Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Some Thoughts on Wedding Weight Loss

So, disclaimer: I'm going to write about how I lost some weight before the wedding in this post. I totally do not want to reinforce that wedding industry pressure that all brides need to lose weight for their weddings. My diet & exercise efforts were kinda necessary for me (as you'll see below), but it's certainly not necessary for everybody! Okay, that's it. I just wanted to add a little prologue so this post doesn't come off like one of those incredibly annoying Facebook ads that stop just short of "Stop Eating, You Giant Fat Bride."


I've never been the type to worry excessively about my weight. This tendency is certainly helped by the fact that I'm naturally a fairly thin person, and I don't usually struggle to keep my weight stable. My mental attitude about my weight held true throughout most of our engagement. I had some vague thoughts and plans about wanting to look my best, but I felt pretty casual about it all. My general health philosophy is to make an overall habit of eating nutritious, non-processed food, to make a reasonable effort to exercise, and not to worry about it much beyond that.

You may recall that, for most of this year, I was in graduate school. I bought my wedding dress the summer before my master's degree program began, and then, over the course of that master's degree program, gained maybe......six pounds? Seven? Not just a teeny blip on the scale, but nothing really significant, either. It was mostly due to the fact that I was so busy with school that I barely exercised, and that I probably was a bit too enthusiastic about patronizing local businesses. Anyway, I noticed the weight gain, but was not particularly worried about it.

Then, in July, I made a trip to Pittsburgh, and I tried on my wedding dress for the first time since I'd bought it. And--yikes--it barely fit. It was so tight that my mom couldn't get the panel in the corset back to close securely; she had to do the laces first, and yank them tight, before the back would button closed. After the laces were done and the panel attached, I couldn't breathe comfortably, and that was when I was standing up. At one point, I sat down, and my stomach and ribs felt so constricted that I remember thinking, "I don't know how I will possibly be able to wear this dress all day."

July: I managed a smile between gasps for air.

After that, I knew that if I didn't focus a bit more closely on my diet & exercise regimen, I'd be almost unbearably uncomfortable on my wedding day.

Like I said, I usually strive to eat healthfully, especially with the foods Mr. Octo and I keep in the house. In the process of evaluating my diet, however, I realized that I have three particular issues:

I love eating huge breakfasts. I always wake up absolutely starving in the morning, and I adore breakfast food. It was not at all uncommon for me to kick off the day with two eggs, two pieces of toast, another side (bacon, fruit, or yogurt, usually), and a latte. I usually eat a really small lunch, but still. I am also a huge sucker for a bagel slathered with cream cheese, or a breakfast sandwich.

I eat a lot of dessert. For real, I have a Godzilla-esque sweet tooth. Up until the stuffed-into-my-dress situation, I was eating chocolate in some way, shape, or form every single day, no exaggeration. And, as I said above, I was indulging in some especially delicious neighborhood offerings much more frequently than is probably advisable.

I have no idea what an appropriate portion size is. When I started measuring, counting, and weighing my portions carefully (more on that below), I was straight-up stunned by how much I had been overeating.

So, here's what I did:

Kept careful track of what I ate. MOH/Sister Lauren has seen great results from counting Weight Watchers points, so I decided to try it too. I didn't officially register for the program, I just used an online points calculator, and kept a food journal so I could remember and count the points. I also weighed/measured/counted my portion sizes religiously, which was a crucial step. I was seriously shocked by how much I had been overeating, and how clueless I had been about what a proper portion was. Since, as I mentioned, we try to keep healthy food in the house, I never thought portions were a big deal. I mean, what's the problem with eating too much hummus, or almonds, or organic yogurt, or bananas, right? Yeah, no. Wrong. Once I started counting WW points, I tried to hit around 23 points per day, and quickly realized that beforehand, I must have been consuming 35 points a day, easily, if not more. 35+ points of mostly healthy food, but 35+ points all the same. Just those hearty breakfasts alone were EIGHTEEN POINTS. A snack of whole-grain Kashi cereal is still not good for you if you're eating twice as much as recommended, you know?

Drank tons and tons of water. I have heard that people often think they're hungry when they're actually thirsty, and that drinking water helps curb hungry feelings. I made sure to drink eight glasses of water per day, and it definitely worked for me.

Ate lots of vegetables
. Probably another weakness of mine is vegetable avoidance. I do like a good salad, but generally, I'm a pretty big slacker in making sure I eat enough veggies. I did some easy substitutions and add-ons, like having baby carrots with my Laughing Cow cheese wedge instead of crackers, or adding a side of steamed broccoli to my dinner. I also tried to eat a salad at some point every day. The bonus is that veggies are very low in Weight Watchers points, so I could eat lots of them and feel full without racking up points. I noticed that on days when I skimped on vegetables, I ended up feeling a lot hungrier all day.

Exercised four times a week. I used BuyWithMe to purchase a pass to a really fancy local gym, and I used the heck out of it. I also did my best to really push myself during workouts, and took a lot of fitness classes. I am often guilty of bopping around on the elliptical for twenty minutes--just enough to work up a light glow and a slightly elevated heart rate--and then calling it quits, but I wanted to do better than that.

Quit desserts cold turkey. I wavered off and on during August, but once September rolled around, I completely stopped eating my beloved sweets. I think cutting anything completely out of your diet, even dessert, is not a sustainable long-term choice, but I always intended to just take a hiatus.

And what do you know? It worked! Between my mid-July dress fitting and my late September wedding, I lost ten pounds!

Wedding day, breathing much easier (Corey Ann Photography).

Here's the thing, though. Before the wedding, physically, I felt great. I was energized, limber, and just felt really, really healthy. It didn't hurt that the results I was getting made me feel really confident about how I looked. However, I was beginning to go friggin' crazy from my exclusively healthy diet. I was DYING, dyiiiiiiing, to go feral on some French fries, or a cupcake, or a big sloppy bacon and egg sandwich. A person can only eat so much lean protein, non-refined carbs, and salad, ya heard? At one point, I MAY have insisted that Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie split an entire wheel of Brie cheese with me after the wedding.

After the wedding? I will go ahead and tell you that I've totally been binging. Starting with our honeymoon, any old food item that struck my fancy went straight down the hatch. I was in Vermont and Montreal, you guys, and I was not ABOUT to skip out on the cheese and beer and poutine and pain au chocolat. Then, after the honeymoon, I just......didn't stop. More cheese! More beer! More dessert! More bacon! Every pumpkin-flavored thing I set my eyes upon!

You know what I did stop, though? Exercising. Yes, my Healthworks pass expired, but there are other places and ways to exercise than a gym, but I just totally quit. Haven't exercised since the Wednesday before my wedding.

And you know what? I feel like crap. There is a big, noticeable difference between the way I felt before the wedding and how I feel now. I feel sluggish and tired and heavy. My posture sucks and my shoulders hurt. It's almost hard to explain, but I just feel different, bad different. I have already gained back five of the ten pounds I lost (in the eighteen days since my wedding!!) and I am not exactly pleased about that.

So, I think I've learned a valuable lesson in moderation. I was starting to go crazy without enjoying ANY of the delicious-but-unhealthy food pleasures life has to offer, but I'm also finding that it doesn't feel good to enjoy too much of them, either. Going forward, I'm going to continue to pay more attention to portion size, to eat lots of vegetables and drink lots of water, and to exercise regularly, because I loved how I felt before the wedding, and I want to pursue that. On the other hand, I'm not going to skip the occasional fried, cheese-covered, or chocolate-laden item, because seriously, a life totally devoid of cupcakes and French fries is not a life I want to live.

Are you trying to meet any physical goals? Newlyweds (I know you're out there, still reading!), did you overindulge after your wedding too?


  1. I tried to lose weight for the wedding without much luck. It's like I didn't have room in my brain to handle it. Now that the wedding is over, I've been able to focus on all the things you've listed. Insanely annoying how simple it is. I use Sparkpeople to track, which is free and awesome, and I am down 6ish pounds since the wedding. I feel pretty good about that. I am just trying to be as healthy as possible. In the end, that's good for my life and my marriage.

  2. Haha, I felt the EXACT same way! I was like, oh, so, eating less (but more healthy food) and exercising more really IS all there is to it. How irritating.