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Safe and smart ways to slim down before your wedding

Many brides-to-be, and even some grooms-to-be, express concern about their weight in the weeks and months leading up to their wedding. Losing weight is a goal for many engaged couples, but it's important that couples who want to shed a few extra pounds don't sacrifice safety for the sake of slimming down.

According to a Cornell University study of 273 women with a wedding day approaching, 70 percent wanted to lose more than 20 pounds before their weddings. However, reality indicates that a weight loss of 5 to 10 pounds is more attainable -- more so if the weight loss regimen is spread out over several weeks. The term "brideorexia" has entered the vernacular, and it is associated with brides who are taking extreme measures to lose weight. Taking laxatives, engaging in fluid-only diets and even using tobacco or drugs to serve as appetite suppressants are just some of the measures some brides have taken to shed weight before their wedding days.

There is no magic formula to shed pounds, but there are certain ways to jump-start and maintain the process of healthy weight loss so brides can look slimmer and healthy for their big day.

* Eat. Although initial calorie curbing can help shed weight, eventually your body may adapt to your new eating habits or go into "survival mode," which means conserving fat reserves. Researchers at Penn State University found that fasting signals to your body that it is being starved, triggering a lower metabolic rate. Brides-to-be should never cut out food entirely. Eating anything less than 1,200 calories a day will encourage the body to try to conserve energy by lowering its metabolism. Severe calorie restriction is not an effective way to lose weight.

* Step up your exercise regimen. Reducing food intake alone will not help you lose weight quickly. The goal is to burn more calories than you consume. Therefore, adding more cardiovascular activity to your routine can help burn calories more efficiently. According to a clinical study from researchers at Italy's University of Padua published in the 2011 International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, eating a light meal before exercising helps you burn more fat and keeps your body burning fat even 24 hours after the exercise.

* Reduce sodium intake. Sodium doesn't necessarily lead to weight gain, but it can make it appear so. Sodium contributes to water retention in the body, which may make you appear heavier or bloated. Cut back on foods that are high in sodium, especially as the wedding draws close, to reduce water retention.

* Identify sources of empty calories. Fruit juices, soda and other beverages are often the culprits with regards to unnecessary calorie consumption. Therefore, choose your beverages wisely and limit them to water, teas and unsweetened drinks. If you want to drink fruit juice, consider diluting it. In addition, most alcoholic beverages have 100 calories or more. While it may be tempting to celebrate with wine, champagne and mixed drinks during your engagement period, your waistline may ultimately pay the price for such indulgences.

* Hire a good photographer. A camera allegedly adds 10 pounds, a reason many couples panic about their wedding day. A photo is a 2D image of a 3D object. Therefore, the photo reduces depth perception and flattens an image, which may make some items look like they have more bulk. A professional photographer will know how to manipulate lighting and angles of the camera to ensure a more flattering shot.

* Eat smaller portions. Oftentimes, its not a matter of what you are eating but how much. Most portion sizes served in restaurants or even at home are double or triple the amount that you should be eating. When in doubt, cut everything in half.

* Fill up on fiber or protein. Instead of resorting to pills to suppress an appetite, simply eat foods that will fill you up naturally. High-fiber foods will bulk up in the stomach and keep you feeling satiated longer. The same can be said for lean proteins, which take longer to digest, thus fending off hunger pangs.

While losing weight for a wedding is many couples' ultimate goal, the best way to tackle this task is in a healthy, responsible manner.