Last week, newlywed Haley Smith became a fitness inspiration when she told PEOPLE about how she lost 110 lbs. before her wedding after looking through her engagement photos.
“I saw them and didn’t even recognize myself,” Smith, 24, said. “I cried because this was one of the happiest moments of my life, but I was just so ashamed.” Hoping to look and feel her best on her wedding day, Smith made small, healthy changes, like tracking her water intake and eating out only twice a week, to gradually tweak her lifestyle and transform her body.
“Tackling those small, feasible changes made snowballing into running three times a week and adding strength training so much more doable,” she said.
Once they get engaged, many women feel the urge to #sweatforthewedding, and not just because they want to look perfect in their dresses … though that’s definitely a motivating factor. These five brides-to-be opened up to PEOPLE about their body and confidence makeovers.
“I can’t wait to see the changes my body and mind make between now and then, as I continue learning to be healthy and to love myself!”
On July 4, 25-year-old Carolyn J. of Denver got engaged to her “best friend and biggest supporter,” William. She decided she wanted to feel as good about herself, and her body, for their special day as she possibly could.
“He has always loved me just the way I am, but supports me in my efforts to become happier with my own body! Since being engaged, I have found a new reason to live a healthy lifestyle — our wedding,” she tells PEOPLE. “What matters most to me is feeling good about myself on our special day, because I would hate to be distracted by my insecurities like I have been so many times before.”
Through better eating and incorporating at-home workouts into her daily routine, Carolyn has lost 13 lbs.
“I’ve gained so much self-confidence! William has been by my side every step of the way and loves me through every phase of my journey. We will be married in September 2017, and I can’t wait to see the changes my body and mind make between now and then as I continue learning to be healthy and to love myself,” she says.
“I want to feel confident on my wedding day.”
For 24-year-old Latosha, who gets married in May, it’s all about confidence.
“I actually lost just over 60 pounds before I got pregnant — my son is 2 months now. I had a body that was good for me to live in. I was proud and confident then. I want to feel that way on my wedding day,” Latosha, 24, tells PEOPLE. Since her engagement, she has totally made over her diet, taking her from a size 20 to a 16.
“I eat very little pasta and bread. I love chips, will never give them up,” she says. “I hate gyms but really love at-home fitness — dancing is my favorite cardio. And Jillian Michaels workouts leave me really sore.”
“I worked my butt off to look my absolute best on the happiest and most important day of our lives together.”
Kelsey Stoskopf, a writer and certified personal trainer, got engaged in October 2015, then over the course of the following three months (thanks to lots of holiday snacking), gained 25 lbs. She wanted to turn back those numbers, especially with her wedding approaching (she gets married this Friday, Oct. 21).
“While I wasn’t at my heaviest, I knew I could look better for my wedding,” she says. “I knew I wanted to look as best I could for not only my future husband but myself as well. I wanted to be able to look back at our wedding pictures and know I worked my butt off to look my absolute best on the happiest and most important day of our lives together.”
On Feb. 1, she kicked into high gear with a trainer and upped her cardio and weight lifting, also making sure to track her food on MyFitnessPal and meet her carb, protein and fat goals. “Those food goals each week were based on how my body was responding,” she says. “I never got crazy low-carb or low-fat either. And the best part was I had a treat meal every single week. I ate a dinner and dessert I was craving.”
Between Feb. 1 and Oct. 1, Stoskopf went from 150 to 126 lbs. Now, she says she’s in the best shape of her life.
“I knew from day one I wanted my future husband to be in awe when he saw me in my dress for the first time. Every time I felt like giving up, every time I wanted to skip the gym and every time I wanted to pig out on pizza, I just imagined what it would be like standing in front of him in my dress. That was all the motivation I needed to be my best and keep pushing every day.”
“I felt like getting fit before our wedding and exercising regularly was a great habit for us to get into before we get married.”
Megan L. got engaged on Dec. 31 2015, and she and her fiancé decided together they wanted to get fit for their special day (Nov. 20, 2016).
“We’ve been together for the past five years, and in the past we talked about getting in really good shape for our wedding. When I graduated high school, I was pretty muscular, and when I went to college I stopped exercising and lost 15 pounds of muscle my freshman year,” she tells PEOPLE. Over the next four years, she exercised even less consistently, so when she got engaged, she knew she wanted to make a change. But she admits that “committing to fitness” wasn’t so easy.
“My fiancé got to work right away and was exercising very consistently, but I was having a tough time getting motivated,” she says. She decided to join a CrossFit gym because she figured she’d work a little harder if she were paying for something.
“Fitness is very important to both of us and we like to be very active. We love to ski and hike,” she says. “I felt like getting fit before our wedding and exercising regularly was a great habit for us to get into before we get married. I wanted to look and feel fabulous on my wedding day and in my pictures. I didn’t want to look back and wish I had gotten into better shape.”
While Megan didn’t lose any weight, she gained 5 lbs. of lean muscle.
“My goal was not a number on the scale, but more how I wanted to look and feel.”
“I felt so amazing on my wedding day.”
Erin Bree Murphy, 40, got married on Oct. 15, 2016. Leading up to the big day, she decided to overhaul her lifestyle.
“I wanted to get fit so that I could feel confident and beautiful in my wedding dress,” she says.
So, she went to Planet Fitness just about every day, joined several beach body challenge groups, drank Shakeology and did the 21-day fix program. Over the course of 10 months, she lost 25 lbs. and went from a size 14 to a size 8.
On a photo she posted showing her before and after pic in her dress, she wrote, “I’m so glad that I made the decision to change my lifestyle! When you are consistent you see results!”