The concept of #SheddingForTheWedding is, for the female bride at least, practically synonymous with being engaged. According to a Cornell study, more than 70% of brides-to-be have weight loss on the brain, and more than one-third look to extreme measures, like diet pills or fasting (or feeding tubes!) to reach their goals.
The expectation for a bride to undergo a weight loss transformation is so pervasive that brands and solo entrepreneurs have found ways to profit from it: Bride-specific fitness plans, bridal bootcamps and bridal juice cleanses are just a few of the (financially draining) ways a woman can properly prep for her big day.
But what about the grooms working to drop a few pounds? There's not much hard research on the subject. A quick scan on the web will bring up service articles by men's media sites, but it doesn't seem as if dudes are anyone's main target.
While weight loss itself isn't inherently gendered, it's easy to substantiate that women are more often the marketers' main objective. This doesn't mean men who focus on their weight or struggle with body image issues don't exist; their stories are simply lesser told.
It's crucial to note that losing weight doesn't inevitably equate to health, happiness or success.
A case study
While a sample of four men isn't enough to draw a single conclusion about men and their wedding weight loss goals, we're using the four mens' experiences below as a case study of sorts. What motivated these men to lose weight? Did they feel societal pressures to shed fat, or did their wedding date serve as a deadline for a procrastinated goal? Were they healthy about their processes, or did they result to fad diets that promise quick results like so many women do?
The four newly-wedded men Mic spoke to had their own separate weight loss journeys, but some common themes tie their experiences together. All of the men mentioned having the support of their spouses: Their partners may not have encouraged them to get slimmer, but they did stand next to them during throughout the process. Some partners even experienced the sojourn together.
A key component to the grooms' regiments was consistency: They wove a new routine into their lifestyles, and were judicious about repetition. Some mentioned that their partners were concerned they were going too hard or were addicted to their new plans, and some were explicit about knowing their actions weren't necessarily the healthiest. Two of the four bought suits that were several sizes too small as a motivator. Some have kept their weight off, while others say they've gained back a little "honeymoon weight."
Read on to learn more about these mens' experiences #SheddingForTheWedding:
Wedding date: September 2, 2012
Stokoe never felt any outside pressure to lose weight for his wedding, nor did his now-wife Dana ever mention the issue. It was entirely a personal goal. "Dana never had a problem with it — or if she did, she never really told me," Stokoe said. "I was the one bringing it up, how I was not happy about my weight post-college."
The catalyst for his weight loss journey was a few photos Stokoe saw of himself after a family vacation to Mexico in December 2011. "I saw some pictures and was like, 'Oh that's how I look these days?,'" he said. "It was also a recognition that it was something I always thought as being temporary wasn't changing. I thought [my weight] would solve itself over time, but it didn't really." Stokoe said he was up to 220 lbs in college, when in high school he was very comfortable at 160.
In January 2012, Stokoe revamped his entire diet. He downloaded a fitness app and limited to himself to 1,500 calories a day. And, since he is the main cook in his household, he adjusted some of his go-to recipes to be slightly healthier, though he was more cautious with portion sizes than actual ingredients. "Dana and I both love pasta, but I switched us to whole wheat pasta," Stokoe said. "One thing I'd read is that fiber is really important in your diet and keeps things moving."
Stokoe had already been a big exerciser, but amped up his workout regimen to seven days a week rather than four. His lifestyle change yielded "pretty rapid results." Stokoe lost one to two pounds every week, he said.
The diet and exercise overhaul worked. "When I look at photos from my wedding, I think 'that's me,'" Stokoe said. "When I look at photos from when I'm heavier, that's temporary me, or me going through a bad period. During that time I would look in the mirror and just think it wasn't really me. It felt like a costume or that I needed to get out of."
Post-wedding, Stokoe has kept the weight off and has become even more passionate about fitness, tackling intense events like sprint triathlons. "Losing the weight helped me transform from the position that exercise was a thing I had to do but something I wanted to do," he said.
Wedding date: February 18th, 2014
Rodriguez motivated himself to lose weight with a trick that virtually every health expert on the planet advises against: He bought a blazer a few sizes too small with the intention to have it fit perfectly for his wedding. The Hugo Boss blazer — "my most expensive blazer to date" — was going to have to work, Rodriguez said.
To make the blazer fit just right, Rodriguez said he turned to extreme juicing. "I still ate food," he said, "But I just made sure to have a green juice in the morning, a green juice at lunch and ate pretty limited at dinner."
"I just wanted to look back and be happy with my photos." He followed the juice plan for three months and, unsurprisingly, "it was not a happy situation." Rodriguez said the diet plan was particularly challenging because he was stressed at work, and his partner was not exactly on the same plan.
"He tried doing [the juice diet] a little, but he'd sneak out and eat bread or something." Rodriguez said his partner had never commented on his weight, but that he was supportive of his desire to shed some pounds. If anything, Rodriguez said, his diet made life a little more difficult for his partner. "He'd eat in the bedroom with the door closed so I couldn't smell the food." Now that's love.
Wedding date: February 27, 2016
For Davis Anderson, his wedding served as "a nice reminder that maybe you've had a few too many cookies, too many beers and should skip the ice cream." Anderson said he saw his big day as a kick in the pants to get started on finally losing the weight he'd been wanting to drop for a few years.
Anderson said he was really the only one cognizant of the extra pounds he'd put on, and chalks it up to "the luck of being a guy."
"A suit does a really good job of disguising a belly," he added.
Fat was Anderson's weight loss secret — as in eating fat to lose it. "I was introduced to the Keto diet a few years ago," he said. "You go down to a bear minimum of usable carbs. You can have 30 grams of carbs that are not fiber in any given day, and your body starts looking for fat for its fuel source." Anderson's pre-wedding meals were made of butter and bacon — less conventional diet foods, but he said they worked.
While the prospect of butter and bacon may appeal to some, the fat overload worried Lisa, Anderson's now-wife. "I was never starving myself, but Lisa, who loves Italian food and pasta, was worried that I wouldn't be taking care of myself," he said. Even still, Anderson said his wife was supportive through his extreme diet change. "After years and years I finally found something that works for my body," he said. "[Lisa] doesn't necessarily understand but she definitely supports it."
The combination of the Keto diet and an amped up workout regimen led Anderson to shed around 20 pounds. However, he said he paid more attention to his body fat percentage which he got down to about 13.1 percent. "I try not to obsesses so much about the number of my weight because I know muscle does weigh more," he said. "I pay attention to how my clothes fit, which is a better indicator for me."
Since the wedding, Anderson said he's allowed himself to put on a little "honeymoon weight." But now, a few months since his nuptials, Anderson said he's struggling a bit to get back in full gear. "I tried to put myself back on the diet — it's really intense," he said. "I haven't spiraled out of control yet, but I'm at that point where I realize I can't let myself undo all the work."
Wedding date: October 10, 2015
"I knew how good I could look and I didn't want to look back in 20 years and think 'Man, I really blew it that day,'" Adam Doren said of his wedding weight loss.
Doren's real wake-up call moment happened when he began the search for his wedding tuxedo. "The guy told me the portly section was in a different part of a store," Doren said. "That was the trigger. I guess that was my motivation — I never considered myself portly."
And so, Doren purchased a tux that was about three inches too small. Knowing he had to fit into the ensemble come ring exchange time, both Doren and his now-wife Hayley put their diet and exercise routines into overdrive.
"We coupled the Whole 30 diet with a bootcamp class that tracked what [we ate]," he explained.
Doren said showing up to the workout classes became more important than going out for a drink, and he owes much of his success to his wife. "I couldn't have done it without her. She packed lunches for us. When we got home late and wanted to order Chinese, she would keep us in check and make something like spaghetti squash with chicken."
He said they both were able to keep up with the challenge because "neither of us wanted to be the one who blew it."
While following the Whole 30 plan, Doren and Hayley went dry for an entire month. Though they were used to having an after-dinner drink, the couple made do with mocktails. Specifically, they'd pour La Croix sparkling water into wine glasses and top it with a lime. Elegant!
"It was worth it," Doren said. "In the beginning it was hard, but after you see the transformation happening, you realize you don't need [alcohol]. Like do you really need seven beers in one night?"
As for whether he'd go through the whole process again, Doren said absolutely. "There's pictures [from the wedding] and I'm like, 'Holy shit — I look like a completely different person.' Everything is the way it's supposed to be."