Does your lifestyle thrive on the structure of the weekday but struggle over the weekend? You aren’t alone. Nutrition researchers have known this for years, which is why in most studies, data from weekend days are specifically collected, in addition to weekdays. In my practice as a Calgary dietitian and registered nutritionist, this is something I frequently hear from my clients – that maintaining their lifestyle goals and progress is especially difficult over the weekend.
Tips for maintaining diet and lifestyle progress on the weekends:
Fuel yourself for all-week success
Too much restriction during the weekday can set you up to overeat and under-exercise, especially later in the week and on the weekend. Your body may be hungry or tired, resulting in overeating and under-exercising (respectively)!
Just because you were “good” all week doesn’t mean you should have an all-out binge on the weekend. Shift away from this diet mentality. Instead fuel yourself for all-week success.
Think ahead about how food will fit into your weekend day.
Will you be out of your home? If so, will you pack snacks? Will you pack a lunch? Or will you grab something on the go. If you are grabbing something on the go, where will you plan to eat? What choices will be available?
If you will be out most of the day, stay ahead of your hunger and continue to make healthful choices with snacks on hand. Grab an apple and a small handful of almonds, or a cheese string and an easy-peel orange, or some snap peas and hummus, or a yogurt and some sunflower seeds. And remember to pack your water bottle. These simple strategies can help prevent over-eating.
Think about your habits and how you reward yourself for your hard week.
How do you unwind at the end of a busy week? A glass or two (or three or more) of wine? A dinner out? Baking? What does this unwinding ritual look like? Is it keeping you mostly on your highway of healthful eating or does it send you into the ditch?
How do you treat yourself? Does this always involve food and drink?
How do you connect with people? Does this always involve food and drink?
I am not suggesting that you can never reward yourself with food. But what I am asking you to do is to look at how you routinely reward yourself? Does it revolve only around food and drink? How else could this look?
Aim for good enough, not perfect, eating.
Become aware of how you truly eat and drink over the weekend.
A lack of structure in the weekend can make it easy to lose track of what and how much you are eating, grazing, nibbling. Commit to gathering information about what your weekend choices look like. Do you skip meals? (this is common). Do you grab quick snack-y type food because you are on the go? Do you forget to fuel yourself for all-day energy?
Become aware of mindless snacking
A lack of structure can result in feelings of boredom or procrastination. Eating can be a way of how we deal with these feelings.
Be mindful of your environmental cues to get you to eat more, without you feeling physically hungry. Cues like having food right at your coffee table invite mindless snacking while watching TV, a common trigger for people’s mindless eating.
Do not eat out of a box. Portion out what you would like to eat on a plate or in a bowl – otherwise, you are more likely to stop eating when the bag or box of whatever food is empty.
Leave food in the kitchen, rather than serving it from the table, which can encourage you to mindlessly eat more food.
Eat 3 meals and 1-2 planned snacks. Sit down to eat.
Beware of cheat days!
A slow and steady weight loss allows you to focus on a healthful lifestyle and not deprivation. Cheat days, depending on what they look like and how often they occur, could be undoing some of your work and progress.
“Cheat days” can set you up for all-or-nothing thinking, and binges on the weekend.
Don’t’ spend your whole week struggling to lose weight only to put it back on over the weekend. Remember, try to stay on the healthful eating highway and shoulders, rather than veering off to the ditch.
Aim to stay on the Healthful Eating Highway
In my first post about maintaining diet and lifestyle progress on the weekends, I described the Healthful Eating Highway. Healthful eating is like driving along a highway.
The highway represents healthful, longer-term eating patterns. We want to spend most of our time here, while the highway’s shoulders are the 20% of the “soul food” you enjoy.
The ditches are less healthful eating patterns such as dieting, restriction, over-eating and binges. We don’t want to spend much time here.
If you were to drive along the highway, your drive would be smoother if you stayed mostly on the highway (~80% of the time) and shoulders (~20% of the time) rather than veering off into the ditches, only to screech back to the highway.
Pick your indulgence.
Pick your indulgence – wine, pancakes, appetizers or dessert – but not all four. Does this happen occasionally? Absolutely! But if you are looking at maintaining progress toward your diet and lifestyle goals, have a look at how often this occurs and how this habit is set up and reinforced.
You can have your cake and eat it too – keep your slice smaller and enjoy it (and maintain some kind of fun and energizing activity)!
Fit in a longer workout.
Treat yourself to a longer exercise class. Refresh your workout with something new and fun. Try a new spin class, a pilates, barre or yoga class, a personal training session, a game of racquetball or squash, go for a mountain bike, go for a hike.
Recently, our neighbours have described how on one of the weekend mornings, they bike along the city pathways.
Watch your alcohol and beverage intake.
Avoid refilling your wine glass before it is empty. This can help you keep track of how much you have drank. I once went out for dinner with waiters who kept topping up my glass of red wine. By the end of the dinner, I had had several glasses of wine (unexpectedly)! Occasionally, that happens. If you are looking at habits and how you routinely spend your weekends, alcohol is something to keep an eye on.
Alcohol stimulates your appetite and can be disinhibiting, so you will eat just about anything.
In between glasses of wine or other alcoholic drink, drink water or some other kind of hydrating beverage. Try a seltzer with lemon. Or even a cranberry juice with soda and lime.
If you are planning to eat out, plan ahead when possible.
Have a look at the available nutrition information for your restaurant of choice. Some restaurants have a “health halo” where their foods and ingredients seem healthful (salad, energy bowls, felafel, wraps), and they may be – but if you check the nutritional information for your dish, you may be surprised that the energy bowl or healthful-sounding salad actually contribute more calories than you realize. This has happened to me a few times with a few healthful-sounding take-out restaurants.
Beware of “healthier” restaurants – research has found that you may be more likely to order more food! This may be because eaters feel that they “can” because they are eating at a “healthier” restaurant.
While eating out, skip the mundane foods. Save your calories for foods you don’t eat very often or never make at home.
If you eat out, you may notice it takes your body time to feel hungry again.
This is because the amount of calories and energy from the meal may have been higher. Research suggests that we eat additional calories when we eat out.
Listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. You may notice that you don’t feel as hungry after you eat out and that you may need to adjust the amount of food you eat later in the day to match your body’s need for fuel.
And remember hydrate your body! Drink lots of water.
Cook at home
Last week, I was out of town for work resulting in my eating out two full days. Then I had a dinner out with girlfriends planned another evening. It doesn’t take long (and sometimes it is difficult) to be eating out more than you would like.
Take a look at how often you eat out at restaurants. Frequently eating out at restaurants can make it hard to move toward your diet and lifestyle goals.
When you are at home (i.e. not traveling), aim to cook at home more often.
Add produce to each weekend meal
Add in a helping of vegetables and/or fruits to your weekend breakfast, lunch and supper.
Find ways to connect with your family and friends that do not solely focus on food:
Grab a latte and go for a walk in the park.
Lace up your shoes and go for a run along a pathway together.
Enjoy a yoga or Pilates class together then go for a hot cup of tea.
Go to the driving range.
Enjoy 9-holes of golf.
Try a paint-night or pottery class in your community.
Enjoy the outdoors
Go for a walk, hike or bike ride.
Connect with the sights, smells and sounds of nature.
Plan for your self-care.
Self-care is a healthy and important part of managing stress.
Schedule in some downtime. After this past week, you deserve a treat – but it doesn’t have to be something you eat or drink! Book a massage, go shopping, get a pedicure, go for a bike ride, go to a boxing class.
Plan for the week ahead.
Set yourself up for success the week ahead. Roughly map out your meals and some snacks.
Grocery shop with your lifestyle in mind.
Pre-prepare some or parts of your meals for the week ahead. Pre-portion out some bags of seeds or nuts. Pre-chop your veggies. Make a batch of quinoa or rice for the week ahead. Hard boil some eggs.
Ask yourself: How is your diet and lifestyle habits on the weekends moving you toward your diet and lifestyle goals?