Let me start by admitting that this is a shameless plug for Shedding For The Wedding, Women’s Health’s healthy weight-loss plan for brides – because I wish it had existed eleven years ago when I was getting married.
Instead, I resorted to an extreme, all-or-nothing approach to weight loss that turned out to be a huge mistake. These are the lessons I learnt in hindsight.
Too much determination can be dangerous
I was 26 years old, engaged and carrying a little extra padding that I was determined to lose by the Big Day when all cameras would be on me. Now, determination can be a powerful force for healthy change.
But I had a vision of what I would look like in my dress and I was willing to do whatever it took to make it reality. Problem is, when you start thinking in terms of “whatever it takes” you stray into that dangerous territory of sacrificing long-term health for short-term gains.
Rather be willing to do whatever it takes within reason. With Shedding For The Wedding, you’re still going to clean up your eating and exercise harder than ever before, but you can still eat food and the workouts are scalable.
Ask the experts
There’s a reason personal training and dietetics exist as careers. They’re scientific fields and the people who practise in them had to study to become accredited experts.
When you’re trying to lose weight, getting proper dietary guidelines and a personal exercise plan will help you reach your goal faster and without unhealthy side effects. The Shedding For The Wedding exercise plan was designed by master trainer, Aneeka Buys.
The eating plan was created by registered dietician Carey-Ann Seady. My strategy for losing weight before my wedding consisted of the Springboks’ off-season training programme (lifting seriously heavy weight) fuelled by meal-replacement shakes. In hindsight, what was I thinking?
But at the time, it seemed like pure genius: lift heavy; don’t eat.
Food is not the enemy
There I was, sipping a shake for breakfast and another shake for lunch, with a piece of fruit to snack on in between. My only other real food was a light supper. There are so many things wrong with this picture, but I’ll give you the highlights package.
You see, the system of shakes I was buying from a friend recommended supplementing the meal-replacement shakes with an additional protein powder and a fibre product. But I didn’t have money for those so I lived on the shakes alone for three months.
Because I was also working out, hard, my body got to the point where it started breaking down muscle tissue for fuel – not a point you ever want to get to. I was also constipated. Sexy.
What I didn’t realise was that you can still eat real food and lose weight. You just have to manage your portions and make healthy choices. The Shedding For The Wedding eating plan is based on macros – protein, carbs and fat.
You’re allowed a certain amount of each macro at each meal and you eat five times a day. As long as you stick to your allowances, you can still eat everything you enjoy, just in smaller quantities. It’s how I eat now and I’m in much better shape than I was when I was living off shakes.
I got back into my wedding dress for the Shedding For The Wedding promo shoot. It was looser than on my wedding day.
If you have to force it, it’s not for you
So back to that Springbok training schedule. I worked out five days a week, for about an hour each session, lifting heavy weights. At the time, I was not a morning person at all. But come 5:30am, there I was in the gym, with my fiancé, pumping iron.
I hated those early wake-ups. And as soon as that ring was on my finger, they stopped. Shedding For The Wedding’s workouts can be done at home with just a few basic pieces of equipment, allowing you a lot more flexibility.
Plus, the workouts are varied, so you’re not doing the same repetitive lifting day after day, week after week. That keeps it interesting and makes you more likely to stick with the programme.
READ MORE: 5 Moves that’ll boost your self-esteem
Quick fixes don’t last
And, in the end, did I reach my goal and lose the weight in time for my wedding? Hell yes. I was thrilled with how I looked on the day and proud of myself for sacrificing and working hard to make it happen. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
I remember practically diving into the buffet at our honeymoon hotel and savouring all the textured, chewy, delicious whole food that I had been deprived of. I ate constantly.
By the time I boarded the plane back home, I already had the beginnings of a boep. When I eventually saw a professional years later, he traced my 45% body fat back to that shake diet. Eish.
Because Shedding For The Wedding allows you to eat all the food you’d normally eat, it’s sustainable. Your weight loss may not be as quick and drastic as mine was, but it will be consistent and you’ll find it much easier to sustain beyond your goal date, whether that’s a wedding or something else.
And because you’re fuelling your workouts with proper food, you’ll build sexy muscle tone instead of breaking your muscles down.
I don’t regret losing weight for my wedding. I felt happy and confident on the day. Plus, those pictures last forever and I’m glad that I don’t cringe when I look back at them. But I do wish I had used a healthier method.
The lengths I went to for that one day set in motion a weight struggle that would last for years. Eleven years later, I’m lean and I feel even stronger and fitter than I did back then…and I’m eating lunch as I write this.
Want to try a weight-loss plan that actually works? Sign up for Shedding For The Wedding here.
This article was originally published on Women's Health.