Every bride wants to feel her best on that special day. Even though my now-husband and I chose to elope (which was the best decision of my life, but that's another story entirely) and there was nothing traditional about our wedding day, I still felt compelled to whip myself into shape in time for the ceremony. Having hired our dream photographer and having received my dream dress, I realized that getting married to the man I love was going to be a momentous, memorable occasion — and I wanted to feel and look as great as I possibly could.
I already work out a lot. I go to the gym six days a week, and sometimes I'll do two-a-days. For example, I'll do strength training in the early morning and then go back for a cycling class in the evening after work. My greatest love is weightlifting and that's where the majority of my time and effort goes in terms of fitness. But I knew that I would have to up my cardio, because while developing all the lean muscle from lifting helped me lose weight in the past, I wanted to burn more calories in order to shed that last layer of fat.
The first thing I changed was how much cardio I was doing. Rather than just doing it three or four times a week, I increased it to five sessions. I did two interval running classes, two cycling classes, and one HIIT session. But I wasn't willing to give up my six-day-a-week weightlifting program, so I simply added this on top of what I was already doing.
I admit that this resulted in spending a lot of time at the gym, but I already love to work out (yep, I'm one of those people), and it's an activity my husband and I like to share together. He's a marathon runner, so adding in some extra run sessions meant we got to spend even more quality time together, and it was such a rewarding thing to do leading up to our wedding.
The biggest change of all, though, came from adjusting my diet. I've done intermittent fasting before, and the results have always been positive for me — less bloating, more energy, and healthy weight loss. I decided to pick up this diet once again, only a more modified version of it. I chose the 16/8 plan, which is to fast every day for 16 hours and only eat during an eight-hour window, but I decided to follow this rule Monday through Friday. I wanted my weekends to remain normal so I didn't have to worry about adjusting my social life.
I love to eat in the morning, so I decided to eat between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. each weekday. That essentially meant that I would eat breakfast and lunch, but skip dinner. This worked out well for me because I lift weights in the morning, and getting a good amount of protein and carbs in my system after a big strength-training session is crucial for muscle gain, so eating during the first part of the day worked out perfectly.
These two pictures were taken a month apart. During that time, I lost belly fat, trimmed my legs (especially my thighs), lost mass around my upper arms and chest, and, even though you can't see it, shaped up my back, which was especially important because my wedding dress was backless. As important as it is to exercise regularly if you're trying to lose weight, in my experience, the true change comes from switching up your diet.
I may have been fasting 16 hours a day, but that doesn't mean I was depriving myself of calories or going hungry. In fact, I ate more than 2,000 calories every day, but I would just group my eating during the day before 4 p.m. This gave my body ample time to fully digest everything before eating again, so I experienced no bloating whatsoever, and I woke up every morning with a flat tummy. Plus, this made me more mindful of the kinds of foods I was eating; I snacked a lot less and gave up all processed and packaged foods. When you're only eating during such a small window each day, you don't have really have time to waste on crappy food that will make you feel terrible.
It may sound miserable to skip dinner every weeknight, but I got used to it within a few days. And this may sound strange, but it felt really nice to go to sleep on an empty stomach each night for a change. It helped me sleep soundly, straight through the night, since my body wasn't working overtime to digest a huge dinner. I initially thought I would wake up insanely hungry, but I woke up with boundless energy and I had no problem getting through my morning workout before digging into a nutritious meal.
The extra weight came off pretty quickly, and within a month, I was feeling like my most confident self. My legs really toned up from all the extra running, which showed through the long slits on the side of my dress. More importantly, though, I felt like I was glowing. My digestion was better than ever, I was getting stronger and stronger in the gym, and I even built up my endurance in my running sessions. I woke up on my wedding day feeling like a total badass.
By no means am I saying that every bride should subscribe to this kind of diet and fitness plan. What you eat and what kind of workouts you do leading up to your wedding doesn't change the beautiful fact that you've found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. I just chose to follow this regimen because I knew I could and because I was up for the challenge. I'm really grateful I did, too, because I actually fell in love with this version of intermittent fasting.
My wedding was two weeks ago, and I'm still following my weekday fasting plan. I eat normally on the weekends, but Monday through Friday, I eat all 2,000 of my calories before 4 p.m. (unless there is some kind of weekday evening event I'm going to, like my monthly book club potluck). I'm still feeling fantastic, so I have a feeling I'll stick with this for a long time.
At the end of the day, my wedding was full of joy and laughter (and tears on my end), and that was because my husband and I were thrilled to start a life and announce our commitment to one another. But having a toned figure I worked my ass off for and feeling fitter than ever before? That was definitely the very sweet cherry on top.