In the last six years of photographing weddings I have heard many brides exclaim how they have never taken such good care of their bodies compared to the months leading up to their wedding. A lot of you have commented on my Twitter and Facebook updates about the fitness and beauty regimen I have been following to get myself feeling my best to walk down the aisle. And so, I wanted to share with you my plan in more detail with the hopes of inspiring your own goals.
Part 2 (exercise), Part 3 (beauty) and Part 4 (balance) to come!
As an adult, my weight seems to go up and down in two year cycles, typically around major life events. When it comes to food, I've always loved the social aspect of it- classic brunches with visiting company, lunch dates with business colleagues, wine & cheese nights with girlfriends. It honestly wasn't until I started working out twice a week with a personal trainer four years ago that I truly learned how food fuels our bodies and to be more responsible for each bite I take. My trainer Cindy Gotts at Body of Work in South Portland taught me to ask myself "How will this make me feel when I'm done?" before eating every thing. Will I feel satisfied? Guilty? It's all about making smart food choices.
When trying to trim down in the past I have had the best success when I've kept a food journal. Having to write everything down is a very powerful accountability tool. Do I really want to eat those tortilla chips (even tho nachos are my favorite food ever!) and have to write them down in my journal?
I usually start a food journal with fantastic discipline, but it's just not practical for me to carry around an actual notebook throughout the day. The next best step for me was joining a program like Weight Watchers or the Biggest Loser Club which both have food tracking programs online. I chose Weight Watchers (3 months for $60). Instead of carrying around a clumsy notebook, I am using WeightWatchers.com's mobile iPhone program to track what I eat throughout the day using their Points-based Momentum Plan (Every 50 calories is a single Point, 12 fat grams is a single Point, and for each fiber gram you take away 1/5th of a Point, up to a maximum of 4 fiber grams. The final Points value will be the total points rounded to the nearest whole number.).
And when I am at home with my laptop or at the studio I can logon to the website and add my meals (and exercise), too.
The website (which I find to be a bit confusing in general) also includes a weight tracker, message boards, inspirational and educational articles, an extensive recipe database and excellent meal ideas for each day. On Sundays, I select our meals for the week and the program generates a shopping list that I can print and take grocery shopping. Losing weight is hard work, but mostly because it takes so much time planning for the opportunity to make smart choices when it is time to eat. Weight Watchers makes the food part manageable. After four weeks, I'm shocked how little (good) food it takes to feel satisfied.
Two of our favorite recipes we have tried lately have been sweet potato pancakes...
And oat-baked onion rings. I would definitely recommend giving them both a try!
When I was younger I was tested for food allergies and recall being allergic to eggs, so thought it might be best to have some tests run again to be sure I wasn't constantly fighting an allergic reaction with the foods I chose. I had extensive blood tests done at True North in Falmouth (looking for alternative healthcare? I highly recommend it, but they don't accept insurance), and couldn't believe my results that proved a mild allergy to most (!) foods. Oy. In addition to my daily multi-vitamin, vitamin B supplement (for stress), I now also take a probiotic and a digestive enzyme (with each meal) to help with my food sensitivities (purchased either at True North or Whole Foods). I'm amazed how quickly the combination of the four pills has boosted my energy and calmed my "leaky gut."
I have been a vegetarian off-and-on since fourth grade (I have vivid memories learning how pigs were slaughtered in a class discussion after reading "A Day No Pigs Would Die." No, thank you!), more seriously in the last three years not having had any meat since I met J (he was vegan then!). I do eat seafood, and am lucky to live on the coast where I am guaranteed its freshness. I wouldn't say I've ever been a bad eater, but not eating meat makes getting the right protein a bit more challenging each day.
I start each morning with a fruit shake (use anything you have in your fridge- fresh or frozen berries, banana, pineapple, a little juice if you have it, and some Flax- in your blender), or bowl of Crispy Brown Rice cereal w/ Almond milk, or 1 egg (or 3 egg whites) with basil and a slice of toast, or fat-free yogurt and low-fat granola. I love the options for breakfast. Starting the day off with a satisfied tummy really sets the tone for the rest of the day. I can't remember the last time I had a Starbucks latte for breakfast, and I honestly don't miss it!
Mid-morning, I have a Kashi GoLean Crunchy bar (read the labels on all protein bars as they are all mostly packed with high protein but also high fat. This is the best tasting bar I have tried that has the least fat and calories) or an orange or grapes.
Lunch is usually a tuna fish sandwich in a low-fat tortilla wrap (again, read labels. One tortilla wrap equals the same calories as one piece of high fiber bread. So I'd rather choose the wrap than lose the extra points in a second piece of bread) with a small side salad. Or, I have one of the many yummy salads at the organic cafe below my studio, North Star Cafe, and add tofu.
If I'm feeling hungry in the afternoon, cheese used to be what I'd reach for. Too high in fat, it is no longer my go-to food (and rarely appears in my diet, except for in small amounts of feta on a salad, for instance). Edamame is a quick pick-me-up and a complete protein. We buy it bagged in the frozen section of the grocery store and stock our freezer so it's always on hand. If you have a hard time keeping fresh veggies (sliced cucumbers with a little salt & pepper also make a great afternoon snack. I call them my substitute "chips"), tossing a bag of edamame in the microwave to thaw is a fast fix. Orville Redenbacher's 94% fat free Smart Pop popcorn is another great snack to power me up for my evening workout (and comes in 100 calorie snack size bag).
Our dinners vary on the season, but always include some sort of protein (typically fish, tofu or tempeh), a vegetable (sweet potato, spinach, salad or asparagus are favorites) and a grain. I have a lot of black beans & rice (which equal a complex carbohydrate), but I'd encourage you to also switch it up with some other grains. In addition to short grain brown rice, we also often have quinoa (adds a great texture to salads) and barley (add a little parsley).
Late night, while watching tv or answering emails, I crave sweets. Jello's fat-free, sugar-free 5-minute instant pudding is always an easy option. Or, in the winter months, I often reach for a mug of hot chocolate. Be careful to read labels, however! The box on the left is Swiss Miss "diet," the one on the right is "no sugar added." There's a significant difference between the two, even tho a quick glance on the shelf makes them appear quite similar.
And last but not least, stay hydrated! I have a Poland Spring water cooler at the studio (delivery $6/month), and keep a Nathan aluminum water bottle full at all times (it has a straw, which I prefer to the other aluminum canteen style bottles. Much easier when driving, too). I purchased mine at Dick's Sporting Goods.
In addition to water, consume as many vegetables as you can every day. Keep your other portion sizes reasonable (the size of your fist per serving). And repeat the mantra, "eat less, move more" and you're well on your way to a healthier lifestyle and slimmer silhouette in that wedding dress!