Safe Weight-Loss Tips for Wedding Season

Quick weight loss can be achieved without turning to the “K-E” diet.

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Over the years, brides-to-be have taken drastic measures to lose weight ahead of the Big Day: drinking a concoction of lemon juice, water, syrup, and cayenne pepper, wiring their mouths shut, and taking a pregnancy hormone while following the 500-calorie hCG diet.

But a feeding tube?

Yes, indeed. News media were abuzz recently with stories of brides resorting to the K-E Diet, in which a feeding tube funnels a slow drip of 800 calories of protein, water, and fat—no carbs— from the nose, down the esophagus, and into a person's stomach each day for 10 days. The draw: Patients can lose up to 20 pounds, says Oliver Di Pietro, a Florida-based internal medicine physician who charges $1,500 for the plan. One bride, his patient, reportedly had the tube removed after eight days because she had already lost the weight she wanted.

Medical and nutrition professionals immediately responded. "Rapid weight loss increases the risk of heart arrhythmias, dehydration, and electrolyte disturbances," says Ethan Lazarus, a family doctor in Denver who specializes in obesity medicine. Shedding pounds this quickly, he says, makes it likely that you will lose more lean body mass and water than fat. This can slow metabolism and result in an instant regain of weight once you go off the diet. "You may gain more than you lost," says Lazarus. Other effects include shrunken fingers and feet and a drooping face—which can result in a loose wedding ring, flopping shoes, and a blushing bride with a dull expression, he says. And while the risk of inserting a feeding tube is small, Lazarus notes the possibility of lacerations in the sinuses (the tube goes down through the nose) and the esophagus, and some brides may experience vomiting and nausea.

Besides, a bride who wants to lose 20 pounds should start at least 10 weeks before the wedding, based on safe weight loss of no more than about two pounds a week, says Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (People who are much heavier can safely lose more, especially when they are first starting a weight-loss program, says Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist and author of The Calendar Diet . Eventually things will level out to 1 to 2 pounds a week for the average person, she says.)

Extreme measures like the K-E Diet aside, taking steps to accelerate weight loss as a key date approaches is perfectly okay if done sensibly. Below, experts share "final countdown" tips (no feeding tubes required).

Eliminate carbs or go low-carb. "The reality is in the short term, there is no question that low-carb diets work better, [for most people]," says Jampolis. "For a 10-day program, the lower you can go," the more weight you'll likely lose, she says. But Jampolis cautions against eating too few carbs, advising that brides consume between 50 and 75 grams per day to safely speed up weight loss. This can be achieved by eating lean protein, leafy greens, and healthy fats, such as nuts and seeds (watch the portions), and cutting back on processed grains, dairy, soy, sugar (including fruit sugar), and starchy vegetables. "Most women don't feel great if they go too low," she says. In the long run, know that low-carb diets have pitfalls, such as being unbalanced and difficult to stick to, says Jampolis.

Shrink and multiply. Eat five or six times a day, spaced out every two, three, or four hours, says Amira Lamb, a holistic nutritionist and personal trainer in New York. This can be three meals and two snacks or all mini meals. Eating regularly helps to maintain stable blood sugar and control hunger, she says. She adds that small meals are also better for digestion.

Consider meal replacements. Meal replacements, whether shakes, bars, or three bowls of bran cereal a day, work for quick weight loss and are much less invasive than a feeding tube, Mangieri says. "They are easy and calorie-controlled, leaving little room for calorie error." Many provide 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance for most nutrients, she says.