Everyone says that they’ll get in shape “someday.”
A wedding turns “someday” into “right now.”
You can invest in the fanciest venue. You can have the most beautiful flowers. But at the end of the day, people are focused on how you look.
This is a chance to show your future husband or wife that you’re going to be the best you can be for them. When you make your vows, you want to look like someone who can keep their promises.
There are two ways to approach wedding weight loss, and the approach you choose will have a huge impact on your long-term success.
The Wrong Way To Lose Weight For A Wedding
The intuitive thing to do, if you want to look your best at the wedding, is to go “all in” and see how much weight you can lose before the big day.
This usually means relying on motivation and willpower in order to stick to a rigid plan. Maybe you never used to work out, and now you commit to running every single day. You choose a restrictive fad diet like keto or Whole30. Or you just plain starve yourself.
While this approach can work, it’s definitely not sustainable. In fact, you’ll probably just wreck your metabolism and end up gaining all the weight back -- and more -- once the wedding is over.
If all you want to do is be as skinny as possible on the wedding day, then it doesn’t really matter what approach you take.
But if your goal is to use this wedding as a catalyst for becoming the best father, wife, partner, etc. that you can be....well, then we need to take an approach that you can actually stick with and build upon once the wedding is over.
The good news is that you can lose just as much weight using a sustainable approach. In fact, you’ll end up looking even better on the wedding day. The key is focusing on your habits.
Taking A Habit-Based Approach To Weight Loss
What does it look like to play the long game when it comes to weight loss?
It means creating a series of habits that allows you to lose weight without relying on willpower. And it means actually working on yourself. When you do that, you create a foundation that lasts well beyond your wedding day.
There are three things that matter when it comes to weight loss:
Fuel (hydration, nutrition, mindful eating)
Inner Game (sleep, stress, your relationship with yourself)
Training (daily movement, strength training)
Each week for the next 8 weeks we’re going to add a new habit in one of the above three areas.
Our goal is to lose 1-2 pounds each week on average. If you get everything else right, you can lose 16+ pounds. Keep in mind that weight loss isn’t always linear. You may have weeks where you lose more and weeks where you lose less.
Even if you just follow the plan 80% of the time, it’s totally realistic for you to lose 10 pounds by the end of this 60 day period. After that, you can either keep losing weight or you can focus on maintaining while you make other wedding arrangements.
Let’s take a look at what you’ll be doing each week over the next 60 days…
WEEK 1: Drink 60-90 ounces of water each day
We’ve all heard how important it is to stay hydrated from a health perspective.
But proper hydration also plays a key role in fat loss. You’re less likely to confuse thirst for hunger when you’re drinking enough water.
If you think of your body like a car, water is like the oil and food is like the gas. A poorly lubricated engine leads to increased fuel consumption. Similarly, not drinking enough water leads to overeating.
How much water is enough? A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 180 pounds, you should be drinking 90 ounces of water. Anything above 90 ounces tends to get ridiculous though, which is why I recommend 60-90 ounces.
Here are some easy ways to stay hydrated:
Fill up a water bottle or glass of water at night. Put it somewhere you’ll see it in the morning. One of the most critical times to hydrate is right when you wake up, since you likely won’t have had water in the last 8-9 hours. When you wake up, you’ll have a visual reminder to hydrate before you eat breakfast or drink coffee.
Drink a big glass of water before every meal. Many of us confuse thirst with hunger and, as a result, we end up eating more than we really need to. This is why I like to focus on hydration with clients before we tackle diet. If you get bored of drinking plain water all day, but you don’t want the empty calories that come with soda, alcohol, or juice, I highly recommend drinking seltzer with fresh lemon or lime.
Bring a portable water bottle with you during the day. It will help you measure your water intake and you’ll be more likely to drink when you have water on hand. Get a bottle that you really like. I use one from a company called Hidrate that tracks my water intake through an app and reminds me to drink. Yes, it’s kind of nerdy. But it works.
Here’s an easy way to track your water intake with a normal water bottle: figure out how many ounces are in your water bottle, and how many bottles you need to have throughout the day in order to hit your goal. Then put that number of rubber bands around the water bottle and remove one each time you refill the bottle.
For the purposes of this challenge, I don’t recommend tracking the coffee or tea that you drink.
If you are already 100% sure that you are drinking enough water, then your bonus challenge for the week is to cut out all calorie-containing beverages. Just drink water, tea, seltzer, and coffee.
After you’ve tracked your water intake for this week, you can use a handy (and kind of weird) trick to remind yourself to hydrate…
If you go to the bathroom and your pee is more yellow (versus more clear), then you’re probably not drinking enough.
Don’t worry about food or exercise right now. Remember that we’re going to be adding a new habit each week. So start strong and focus on locking this one in.
WEEK 2: Do 20 minutes of movement each day
Most people commit to doing too much when they start an exercise habit. They tell themselves they’re going to work out hard for 1-2 hours every day. They might be able to stick with this for a week or two. But eventually they’re going to fail.
Because it doesn’t matter if you have the best training program in the world if you can’t adhere to it.
So before you try to optimize your training, I suggest you build the habit of moving consistently.
The easiest way to do this, counterintuitively, is to exercise a little bit every day. When you try to start with longer workouts 2-3 days per week, it’s actually harder to make exercise a habit because some days you’re doing it, and other days you aren’t. Your brain has more trouble creating a strong association.
Here’s how to create a daily movement habit:
Start small by doing just 20 minutes a day of something you enjoy. It could be walking, yoga, soccer, weight lifting, whatever. When in doubt, just choose walking. Don’t force yourself to do something you hate. If 20 minutes is unrealistic, shoot for 10 or 15. If you already do 20 minutes each day, increase that to 25 or 30.
Schedule that activity into your calendar and treat it like you would any other important appointment. It doesn’t matter when you exercise - morning, afternoon, or evening - as long as you do it at the same time every day. If social accountability is something that motivates you, invite a friend. If you don’t have any extra time, try to add movement in to things that you already do (e.g. biking to work instead of driving).
Reschedule that appointment with yourself if life gets in the way. Don’t just skip it and move on. It’s okay to miss once, but don’t make it a pattern by missing twice.
Don’t worry about pushing yourself super hard during these workouts. Remember that consistency, not intensity, is what matters at this stage.
This approach may not seem as exciting as going all in, but it works much better.
Once you’ve proven to yourself that you can fit in some sort of movement every day for a few weeks, then we’ll talk about about how to maximize that time.
WEEK 3: Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night
Lack of sleep shifts your hormonal balance away from those that promote fullness and towards those that promote hunger. Bottom line: it’s very hard to lose weight without adequate sleep.
Adequate sleep = 7-9 hours every night. None of this “I’ll make up for it on the weekend” crap.
Here are three things you can do today to get better sleep:
Set a “wind-down” alarm on your phone. Have it go off at least one hour before you want to go to bed. When it goes off, dim the lights and stop using all electronics. Put your cell phone in another room and replace the TV with a book. Personally, I like to read fiction at night since non-fiction keeps my brain working. When my reading comprehension goes down and my eyes start to gloss over, I know I’m ready to sleep.
Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Don’t do anything else in your bed except sleep, read, and have sex - otherwise you will start to associate your bed with wake-fullness. Also, keep your bedroom as cold and dark as possible. I sleep best under the covers, in just my boxers, with the A/C set to 64 degrees or lower. Use light blocking shades and put black electric tape over any electronic readout or light source.
No caffeine after 2pm. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours, so this change alone can make a huge difference for the quality and quantity of your sleep. If you need help relaxing before bed, try drinking chamomile or lemon balm tea. If you’re traveling somewhere with a time difference, you can also experiment with taking 3-5 mg of melatonin 30 minutes before bed.
I don’t recommend taking any sleep medicine. I also don’t recommend drinking alcohol as a way to fall asleep more easily; your sleep will be lower quality and you will be more likely to wake up in the night. Plus, you’ll be drinking empty calories.
Keep in mind that you may have to shift your bedtime forward gradually (by 30 mins or so each night) otherwise you won’t be tired. So if you’re currently only getting 6 hours of sleep on average, just shoot for 6.5 this next week. And if you’re already getting 7 hours, shoot for 7.5.
WEEK 4: Get the first meal of the day right
Notice that I did not say “get breakfast right.” If you don’t have the time or appetite to eat breakfast, it’s perfectly acceptable to fast until 10 or 12.
While intermittent fasting is not the panacea that it’s sometimes made out to be, it can be a good option for those who don’t want to eat breakfast and are looking to lose or maintain weight. You simply end up eating less food when you’re only able to eat within an 8-10 hour window each day.
On the other hand, eating breakfast does tend to be correlated with successful weight loss in the long term. Bottom line: eat when you’re hungry and have good options available.
Whenever you do have that first meal, I recommend that you keep these three criteria in mind:
It should be real food. This means plants or animals that would actually go bad if they didn’t get eaten. Avoid ultra-processed foods that are several steps removed from what you’d find in nature - they are less healthy for you and highly correlated with weight gain.
It should be high in protein. Protein helps you feel fuller and build lean muscle. Aim to get 15-30 grams of protein at breakfast. Eggs are my go-to. As a reference, one egg contains 6-7 grams of protein.
It should include fruits or vegetables. These foods are generally high in fiber and low in calories. This makes you feel fuller and ultimately eat less. Plus, fruits and vegetables have important nutrients in them that you need to get anyway.
Some first meal options to consider include eggs, greek yogurt, stir-fried tofu, a protein shake with minimal additives, lentils, spinach or other veggies.
Notice that cereal is not included in the above list. A processed sugar bomb is pretty much your worst breakfast option. If you absolutely must eat cereal, I recommend doing so after dinner as your desert. That way, when your blood sugar crashes, it will be time for bed anyway.
When you are considering what to eat for your first meal of the day (or any meal for that matter), simply ask yourself, “What would a healthy person eat right now?” and do that. You already know intuitively that kale is better than waffles, so don’t overthink this.
When you get the first meal of the day right, you’ve set the tone for future meals. You’ve taken advantage of the meal that will provide most of your fuel for focused work. And you’ve made a healthy decision before all of your willpower is used up later in the day.
WEEK 5: Incorporate 2 days of strength training per week
Remember how we said we were going to maximize our training time once we’d built the habit of daily movement? That’s what we’re going to do this week by adding in resistance training.
Resistance training tells your body to add and conserve muscle. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be, and the more you’ll be able to eat each day.
It’s the difference between putting your money in a checking account (cardio), versus investing it (strength training). Yes, cardio can burn plenty of calories. But it doesn’t shape your body the way resistance training does and it doesn’t make your body a more efficient fat burning machine.
The best place to start with resistance training is a two day, full body workout that you can do with little or no equipment. That way you can do it even when you’re traveling or don’t have time to get to the gym.
Here’s the circuit that I’d recommend you start with:
Pushups - 6-10 reps. If you can’t get 6 regular pushups, go from your knees or elevate your hands on a bench or desk with your feet on the floor. If you can do 10 easily, elevate your feet on a couch or chair with your hands on the floor.
Dumbbell Rows - 6-10 reps each side. If you don’t have access to a dumbbell, look for something with a handle (luggage, milk jug, etc.). If you can easily do 10 rows, either increase the weight, experiment with inverted rows or progress to pull ups.
Lunges - 6-10 reps each side. If you can easily get 10 reps each leg, hold dumbbells at your side. If you don’t have access to dumbbells, elevate your rear leg on a bench or couch.
You’re going to do 3 rounds of this circuit, resting as long as you need to between each exercise and then taking at least 1 minute of rest between rounds. Remember that this isn’t a cardio-focused workout, so you shouldn’t be compromising your form or feeling winded.
Leave at least one day between resistance training workouts. You may feel pretty sore after the first one, so feel free to give yourself a few days to recover. Don’t worry about increasing the number of workouts or the number of reps you’re doing per workout until you feel ready.
The only thing that matters is getting in two of these workouts over the course of the week. The above circuit should only take you 15-20 mins. On the other days you’re doing whatever type of movement you enjoy: yoga, walking, whatever.
WEEK 6: Meditate for 5 minutes in the morning
The science is clear - meditation helps you lose weight. It lowers the stress hormone cortisol, improves your mindset, and moderates food cravings.
It’s completely normal to have thoughts come up when you meditate. In fact, the whole practice of meditation is about having a thought, noticing that you got distracted, and then coming back.
Each time you come back to the present moment, it’s the equivalent of doing a bicep curl for your mind. You’re training yourself to recognize when you’ve gotten lost in thinking. Overtime, this helps you become less reactive to stressors throughout the day.
So when you notice you’ve drifted off, don’t beat yourself up for it. Just make a mental note, say to yourself “thinking”, and return to your breath knowing that you just got another rep in.
The other objection I get from people who don’t meditate regularly is that they don’t have enough time to meditate. It’s not a matter of time — we all have the same amount of time — it’s a matter of priorities.
If Oprah, Katie Perry, and Jerry Seinfeld can make time for meditation, so can you.
There’s an old Zen proverb that goes, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” In other words, meditation is even more important when you feel stressed or short on time.
If you don’t meditate right now, or if you’ve been inconsistent with it, start with 5 minutes a day and don’t increase that until you’ve been able to do it for a few weeks. If you already meditate consistently, add 5 minutes to your usual sessions.
Here’s how to get started:
Choose a time to meditate. I suggest meditating in the morning because that way you know it’s going to happen before unexpected things come up throughout the day. Keep in mind that you may have to wake up earlier or optimize your morning routine in order to fit this new habit in.
Meditate in the same part of your home every day. That way, when you walk by or look at your “meditation spot” – it’ll remind you that you need to meditate. Obviously it’s best if you can choose a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
Consider using an app. There are plenty of free apps and timers that you can experiment with. I particularly like Tara Brach’s guided meditations on the Insight Timer app. But you can also just sit down, set a timer for five minutes, and focus on your breath going in and out of your nose until time is up.
There are lots of ways to practice mindfulness. Cooking, walking the dog, and yoga are all fair game as long as you do them in a way that keeps you in the present moment. But give meditation a legitimate shot first.
WEEK 7: Stop eating lunch when you’re 80% full
There is a Japanese practice called “hara hachi bu” which roughly translates to, “eat until you are eight parts (out of ten) full.”
This Confucian teaching works well for weight loss because it encourages portion control through mindful eating. But there’s a problem…
Most of us have no idea what 80% full feels like.
So in order to effectively implement this strategy, you’ll want to experiment with some related habits first:
Put your fork down between bites. Doing this forces you to actually chew your food and take pleasure from it. When you slow down and savor each bite, you may find that you don’t want to eat as much.
Avoid highly processed foods. Chips, candy, and crackers are engineered to make you want more - from the way they taste to the way they sound when you bite into them. It’s much harder to get a sense of how full you are when eating highly processed foods.
Stop eating in front of your phone or computer. Instead, eat with someone else or in front of a window. The less distracted you are, the more aware you’ll be of how full you are.
Once you’ve started to get a sense of your true hunger level while eating, you can practice stopping at 80% full. At 80%, you should no longer feel hungry but you also shouldn’t feel totally satisfied. If you learn to listen to your body’s natural signals, you won’t have to count calories to lose weight.
In a perfect world, you would eat this way for all of your meals. But we’re going to start small by focusing on lunch. If you’d rather eat mindfully at breakfast or dinner instead, that’s totally cool - I’ve just found that lunch tends to be when most people eat in a less mindful way.
WEEK 8: Journal each night before bed
An important part of getting fit is working on your relationship with yourself.
When we start our fitness journey, most of us are driven by criticism. We hate the way we look naked and we start comparing ourselves to other people.
In other words, we’re moving away from something we don’t want instead of towards something we want.
There are a couple of problems with this type of “away from” motivation...
It’s not great for our self-image. And while it might be motivating in the short term, it’s not enough to help us maintain our progress once we get in decent shape.
As a way to address this, I have all of my clients keep a journal next to their beds. At the end of each day, they bullet-point out their response to the following three prompts:
“Today was a success because…” After writing the above prompt, write down 1-3 bullet points of things you’re proud of. By acknowledging your small wins, it helps you focus on the process and stay motivated (even if the external results haven’t come yet).
“Today I am grateful for…” A pro tip here is to list out WHY you are grateful for each thing on the list. So, for example, if you say you’re grateful for your partner today, write a specific reason why. This helps you avoid writing the same things down each day.
“Today I learned that…” When we slip up, it’s easy to beat ourselves up and decide that we don’t have enough willpower. This just leads to a downward spiral of shame and bad behavior. Instead, focus on what you need to tweak in your environment or your process in order to encourage the behavior you want tomorrow. You can also write down a reminder of something you tried that worked, so you can remember it going forward.
When we’re driven by criticism, one bad choice can turn into a landslide of unhealthy behavior.
We figure that since we had one drink, we may as well go wild.
On the other hand, when we have a loving relationship with ourselves we can enjoy the occasional indulgence and then get back on track. Journaling helps cultivate this type of relationship.
Now It’s Your Turn
What if you could use this wedding as an opportunity to get in shape once and for all?
Well, it’s totally possible as long as you go one step at a time through the above habits.
By the end of the 8 weeks you won’t just weigh 10 pounds less than you do now, you’ll also be a different person. And that’s the best gift you could give to your partner and your family.
If that sounds good to you, here’s what I want you to do right now:
Print out the habit tracker below and start at Week 1.
Each day, I’d like you to record your weight and check off whether or not you did that day’s habit.
If there are habits you already do consistently, then can you skip that week and go to the next habit. Just make sure you actually do it 100% of the time.
If you fail a habit, either adjust your approach or consciously let it go. DO NOT add another habit when a previous one is still shaky.
Enjoy the process and remember why you started.
So now you know what the 8 habits are, and you know how to insert them one by one into your life.
Our clients track their daily habits on a one page, printable checklist. That way they can give themselves some positive reinforcement and stay focused on the process of weight loss instead of being attached to short-term results.
If you want to get a copy of the tracker, simply enter your email below and we’ll send it right over to you.