In the U.S., we have obsessions about bridal body image. And our sad extreme is called brideorexia. Here's how to feel fabulous, no matter what the scale says.

By Shaun Chavis
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I recently read a friend's blog about bride-fattening farms―where young girls in Africa are tortuously forced to overeat in order to gain weight to please their future husbands. (There are 12-year-olds weighing 175 pounds!) In the U.S., we have obsessions about bridal body image, too. But we work to lose weight—not gain it—for that big day. And our sad extreme, instead of obesity, is called brideorexia.

More than 70% of engaged women want to lose weight, according to a Cornell University study. And 40% of them tried unhealthy strategies like skipping meals, making themselves throw up, or smoking. On average, engaged women who want to lose weight set a goal of 23 pounds. But, on average, they lose eight. And, most brides in the Cornell study were within a healthy BMI range to begin with.

Is that a failure? I don't think any bride should walk down the aisle feeling anything less than fabulous, no matter what the scale says.



So how do you go about losing weight before your wedding, while making sure you look and feel great, too? It's a no-brainer: Find a sensible, healthy diet you can follow. Try our Feel Great Weight plan, check out our Diet Guide, or use this Wedding-Ready Work Out. I put out some informal calls to experts in the wedding business—people who've seen the best and worst—for their stories and advice.

Though they all had different stories, the experts were unanimous about one thing—it's not a good idea to order a dress smaller than your current size. Taking in a dress is much easier than to letting it out.

Elaine Parker of Weddings With Elan in Nashville, Tennessee, told me about a size 14 bride who insisted on ordering a size 12 wedding dress. By the week of her wedding the bride was between sizes 16–18. The bride and Parker ended up scouring the city for lace and dye to match her gown so a seamstress could put panels in both sides of the dress.

There were some great success stories, too. One bride lost 70 pounds before her wedding and worked closely with her seamstress throughout her weight loss to get the dress of her dreams.

Here are five no-fail tips for brides-to-be (and anyone who wants to lose weight for a big event):

  • Get a reality check. "If the bride wants to lose weight, I suggest her goal should be one dress size only. When she goes in for her fittings, it's much easier for the seamstress to adjust for one size rather than two." —Stephanie Rochelle, Entertain With Ease, Novi, MI
  • Give yourself plenty of time. "Start losing weight between six and nine months before the wedding. At four months, switch to weight maintenance and order the gown. It can take up to three months for a gown to arrive." —Rhonda Allen, New Beginnings Weddings, Atlanta GA
  • Let your dress do the work. "Purchase a gown with a corset back. This allows more flexibility to gain or lose a little weight. It will also save the bride money by not having to do alterations on small weight losses. Maggie Sottero is one designer who has a beautiful collection of corset gowns to choose from." —Lori Melin and Audrey Byrnes, P.W. Jitters Bridal Boutique, Rosedale, CA
  • Try your dress on—often! "If you are dieting, stay on top of doing alterations and periodically going in for fittings. If you are losing weight, then keep an eye on the fit of your dress." —Shafonne Myers, Making Your Events Special, Richmond, VA
  • Don't be afraid to eat. "My biggest concern is that the bride eat healthfully, especially on the day of the wedding. With nerves boiling over and concerns over how they will look in the gown, many brides avoid eating on their wedding day. Brides need to understand it is a very long and arduous day! They need to eat in order to keep their emotions in balance and to keep from passing out at the altar. I usually suggest a continental breakfast of mini-bagels and lots of assorted sliced fruits. Girls can graze all morning and not feel like they're overeating. A little mimosa toast also helps give the perfect start to the day." —Katy Baker, Adagio Weddings & Events, Sacramento, CA