Ask the Expert: Getting Healthy for the Wedding Day and Beyond

Local dietitian Carlene Thomas shares her tips to help brides look and feel their best.

Photograph courtesy of Carlene Thomas.

With so much pressure to look their best in time for the big day, brides sometimes forget about wellness, and many embark on extreme diets. Enter Carlene Thomas, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and the voice of reason behind the health-oriented lifestyle blog Healthfully Ever After. A self-proclaimed foodie, Thomas got invested in wedding wellness while planning her own wedding in 2011. “As I met with my vendors, many remarked that they wished they had someone like me to send their brides to. They were seeing dangerous crash dieting behaviors in the name of being skinny,” says Thomas.

Thomas now works with brides (and also does remote Skype sessions for those not local) to cheer them on to make healthy changes before and after the the wedding. The personalized sessions can include anything from what to order when you get takeout to where to host a healthy bridal shower, depending on the bride’s individual needs. The only thing Thomas won’t say “I do” to is diets. Instead, she encourages brides to stand tall and smile. “Confidence and positivity are a major part of how you look. Even just standing up straight with your shoulders back will help lengthen the way your body looks,” she says.

Read on for Thomas’s nutrition and wellness tips.

How do you work with brides to get them ready for their wedding?

It can be anything from a bride downloading my beauty food nutrition tip sheet which has meal plans and recipes, to working with me one-on-one to really get down to what behaviors they need to change to make health last beyond “I do.” I also do grocery tour dates, where we go item by item on a bride’s list to make sure she’s picking the best items possible. Or if she is totally lost by what to do for snacks, I shop and build personalized snack packs to make it super simple. 

What are some are some of the concerns you hear from brides?

The biggest hurdle I see brides facing is habitual non-hunger eating. From stress eating to eating because they are bored, many people are out of touch with their true physiological hunger needs. I analyze why it’s happening and give a bride the tools to change that habit instead of just saying, “Okay, stop snacking.” 

How about some of the biggest nutrition mistakes you see brides making?

Not eating enough! This sounds so counterintuitive, but if you are cutting calories to an extreme, your weight loss will plateau. The second part of that mistake is balancing and building meals so you feel satisfied. When a bride tells me she’s eating salad at lunch every day I dig deeper. If it’s just lettuce and dressing, we give it a salad makeover because she’s starving an hour later and will make a less-than-stellar choice for a snack. We accessorize the greens with something like sliced apple, shredded carrots, and a little goat cheese with chickpeas.

If you had only one tip for brides looking to look their best on their wedding day, what would it be?

Focus on shaping your plate. It’s not that you can’t have certain foods. That’s not realistic. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. It’s great for your skin, it keeps you full because of the fiber, and it’s wedding wellness awesome. Go for whole grains on a quarter of the plate, and the last bit should be lean protein like fish. This formula balances calories and nutrients in the smartest way possible.

Are there certain foods that brides should avoid eating before the wedding?

The week before the wedding is the time to cut out carbonated beverages, salty foods, and gas-forming foods like cabbage and broccoli, which can cause bloating or water retention. 

Can you suggest a wellness practice for a bride looking to lose a few pounds?

To really tighten things up for those last few pounds, make all of your food choices work for you. Pick protein for snacks, such as a hardboiled egg or edamame. Limit your grain choices to only whole grains for more fiber, and seek sweetness from fruit instead of your usual sugar fix.

What about if a bride is looking to boost her skin tone on the big day?

What you eat has lot to do with how your skin looks! Focus on beauty-boosting foods. Swap avocado for mayonnaise and spinach for romaine lettuce. Grab an orange for a to-go snack—it’s filled with vitamin C, which is important for your skin, and pair it with a handful of nuts, which have healthy fats for gorgeous hair. Turn your kitchen into a Sephora for beauty foods.