New Beginnings

Martha Stewart Weddings, 2008

You're pretty much guaranteed instant wedding-day glow as soon as you spot your groom standing at the altar. But for clear skin, toned arms, and a vibrant smile, you'll have to adjust your health and beauty routines several months before you walk down the aisle. The good news, though, is that you don't have to adopt a radically different regimen; all you have to do is fine-tune your habits. "Your wedding is a great time to decide what kind of lifestyle you want to lead," says Christi Masi, a personal trainer and author of The Healthy Bride Guide: Be Fit and Fabulous From This Day Forward. Here, Masi and her co-author help you develop a new M.O. to keep you looking and feeling great through your first anniversary -- and your fiftieth!

You've sampled every skin product you could get your hands on, but you've never found anything that really works.
What your skin craves is commitment, but what you're offering instead is a mixed message. Think twice the next time you toss out a new product after just a few days of using it. Not only are you doing your bank account a disservice, you're also short-changing your skin. It takes at least one month for a product to truly start working, and constantly switching products or changing the frequency with which you use them can cause inflammation and breakouts. Visit a dermatologist at least six months before your wedding to figure out what your skin needs, recommends Doris Day, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center. Then, be sure to stick with the products you've decided on. 

Bottom line: When it comes to skin care, be a creature of habit and stay loyal to tried-and-true products.

You diligently wash your hair every day, just as your mom taught you, but it's still looking unhealthy.
Sudsing up once a day often does more harm than good: Shampoo can strip your hair of its natural oils. Not to mention that a daily shampooing often comes hand-in-hand with daily usage of styling products, which can further dry out your tresses. Try soaping up every other day instead, or every third day if your hair's on the dry side. If you feel greasy on off-days, run a toner-soaked cotton ball over your roots, or try a dry shampoo that absorbs oil on your scalp and leaves your mane smelling fresh. If daily shampooing is an addiction you just can't kick, look for products labeled "gentle" or "suitable for daily use." 

Bottom line: For healthy hair, wash your tresses on an as-needed basis.

You go to bed at the same time every night. Why are you waking up exhausted in the mornings?
You're halfway there: In addition to maintaining a consistent bedtime, the National Sleep Foundation also recommends you wake up at the same time every day -- including Saturdays and Sundays. Catching up on Z's over the weekend may be throwing you out of whack. When your body is in a regular sleep-wake cycle, you're less likely to reach for junk food if hungry or bored. "Bodies need to rest and recharge, especially bridal bodies," says Masi. 

Bottom line: Wake up at the same time every day. If you like to rest up on weekends, take the early hours slow: Read the paper or have a simple breakfast.

You've cut down to just one cup of coffee a day! You can't do better than that, or can you?
Yes, you can. Limiting yourself to a single a.m. mug of java is good, but a cup of white tea -- which has just a fraction of the caffeine found in coffee but can deliver a similar buzz -- is even better. "Don't rely on caffeine to get you through the day," urges Lona Sandon, M.Ed., R.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern. Recent studies have also shown that white tea has antiviral and antibacterial properties. 

Bottom line: Break up with Joe and make a date with white tea.

Your grocery list is becoming a laundry list of processed foods.
"If you can't pronounce the words on the ingredients list, put it back on the shelf," says Masi. Here's what you should load your shopping cart with instead: For strong nails, teeth, and bones, buy calcium-rich dairy products and dark leafy greens. For glowing skin, stock up on dark-orange vegetables (like carrots and sweet potatoes), which are high in Vitamin A. Another good-skin basic is Vitamin C, which is easily available in fresh fruit. Last, don't forget to buy fish, which has omega-3 fatty acids, a "healthy fat" that nourishes hair, skin, and nails. Just remember that the Environmental Protection Agency recommends avoiding shark, swordfish, and king mackerel (which have higher levels of mercury). On the safe list: shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, and catfish. 

Bottom line: Skip the foods that come packaged in plastic and opt instead for vitamin-rich whole foods that work hard to help you look and feel great.

Your wedding is just a month away, and you decide to start running in an effort to get into shape.
While cardiovascular exercise -- including running, speed walking, or using the elliptical trainer -- will burn calories, you'll need to do a little weightlifting to get toned muscles fast. Instead of following a cardio-only routine, Masi recommends brides mix two days of cardio with two days of strength training. (Gym-goers can download her free work-out podcasts from iTunes by searching for "healthy bride.") bottom line: A combo of cardio and strength training will give you the most noticeable results.

You've broken your fast-food habit and now favor sports bars and diet shakes for quick meals.
Because these products are formulated to help you lower your calorie intake (and thus lose weight), they often come up short nutritionally. "They're basically multivitamins", says Sandon, "which is not a bad idea, but no vitamin in the world contains all of the nutrients you need to protect your health." Besides, vitamins and minerals are best absorbed when they come from food sources. 

Bottom line: Sports bars and diet shakes are okay now and then, but you should base your diet on balanced meals.

Cutting out carbs has totally worked for you. You've lost weight, but you've also lost energy.
Low- or no-carb diets always work in the short run. Without its favored source of energy, the body has no choice but to deplete fat and muscles, which causes rapid weight loss. Because your body is working inefficiently, however (running on protein instead of carbohydrates), you'll have less energy. You'll also crave the "forbidden" foods. "Crash dieting leaves you feeling tired, irritable, and hungry," says Sandon. 

Bottom line: The best diet? Eat less and eat well. Instead of eliminating all carbs, swap out processed carbohydrates (white sugar and white flour) for lean protein, fruits, and complex carbohydrates such as veggies and whole grains.

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