Feb. 8. 2018
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Congratulations! You’re recently engaged. Let’s talk about the best wedding diet there is.

Let’s set the scene: you’re engaged, planning a wedding, pinning wedding inspiration, gushing about this happy time, all while wanting to feel your best. So, you start reading more blogs and you may even type in google “wedding diets” to find ways to help you feel your best and look your best. Hopefully, that’s why you made it here and we’re glad you’re with us.

“Lose 5 pounds in 1 week!”, “Try this must have lemon diet for glowing skin!”, “Lose weight fast before the big day!” — the list goes on. There are apps, websites, challenges, meal plans, books, blogs, articles — all dedicated to wedding weight loss. This phenomenon has even been dubbed the “Bridal Hunger Games”. During engagement time, you’ve probably seen so many of these outlandish promises and claims of the best wedding diet left and right leading up to the big day.

The wedding industry has this all wrong — there’s so much stress, negativity, and guilt tied to one of the happiest times of your life — while “telling you” that you need to do all of these things to be the best bride/wife/partner when actually you’re already there. What matters most is showing up for yourself fully by taking care of yourself with nourishing food, a positive mindset, movement, and paying attention to all the pillars of health.

The Best Wedding Diet

The best wedding diet is not a detox, cleanse, trial, or insert any other restrictive plan that doesn’t teach you healthy living and eating, for life. The best wedding diet is a lifestyle change that stems from a shift in mindset, and showing up for yourself in how you eat, how you move, and how you love the body that you’re in every single day.

Taking Care of Yourself

Whether you’re having a long or short engagement, this may be one of the busiest and most exciting times of your life — and also a time where stress has more opportunities to present itself with juggling tasks and “normal” life. We know this is the time when self-care falls by the wayside because you may reprioritize other things above taking care of yourself (i.e. making that last catering call, interviewing photographers, finding the dress, etc.).

Self-care can be simple; taking care of yourself doesn’t require fancy massages or manicures every week — though, those are nice too. Taking care of yourself means checking in with yourself every day and making sure you’re getting what you need to be your best self — mentally, physically and spiritually.

You’ll want to look back on this time and savor it, and spreading yourself too thin runs the risk of doing the opposite.

10 Things to Do Instead of Starting a Wedding Diet

No. 1 — Hydrate

Making sure that you’re properly hydrated every day is one of the easiest ways to look your best. Water is responsible for every process in the human body (1) which is pretty amazing for something that many of us take for granted.

You may feel hungry when you’re actually thirsty. Staying hydrated not only keeps your hunger cues more accurate, but you’re also more likely to not mistake thirst for hunger. Water also has been shown to increase thermogenesis, which may aid in weight loss. (2) As a baseline to start from, aim for at least 10 cups/day and adjust based on your needs. You’ll need to increase that amount if you exercise and sweat, if you’re active throughout the day, if you’re not eating enough water containing foods, or if you eat a high fiber diet.

If you’re not drinking enough water you may not be giving your body enough fuel to combat everyday stresses, fight fatigue, keep your digestion moving, your metabolism efficient, supple skin, along with many others. Whether it’s experiencing sweating in the summer heat or dry skin in the winter chill, water is key to keeping our bodies healthy on a cellular level. Read more in the Spotlight on Water.

The must-try wedding diet of the season

No. 2 — Focus On Foods That Nourish You

The NS food philosophy is about teaching you how to listen and honor your body by focusing on the best nutrient-dense food nature has to offer (hello hundreds of recipes!) — and yes, that could be while you’re enjoying a glass of wine, pizza out with girlfriends, or whatever your jam is. There are hundreds of way to feel nourished. This is the first area of wellbeing to slack when you start a strict diet, detox, or cleanse.

Whole foods — the basics like spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and citrus in the produce aisle — along with plant-based proteins and nuts and seeds offer amazing health benefits that your body needs every day. Click here to download the Guide to Stock Your Kitchen to take the guesswork out of your next grocery trip.

No. 3  — Get Enough Sleep

I know you’re excited, and I know you’re busy, but sleep is absolutely key to taking care of yourself during this time so that you can look and feel your best. Studies have shown that quality sleep is vital to our well-being, making it an important time to address nutrition and lifestyle choices that surround it.

Lack of sleep has been associated with fat gain, (3) weight gain, (4) and general obesity. (5) It can also affect cognition, insulin sensitivity, (6)(7)(8)(9)(10) androgens, (11)(12) thyroid hormones, (13)(14)(15) and growth hormone (14)(16)(17). Poor sleep can also make us less likely to experience positive emotions—i.e. feel amazing—and may increase the likelihood of depression. (18) Read more about how to get the best beauty sleep every night.

No. 4 — Develop The Art of Chill — And Stress Management

Relaxation looks different for each of us, but it’s something that you’re going to need to be able to tap into during this time in your life — and really, for the rest of your life. Chilling out — i.e. managing stress and relaxation — is a key part of a balanced life because stress can ultimately decrease your health (19). When you’re stressed, you run the risk of getting run down with low immunity, (20) and you can even gain weight. (21)

While there are things you can do to plan for stress and potentially eliminate it before it happens, there are certain situations and events that can be inevitable. Read more about simple stress management techniques.

No. 5 — Cut Back On Eating Out

It’s no secret that food from restaurants — everything from fast food, casual and formal dining — can compromise your healthy eating goals. Processed fillers, refined sugars, and questionable additives can be used, all with no knowledge to you. Not to mention, eating out isn’t as cost-effective as dining in. Do yourself a favor and cut back on the number of times you’re eating out or getting take out, during this time.

No. 6 — Meal Plan!

Meal planning is an effective strategy that helps you stick to your healthy eating goals while saving you time, energy and money. When meal planning, you can learn to be efficient by cooking 1-2 hours one day of the week instead of cooking each meal, every day. It also eliminates decision fatigue “what am I going to make for dinner?”, “should I do take out?”, “What do I want to eat?”, etc. You’ll be saving money as you learn to be more strategic and resourceful with ingredients, and reducing food waste.

Meal planning can introduce you to diverse foods, meal choices, and dietary lifestyles through creative, versatile combinations. If you’re into it, but don’t know where to start, check out the Introduction to Meal Planning to get started. Already joined us? Become a pro.

No. 7 — Move Your Body In A Way That You Love, Every Day

Moving your body will help you avoid health problems, enjoy the power of endorphins, sleep better, and feel like a total badass from the progress you make. It’s an incredibly empowering practice to work past the little voice in your head and work up a good sweat. Not to mention, it’s the ultimate way to show love and gratitude to your working body.

Find a way to move your body that you really enjoy — whether that’s yoga, long walks or hiking, running, pilates, HIIT circuits, boxing or barre. When you embrace movement as a form of play, rather than something you’re putting our body through, it can be an empowering and enjoyable part of your daily routine. Check out Movement for specific workouts to get started.

No. 8 — Start a Gratitude Journal

Did you know that gratitude journaling can boost your health? It can help ground you, lower stress, and help you stay on track with your health goals when you feel content and satisfied — and excited! Gratitude is also an incredible connection point between people, and it helps strengthen relationships. It helps you live in the present moment and can be a powerful tool to lean on while you’re planning a wedding.

No. 9 — Check-In With Yourself On The Self-Talk

Self-talk is incredibly important at this time. How are you talking to yourself in your head? Are you embracing each day with joy, positivity, and hope, or are you bringing yourself down with guilt, stress or anxiety? You ultimately decide what energy you’re bringing to the table, and you have the power to shine a light. I’ve found daily mantras to be a simple, effective way to improve self-talk, no matter what the situation is or what the day brings me.

No. 10 — Surround Yourself With Support

If you have someone in your ear making you feel like you have to lose those 5-10 lbs before your next dress fitting, or have someone stressing you out about your meal plans, check in. Your squad is essential to feeling your best every day, and if yours is not supportive, do what you can to distance yourself from the negativity. Surround yourself with people that lift you up, help you be present and celebrate every day, and make the most of this time in your life.


  1. Barry M. Popkin, Kristen E. D’Anci, and Irwin H. Rosenberg. (Aug 2001). Water, Hydration, and Health.
  2. Michael Boschmann, Jochen Steiniger, Uta Hille, Jens Tank, Frauke Adams, Arya M. Sharma ,Susanne Klaus, Friedrich C. Luft, Jens Jordan. (01 December 2003). Water-Induced Thermogenesis.
  3. Yi, Nakagawa, Yamamoto, Mizoue, Takahashi, Noda and Matsushita. Short sleep duration in association with CT-scanned abdominal fat areas: the Hitachi Health Study.
  4. Park SE, Kim HM, Kim DH, Kim J, Cha BS, Kim DJ. The association between sleep duration and general and abdominal obesity in Koreans: data from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2001 and 2005.
  5. Hairston, Bryer-Ash, Norris, Haffner, Bowden, Wagenknecht. Sleep duration and five-year abdominal fat accumulation in a minority cohort: the IRAS family study.
  6. Knutson. Oct 2010. Sleep duration and cardiometabolic risk: a review of the epidemiologic evidence.
  7. Najafian, Toghianifar, Mohammadifard, Nouri. Jun 2011. Association between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome in a population-based study: Isfahan Healthy Heart Program.
  8. Choi, Kim MY, Kim JK, Park, Oh, Koh, Eom. Nov 2011. Association between short sleep duration and high incidence of metabolic syndrome in midlife women.
  9. Leproult, Copinschi, Buxton, Van Cauter. Oct 1997. Sleep loss results in elevation of cortisol levels the next evening.
  10. Reynolds, Dorrian, Liu, Van Dongen, Wittert, Harmer, Banks. July 2012. Impact of Five Nights of Sleep Restriction on Glucose Metabolism, Leptin, and Testosterone in Young Adults.
  11. Penev. Apr 2007. Association between sleep and morning testosterone levels in older men.
  12. Caine-Bish, Potkanowics, Otterstetter, Marcinkiewicz, Kamimori, Glickman. 2005. The effect of cold exposure on the hormonal and metabolic responses to sleep deprivation.
  13. Opstad, Falch, Oktedalen, Fonnum, Wergeland. June 1984. The thyroid function in young men during prolonged exercise and the effect of energy and sleep deprivation.
  14. Sadamastu, Kato, Iida, Takahashi S, Sakaue, Takahashi K, Hashida, Ishikawa. Aug 1995. The 24-hour rythms in a plasma growth hormone, prolactin, and thyroid stimulating hormone: effect on sleep deprivation.
  15. Gronfier, Luthringer, Follenius, Schaltenbrand, Macher, Muzet, Brandenberger. Dec 1996. A quantitative evaluation of the relationships between growth hormone secretion and delta wave electroencephalographic activity during normal sleep and after enrichment in delta waves.
  16. Sassin, Parker, Mace, Gotlin, Johnson, Rossman. 1969. Human growth hormone release; relation to slow-wave sleep and sleepwalking cycles.
  17. Takahashi, Kipnis, Daughaday. Sept 1968. Growth hormone secretion during sleep.
  18. Ford, Kamerow. Epidemiologic study of sleep disturbances and psychiatric disorders. An opportunity for prevention?
  19. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). STRESS AND HEALTH: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants.
  20. Suzanne C. Segerstrom and Gregory E. Miller. (Feb 2006). Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry.
  21. Moyer, Rodin J, Grilo CM, Cummings N, Larson LM, Rebuffé-Scrive M. (1994). Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women.


Further reading, right this way —

  1. 10 Fitness Experts Share Their Philosophy On Being Fit And Healthy, Nutrition Stripped
  2. How to Feel Amazing, Nutrition Stripped
  3. Here’s How to Prioritize Yourself Even When You’re Busy, Nutrition Stripped
  4. 6 Ways to Give More and Show Up For Yourself, Nutrition Stripped
  5. Guide to Manifesting What You Want and Need, Nutrition Stripped

Let’s Chat

What do you think? Have you been swept up in the frenzy to lose weight before your wedding? What tips and tricks have you found that help center you, keep you grounded and help you further your health goals? Leave a comment below — others in the NS Community may need to hear it! Connect with NS on Instagram, too, by tagging @NutritionStripped and #NutritionStripped.