Starving their way to the alter: Every bride wants to look slim on her big day but doctors fear many are risking their long-term health


Starving their way to the altar: Every bride wants to look slim on her big day but doctors fear many are risking long-term health damage with extreme diets

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UPDATED:

00:53 GMT, 14 May 2012

Six weeks before she married, Kerri Thomas held a pre-wedding celebration in a local restaurant with her groom-to-be and some of their best friends.

As they toasted each other, the 33-year-old accountant began to feel ill. /05/14/article-2143866-12FC0820000005DC-225_634x704.jpg” width=”634″ height=”704″ alt=”Desperation: Anne Thomas slimmed down for her wedding day, but suffered cramps, exhaustion and bloating” class=”blkBorder” />

Desperation: Anne Thomas slimmed down for her wedding day, but suffered cramps, exhaustion and bloating

‘I was out cold for several minutes and only came to when my fiance Dan came to find me. I had blood all over my blouse and was terrified. They called an ambulance but I knew what was wrong: I’d collapsed because I’d been starving myself.’

Kerri was 9st 7lb and a size 10 when Dan proposed, but was determined to lose 2st to look perfect on her big day. She’s just one of a new breed of women dubbed ‘bridalrexics’ who’ll try anything — including starvation — to look thin on their wedding day.

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‘As I began searching for the perfect
dress, I became obsessed with having the “ideal figure” — which I
thought was a size six with a teeny, tiny waist. So six months before the wedding I started dieting in earnest. Until
then, I’d been comfortable with how I looked, ate reasonably healthily
and visited the gym maybe once a week. But now I started cutting out
food. I had no breakfast and only a tiny bowl of cereal for lunch. At
dinner I had a small portion of a healthy meal.

‘Often, I would go 15 hours without any food whatsoever. I wanted to lose weight quickly and thought this was the best way to do it. I told no one how I was starving myself — I just enjoyed their compliments as the pounds fell off. I could feel my energy dropping and I suffered headaches and joint pain, but all I cared about was getting into the dress I’d ordered with a miniscule 24in waist — a whole four inches smaller than I was when I got engaged.’

Anne before she started dieting six months before her wedding day

Anne before she started dieting six months before her wedding day

After a couple of months she had lost
nearly a stone, and Dan asked her to stop when he noticed her ribs
sticking out. ‘I agreed, but secretly knew I wouldn’t. I was determined
to look like a princess on my wedding day, and to me that meant being as
light as a feather. I stepped up my gym visits, spending 45 minutes a night on the treadmill. I’d go straight from work and get home late. Dan wasn’t angry, just really worried because he thought I looked great before and couldn’t fathom my bizarre obsession.’

Then Kerri collapsed at the pre-wedding dinner. ‘It was horrific,’ she says. ‘I was rushed to Swindon Hospital where they did lots of blood tests and I was hooked up to a drip. Immediately, they could tell that my blood sugar level was very low and I was dehydrated. My head wound was too deep for stitches. I screamed in pain as they put eight staples in it. The nurse asked me if I was eating properly. I admitted I wasn’t, saying: “I’m getting married soon,” as if that was a valid excuse.’

/05/14/article-2143866-1313C0C5000005DC-813_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Alarming: Jessica Schnaider, 41, lost 10lbs in eight days on the K-E diet which involved inserting a tube in her nose to deliver 800 calories a day” class=”blkBorder” />

Alarming: Jessica Schnaider, 41, lost 10lbs in eight days on the K-E diet which involved inserting a tube in her nose to deliver 800 calories a day

A recent study of 272 brides by Cornell
University in the U.S. found that 70 per cent wanted to lose at least
23lb, and 14 per cent bought a wedding dress two sizes too small.
Another survey claimed one in five would postpone their wedding if they
weren’t thin enough.

‘Your wedding day represents so much — the beginning of a new life — and is the one day when you’re centre of attention. That’s why there’s so much anxiety about getting it right,’ says psychologist Deanne Jade, founder of the National Centre for Eating Disorders. Losing weight before the ceremony has become compulsive and competitive for many women who embark on diets or go to “bridal boot camps”.’

Anne Thomas, a 30-year-old PA, did just that: ‘I put myself on such a restrictive diet before my wedding in April last year that I ended up exhausted, with severe stomach cramps and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.’ Anne, from Chester, was a size 12-14 before she started dieting six months before the big day. Her aim was to drop two dress sizes before marrying Peter, a 35‑year-old engineer.

‘I put myself on a diet I devised of carrots, low-fat hummus and crackers. But after a month I was near collapse. I felt exhausted, my skin broke out and I had eczema. Worse, my stomach became very bloated and I suffered terrible cramps. I had extreme mood swings as my body wasn’t getting the nutrients it needed. It caused tension between Peter and I, and I’d snap at him over nothing. I was so stressed, I couldn’t sleep either. But I was so determined to be skinny for my big day, I stuck to this insane regime even though my body was screaming to stop.

‘After a particularly intolerable day of stomach cramps at work, I realised I couldn’t go on like this and went to see a doctor. The GP diagnosed me as being gluten intolerant, but said I also had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a condition often affected by stress. What’s worse, I was told I could have it for the rest of my life.

‘Looking back I can’t believe I risked my health for the sake of one day, even if it was my wedding. If I hadn’t stopped my starvation regime I would have been a physical wreck by my wedding day. Thankfully, I pulled myself back from the brink and started eating normally again.’

Nutrition scientist Bridget Benelam, from the British Nutrition Foundation, says: ‘The greatest problem is cutting out entire food groups. Eventually your body will not function. You risk anaemia or loss of bone density, putting your body at risk of long-term damage such as osteoporosis.’
Not only that, extreme dieting is often a hard habit to break.

‘It’s so seductive to get into a pattern of skipping meals that even today, more than 18 months after my wedding, I have to watch myself,’ says Kerri. ‘It scared me how much I liked being skinny, how I liked the feeling of hunger. And while I’ve put on a little weight since the wedding — I’m now about 8st 7lb —I’m still much slimmer than I was. Brides must realise that it’s not worth risking your long-term health just for the sake of one day. Especially as the only person who will really notice is you.’