Maybe it was love, or maybe the phytonutrients.
“I was struck with how beautiful she looked,” said Sarah Sherman, 30, a writer and producer, of the change she observed in a friend, a then-bride-to-be, last summer. “She had lost some weight, and her skin was amazing.”
The shift, she would learn, was thanks in large part to Dana James, a functional nutritionist and cognitive behavioral therapist, with offices in New York and Los Angeles, who helps women get healthy and lose weight.
Impressed with her friend’s transformation, Sherman also sought out the assistance of James to address several issues, ranging from ulcers to acid reflux. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to be eating, and I didn’t feel in control,” she said. By the time she became engaged over Thanksgiving 2017, a food plan was in place.
The solution was to increase fat-, antioxidant- and phytonutrient-dense foods like papaya, mango, avocado, wild salmon and halibut.
“I was struck that that was even an option,” Sherman said. But it was, and it worked.
For brides looking to get lean, achieve a radiant complexion, or gain an overall sense of well-being, food can often help. James and others share some tips for looking and feeling your best on your wedding day.
• Get on a schedule: “Start as early as possible so you’re not stressed about reaching your goal,” James said. But for a bride who wants to lose 5 pounds or reduce bloating and puffiness, “two to four weeks is all she needs.”
Eat five times a day — three meals and two snacks — spaced three hours apart during a 12-hour window, followed by a 12-hour overnight fast. Early risers might want to space their snacks between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner, while night owls might do better having one snack between lunch and dinner, and another between dinner and bedtime. Your last meal or snack for the day should be at least two hours before you go to bed.
If you can’t remember what you ate yesterday, or even had for breakfast this morning, consider a food tracking tool like You Ate.
• Eat the rainbow: Invest in the highest-quality fruits, vegetables, fats, proteins and carbs that you can find. Opt for organic, sustainable and grass-fed options as much as possible.
“The denser the color of a fruit or vegetable, the more phytonutrients it contains,” James said. These molecules support physiological processes in the body such as detoxification, metabolism, antioxidation and cellular repair.
Dr. Robin Berzin, founder of Parsley Health, a holistic approach to medicine, said the fiber in fruits and vegetables help with “balancing blood sugar and insulin, reducing high cholesterol, reducing colon cancer and feeding a healthy microbiome,” or healthy gut bacteria.
At lunch and dinner, eat at least half a plate — about 2 to 4 cups — of vegetables. Include three different vegetables at each of these meals to curb cravings.
With protein, variety is also key.
“Eggs and fish are on the lighter side than poultry and red meat, but how often you should be eating each depends on your archetype,” James said. “Hemp and chia are fantastic seeds.”
• Use your hands: If you are set on slimming down, portion size is key.
“Your hands serve as a proxy for gauging caloric intake without counting calories,” James said. “Hold your hands out side by side, palms up. This represents the area your meal should cover. The left hand is the portion size for vegetables, and it can be overflowing. The right hand is for all of the other ingredients that comprise your meal — carbs, protein, and fat — and the precise balance of those elements will depend on your archetype.”
• Do some counting: “For each of your two daily snacks, the number of calories should be no greater than the equivalent of your goal weight in pounds,” James said.
Among her snack suggestions: an avocado with lime, 14 maca-dusted hazelnuts, 2 tablespoons turmeric-spiced pumpkin seeds, 12 ounces green vegetable juice or bone broth, a matcha latte made with creamy cashew milk, four fresh figs, a pear with tahini, or chia seed pudding with dried apricots.
Nuts and seeds should be raw.
Keep alcohol intake to four drinks a week.
• Mind your body: “If people are changing their eating habits to eat more healthfully, it can spill over in positive ways to the rest of their life,” said Dr. Amy Wechsler, who is board certified in both dermatology and psychiatry and practices in New York. “If you’re taking care of yourself in one way, you get a global effect.”
Some patients, she said, will insist that they don’t have time to moisturize their body. But she said, “I’ve timed myself; it takes 60 to 90 seconds to moisturize the whole body. Who doesn’t have that? Deciding that you want to take the time for yourself, that you’re important enough, that it’s not optional, that kind of thing. Mindfulness is something that can be learned.”
Getting adequate sleep and managing stress is also important. “Go away for a week’s vacation and people think you had a facial or you did some procedure,” Wechsler said, because of the increase in sleep and the decrease in stress.
Exercise helps, too, she said.
Wechsler suggests seeking help if you are having trouble sticking to your goals or getting into a new routine. “It doesn’t have to be a therapist, it could be a doctor, it could be a nutritionist, or even be a friend or a partner.”
• The beauty-food regimen: “The week of the wedding is when you need to nourish,” James said. “You are eating to bring plumpness and radiance into the skin.”
Drink lots of water as well. The following menu, when followed with portion size, is “still fat loss, but it’s one that’s really focused on adding fats, antioxidants and phytonutrients,” James said.