Every bride-to-be knows that planning for your big day is a big deal full of big decisions. But when it comes to getting photo-ready for your dream wedding, it’s all about looking and feeling your absolute best. That means moving your pre-nuptial fitness plan to the top of that wedding checklist. And since not all wedding dresses (or bodies) are created equally, how you exercise matters – especially if you’re looking to achieve a toned look without any added bulk.

With South Florida’s wedding season traditionally ramping up in the Fall, now is the time to kick your health and fitness into high gear. By following these helpful hints, you’re sure to trim down and tone up in time to tie the knot!

Find The Right Workout Plan

Many brides are on a mission to shed unwanted pounds and tone up before the big day. To achieve your desired result, we recommend combining cardio exercise (jog, cycle, dance, whatever) about three times a week with a strength training routine (lifting weights are key to this operation!) three to four times a week. Increasing muscle tone increases your metabolism, which improves your ability to burn calories even at rest. If getting to the gym is a challenge, try doing pushups at home or investing in small weights (5-10 lbs) and doing a few sets of bicep curls or shoulder presses. Squats and lunges are also a great way to build up the muscle tone in your legs.

Going for a strapless dress? Then it’s time to focus on shaping those shoulders and arms. Opting for a backless number? Well, then it’s those often-neglected back muscles that need a little extra TLC. Pilates is the perfect complement to hone in on those areas that will be on full display to your guests and the many cameras.

Watch Those Calories

Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. Losing a pound or two a week is reasonable, as is eating a well-balanced diet. That means there’s no need to ditch all carbs. But now is the time to choose your calories wisely. Before engagement and bridal festivities (hello high-calorie cocktails and sweet treats!), make sure to drink lots of water and fill up on healthy snacks so you are less likely to overindulge. Bottom line: plan ahead. Oh, and put a pic of your dress on the refrigerator to remind yourself that’s it all worth it. And remember: it’s not about starving yourself into a stick skinny frenzy. It’s about becoming the most confident, radiant version of you!

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Start Early
The early bird gets the worm, especially when it comes to whipping yourself into wedding shape. Most brides begin wedding planning at least 6 months out, the perfect time to get your booty in gear. It takes 8-10 weeks for the body to respond to a consistent strength-training program, and longer to really see and feel those physical changes and muscle definition. So get moving.

On the food front, we know that healthy and sustainable weight loss is 1-2 pounds a week. In other words, this is not the time to wait until the last second and then cut all carbs in a last-ditch effort to lose weight. Nobody wants to feel grumpy or deprived on such an important day, and going carbless as a last-minute resort can affect energy levels, mood and cravings. Find a well-balanced eating plan that works for you, and stick to it. You will thank yourself later.

Reduce Stress & Take Time For Yourself

This is the last – but certainly not least – piece of the puzzle. While wedding planning can be super stressful, we know that thanks to the stress hormone cortisol, stress and weight loss are closely linked. When we are under stress, and our bodies go into fight or flight mode, it is much harder to lose fat. Plus, stress can suppress the immune system, and cause weight gain, cravings, mood swings and illness in general.

Do your best, but don’t make yourself crazy. You will be a beautiful, glowing bride no matter how many squats you do and calories you count. Pick a flattering wedding dress, relish in the love of family and friends…oh, and opt for that open bar.