For many brides, setting the date means committing to a glaring deadline: that day you will want look the most incredible you ever have—in your life. It’s no secret that engaged women often go to extremes to achieve perfection: crash diets, intense workouts, serious cleanses, and dramatic treatments to fix every problem spot. Couple that with the stresses of wedding planning, and a bride’s beauty quest can run her dry.
Nutritionists agree: the goal for slimming down and getting that bridal glow should be to get healthy, not hangry. The gatekeeper to the looking—and feeling—your best (and let’s be real, maintaining your anti-bridezilla cool) is taking a few extra minutes a day to nourish yourself. That dewy angelic skin, silky hair, strong nails and flat tummy can be the result of a solid Bridal Detox plan. InStyle talked to top nutrition experts to get the scoop on slimming down and getting the glow for the big day.
Why should brides consider a Bridal Detox?
“When you think of cleanses or detoxes, people often think misery and starvation,” explains Kara Stout, Dallas-based certified bridal nutrition coach and creator of the 10-day bridal detox, The Healthy Way to Detox Before Your Wedding. “The goal is to feel great, and when you’re starving or on a very restrictive diet, you’re miserable, have no energy, and honestly [are] setting yourself up not to achieve or maintain your goals. So, look at this time as a perfect opportunity to work towards a permanent healthy lifestyle, understanding that it’s a step-by-step process that will be so rewarding not only for the wedding day, but long term.”
For L.A.’s certified holistic nutritionist Kelly Leveque, it all starts with education. “When our brides understand the biology of nutrition they experience food freedom. They aren’t referencing a ‘do not eat' list. Instead, they are empowered to nourish their bodies at every meal, be creative in the kitchen and enjoy going out without anxiety. This is a celebratory year and it is important they know how to celebrate without a set back ... It shouldn’t be overwhelming, it is a light structure that is easy to live by and increases a bride’s confidence around food choices. Confidence increases results, which spurs motivation and dedication. At that point, we take it up a notch for a little cleansing and allergen-removal period. Post detox, our bride moves back into a pre-wedding maintenance period where they are incorporating a little celebratory alcohol if they plan to drink on the big day. Its cyclical and slow, so to keep collagen in the face and energy high, this is a lifestyle that our brides will maintain years after their wedding.”
What should a bridal detox consist of?
Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN and owner of Real Nutrition NYC, suggests that a good bridal detox program should go in stages and be tailored to each individual bride. In other words, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach: “If a bride really needs to clean up her diet and lose a lot of weight, we have to start at the beginning, which includes a slow but steady diet overhaul while preventing any discomfort and energy dips. We would slowly remove simple sugar in all forms including processed white foods, candy, packaged goods while incorporating lots and lots of whole foods like veggies (think broccoli, brussels sprouts, greens, healthy fats, especially from avocado and fatty fish like salmon, fruit loaded with skin-glowing antioxidants and, again, lean protein or plant proteins to enhance and balance out their overall diet. We would incorporate breakfast smoothies loaded with superfoods and closer to the wedding date some (but not many) green juices to maximize on de-bloating and antioxidant consumption and digestion.”
How can a bride safely slim down without starving herself?
“No one likes a hangry brides, or a hangry anyone, for that matter!” explains Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, Registered dietitian and founder of F-Factor nutrition, a private nutrition counseling practice in Manhattan. “You don’t have to walk around hungry just because you are dieting. The secret is to pair a fiber-rich food, such as vegetables or high fiber cereal, with a lean protein, like Greek yogurt or turkey, at every meal and snack. You may think that skipping meals saves you calories, but that strategy is counterproductive. When you become overly hungry it not only slows you metabolism, it sets you up to overeat.”
Instead of skipping meals, Shapiro recommends eating every three hours, a series of small balanced meals and snacks that are free of hidden sugars and that are correctly paired, which means they should contain either lean protein or a heart-healthy fat paired with fiber. A few of her favorites? Sliced apples with raw almond butter, gluten free crackers with hummus, 1/2 of an avocado sprinkled with sea salt or 2 hard boiled eggs.
Stout suggests slimming down by drinking warm water with lemon and cayenne pepper right after waking up in the morning, always eating a healthy breakfast, drinking lots of water, drinking apple cider vinegar mixed with water, and adding in lots of veggies and whole foods which will naturally decrease the unhealthy food choices.
And Leveque warns against counting calories: “Counting calories is probably the worst way to slim down because it has you eliminating the most nutritious foods and replacing them with empty low-calorie replacements. Instead, look to remove the foods that aren’t serving you like bread, cookies, cakes, sweet coffee and alcohol drinks, soy and GMOs.”
What foods can a bride eat to boost her energy?
“With all the things on a bride’s to-do list, having plenty of energy is a must!” says Stout, who suggests cacao powder, chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp seeds, ginger, and kiwis, all of which are great energy boosters. She recommends incorporating them into smoothies or juices or make chia seed pudding. Stout also claims that adding lean protein like wild-caught fish into your meals is a must for energy levels. Brides should also consider adding in a high-quality fish oil as well as a multivitamin and vitamin D3 to their daily routine.
Shapiro says to start with the first meal of your day: “Breakfast guarantees energy.” She also suggests iron-rich plant sources such as spinach, lentils and sesame seeds, since many women of marrying age tend to be low on iron and a side effect is exhaustion. Shapiro agrees with Stout that chia seeds are powerful energy providers with lots of health benefits. And she recommends adding 23 almonds to your meal plan. Why? Because they are high in B vitamins and Magnesium, which studies show can be key to preventing tiring out more quickly, especially during exercise due to it’s role in metabolism.
According to Be Well’s Leveque, “Boosting energy is all about avoiding the foods that deplete it. When you aggressively spike blood sugar with dense carbohydrates, processed sugars and packaged foods you will experience a crash. Blood sugar is depleted, however you will still have elevated insulin. This biological state will have you craving more carbohydrates (and/or caffeine) and thus the blood sugar roller coaster begins. Focus on balanced blood sugar by eating whole foods that satisfy and elongate the blood sugar curve.”
What about essential nutrients for that inner glow?
Leveque credits healthy skin to hydrating Omega-3 fatty acids, B Vitamins for collagen and elastin production and trace minerals for repair, protection and cell regeneration. “Maintaining red carpet-ready skin is easy when you incorporate wild seafood like sardines, salmon and oysters into your routine. Packing the punch of B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D they hydrate and plump from the inside out. Hair benefits from all the same nutrients with a heavier focus on iron from protein sources. If you are eating seafood you will be getting your daily need of heme iron for hair growth. If you are a vegetarian, I would highly suggest supplementation, iron from vegetables is only minimally bioavailable in the body.”
Shapiro also attributes the inner glow to vitamins and minerals: “Vitamins E and C are natural antioxidants that support collagen production" (read: prevent wrinkles and skin damage) and are found in almonds, sunflower seeds, green leafy veggies, citrus fruits, kiwi and red peppers. Fatty acids keep our skin from being dry, they fight redness and inflammation and can be found in salmon, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil. Shapiro also suggests adding zinc, found in red meat, oysters and nuts, to help repair skin and fight adult acne. Vitamin A and its precursor beta carotene, which are found in orange veggies like carrots and squash, play a role in preventing skin damage, while B-vitamins help with cell renewal and growth can be found in everything from egg yolks, animal proteins, greens, potatoes, grains, seeds and nuts!
Zuckerbrot agrees, and also suggests eating eggs, which naturally contain sulfur, essential for the production of keratin and collagen, to help locks stay shiny and skin stay radiant.
Debloating: What should brides incorporate into their everyday—and what should they remove?
To beat the dreaded bloat, Zuckerbrot says to cut the white sugar and refined carbohydrates. “These foods cause our body to hold on to water, which contributes to bloat. Incorporate lots of water to stay hydrated and flush excess toxins from the body to promote healthy, clear skin. While it may sound counterintuitive, the best way to banish bloat and water retention is by drinking more water. Aim to consume eight or more glasses of water a day. For an added de-bloat effect, add herbal tea to your healthy diet. Tea products that contain dandelion greens or shining nettle help rid the body of unnecessary fluid.”
Stout also favors dandelion tea and says that keeping a food journal can also be your best friend in banishing bloat: “include when you feel bloated after a meal. That way we can determine what foods and types of meals cause bloating.”
Shapiro points out that that brides should beware of these bloating biggies: salt, gluten, dairy, sugar, bubbly drinks (soda), chewing gum and gassy veggies like brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli close to a big event. She says to stick to de-bloating foods, including asparagus, celery and cucumber, which are all natural diuretics, along with watermelon, sweet potato, salmon and “water, water, water!”
What's an optimal timeline for a bridal detox?
Most importantly, brides, all of these experts agree that giving yourself enough time to detox and get on the right track will be key to your success—and not going off track once you’re happily newly wed. Three to six months before the wedding is a great place to start. Crash dieting only leads to excess hunger, bad moods, weakness and added stress (which can induce emotional eating and boost stress hormones, like cortisol, that with make it hard to lose weight). And, really, who needs that when they are planning a wedding?