Ah, spring. The flowers bloom, the birds sing, and your New Year's resolutions have dissolved into figurative dust—much like the literal stuff covering your tennis shoes, or the back corner of your closet, or your bullet journal. (Oops!) But don't despair. March marks National Nutrition Month, a.k.a. the perfect time to reset and recharge your mind, body, and home with the Brides 30-Day Wellness Plan.
This season is about the world coming back to life, so what better time for a personal reboot? And if you're nearing the final countdown to your wedding day, you could probably use the wellness reset that much more. After all, settling those last few details—figuring out where to seat your eccentric Uncle Carl, firming up your centerpieces, deciding on your first dance song—can take a physical, mental, and emotional toll.
That's why we're here with the Bride's 30-Day Wellness Plan that has everything from fitness tips to housekeeping advice to mindfulness techniques—all working together to get your life in the best shape of...well, your life!
Start by upping your water intake on Day 1 to kick off your journey to glowing skin and better physical health. Stress can also lead to overeating, loss of sleep, and irritability, so nip it in the bud with some new relaxation techniques on Day 2. And at the start of your second week, get into a new routine with a morning workout.
Tackle National Nutrition Month day-by-day with each of these easy-to-accomplish challenges. Feel free to start from the beginning, the end, or mix up the days and implement multiple tips at once. If you lose weight or closet clutter or sleep anxiety with the Brides 30-Day Wellness Plan, that's great. But our main concern is that you gain some confidence, peace of mind, and healthy habits that will follow you way past your walk down that aisle.
Let's get started, brides!
Day 1: Drink Up
No, not champagne, silly! We're talking about good old H2O. You know it's good for you, and it's a pretty simple ease-in to day one of our challenge.
"Research shows that sipping water before a meal helps fill you up, and being well hydrated will prevent bloating and give you glowing skin," says Vandana Sheth, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
How much should you aim to drink daily? There are no hard-and-fast recommendations; that exactly-eight-glasses-a-day business is actually bunk, says Sheth. Instead, she suggests dividing your body weight by two to get the number of ounces you should be consuming. For example, a 140-pound woman would need the equivalent of eight and three-quarter cups a day. Bump that number up if you workout, and try to have a full cup of water within thirty minutes of the exercising.
Want a trick to make "drink water" a more exciting kickoff initiative? Throw some lime wedges and mint in there to feel fancy! Or, buy a super-cute, large-sized (25 oz or more) water bottle that you'll continually want to refill—so people in the break room can compliment both your fabulous taste and fabulous hydration habits!
Day 2: Try Some Relaxation Techniques
It's not exactly breaking news that being stressed can lead to overeating, loss of sleep, and harsh conversation clap-backs at the friends and family who are probably just trying to be supportive.
How do you combat the stress? Today, you should do something—anything—that you find relaxing. Read a magazine, call a friend, paint your nails, or try some meditation. "Planning a wedding can be so incredibly stressful and it's all about the future," says Adreanna Limbach, a teacher at MNDFL, a meditation studio in NYC. "Meditation is the perfect technique for bringing us right back to the moment, so we can enjoy it." If you don't live near a meditation studio, no big! You can practice anywhere with apps like Headspace and The Mindfulness App.
Day 3: Switch Up Your Strength Routine
We saw those buff Kim Kardashian memes too, so we get your hesitation when it comes to strength-training.
But listen to Gunnar Peterson, the Beverly Hills-based celebrity trainer who famously got the real Kim Kardashian ready for her wedding to Kanye West: "You've got to keep shaking things up," Peterson says. "One of the biggest mistakes I see women making is doing the same moves for months and months. After about four to six weeks, you're going to stop getting results."
He recommends swapping in multi-muscle exercises that target several groups at the same time—like wood chops, squats with a shoulder press, and lunges with a biceps curl. "They give you much more bang for your buck because they work your upper and lower body muscles, as well as your core at the same time, so you'll burn more calories and get more done in less time than if you were standing there just doing biceps curls," he says. "You'll also build more lean tissue which you want because it will change your shape and make you look more defined, not bulky, and also drive your metabolism. You'll burn calories at a faster rate all day, every day."
Day 4: Hygge One Room in Your Home
The word "Hygge" (pronounced hue-guh) just looks cute, right? Like a diaper brand or something. The Danish word actually refers to "acknowledging a feeling or moment [...] as cosy, charming or special," according to HyggeHouse.com. So how does one cultivate coziness? Trying too hard undermines the whole operation. Here's our three step guide:
Step 1: Choose the Room
Living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, closet under the stars, it's up to you! Narrowing your efforts to one room will keep you from getting overwhelmed—the opposite of hygge.
Step 2: Decide On an Activity
What is your absolute favorite thing to do in your chosen room? Read under the covers? Take a bubble bath? Bake cookies?
Step 3: Enhance and Indulge
Now, brainstorm one way to improve the experience of your aforementioned activity. Perhaps you find a new throw blanket for your bed that's so soft, it feels like the physical embodiment of hygge. Maybe you burn a candle, play relaxing music, or throw in some bath salts during your soak. What if you invited your fiancé or some bridesmaids to help you with your baking efforts? You're looking for any element that causes you to appreciate the present moment, and makes your home feel even the slightest bit homier.
Day 5: Schedule A Couple's Counseling Session
Even today, many people hear the word "counseling," and instinctively think of the word "problems." But couple's counseling and/or therapy is more about learning to better understand your partner—sometimes before issues have even come up.
"David and I went to therapy before I even had a ring on my finger," real-bride Morgan told us. "We discussed everything from sex to money to conflicts and it was 100 percent beneficial for our marriage. When we did have a major conflict arise in regards to moving across the country right after our wedding, we used all the conflict communication tips, notes, and worksheets we had from pre-engagement counseling and resolved the issue."
Even one session (and sometimes the first one is complimentary!), can drastically improve how you and your spouse-to-be relate to one another. If you're considering pre-marital counseling, expect to discuss these seven topics:
- Marriage Expectations and Role Beliefs
- The Past
- Conflict Resolution Strategies
- Communication Techniques
And if you're 100 percent convinced that meeting with a professional isn't for you, just use today to talk about the above seven subjects. We guarantee you'll learn something new about each other.
Day 6: Snap Your Food
If you struggle with keeping your diet on track (who doesn't?), then this insanely effective trick is a must-do: Take a photo of every meal (yes, the snacks too) and send it to a supportive friend, coworker, or family member. (You can offer to do the same for them.)
You're now paying attention to exactly what you're ingesting and literally looking at it through a different lens. That process alone can help with more mindful and thoughtful eating, and the involvement of a secondary party only heightens the motivation.
"Having that accountability is like magic," says Rachel Beller, R.D., of Beller Nutritional Institute in Beverly Hills and author of Power Souping, who suggests this practice to many of her clients. "I'm not kidding—it's amazing how clients stop and think about what they're doing. They put together a healthier plate because they know they're going to be showing it off and getting feedback from me."
She recounts the story of a recent client vacationing in New Orleans and enjoying a beignet (as she should!). "She easily could have had three or four of them, but because she knew she had to send that photo, she just had one and really savored it," Beller points out.
Snap, text, and succeed!
Day 7: Aim to Get Seven Hours of Sleep a Night
We know, easier said than done when you have 500 wedding tasks swimming through your head all night. But tonight especially, try for a good night's rest; for most people, that means seven hours of shut-eye.
Plus, here are some tips for making sure those seven hours of rest are actually restful:
• Try to wake up and go to bed at around the same time each day. It helps set your body's internal clock so you sleep more soundly.
• Make sure your room is cool, dark, and quiet. If your partner's a snorer, wear earplugs.
• Get off screens—your smartphone, laptop, Kindle, etc.—an hour before you hit the sack. The blue light they emit can suppress melatonin and stimulate your brain to stay awake.
• Skip the nightcap. Yes, alcohol might help you nod off faster, but as it wears off, it has a rebound effect that will disrupt your sleep so try to avoid it for several hours before bedtime.
• Set the sleep timer if you need TV to nod off. It doesn't mess with your sleep the way your iPhone does, but you don't want to wake up at 2 A.M. and get sucked into another Netflix black hole.
Day 8: Rise and Shine with a Morning Workout
Aha! We had a plan with last night's sleeping directive. Now, you're well-rested enough to actually drag yourself out of a warm, cozy bed at 6 A.M. to work out. Science says that exercising first thing in a "fasted state" could do amazing things for your body, by jacking up your exercise's fat-burning effects.
"There are a couple of reasons why this works," explains Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist and personal trainer in San Diego. "First, levels of cortisol—a hormone that promotes fat metabolism for energy—are higher in the morning, so if you work out with no food in your system, it leads to higher amounts of fat burning. Plus, your body burns calories even when you're sleeping, so by the time you get up in the morning there are lower levels of carbohydrates in your system that are available for fuel. That means your body has to rely on fat stores as its main source of energy."
To maximize the effect, he recommends keeping your workout to 30 to 40 minutes—no matter what kind of exercise you do in the A.M. And yes, it's okay to have coffee with a splash of milk first. A girl has to wake up, after all! Just avoid anything too sugary, or your insulin levels will rise—which has the opposite effect of helping to promote fat storage.
Day 9: Experiment In the Bedroom
Day 10: Steer Clear of Processed Foods
While we acknowledge that PopTarts may very well be the most delicious things on earth, a growing body of evidence suggests that highly processed foods contain chemicals that cause inflammation in the body and encourage overeating.
Processed foods are deliberately engineered to make you crave them, lighting up the same "reward" area of the brain that drugs like cocaine do, says Beller. Yikes! While some processed foods are obvious (sigh...potato chips), there are lots of seemingly healthy options—like whole grain crackers or low-cal frozen dinners—that are still über-processed. Read food labels and steer clear of anything with long ingredients lists or unpronounceable Frankengredients. Generally, if it comes in a bag or box and has a long shelf life, you don't want it.
Instead, shop the perimeter of the store, where the whole foods like fruits, veggies, lean meat and dairy live, and make sure the majority of your cart is filled with those good guys.
Day 11: Give Your Closet A Makeover
While you may not have the closet of your dreams, any of us can easily beautify our closet with the "3, 2, 1!" makeover. Channel your inner Marie Kondo with this simple, but effective equation:
Throw three items away. Donate two to a charity like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. (You can use apps like Shyp and TaskRabbit, if you don't live close to one!) Then, treat yourself to one new item that you love.
Get it? "3, 2, 1!" Now repeat as many times as you'd like.
Day 12: Curate a Motivational Playlist
Nothing moves ya like music. The same route you've done every morning for the past three months can all of a sudden feel brand new when soundtracked by the latest Cardi B hit. Check out our wedding after-party playlist for 40 songs that are suited to both breaking it down on the dance floor or tearing up the gym. With the right star tracks, anyone can be a track star.
Day 13: Take a Cheat Day
Rather than beat yourself up about the loaded nachos, stuffed-crust pizza, or double cheeseburgers, seek those out every once in a while!
According to the National Weight Control Registry, which collects data on the habits of 10,000-plus people who have lost weight and kept it off, being able to immediately recover when you deviate from healthy eating is one of the key predictors of longterm wellness success.
Think of it this way: "Every meal, every snack is a fresh start," says Sheth.
Day 14: Adopt A Plant
Get a jump start on honing your parenting skills by taking care of a plant. It's still technically a living thing, but far less demanding than a pet or a toddler. If your green thumb is "green" in the "inexperienced and brand new to this" sense, then we suggest a succulent that requires less watering and less vigilant pruning. If you find you make flora friends easily, here are eight chic garden accessories to add to your registry.
Day 15: Consider a New Beauty Product
If you've never had any kind of beauty regimen before, don't fret! There's no better excuse than your wedding to become obsessed with moisturizers, toners, serums, primers, and all the latest products. One longstanding beauty obsession here at Brides is the jade facial roller for its cooling, tightening, de-puffing powers.
Snag a super-cute and super-affordable one from Sephora and treat yourself to all its soothing powers.
Day 16: Write a Thank-You Note
We're sure you've said thank you a million and one times at this point—to your parents, your bridesmaids, your fiancé—but have you written it? The power of a handwritten letter is not to be denied in this digital day, state, and age. What a better way to show you appreciate their thoughtfulness and effort by showing a little of your own?
"One of the most important factors to happiness is actively appreciating the people you have in your life," says Dr. Charles Passler, nutritionist and founder of Pure Change, who has helped shape the bodies of Bella Hadid and Adriana Lima, but is equally focused on the non-physical aspects of a wellness-focused lifestyle. "Showing appreciation creates a happier you, and builds better relationships when you spread happiness to others."
Dr. Passler would actually like to propose a 30-day challenge of his own: "Brides, send out a thank-you card every day for the last 30 days leading up to your wedding. This will add a lot of positive energy to the final and potentially most challenging month."
Unfortunately don't have time to handwrite thirty cards? "An email will also work," says Dr. Passler.
Day 17: Have An Afternoon Snack
Newsflash: snacks are not your enemy! "I can't tell you how often I see women wanting to get in shape for a big event and snacks are like the first thing to go," says New York City nutritionist Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. "They think it will help them 'save' those calories. But if you skip it, your body will work against you: your blood sugar will plummet and you'll overeat at dinner. Guaranteed."
So don't pass up that P.M. snack, especially if you're going more than four hours between meals. And be sure to plan for it, too, so you don't face a vending machine situation that'll leave you less satisfied afterwards than you were before.
Gans recommends keeping ready-made nibbles in the fridge and stashing nonperishable snacks in your bag, desk drawer, and car, so wherever you are, you'll have something good to eat. The ideal snack should be no more than 150 or 200 calories, as unprocessed as possible, and contain a mix of sustaining protein and complex carbs to keep your energy up. Think: an apple and a small handful of almonds, a cup of vegetable soup, or half a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread.
Day 18: Plan a Sentimental Sunday
The period leading up to your wedding will be one of the most emotional times of your life. And you'll want to eclipse all the negative feelings—stress, impatience, frustration—with the infinitely-more positive sentiments of affection, adoration, and admiration towards your partner. To do that, plan a "Sentimental Sunday."
Read through old social media or text message exchanges from the early stages of your relationship. Watch your all-time favorite date-night movie. Prepare a home-cooked version of the meal you had on your first date. Sit on the couch and tell each other your top three most memorable moments from your coupledom (both the good and bad!). Then, be prepared to laugh, cry, and fall in love all over again.
Day 19: Sip Some Tea
We can already hear you coffee fanatics begging us to come to the dark (roast) side, but Martin Ekechukwu, president of Village Tea Company, told Brides you should reach for herbal tea instead of the black stuff every once in a while—especially when trying to manage wedding planning stress.
"Coffee usually drives more nervousness in your body," he says. "You want to stay away from things with high caffeine in it. You want to stay closer to a green tea or a white tea for some of those soothing properties."
If you're absolutely unwilling to break up with caffeine, Ekechukwu recommends English breakfast and Earl Grey, or a Chai tea. In fact, he's got a suggestion for every moment of your wedding planning journey in the linked article above.
Try any of them for today's challenge, but allow us to direct your attention to Ekechukwu's opinion on the best stress-battling beverage: "I would pick up a really good, chamomile-lemon blend. Citrus is a property that actually helps to get your muscles nice and relaxed, and the chamomile itself is known as a soothing property for the mind. You want to balance those two things out."
Day 20: Do Something You're Scared Of
There's a popular Internet quote (often attributed to Taylor Swift) that reads something like, "Fearless is not the absence of fear. It's living in spite of those things that scare you to death." Pushing our boundaries is a good thing, and allows us to learn about ourselves and appreciate new things around us. Maybe you've always been nervous about flying, but this afternoon you book a honeymoon on the other side of the world. Or, maybe it's something much simpler like trying a new food for the first time. Just find one (mostly safe!) way to face a fear today.
Day 21: Exfoliate the Winter Away
Exfoliation is the buffing away of dead, flaky skin cells to reveal a shinier, smoother complexion. (If you were wondering just how far we were planning on extending the "spring as rebirth" metaphor, we promise this is it. Maybe.) According to research, regular rubbing minimizes clogged pores, prevents breakouts, erases dark spots and discoloration, and preps your skin to better absorb serums and moisturizers. A bright, fresh face is great any day, but especially important for that "bridal glow."
Thus, today you should pick up one of these eight exfoliating products for glowing skin.
Day 22: Treat Yourself to a New Workout Outfit
Wear your gym motivation on your sleeve—literally. If you look good, you'll feel good and that'll translate to more frequent and effective workouts. The above ensemble (Merino Plié Wrap, $75, and Two-Tone Warm Up Legging, $85, by Outdoor Voices) is one of our personal favorites for its magical butt-lifting, ab-accentuating, leg-lengthening fit and fabric.
Day 23: Avoid Phone and Internet Your First Hour of the Day
Brides Style Director, Kate Donovan, tried this exercise for a couple of months last year, calling it "life-changing." The change is simple: don't touch your phone, iPad, laptop, or any other electronic for the first sixty minutes you're awake. What do you do with that time? Stretch! Make breakfast! Read a book! Meditate! The options are limitless. And, you'll be surprised to realize how much hold that small screen had over your life, when it's no longer your number one priority of the day.
Day 24: Volunteer in Your Community
Do you have a passion for puppies? See if your local animal shelter needs a helping hand for all the paws in their care. Are you a natural Bridge player? Saddle up next to some long-time residents at a nearby nursing home or assisted living facility. Prefer to make stuff with your hands? We bet Habitat for Humanity can find a project or two for you.
Paralyzed by options? Visit VolunteerMatch.org, "the largest network in the nonprofit world, with the most volunteers, nonprofits, and opportunities to make a difference," according to their website. Simply type in your zip code for localized opportunities broken down by categories like "advocacy and human rights," "computers and technology," "arts and culture," "health and medicine," and more.
And if you want your do-gooding to feel even better, bring along your fiancé!
Day 25: Nurture Your Skin With an At-Home Face Mask
Nervous to expose your skin to anything as your wedding day approaches? While every person's skin is different, and we do recommend consulting your dermatologist if you've had reactions in the past, we can vouch that our research uncovered these as the best at-home face masks for that bridal glow.
Day 26: Fiber Up!
Fiber isn't exactly the sexiest topic in the world, but it can do your body a world of good. "It keeps you full and satisfied, helps naturally remove toxins from your body and expedites weight loss," says Beller.
A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that participants who were instructed to get at least 30 grams of fiber a day—but that was the only dietary change they made—lost nearly as much as a group of people who were put on a much more complex diet that required limiting calories, fat, sugar, and salt; and upping fruit, veggie, and whole grain consumption. In addition to the fullness factor, fiber actually prevents your body from absorbing some of the calories in the foods you eat. In one study, people who ate 35 grams of fiber a day shaved 245 calories from their daily diets.
Beller recommends aiming to get 30 to 35 grams of fiber a day. (The average American gets about half the recommended amount of fiber each day, so odds are you need to up your fiber game, too.) And try to have eight to 10 grams of it at breakfast. "It's an easy meal to get it in because there are so many high fiber options—like cereals, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal," says Beller. "And if you fall a little short at another meal, you'll be covered."
One word of caution: If your diet is currently fiber poor, add it in slowly. If you jump right to 35 grams a day you might feel gassy and bloated. So, for example, rather than going for a big bowl of All Bran tomorrow morning, she suggests mixing it half and half with whatever cereal you eat now. Try the same strategy at other meals and gradually up your fiber grams until you hit that magic 30 to 35 range.
Here's a quick list of some high-fiber foods, measured in grams per cup:
• Black beans, canned — 17 g
• Lentils, cooked — 16 g
• White beans, canned (chickpeas, cannellini, etc.) — 13 g
• Peanuts — 12 g
• Edamame, shelled — 8 g
• Green peas — 8 g
• Raspberries and blackberries — 8 g
• Apples — 4 g
• Carrots — 4 g
• Potato, with skin — 4 g
• Corn — 3 g
• Orange — 3 g
• Broccoli — 2 g
• Cauliflower — 2 g
Day 27: Read a Book
In one day!? Okay, maybe not. But you could start a reading challenge. (A challenge within a challenge! Mind blown.) We love the flexibility and creativity of this one from PopSugar, with fun directives like, "Read a book with a time of day in the title" or "Read a book with characters who are twins" or "Read a book mentioned in another book." If you manage to get through all of the prompts, you'll have read 40 books in a year (50, if you go for the advanced add-on)!
Day 28: Sign Up for a Workout You've Never Done Before
As everybody and every body is different, most have a preferred workout of choice. Maybe you love high-intensity aerobic exercise. Perhaps slower-paced, strength training is your jam. You could live for low-impact, full-body conditioning programs. But as we've stressed before, the key to unlocking the best shape of your life is switching things up! Today, find a class nearby that you've never done before. (Feel free to browse through our round-up of the 32 best boutique fitness studios for your wedding workout. With workout classes out there that involve paddle-boarding, hanging upside down from the ceiling on silks, or just pounding some drum sticks on the ground, we guarantee you'll find something new.
Day 29: Eat!
We get that the stress and activity leading up to B-Day (Bride Day!) may make your appetite tank. But whatever you do, don't skip meals or deprive yourself. It backfires 100 percent of the time.
"You'll wind up overeating and your body will store those calories as fat because it fears starvation," notes Sheth. In other words, the exact opposite of what you want to happen will happen. "Make sure you eat small, frequent meals and snacks that have a mix of protein and complex carbs, like a little turkey on a whole grain cracker."
And promise us you won't skip eating on your wedding day, either. "So many brides are too nervous to eat—or want to save all those calories for the cocktail hour and reception. But that can be disastrous," says Sheth. "You have a lot of toasts coming your way and if you don't have anything in your system, well, you want to remember your wedding, right?"
She suggests having something simple for breakfast—even if it's a slice of whole-wheat toast with a little peanut butter. "And have at least small things throughout the day—a container of Greek yogurt, some fruit and nuts—to keep your energy and attitude up," adds Sheth. "You can put your bridesmaids in charge of making sure you eat."
Day 30: Start a Gratitude Journal
The last day! You made it! Whoo hoo! We're hoping the past 30 days have been rewarding, and maybe you've picked up a habit or two you can take with you beyond the month, your wedding, and even the entire spring season. Our very last challenge for you is to reflect on this experience, identify something you are grateful for, and write it down. Now, repeat as often as you can—every day, even—by starting a gratitude journal. Do you know who keeps a gratitude journal? Oprah. You're probably sold, but here are a few words she had on the practice:
"Whenever there's a grateful moment, I note it. I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you're aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots."
The Five-Minute Journal is a favorite around the Brides office. According to the website, "with a simple structured format based on positive psychology research, you will start and end each day with gratitude. Thousands who use the journal have seen increased happiness, better relationships, and have become more optimistic." Plus, it's literally only five minutes.
Aaaaand, YOU just completed our Brides 30-Day Wellness Plan. There's nothing you can't do. ;)