Elly MacDonald meets Shoreham’s Emma Howie, the go-to-girl in the wedding industry who will get you in your dream dress.
What inspired you to work in bridal retail?
The fashion industry was something I always wanted to be a part of and completing a fashion media degree in Brighton confirmed that for me.
I started working at a bridal shop called White Mischief in Henfield, styling brides for their big day from head-to-toe.
It’s quite a challenging job; you need to really understand the bride as a person and how she feels about herself when she looks in the mirror.
My job was to make sure every girl sparkled on her big day and felt the best she will ever feel about herself.
It’s a real emotional rollercoaster for most of them and I had to be that one person who could just take the pressure off them to make a decision.
I would pick apart their body language to find which dress really made them feel special.
Eventually I began working with bridal designer Augusta Jones in the marketing department and that’s where I am now.
How did you go from bridal retail to starting up Bombshell Bride and becoming a fitness and personal trainer as well as a bikini fitness superstar?
Sport and fitness has always been a massive part of my life. From a young age I was a swimmer and gymnast, then during my late teens I found my love for weight training.
That’s where I really learnt the importance of health and fitness and how resistance training is really the key to health and happiness for a lot of people.
While working in bridal I met my personal trainer boyfriend and we both trained and competed in bodybuilding competitions.
This inspired me to get my personal training qualification last year.
Working with brides really helped me to understand the emotional side of fitness, how women perceive themselves.
When did Bombshell Bride start and what were your key aims when you started?
Bombshell Bride was something I was inspired to start in early 2015.
I found brides would talk to me about how they felt about their bodies in the changing room during conversation and I could finally give the advice they wanted.
Girls would ask me for hints and tips and my colleagues would say ‘Emma’s the one to ask about weight loss’.
It just made sense to provide Bombshell Bride for these girls who specifically wanted to lose weight and feel good for their big day, but in a healthy, fun way.
Having it set up as an online network, I am like that person at the end of the phone every girl can just text when they feel they need someone to talk to or some advice on their diet and exercise.
Do you think there is too much pressure for brides-to-be to lose weight for their wedding day, and is it more important to change their lifestyle instead of doing ‘quick fix’ diets?
I’m not out to ‘transform girls in six weeks’ and stick them all on a crash diet – that will leave them even more stressed than they were in the first place.
I want to teach girls to love themselves. Sometimes that can take just a little change in the way they look but ultimately, if they feel healthier, they will generally be happier.
I don’t promise girls they will drop three dress sizes in a few months, because everybody reacts differently to diet and training.
Sure, I could give someone a diet plan of half the calories they need to function as a human being on a daily basis and make them do two to three hours of cardio every day.
But that will definitely cause long term health issues, unhappiness, stress and I would effectively be a terrible personal trainer.
I want to show girls there is more to the gym and ‘dieting’, that weight training can be fun and empowering.
I want every girl to strut down that aisle feeling amazing and strong.
How do you decide what plan to give each individual bride? What can they expect to get from it?
When taking on a new client, I look at the whole package – their goals, lifestyle, weight, age, likes, dislikes.
For the diet plans, I calculate how many calories each individual should be consuming and break it down into protein, carbs and fats.
I then write their plan based on the foods they like and dislike that will fit into their daily lifestyle.
Many girls think the less calories they eat every day the more weight they will lose.
But the human body is a very clever piece of kit. It will begin to panic, think it won’t be eating much for a while and go into ‘starvation mode’ by storing fat in the common areas most women have; thighs, tummy and arms.
By feeding your body the foods it needs it can become a fat burning machine.
Any advice for women nervous or unsure about weight training? What are the benefits?
Muscle = metabolism. This is the key to burning fat.
By working your muscles you can make them stronger and build up the muscle fibres. The more muscle fibres you have, the more calories your body needs to consume because it has more energy to burn. Basically muscle burns fat.
Endless hours of cardio is the thing most girls think will make them slimmer – and it will to a degree.
But after a while the body gets smart and figures out how to maintain itself while under that stress. So you have to do more and more cardio to push it further every time.
The misconception is that if women lift weights, they will get manly and overly muscular. That isn’t the case; women don’t have the testosterone to build as much muscle as men.
If you are on the correct diet for you and your goals and working hard in the weights room, you will get that toned look you want on your wedding day and burn fat at the same time.
Not only can you get the physical results you want, but so many of my girls soon realise the empowering feeling they get when they start to weight train.
You feel like Wonder Woman lifting heavy and pushing yourself in the gym. To feel strong and independent is such a wonderful feeling.
I have girls lifting double their body weight and still looking slim and sexy.
Do your clients need access to a gym or are they able to do your workout plans from home?
I want all my girls to be brave and make time to get to a gym that has resistance weights. You can only go so far with home workouts.
Not only will they benefit from the range of equipment, but it’s a chance for them to know they’re putting the time in, meeting new people and making time for themselves.
Most workouts last 45 minutes. They can be quicker depending on your rest times. So anyone can get up an hour earlier, use her lunch hour or stop off on the way home from work.
I personal train at Muscle Fury in Littlehampton and Underground Gym in Portslade.
How far in advance would you suggest brides-to-be start training for their perfect body before the big day?
As soon as possible. Working on your body isn’t a temporary thing, it has to become a lifestyle.
If you can change your habits sooner rather than later it will become a daily ritual for you and so much easier to slot into your life.
What are your plans for the future of Bombshell Bride?
I want to help girls feel amazing on their big day, but not only for that special moment; for the rest of their lives.
I take girls on long-term as well as short term and we set goals for them to smash.
Some girls want to lift heavier and enter powerlifting competitions after only a few months of picking up their first dumbbell.
Some have bikini body goals for a holiday and some simply want to keep their body moving and eating well so they are happier in their own skin.
Exercising and eating well makes you feel good. So why not do it?
Any advice for brides with a sweet tooth? How do you cut those cravings for something sweet?
Dark chocolate is something I try to make sure every girl gets in her diet plan daily, as well as caramel Snack-A-Jacks rice cakes and even jellybeans post workout.
Cold turkey is no fun for anyone and if their daily calories allow for treats like this, then I’ll put them in someone’s diet.
I also give them weekly ‘free meals’ so they can work hard at sticking to their meal plan during the week and training hard in the gym, then as a reward they can have a treat.
At the end of the day, if you are eating the amount of calories your body needs on a daily basis, it won’t ask you for more food and make you crave things outside of your diet.
Pictures: Christopher Bailey; Igor Kopcek
February 5, 2016 Fashion and Beauty