For fatter, for thinner..

With less than a month to go, the anxiety and stress are beginning to visibly show… spots, dark circles under the eyes and as I work hard to get my Christmas orders completed and the dress started (have finally started), my meal times become slightly more erratic, despite Significant Other’s best attempts to fatten me up!

With this in mind, Angela Shepherd, of Love Living Well (www.lovelivingwell.co.uk) has offered the following sensible advice, which I though other brides would find useful.

Every girl wants to look the very best she can on her wedding day. After all, the bride should be the main focus of the whole event (let’s face it – however lovely he is, the groom’s just the support act really!), so the pressure to look good is immense. I don’t think I’ve ever met a bride who didn’t want to lose some weight, and often as the Big Day draws near panic sets in and a crash diet seems like the only option. Please avoid this! When you’re busy and stressed, denying yourself proper food will probably just make you crabby, tearful and run-down at a time when you should be enjoying all those lovely last-minute preparations. I recently heard a cautionary tale of a bride-to-be following the Dukan diet who went out on her hen night having eaten virtually nothing, knocked back cocktails and Champagne, then ended up passing out in a locked toilet cubicle. A lesson learned too late!

So what can you do? Unless you’re properly overweight try to focus more on eating healthily than dieting. By doing this you’ll probably drop a few pounds anyway (if you need to), but will still feel full of energy and look radiant on your wedding day. Try adapting these ten very easy habits into your daily routine for maximum effect.

1.  Eat A Healthy Breakfast

It’s a cliché because it’s true – breakfast really is the most important meal of the day! Many people skip breakfast because they’re too busy or mistakenly think it will help them to lose weight, but in fact eating breakfast helps you to shed the pounds; it kick-starts your metabolism, maximising your calorie-burning time for the rest of the day. Plus you’ll be far less likely to snack on naughty things later in the morning. Choose something slow-burning that will keep you going until lunchtime like porridge, muesli, wholemeal toast with peanut butter or eggs. If you really can’t face eating first thing (which probably means you ate too much the night before!) try a smoothie, banana, protein shake or cereal bar. Continue to eat regularly throughout the day to keep your blood sugar balanced and avoid energy dips.

2.  Eat More Fat

Yes really! But it has to be the right kind. Fat doesn’t make you fat – bad fat makes you fat! So what’s the difference? Bad fat is generally animal-based and solid at room temperature, whereas good fat tends to be vegetable-based and liquid. Most people aim to cut out fat when they’re dieting, but eating good fat actually helps to carry bad fat out of your body. It’s also really important to eat fat if you’re exercising more to protect your joints and avoid injury. So avoid the baddies like butter, cheese and lard, but eat more of the goodies found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and oily fish.

3.  Swap to Good Carbs

Don’t give up carbs if you’re trying to lose weight or you’ll probably just end up tired and smelly – and who wants that?! So just say no to Dr Atkins, but do try to swap bad carbs for good. Bad carbs like white bread, potatoes and white rice release sugar into the bloodstream very quickly, so replace them with granary bread, pulses, basmati rice and pasta, which are more nutritious and satisfying, releasing their energy more slowly. And if you have a tendency to bloat, try avoiding wheat for a couple of days to see if it makes a difference. Your stomach may well appear much flatter in that lovely satin dress without the use of magic knickers simply by avoiding bread for a couple of days before the wedding!

4.  Eat More Protein

Too many women don’t eat enough protein. Toast for breakfast, salad sandwich for lunch, pasta and tomato sauce for dinner… sound familiar? Protein is really important when you’re trying to lose weight. M&S is right, it really does make you feel fuller for longer! So try to have some at every meal. It doesn’t have to be great hunks of meat – although lean meat is fine. Yoghurt or milk are good at breakfast time, and other lighter sources include chicken, fish and pulses. Eating protein at lunch time also helps to avoid that mid-afternoon torpor that often has people reaching for the chocolate or biccies.

5.  Eat Less Sugar

Hmm, this one isn’t exactly a major revelation – but exactly why is sugar so bad? Well for starters it bloats you and encourages fat storage around your top half, i.e. your belly and bingo wings! Plus it gives you wrinkles by breaking down the collagen and elastin in your skin. So if you want a lovely, glowing complexion on your wedding day cut down on sugar, especially the refined kind, as much as possible. If you can’t get through the afternoon without something sweet, try a little dried fruit. And if you simply can’t live without chocolate just have a couple of squares of dark choccy and eat it slowly.

6.  Drink More Water

Your body is about two-thirds water – or should be! Most people don’t drink nearly enough, relying on tea, coffee or sugary/diet soft drinks. Being just 2% dehydrated can have a huge effect on how your body functions, making you feel tired, headachy, unable to concentrate and lacking in energy. And we all lose about a pint of fluid every day, even without excessive sweating. So how much should you drink? Well, there’s no set amount as everyone’s body is a different size. The only way to tell whether you’re getting enough is to check your wee! If it’s a pale, straw colour you’re fine. Any darker and you need to get drinking – not squash, not fruity tea, just plain water! If you find this difficult in the cold weather have it warm, maybe with a slice of lemon. And don’t wait until you’re thirsty, sip throughout the day. Your skin will be smoother, eyes brighter, you’ll feel better – and water works wonders for cellulite by helping to flush out toxins, so you’ll look fab in your honeymoon bikini too!

7.  Drink Less Alcohol

Yes, sorry to be so boring, but many of us drink too much too often these days – possibly due to increasingly stressful lifestyles. In fact alcohol doesn’t de-stress you, it’s just an illusion. It actually places more stress on your body and adds weight around your middle. Let’s face it, wine is basically just a bottle of sugar and toxins – and a large glass of wine has around the same calories as two slices of bread and butter, but absolutely no nutritional value. I’m not saying never have a drink if you like one, just drink in moderation. When you do have a drink, red wine (preferably organic) is best. At least that’s helping your heart a bit! If you do drink a lot (and you know who you are!), cut right down for a month and you’ll be amazed how the weight falls off, especially around your waistline.

8.  Drink Less Caffeine

But doesn’t coffee/Red Bull speed up your metabolism and help you burn more calories I hear you cry? Well yes and no… caffeine does set your system racing (although not in a good way), but the stress it places on your body also makes you produce fat-storing hormones, so it’s not a great weight loss strategy. It also dehydrates you and disturbs your sleep, even if you don’t drink it in the evening – caffeine can lurk in your system for up to ten hours. Try to have no more than one cup of coffee in the morning, then switch to tea (preferably herbal) for the rest of the day. And drink a glass of water for every caffeinated drink you have too.

9.  Do Some Exercise

If you really want to lose weight and shape up it’s essential to work some exercise into your lifestyle, no matter what it is. Not only will you look better, you’ll feel better too. Aerobic exercise energises you by bringing more oxygen into your system and helps to relieve stress too – a bonus for most busy brides! The key is to find something you enjoy doing. We’re not talking marathon running here – brisk walking is a brilliant form of exercise, especially if you’re new to it. And remember, you don’t just burn calories while you’re moving – your metabolism remains raised for up to 24 hours after you’ve exercised. If you find it hard to get motivated, especially in the winter, get a group of friends together and make it social – just try not to end up in the pub!

10.  Get More Sleep

Many of us don’t get enough sleep these days, getting by on less than we really need and feeling constantly tired. But did you know that lack of sleep can actually make you put on weight by stimulating the hormones that control fat retention? So do make an effort to get at least seven hours’ sleep each night if you possibly can – it will make a huge difference to how your face looks, especially if you aren’t exactly in the first flush of youth!

I hope you find these tips useful. Even following them for just a month before the wedding will pay dividends. And remember… nobody can really see your bottom half under a long dress. Your groom would much rather you were happy and relaxed on the day than worrying about the size of your bum, which he obviously loves anyway!

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