It's that time of year when for some reason it becomes harder than normal to keep on top of your Nutrition. Apart from the darker evenings, shorter days & chillier climate, all of which can make you reach for the warming comfort foods, the onset of the festive party season means a constant overload of eating & drinking super high calorie treats.
**HEALTH WARNING** weekends can seriously sabotage your fat loss plans!!
For many people on a fat loss journey, its the weekend overeating (and over-boozing) that prevents them from seeing the RESULTS they work hard for Monday to Friday. It's something I see over and over again. Individuals killing it in the gym and managing their eating during the normal working week and then Friday night comes and BOOM. For a lot of people it's become so routine now its a habit.
The common theme;
"Every Friday around 5pm, as I waited for the bus after work, I’d start to salivate. The end of the work week means red wine, pizza, a giant bag of crisps, and a movie. It's my Friday ritual. Friday night, is eat whatever I want, the highlight of my week. My job is stressful so fast food and booze is my way of unwinding. Friday is a gateway drug to the rest of the weekend. a big breakfast on Saturday, and big lunches afterwards. Either out on Saturday night for drinks and a big meal. Or stay home for a takeout and movie on the couch. Then its Sunday brunch, perhaps coffee & cake during a Sunday walk. And, naturally, winter weekends is a big Sunday roast… because it’s Sunday"
Because it’s Friday. Because it’s Saturday. Because it’s Sunday. Sound familiar?
We aren't talking about compulsive bingeing here. This kind of overeating is a routine, stress-fuelled, social habit. In most cases, your social circle supports it, even encourages it - 'its just what people do at the weekends'.
The problem is, that after a while, weekend overeating starts to bite you in the ass.
As every overeater knows, the over indulgence comes with consequences.
By Monday you feel physically uncomfortable, bloated, and mentally, you feel crap, guilty and angry for eating it all. And while a little weight fluctuation is inevitable when you’re trying to get in shape, if you want to stay healthy and fit, or make fitness and health a permanent part of your lifestyle, then weekend overeating can easily sabotage your goals.
Aside from the obvious extra body fat or poor performance in the gym, there’s all the other associated health related side effects. Your joints hurt because of inflammation from junk food. You’re too heavy to train properly. Or you lie awake in bed with food sweats or get a shitty sleep because of the overdose of sugar, saturated fats & alcohol. The problem is, like any habit, the cycle can be hard to break. Training harder in the gym the Monday after a social weekend isn't the answer. Nor is drastically cutting your calories as you begin another new diet on Monday as the starvation attempt almost always leads to an even bigger blowout the following weekend. The more the binge-diet cycle continues; the further the health and fitness goals remain out of reach.
How do you break free of the weekend overeating cycle?
Are your weekday eating patterns affecting your weekend behaviour?
Do you have a healthy, unemotional relationship with food?
Here are the 5 strategies to help ditch the 5:2 habit (and hopefully the weight) for good.
Strategy #1: Instead of trying to be perfect - start to live with balance.
Aim for “consistently good” instead of “perfect”.
By trying to follow the “perfect” diet and super strict meal plans Monday to Friday and constantly stressing about screwing things up, by the time you get to the weekend, you're mentally exhausted with it all and the willpower gives out. You’re so fed up of restrictive eating you can’t wait to eat ALL THE food you actually enjoy. Bring on the weekend binge! For most people trapped in this vicious cycle, there are only two options in their mind: perfect or crap. So the distorted logic of “It’s Saturday, I’m out to lunch with my family, and I can’t have my perfect pre-portioned kale salad like I usually do, so instead I’ll just overeat a giant bacon cheeseburger and a huge plate of fries.” If you take “perfect” off the table, things change. You feel empowered because there are now other options. Instead of kale salad vs. five servings of fries, there’s:
“I’m actually in the mood for a salad with my burger so ill sub the fires for a green salad.”
Always aim for “good enough”. Don't separate weekdays from weekends, instead make every day an opportunity to consider your health and fitness goals, what you're in the mood for, which healthy options are available, etc. Remember: The consistently good method you stick to is better than the “perfect” one you quit.
Strategy #2: Let go of rigid food rules.
Food rules tell you:
* what you can and can’t eat,
* when you can or can’t eat it,
* how you can or can’t eat it, and/or
* how much you can or can’t have.
These rules take up an awful lot of mental headspace. They also set you up for failure… aka “the Fucked It Effect”. Here’s how the Fucked It Effect works.
If #1 food rule is Don’t Eat Carbs. No bread with the soup; won’t touch a sandwich; no toast with your eggs. Then Friday night, you find yourself out with friends, and everyone’s having beer and pizza. You try and hold out but you give in and grab a slice. You've fucked it, you’ve “blown your diet”, so you might as well keep eating. Cue the binge and miserable, guilty after effects.That normally means you let go all night. Maybe all weekend. Eating by the rules almost always leads to overeating, because once you deviate, there’s nothing left to guide you.
Ditch the rules and let your healthy lifestyle be your guide. Non-dieters (or so-called “normal eaters”) eat when they’re physically hungry and stop when they’re physically full, no matter if it’s Wednesday or Saturday, morning or evening, work lunch or weekend brunch. Remember every choice has a consequence and don't let it spiral out of control.
Strategy #3: Don't allow yourself Cheat Days.
Monday through Saturday is all about sticking to your diet. But Sunday… That’s Cheat Day. The happiest day of your week. You wake up on Cheat Day morning like a kid at Christmas. Go wild all day long, eating all the stuff you don’t allow yourself during the week. As evening nears, you start to freak out. So you eat (and maybe drink) even more. Because tomorrow, it’s back to reality, diet starts again. Back to fidelity and compliance. And no fun.
Some people find the idea of a weekly Cheat Day useful both mentally and physically. If this is you, and it works for you, then by all means crack on. But ill be honest, for most of the people I’ve coached, having one Cheat Day means the rest of the week is food purgatory. Instead, don't exclude anything and make good choices all week. You don’t need to “cheat” because there’s nothing, and no one, to “cheat” on. Maybe you enjoy some dessert on a Tuesday night because you’re in the mood for it, or maybe you don’t because you’re satisfied from dinner. Either way, you're on control of your daily calorie intake. What and when you eat is up to you — and your hunger and fullness cues. No matter what day of the week it is. And whatever you choose is going to be key to how you look & feel.
Strategy #4: Own your choices.
There is no “good” and “bad” food. Sins aren't for adults. Mind games like this undermine your health goals — and your authority over your decisions. Instead owning your choices, and letting your adult values and health principles guide you when you sit down to eat. By making food decisions by acknowledging the outcome, based on your past experience. For example:
“I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream on Saturday night. I’ll probably feel nauseated and anxious afterwards. In this instance, I’m okay I understand that.” In the end, own your choices: But don’t try and justify them. You’re free to eat and drink anything you want. You choose your behaviour. Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes. It’s your call.
Strategy #5: Stop justifying your behaviour.
Weekends present all sorts of justifications for eating a bunch of non-nutritious foods. And trust me, Ive heard them all!
* You were busy. Or maybe you had nothing going on.
* You were travelling. Or maybe you were at home.
* You had to work. Or you were bored.
* You had a family/social. Or maybe you were home alone.
We can all try to rationalise our beehive with excises. Busyness, boredom, travel, work, or family dinners don’t inherently cause overeating. People eat or drink too much in lots of different situations. The explanation simply matches whatever happens to be going on at the time.
Rationalisations are a convenient way of helping us make sense of — and perpetuate — our overeating.
Stop justifying your behaviour or blaming something or someone else, and ask yourself why you are really overeating. On the odd occasion, you’ll want to eat crap. And too much of it. That’s normal. But instead of justifying it, take the opportunity to ask yourself what’s really going on in your head at that moment. Are you bored? Stressed? Sad? Happy? If you do this you’ll start to see some patterns. That’s the key, your opportunity to change overeating behaviour — and do something to address those emotions instead of bingeing.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE:
There is no perfect time to eat better, or to live a healthier lifestyle Not tomorrow; not on Monday. Not after Christmas. Life is always a busy, there will always be an excuse. All we can do is our best with what we’ve got. Right here, right now. Ask yourself: How’s that weekend overeating working for you?
If you’re loving all your junk-food nights out or gut-punching Sunday brunches, and you’re happy with the results, keep going. But if you’re fed up with how you look, how you feel and the vicious cycle it could be time to make a change. Ask yourself: What does weekend overeating do for you? What does it lead to? What does it add to your life? How does it solve a problem or have a purpose for you?
Often weekend overeating is self-medication for stress, stimulation and novelty, and a way to connect socially with friends/family.
To reset your mindset and break the cycle of weekend overeating, try:
* aiming for “good enough” instead of “perfect”,
* letting go of your food rules,
* giving up the idea of Cheat Days or Cheat Meals - carte blanche permission to eat everything,
* own your choices, and/or
* quitting the rationalisation/justification for your behaviour.
If you do over eat, park it and move on. Don’t try to compensate. Just get back to your normal.
You don’t “pay back” the damage in the gym or on the treadmill, nor do you need to kamikaze your way through a whole jar of peanut butter. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back to doing your best. Sometimes it helps to put someone else in control for a while.
You are the boss of you, and you should own your choices. But changing a deep-seated habit — like overeating on the weekend — is challenging. And just like your fat loss, the process of changing your habits will have ups and downs. Its a lifetime journey. It helps to have someone who will support and encourage you - a friend, a partner, or your trainer who will listen to you and keep you accountable. Good luck, I know you can do this.