Midtown: Community

Brides get fit for life, not just dress

We’ve all heard real tales of pre-wedding crash dieters. Some of us probably joined the club.

I’ll never forget the experience of a friend who, for weeks leading up to her wedding day, limited her plate and palate to canned tuna fish, crackers and water. The dress fit. But the weight boomed back, and a couple of children and several anniversaries later, she resorted to weight-loss surgery.

Little wonder, then, that my ears perked up when I overheard Real Fitt Workout Center owner and master personal trainer Marla Stroud Cromartie refer to “my brides.” With no shame for my eavesdropping – a perfect distraction as I was in the throes of my own workout – I asked to know more.

Since September, five brides have joined Real Fitt so they could start new chapters in their lives as healthy and fit as possible.

An eclectic group, they have the same goal many starve to reach: to look gorgeous in their wedding dresses. But they also want to maintain the results past the honeymoon and family additions.

“When he looks at meI hope he says, ‘Wow, she’s marrying me,’ ” said Traci DeLand, who will marry Ian Ryde on May 18 inside the Nature Research Center globe. “He’s never going feel that way until I feel that way about myself.

“Instead of waiting two weeks before the wedding and doing the crash diet like most people do, I decided to do something about it way in advance.”

Now, as they both marry a second time, and DeLand, 37, becomes a second mom to Ryde’s 7-year-old son, “We’ve already incorporated exercise more as a family,” she said.

DeLand’s fiancé has hired his own personal trainer. “It’s been a fun thing to do together. It’s a way of life now, and we like it.”

Caroline Branch, who plans an Aug. 24 wedding to her Broughton High School sweetheart, Will Craven, wanted to tone and firm her whole body, define her waistline and arms, and strengthen her knee from surgery in 2010.

“I’m still in school, so I knew I needed someone constantly telling me what do, or I wouldn’t be consistent, and a month before the wedding I’d have a panic attack,” said Branch, 23. She is studying medical assisting at Wake Tech.

“Once you get married, you get comfortable, but I want to always look good for my man – plus there’s the health factor,” Branch said, noting a family history of high blood pressure and cancer. “I want to get a head start on those things. I’m starting a new life, so why not?”

Her BFF-turned-bridesmaid, Elizabeth Bruner, is along for the ride. Branch, whose fiancé is in the U.S. Navy, also started “Meet Me at the Altar,” a biggest-loser-type challenge with her family that includes chats and weigh-ins.

Since January, Branch has lost four inches in her waist and the equivalent of two dress sizes. “My shorts don’t fit me at all,” she said. Body fat: down 3 percent.

“The bridesmaid is slamming it, too,” said Cromartie of Bruner, who’s 25 pounds lighter.

“They know it’s a lifestyle change,” she added. “They also know it’s worth it because it sets them up for success for the rest of their lives, and puts a high value on being in good health and fitness for long-lasting relationships.”

On Oct. 11, 2012, New York native Precious-Jewel Zabriskie-White went to her home state to legally marry her partner, Jacqueline Zabriskie-White.

By the time they had a big celebration at the North Hills Club on April 12, Precious-Jewel had made a 120-pound transformation, owed to weight-loss surgery last July and six months at Real Fitt.

Among Zabriskie-White wedding guests: cameras and crew from “Say Yes to the Dress,” a TLC reality show that helps brides-to-be find the perfect dress.

“Marriage is a beautiful thing, but you have to want to be around for them,” said Precious-Jewel, 32, a graduate of Shaw University, describing additional happiness to be able to run with her nephews and dog, and to tie her shoe.

“Surgery was the best option for me, but so is working out,” she said, noting post-surgery doctor’s orders. “It made me a happier person and a happier bride.”