Shedding For The Wedding: Is It Time To Say No To The Big Day Diet?

the downside of wedding diets

How often have we heard or read the dreaded phrase ‘wedding diet’?

Or seen the latest version of it being hawked from the newsstand by a glowing celebrity (whose bevy of meal planners and stylists no doubt give her a head start on the average bride on the street)?

A quick ‘wedding diet’ Google search returns a mere 69.7 million results.

Once you’ve decided to get married, the next few weeks, months or even years should be a happy time as you and your partner prepare for an exciting day that celebrates your love – not a frantic and stressful race to shed pounds to become some imaginary ‘best’ version of you.

Presumably, by this point in your relationship, both you and your partner have already accepted one another at whatever size you may be – but still the must-lose-weight-for-the-wedding mantra persists. Why?

Is it just a case of releasing the supermodel inside – hidden under the comfy layer of biscuits and wine? And what about the men – are there also grooms out there who are slimming for the suit?

The Wedding Diet Industry

It is no longer a joke to talk about a wedding industry – the venues, cakes, rings, gowns, all add up to big business and serious money.

But becoming more serious and more influential by the (big) day is the wedding diet industry: an endless parade of pills, potions, plans and treatments to get you thin, toned, and in fighting form for the most romantic – and heavily photographed – day of your life.

The articles, blog posts, and news items all point out the same thing: you don’t want to feel self-conscious as you walk up the aisle so best lose the weight and be your most svelte – and therefore confident – self. And don’t worry, there are plenty of tips to help you become a buff bride, tips such as buying a size 4 dress when you’re really a 6, or sticking to an elimination diet until the wedding day, or eating lots of grapefruit.

It’s all a bit disturbing.

When we asked married friends on Facebook whether they felt pressure to lose weight for their wedding, most said yes, even if they didn’t give in to it. Cara commented:

“I didn’t actually lose weight before my wedding (just maintained my normal fitness and drinking levels!) but everyone was convinced I did. People argued with me when I said I hadn’t lost weight. Like it’s inconceivable not to!”

While Dan proved it isn’t just brides who feel the pressure, replying:

“I felt I had to: [my wife] looked stunning (but then, she is) while I’m short and prone to getting fat. Would like to fit back into my wedding suit jacket again…”

In this social media age, image is everything, and the permanent record of how you looked on that one day can be in danger of overshadowing everything else. Rachel told us:

“I ended up going to the gym 3+ times a week (haven’t been that many times in the last year!) as I hated the thought of looking overweight in my photos.”

The wedding diet industry feeds off this – with ads for slimming pills and diets popping up the instant you change your status from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘engaged’ (top tip: don’t update it).

Even Georgia, who had a low key wedding (wore a cardigan and trainers with her off-the-peg dress), had a fantastic, stress-free day, and didn’t care about losing weight at the time, in retrospect wishes she had:

“Looking back now, I sort of wish I had lost some weight…from looking back on the photos and being critical. Also seeing other friends get married and feeling they look ‘perfect’.”

Maybe the answer is to ban the cameras, ditch the diet and keep the memories.

Wedding Weight Loss For All The Right Reasons?

But…. it can’t be all bad, right?

If someone really needs to lose weight, for their health, could it actually be a positive thing that their nuptials give them the motivation to take on the monumental task?

Like training for a marathon, if your wedding gives you a weight-loss goal to work towards each day, maybe it’s not such a terrible thing. What about this happy couple that lost a combined 11 stone before their wedding day?

Another couple happy to have slimmed down for their day (albeit as a consequence of a diet change, not on purpose) said:

“Although we were both interested in green issues before we got married, going on a raw vegan diet had a welcome side effect for both of us. I lost over 7kgs (two dress sizes) just by cutting out dairy and meat, and Mark lost a bunch of weight too.

“By the time the wedding came around, we felt so much healthier and had so much more energy while we were travelling on our honeymoon.”

Unfortunately, these couples may be the exceptions.

recent study found that participants who endured months of strict dieting for their wedding put on the most weight in the first half year of marriage, when compared to participants who didn’t diet at all. The study also found that the pressure women feel to lose weight pre-wedding could put them at risk of long-term body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.

Emmy Gilmour, Clinical Director at eating disorder treatment centre, The Recover Clinic, had this to say

“When we get into habits of restricting our food, our bodies don’t understand that we are intentionally starving ourselves. The message that we are sending our bodies is that food is scarce and that we should physically ‘hoard’ any food that we do eat in order to sustain us through periods of restriction. Our bodies are also far more likely to crave foods that we are denying ourselves, hence that restrict/binge pattern that we see so many dieters experiencing’.”

“Since wedding planning often now starts a year or more in advance of the day itself that can add up to 12 months+ of serious dieting – enough time for disordered eating patterns to become established.”

Being a Fat and Happy Bride

Of course, not everyone is trying to lose weight for the big day.

Offbeat Bride offers up a wonderful Fat Bride Survival Guide which is chock-full of advice about how to love yourself for who you are, as well as tips on dealing with the sadly unavoidable feedback you get as a buxom bride-to-be (for example, the suggestion to leave off the wedding guest list anyone who asks you how much weight you plan to lose). And the delightful Lindy West recently wrote about being a fat and happy bride for The Guardian.

If you’re a pregnant bride, while in the not too distant past you would have had to hide that bump at all costs, now, it can offer an escape from the body-conscious crowd. Eleanor said:

“I was 37 weeks pregnant at my wedding so definitely wasn’t worried about slimming – just making it through the ceremony without needing to rush to the loo! I wore a charcoal and flowered tunic over maternity leggings and had the best day!”

Focus on Health and Fitness

But let’s say you’ve read this far and you still want to lose weight for your wedding. What should you do? Personal Trainer Jo Dines says that the emphasis…

“…needs to be on overall health and fitness, and not on some arbitrary number on the scales. At the end of the day, how you feel is the most important thing.

“On the lead up to your wedding, focus on getting regular exercise and eating healthily – the stress of all the planning will make you want to indulge, but try to keep everything as clean and lean as possible with lots of protein, fruit, veg and whole grains. Plus lots and lots of water!”

The Wedding Diet to Beat Them All

So you’re probably expecting us to tell you to wave goodbye to the wedding diet and snuggle up on the sofa with a takeaway and your other half.

Well, you would have been right, but then we stumbled across ‘Hipmombrarian’ Megan Egbert’s wedding diet and realised we had found one we could wholeheartedly recommend. Follow it to the letter – and have fun being you on your big day.



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