Looking after your health & fitness in the lead up to your big day
This article was originally written and published for Manage My Wedding by Melani De Sousa, The Wellness Workshop founder & 2019 Personal Trainer of the Year Australia
It can be one of the happiest days of your life, but sometimes also the most stressful. The planning of your wedding requires many things; some of which are time, planning, preparation, expert assistance and creativity. Ironically, these same factors can transform a somewhat weaning health and fitness routine into a winning one in the lead up to your big day!
Please don’t wire your jaw shut and commit to hours of endless cardio the week before your wedding to squeeze into a dress that perhaps was one size too small anyway. Taking your time with a slow build up is the key to developing a sustainable lifestyle routine.
Start with some easy to adopt, minor habits like increasing water intake, adding colour and texture to your meals, sitting down to eat and concentrating on your food (rather than eating while on the run) or moving your body more in ways that make you feel good. Write down up to 20 small habits you want to incorporate and then give yourself at least 1-2 weeks to implement each one. Build up incrementally over a few months or years, adding a habit from the list every time you’ve mastered the one previous. A calendar on the fridge is great for keeping track of your new habits. I like to write each habit on a specifically coloured post-it note, say yellow, and then change it to a green post-it note when I’m implementing it, and a pink post-it note when I’ve mastered it. These can all be pinned to your calendar as you go.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across clients who plan for just one option when looking to change up their health and fitness routine, then fall in a heap when it doesn’t pan out perfectly. Would you give your guests the selection of just one drink, or only look at one venue, or try just one dress? No. The same should apply with your eating and training! Plan for contingencies. Have an Option A, an Option B and better yet an Option C too. Plan for rainy-day activities indoors like Pilates, circuit training or stretching using a phone app or video, and plan for outdoor activities when the weather allows for it, like walking with friends or bike ride. Give yourself options with meals too, taking into consideration where you’ll be, what’s around you, your flavour preferences, budget and even who you’re with. Rigid diets and strict workout plans can often elicit behaviours like binge-eating, negative self-talk or self-sabotage, as the brain struggles with the added pressure of making ‘perfect lifestyle choices’ day in, day out.
Ever heard the saying ‘preparation is key’? Well it tends to ring true for maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit too. Preparation can apply to several things when taking better care of ourselves, but I find the thing that can have the most profound effect on our wellbeing is preparing a set of well thought out coping mechanisms to deal with life’s everyday challenges - particularly around wedding time!
Coping mechanisms or strategies are behaviours that all humans engage in to deal with trauma or psychological stress. There are good and bad coping mechanisms, often referred to by mental health professionals as adaptive (good) and maladaptive (bad). Maladaptive coping mechanisms are things like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, aggression, overeating or binge-eating, gambling, shopping addiction, smoking or even self-harm. They often may feel helpful in the short-term, but don’t actually help resolve the problem and may even increase harm in the long-term.
Healthy coping mechanisms are things like mindfulness and meditation, physical exercise in balanced amounts, planned rest time, social interaction with friends and family, reaching out and talking through feelings, and creative hobbies. Preparing a list of healthy coping strategies helps us better deal with life’s little ups and downs and minimises our reliance on things like emotional eating. Try to brainstorm at least ten healthy coping strategies and ensure you can do at least half of them anywhere and at any time.
I like to use classical music in the car to unwind after a hard day at work or take a few minutes to immerse my face in a cool washcloth when I’m feeling agitated and impatient. Other great coping strategies are using a breath timer on your phone or watch to slow down and concentrate on your breathing, colouring-in books, writing in a journal or even cleaning! Whatever it is, make sure it works for you and don’t be shy to continue expanding your list as you find more.
4. Expert assistance
As with most things in life, you’re going to do much better when you have an expert on your team. Not only can they provide you with the right knowledge and tips, but they can also be your biggest fan when you’re feeling a little worse for wear. A qualified allied health practitioner like an accredited practising dietitian is your best bet for improving your understanding of all things food, nutrition and energy. On the other hand, if you feel like you have a good grasp on what you need to eat, but struggle with things like emotional eating, overeating, undereating or stress eating then I’d suggest seeking out the guidance of a registered psychologist.
An exercise physiologist will help you build a solid exercise plan, while minimising your risk of injury or burn out, particularly if you have chronic pain, injury or illness, while a well matched Fitness Australia registered trainer will keep you consistent and motivated when you need it most. Don’t be scared to shop around when it comes to health advice. Sometimes you need to try out a few professionals before you find the one that’s right for you.
The biggest killer of most diet and exercise routines is boredom. That’s because many of us are deceptively led to believe you need to be eating chicken and broccoli and working out like a crazy person to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Wrong. Hop online, speak to friends and colleagues, and research as many ways as you can to move, eat and live! Fitnessaustralia.com.au is a great place to start to discover a range of local activities.
There are also some fantastic apps out there like MindBody which lets you trial a variety of different exercise classes in your local area for next to nothing. Why not try pole dancing, tennis, or even karate? If you’re moving and having fun, you’ll be reaping the benefits such as reduced stress levels, an elevated heart rate, increased aerobic fitness, surge in endorphins (our feel good hormones) and much more.
A good starting point is picking one day of the week, usually the same day each week works well, and designating that session to something new and different. You could even rope your partner in…dance classes anybody?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melani De Sousa is driven by her passion to stop the glorification of weight obsession and disordered eating in today’s health and fitness industries. She is a Fitness Australia registered trainer and founded The Wellness Workshop in 2018. She has guided hundreds of clients from all walks of life through services such as Wellness Coaching, Meditation, and Personal Training. Melani was named Personal Trainer of the Year at the 2019 Australian Fitness Awards, which are powered by Fitness Australia, the nation’s peak industry body.