Health  |  Weddings

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Getting in Kickass Shape for Your Wedding

Whether your focus is getting healthy, toning up, or just maintaining your sanity, these expert tips can help.

The venue’s locked in and you’ve reserved the photographer. On your list of to-dos, it’s important to add yourself, too. Whether your focus is getting healthy, losing weight, toning those arms, or just maintaining your sanity, these expert tips can help.

To get in serious in shape, “it’s about sustaining weight loss, not temporary weight loss,” says Emily Newman, a personal trainer and certified health and nutrition coach in Alexandria. Based on a one-year interval from proposal to wedding day, here are Newman’s tips for meeting your goals, sans the crash diet.

One Year


Twelve months out, start with small changes: protein at every meal, sweet potatoes instead of French fries, Greek yogurt with fresh fruit instead of yogurt with fruit on the bottom. Newman suggests adding fiber through low-glycemic fruits and veggies like berries and asparagus, and reaching more for water, less for diet soda.


Start “leisure” walking, at around 3½ miles per hour (a.k.a. gossiping pace with bridesmaids). A study by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology suggests that leisure walking lowers levels of cortisol, that pesky hormone released during times of stress (ahem, wedding planning) which can lead to weight gain. Shoot for 30 to 60 minutes a day, every day, and try to get outside—the study showed that cortisol levels dropped even further when walking in a natural setting.

Six Months


Newman advocates learning about the “carbohydrate tipping point,” a food philosophy that says you don’t need to eliminate carbs but should be smart about when you eat them as well as how much and what kind. When you eat carbs after a workout—especially a strength one—they are used to build muscle rather than being stored as fat. Think in terms of bites, and aim for no more than ten bites of carbs at a meal. Fill your plate with unlimited non-starchy vegetables and low-glycemic fruits, but be sure to count anything else, whether it’s a whole grain, white grain, or bean.


Keep up the leisure walking, and add more intensity at the gym. Newman suggests metabolic conditioning, which combines weights with cardio and leads to lean and toned results without losing muscle. Metabolic workouts take 30 minutes but can torch up to 500 calories, leaving more time to perfect your wedding website.

Three Months


Continue the carbohydrate tipping point diet, and be more strategic about eating by meal-planning with your partner. Cut back on “cheat” meals—Newman recommends bending the rules no more than twice a month.


To your metabolic workouts and walking, add three high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions per week. Mitch Batkin, senior vice president at US Fitness in McLean, recommends you pick a cardio machine, such as the treadmill or elliptical, and after a five-minute warm-up, go all out for one minute, then jog or walk for two. Aim to get your heart rate in the 80- to-90-percent zone for 20 to 30 minutes—studies show this can lead to a spike in metabolism for up to 48 hours. Translation? You’ll burn calories while you’re dreaming of your honeymoon.

One Month


Your stress level is likely high. Consider a meal-prep service to reduce the hassle that comes with cooking, or follow what Newman calls “cook once, eat four times”: prep one food that can be used for four meals. Her go-to? Chicken breasts. Bake a pack of four, and use the chicken shredded in a low-carb wrap with veggies for lunch one day, in a salad the next. The week before your wedding, Newman suggests adding dandelion to your diet to reduce water retention. The herb is a natural diuretic and can be taken as a vitamin or steeped as tea.


Keep walking to manage stress, and add a metabolic workout each week. Drop down to two weekly HIIT workouts to free up time for last-minute errands.

This article appears in the Summer/Fall 2018 issue of Washingtonian Weddings.

Kim Olsen

Kim Olsen ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Alexandria.