The skinny on pre-wedding diets

How to trim down happily and healthily a few months before the big day
May 25, 2011 | By: Ashley Newport

So you want to lose a few pounds before the big day? If a pre-wedding lifestyle change is something you’re determined to commit to, you can do so safely and sensibly without depriving yourself because, hey, a stressed bride-to-be might need a cookie once in a while.

“Ideally, sensible weight loss is one to two pounds a week,” says Dundas, Ont.-based registered dietitian Shannon Crocker. “Depending on how much you want to lose, you should start early. You need to trim about 500 calories a day through diet or exercise, so if you have at least six months, making the change a bit more slowly makes sense.”

For most people, a 500 calorie a day decrease is hefty — the equivalent of slicing an entire meal from your diet. However, since skipping meals is a big weight loss no-no, it’s best to pair culinary cutbacks with exercise (i.e. eat 250 calories less than you normally would and try to burn the other 250 with physical activity). “And no crash dieting if you want to keep it off past the honeymoon!” warns Crocker. “People who go on restrictive diets tend to rebound because the body goes into conservation mode, which slows their metabolism.”

Fortunately, cutting back is easier than you think.

“Dieting doesn’t work, so work on eating healthier and be sure to exercise every day,” says Crocker.

To start, set some goals. If you have more than six months, try cutting out 300 calories a day instead of 500 for more sustainable weight loss. Also, set a calorie benchmark, like a limit of 1,500 to 1,800 a day. However, Crocker says everyone is different, and while a 1,500 limit might be manageable for some, others might need even more than 1,800 to function comfortably. “It’s important to remember that calories do help your body function,” she says.

An important part of weight loss is not just eating less, but eating well.

“Have breakfast with protein,” says Crocker. “Protein makes you feel fuller longer, but keep in mind that there are no magic foods that will make you lose weight. Go for good food in smaller portions.”

Some “good” foods include low-fat dairy products, whole grains, lean meats and near-heaping piles of fruits and vegetables — with slightly more emphasis on veggies.

“At any meal, at least half your plate should be filled with vegetables and the rest should be lean protein with grains or carbohydrates.”

And while there are foods to pursue, there are also some to avoid, namely the “liquid calories” found in sugary pops, juices and alcohol.

“There are a lot of parties before a wedding, so alcohol is something to watch out for because it’s calorically dense. Also, watch out for dessert coffees, because that’s exactly what they are — desserts.”

It’s also good to limit restaurant meals and high-fat snacks such as potato chips and baked goods. But while the mantra of the dieting bride seems to be “avoid, avoid, avoid!” it’s okay to make reasonable compromises on occasion.

“If you have a craving, just limit your portion,” advises Crocker.  “For good treats, have a square of dark chocolate or some air-popped popcorn with no butter.”

As for other strategies, Crocker recommends written records, a support group and a sensible weigh-in schedule.

“People who keep weight off tend to record what they eat,” says Crocker. “And it’s good to have some support, either from a friend or someone else who can monitor your progress with you. Also, weigh yourself often to stay on track, but don’t do it every day. The natural fluctuations in your weight can be discouraging. Look for changes in your body, not the numbers on the scale.”

Shannon Crocker is a Registered Dietitian and Principal Consultant with S. Crocker Consulting. An experienced nutrition communications specialist, Shannon consults to government, non-profit organizations and corporate clients across Canada. Through presentations, professional training sessions, consumer workshops, media interviews and nutrition articles (Web and print), Shannon promotes healthy food for healthy living.

She has appeared on various media outlets including Breakfast Television, CH Morning Live, CTV Toronto News and CTV Halifax Live at Five. Shannon is a regular nutrition expert for Toronto Star’s weekly food column, The Dish, which offers insight into restaurant choices. Shannon has developed innovative nutrition resources, campaigns and education programs that encourage Canadians to enjoy healthier foods. A mom of two young boys, avid cook and foodie, Shannon specializes in providing real life food and nutrition advice for children, women and families. To learn more, visit