Weddings are among the biggest days of our lives and along with the excitement, love, the beauty of the grand event, it can also come hand in hand with a great deal of stress and pressure; on oneself, on the relationship. These can take a toll on the physical and mental health of those whose day is meant to be the most precious of their lives so far. Friday speaks to health and well-being experts in the UAE on ways to ensure the big day remains healthy and happy all the way from proposal to honeymoon.

First up, ditch the crash diet and brutal training regime. Jenna Lincoln, a holistic health coach at Body Inc. says: ‘We all know that crash dieting is a bad thing, but still at times of “need”, such as weddings or other big events, we mistakenly think it will be ok, because it’s just a short-term fix. However, as scientists look deeper into the effects of how low-calorie dieting has a long-term impact on hunger and appetite hormones, it’s becoming clearer that doing an eight-week low-calorie diet leading up to your big event can have you struggling with your weight for as long as the following year. Constant yo-yo dieting could also be why you feel the need to yo-yo diet your whole life.

‘If we put our bodies through a low-calorie diet, eating way under the calories a day we actually need, the body will adapt.

‘You may get to your big event fitting into your dream dress, but your skin and hair will most probably look limp, and you will most likely have water retention from high cortisol [the stress hormone] being too high. After the big day you may get sick, because your body has been so run down and running on empty. When you go back to a more normal calorie intake, your body will not know how to deal with the excess calories it’s adapted to live without. The result: weight will pile on.

‘Just as you cannot plan your wedding well in a few weeks, do not try to change your body quickly, either. The more weight you have to lose, the more time you should give yourself. Plan to reach your goal weight at least a month before the big day so as you can focus on stressful things around the event, your body will be in good health to deal with these stressors.’

A steady loss of 300g for people with a few kilos to lose, and up to 1.5kg for those who have over 15kg to lose, is a healthy amount of fat to lose each week, she adds.

Dr Qudsia Anjum Fasih, family medicine specialist at Medcare Medical Centre in Rashidyia, agrees: ‘The subcontinent is no exception for the pressure on young population to look smart, handsome or beautiful with regards to body shaping. The genotyping and phenotyping of this part of the world makes them easy prey for weight gain and then due to peer pressure, they go for exertional weightloss programmes.

‘Then there are the demands of mothers seeking brides for their sons; everyone looks for external beautifying features, pressurising girls more than boys.’

Dr Qudsia recommends that those considering dieting just before their wedding consult a doctor or a nutritionist well in advance so they will receive proper medical advice on nutrition and a balanced diet for weight maintenance.

Be sure to sleep well and do some self care

Dr Vishal Pawar, specialist neurologist at Aster Specialty Clinic, International City, wants you to get some sleep. ‘Weddings are one of the most precious moments of life. While wedding traditions and customs may vary greatly among cultures, the one common factor is: pre-wedding anxiety.’

The specialist says that anxiety just before the wedding can encompass a series of thoughts racing through one’s mind.

‘There are many anxiety-provoking thoughts that may flash through the mind, but some of the more common ones are: “What will happen?” “How will it happen?” and “What will Mr X or Ms Y think?”.

‘These thoughts lead to the activation of a part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to several symptoms including restlessness, sleeplessness and tremors.’

Also read: The ultimate bridal beauty countdown

Dr Vishal compares sleeping to formatting a computer. ‘Our brain is a super-computer that continuously creates thoughts that drain the brain battery. Sleep gives rest to the brain, acting like a charger. Sleeping well daily is very important, especially during periods of stress. It plays an important role for the memory, abstract thinking, decision-making, mood and to control irritability. It is also important for immune function. There are wider health impacts, too: ‘Sleeplessness can reduce immune function and lead to susceptibility to infections,’ he says.

Stay healthy the ayurvedic way

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The ancient Indian health practice has been healing ailments both mental and physical for centuries. Dr Asha Jones from Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre shares the best ways to stay healthy for the big occasion. ‘Eating healthily as per your ayurvedic constitution or “dosha” – Vata, Pitta or Kapha – is the first and most important thing to start for this preparation. It is important to identify your body constitution, select the right diet plan to make sure your mind and body are balanced and ready for your big day.

Stress management is vital at this time. ‘Stress will wreak havoc on your skin, weight and sleep,’ says Dr Asha. ‘It will bring negative emotions to mind, which can create toxins that further cause the imbalance of doshas. Try setting aside 10-15 minutes first thing in the morning daily for meditation. Meditating in the morning helps you remain focused, content and optimistic through the day. Yoga or some exercises for 10-15 minutes through the day can help you remain active. Pranayama, or breathing techniques, also help relax your mind and muscles.’

She also stresses the need for sleep. ‘Sleep deprivation can affect your health, beauty and mood. Make sure you get six to eight hours of sleep each night, and you’ll wake up refreshed and focused to tackle the new day better. The most restful sleep occurs when you go to bed at 10pm and rise with the sun. For peaceful sleep, ayurveda advises practices such as oil application on the head and soles, and drinking cow’s milk with honey and turmeric.’

Organisation is key: The bride

Jasmine Pereira, 27, though Indian, was born and raised in Dubai. The environmental consultant married Mervin, also Indian, in Dubai in December 2017. For her, organisation was key. She did not use a wedding planner, instead gleaning as much insight as she could from friends and spending time doing her own research. ‘Finding vendors for various aspects of the wedding and coordination at the end of it all was the most stressful part,’ she says. ‘There are plenty of wedding vendors in Dubai but finding ones to provide the ideal set-up within a strict budget can get difficult. We opted to have vendors for each: Decoration, flowers, music, mainly those who specialise in each of their respected fields, so that we could get the best from everything.’

Hindsight for her, was on her side. ‘I was lucky that my best friend had got married a year before I did, in Dubai and in a similar manner. I learnt from her that a detailed Microsoft Excel sheet is your best guide during the planning. It helped keep track of all the tasks, contact details and deadlines as the wedding date approached.’ Not allowing the wedding to take up all the couple’s time, was key. ‘I kept days in between where I did not do any wedding tasks to make time for myself and relax. Meeting my bestie for a night out to ensure things on the checklist are checked out help too.’

Less stress: Hire a wedding planner

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Saniya Wahi is a specialist wedding planner in the ‘big fat Indian wedding’, both in the UAE and abroad. The number one reason couples come to her is to reduce the stress of the upcoming event, which, in the UAE, is on average 500 people strong, but can go up to as much as 5,000 in a couple’s home community. ‘There is a lot of pressure, especially on Indian couples, more than in other cultures. There is a lot of social pressure, competition and judgement, how the wedding is compared to other weddings, and a sense of outdoing weddings which have gone before,’ she says.

The goal of coming up with something original, can be challenging for many couples, who cannot necessarily conceptualise the ideas they have. A wedding planner can take that stress away, as the planner takes over everything – from finding the perfect location to the logistics of guests, colour palettes of the decor and even the clothing of the bride and groom’s families. One thing Saniya advises couples is to take time to plan. ‘I usually advise a year to plan a big wedding. I wouldn’t do a big wedding in less than six months.’

Working with a set schedule gives reassurance to couples that things are progressing and are under control, combined with meetings or calls to keep regular contact between the couple and the planner. ‘Having that reassurance is important for them,’ she says. ‘We want the bride and groom to enjoy the wedding as much as their guests. For me it’s about building that trust with them so they can feel reassured as the process progresses.’