I have a confession. Before I got engaged, I really didn’t think twice about my nutrition and fitness routine. Who am I kidding? I didn’t even have a routine! Thanks to one of my co-workers, I was encouraged to attend a Boot Camp class at work (yes, I’m so lucky we have a gym at the office)! I’ve been going to Boot Camp class and working out consistently for two months now and I couldn’t be happier with my new wellness plan. Now, I just need to be more mindful of what I eat. With the holidays right around the corner, I thought this would be the perfect time to talk with Carlene Thomas, a dietitian nutritionist who helps brides-to-be learn how to be happier and healthier before and beyond saying, “I do” through her blog Healthfully Ever After. Read on for a Q&A featuring Carlene’s nutrition tips for brides, foods you should embrace (and avoid) and a bevy of healthy recipes to try during the holiday season!
For those who aren’t familiar, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Carlene Thomas and I’m a dietitian nutritionist helping brides learn how to be happier and healthier before and beyond saying “I do” through my business and blog Healthfully Ever After. My absolute passion is Wedding Wellness Nutrition and food in general (seriously, I get so excited about food). I’m also so lucky I get to develop healthy recipes for companies and do some food styling! Is this real life?
How do you work with brides to get them ready for their wedding?
It starts as a health monogram. I know it’s popular to go on a ‘plan’ or a cleanse, but the reality is that every bride is different. I start from the bottom up with ever bride to work through food preferences, food philosophies (pescatarian, vegan, local only-done!), and where they are in their healthy habits starting today. We start where you are and find what will work best to get you results. After an initial session and setting a plan of action, we keep in touch so I can give you support and fast feedback to problem solve along the way. When clients go on vacation and need healthy travel snacks, it’s something we address immediately. Or if you are realizing you need major help at the grocery store, we go on a grocery date and walk through aisle by aisle to assess your choices and pick the best options. And if you really only want a meal plan, we can do that too.
My priority is providing clarity in the confusing messages in the nutrition world. I swear there’s always a new study or ‘breaking news’ that tells you one day something will kill you and the next that it’s the fountain of youth. I sift through the noise to give you the bottom line.
I’m also super excited to announce some big news: I have a Wedding Wellness e-book that’s coming out soon that has meal plans and all of my secrets for a wedding ready body and mind. Stay tuned!
Do you think women are more inspired to live a healthier lifestyle once they are engaged and planning for a wedding versus any other time in their life? If so, why?
My entire vision of Wedding Wellness is a little off the beaten path in terms of what is expected of you as a bride. A staggering 80 percent of brides automatically assume they need to lose weight for the wedding and begin to change nutrition and exercise behaviors. That’s crazy. It almost seems as though a switch goes off once you are finished showing friends and family your ring. It starts as wanting to secure your ideal happiness every time you look at those wedding pictures you see in every relative’s house. But here’s the thing…why not use that motivation to be healthier, slimmer, stronger or however you are describing it, to create lasting change and an even bigger effect? That’s logic.
What are your top three wellness tips for newly engaged gals?
- I talk about this a lot in my e-book but it starts with finding the why. WHY do you want to change? What is motivating you? It goes much deeper than ‘to look good in pictures’. Keep asking yourself why to every answer and eventually you get to the deepest motivator. It may be that you hated being picked on as a kid for your looks or that you are afraid of looking like your mother who never made health a priority. It’s never just the dress or pictures.
- Food you’re eating for pleasure, not for health is a luxury. Treat it like a luxury purchase. I have no ‘bad’ foods in my life. I just took a croissant class for goodness sake. And I’ve been known to literally drive across state lines for the best ice cream possible. Then there are women who are ‘on a diet’ and can’t have certain foods and will obsess about what they can’t have. Here’s the thing…quality matters. Be picky. If you want a treat it better be the best damn version of it you can find and you should savor the experience! That’s why I took the croissant class! Now that I know what home made croissants taste like I’m not tempted by any I see in the store, ever.
- Don’t demonize one food group: In my experience people seem to think they are super cool or on trend for saying they’re avoiding 2-3 food groups. And oddly people praise this restriction. I always hear “Good for you!”. If they believe in that and feel that it has improved their life it’s fine but science and evidence drives nutrition. Nutrition is a science, it’s not something some guy with a blog that lost weight ten years ago does. If you ever have your doubts about a plan or a certain diet, question it. Do your research or ask me. Trends die, science and research don’t (although they do continue to evolve).
What do you recommend eating for brides focusing on healthy hair, skin and nails?
I think people are finally starting to realize what a huge impact diet has on your hair skin and nails. I had the ‘beltway bob’ haircut a year ago and my hair is ridiculously long now. Part of that is good nutrition. I always get compliments on my skin and I can see a big difference when I make sure I’m getting my kale and drinking water.
Find foods that have:
- antioxidants like berries or sweet potatoes to fight free radicals from living in the city
- high water content like cucumber to hydrate
- healthy fats like avocado and salmon to hydrate cells for faster cell turnover
- iron from spinach or lean beef to increase blood flow to cells for a good glow
- biotin and all b vitamins from protein sources like eggs or fish for essential amino acids-crucial AND important for your metabolism
What types of foods should we avoid eating before the big day?
In the phase I call crunch time, it’s when I work with my brides to really tighten up their eating habits. I absolutely love food and throughout my food philosophy you know I’m okay with indulgences treated like luxuries. But during crunch time those things have to go. Watch out for:
Sugar free foods : If you’re sensitive to sorbitol/xylitol they will be gas forming and make you feel bloated
Sodium levels: It’s not the salt shaker. Most sodium which makes you feel puffy comes from dining out, packaged bread and ‘convenience’ foods.
Refined starches and sugars: Aaaand we bid the croissants adieu. If you have rice, it needs to be brown rice, or better yet quinoa which has more protein. If you have bread go for sprouted whole grain bread which has more protein.
With the holidays right around the corner, any healthy recipe recommendations?
I have to mention that part of healthy holiday eating as someone who is newly engaged or in a committed relationship is surviving ‘double holiday syndrome.’ Two big food events with everyone’s Grandma’s pies and rolls. I have an entire survival guide here. Some of my favorite healthy holiday food recipes I have on the blog include: Healthy stuffing salad, kale brussels sprouts salad, and protein packed vegan gingerbread pudding. The other part of surviving the holidays in a healthy way is managing the non-party meals in a super healthy way. I love a smoothie and salad a day as a framework to build my life around. All of my healthy recipes, like salads are under my healthy hostess tab.
Photos courtesy of Carlene Thomas/Healthfully Ever After