scrutiny for using artificial sweeteners of questionable safety. I’ll be the first to admit that I do have the occasional soft drink, but I do choose a zero calorie beverage so as not to throw off the whole day. There are definitely arguments against this, but it’s what works for me, and it’s in moderation. Juices can even be surprisingly unhealthy, so make sure that you choose juices that are as natural as possible. However, it’s always better to eat whole fruits and drink water. I rarely get to the recommended 8 glasses of water a day, but I do try! If you can get a large water bottle with ounce markers on the side it definitely helps! I have a Life is Good 32oz water bottle and I love to use it. I know that if I fill it up twice in one day I have met my goal!
Smaller meals and healthy snacking help to curb binge eating and increase energy levels. When I first started my healthy eating kick, I was really good about this. I’m not as good about this now and I really need to get better about it. It also greatly effects my energy level for the day. You should always find what works best for you but for a while my daily meals went something like this: Oatmeal with a teaspoon of brown sugar for breakfast, 4 egg whites as a snack, tuna with crackers and a piece of fruit for lunch, peanut butter and apple slices for a snack, and then some sort of healthy home cooked meal that is well balanced with protein, veggies, and wheat. I had more energy throughout the day, I was never craving any junk… and have you ever had peanut butter and apple slices? Because it’s the greatest pairing since PB&J. No joke.
Working out is such a personal thing. It’s all about what works best with you and what you can stick with. When I first joined Planet Fitness with Steve in 2009 I just did the elliptical. I was bored out of my skull after a couple of weeks of doing nothing but the elliptical and I was ready to call it quits. Then he introduced me to the circuit training room and I was in love! Variety! I could feel myself getting stronger and I absolutely loved it. As I got more serious about the gym, we both decided it would be a good investment to join the Merritt Athletic Club right next to our apartment. I was just expecting to use the machines, but I found my way into a group fitness class and never looked back! I am a total group fitness junkie!
The main take home point here is to find something that works for you and be consistent. It’s not rocket science, but if you’re new to working out, it is probably worth mentioning. If you don’t like the treadmill or elliptical machines that is NOT all that’s out there! You can find something that you enjoy if you just keep with it. Even with my group fitness classes I totally get burned out sometimes, but that’s what is so great about it! There are so many options that I can rotate from class to class and do something completely different if I’m sick of it.
Just know your goals and how to reach them! The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest. When I first started at the gym I avoided weight training like the plague. I didn’t want to look like a female body builder, I just wanted to be lean. Little did I know, that I could do weight workouts (and workouts that build strength and tone muscles using my own body resistance) to get stronger without getting bulkier.
Find a healthy method of measuring progress. I couldn’t hit this point home hard enough. In our society we have such a focus on being skinny and losing “weight”. But how important is that number, really? When I first started gaining muscle mass I was focusing on that number too much. Obsessing even. My weight was staying the same (or going up) but I was looking leaner. I knew that this was because muscle is more dense and compact than fat, so 1 lb of muscle is smaller than 1 lb of fat. (No, muscle and fat do not weigh the same, any more than 1 lb of feathers and 1 lb of lead weigh the same, but the fact remains that muscle is denser so a muscular size 4 person is going to weigh more than a size 4 who is simply thin). It’s easy to get wrapped up in that number.
So what I do recommend instead? If you must measure something, measure inches lost. But instead I strongly suggest focusing on your energy level, your strength, your stamina, another flight of stairs you can climb without needing to catch your breath. If you have a weight loss goal, it’s great to start with weighing yourself and keeping track of progress that way, but once you hit your goal, in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s better to focus on how you feel.
For our wedding I focused on the important areas that would be shown off the most with my wedding dress. In addition to focusing on my overall fitness, I wanted to focus on making sure my shoulders and arms were toned since I wore a strapless dress. I also wanted to make sure my mid-section was slimmed and toned since my dress was very form-fitting. I did a lot of core workouts and picked up kick boxing. I was so amazed how I could really work my back and shoulders without using any weight, and while having loads of fun!
So what do I do? I cycle, I do kickboxing, I dance (sometimes, though honestly I don’t do ZUMBA often because I feel like a damn fool), I lift weights, I do yoga, and I do high-impact cardio workouts. There are so many great options to make it interesting and I promise, once you get going and start to feel yourself getting stronger you will get hooked! Personally, I love the Les Mills classes (no they are not paying me for this endorsement, I could go on about how amazing they are all day long) and I love that they are offered at all of the major gyms in this area! Now that we don’t live within a convenient distance of a Merritt gym, we go to Brick Bodies, and I can take all of the same classes I’ve loved for years.
The most important thing is that you find something that you enjoy. Whether it is running with your friends, taking your dog for a walk every day, group fitness classes, personal training, or playing a sport, if you make it fun, it’s more likely to stick and become a part of your lifestyle.
One of the most useful things for me when I was preparing for my wedding day was that I had friends who were keeping me accountable. My good friend Michaela and I got married within a few months of each other and every day we would keep each other (and some other 2011 brides) accountable with our diet and exercise. By having someone to report to other than myself, I was more likely to be consistent.
So where am I today? Well to be honest, I’m just now getting back with it. Two weeks before our wedding I had an incident with a colander and boiling water that resulted in second degree burns on my leg and three months off from the gym. Those three months turned into a year of inconsistency and bad excuses. There were times where I got back with it and swore I wouldn’t fall off the wagon again, but I did. When busy season for my photography business hit this year I found that I just didn’t have enough hours in the day (let’s be honest, I wasn’t making time) and I went a few months without going to the gym at all. It’s been a solid month of being back at it and I’m discouraged by how much strength I’ve lost, but I am using it as fuel to get back into it and to get back into the healthy, consistent routine I had prior to my injury. I love life, and I want to live as long, healthy and fulfilling of a life as possible… and I wish the same for all of you!
So who’s with me? Let’s hold each other accountable! If there’s enough interest, I’ll make a facebook group for us to do just that :)