You’re super strict with your fat-loss plan Monday-Thursday, hitting your macros, calorie goals or portions all week and then the weekend hits. You have a few drinks, eat out a few times, or hit up a few weddings/parties and think, “It’s the weekend. I can relax and have fun. I deserve to indulge. I’ll just get back on track Monday”.
But as the weeks roll by you start to realize you’ve made no progress. You’re scratching your head with confusion, but you can’t (or perhaps don’t want to) connect the dots that the Friday-Sunday where you are going rogue with your nutrition is absolutely wrecking you.
Perhaps you do understand the weekends are killing your progress and every time you get on the scale Monday you’re reminded. Then comes the guilt and remorse about all the fun you had over the weekend and with every guilt-laden weekend that passes, it becomes increasingly more difficult to muster up the desire to get back on track. Rinse and repeat every week that is, until you get fed up, tell yourself “fuck it”, and give up completely.
Sound familiar? It does for me. This literally was the story of my life every weekend for several years until I learned a few strategies that helped me kick the weekend overeating. Strategies that I’m now about to share with you so listen up.
#1 Prepare some healthy food for the weekend
If you don’t have any food in house, more than likely you’ll eat out or get delivery because you have no other options…
So having even a little food prepared for the weekend will go a long way in terms of sticking to your plan. If you prepare your own food:
It’ll likely be food that is similar in quality to the food you eat during the week instead of “treat” type foods.
You’ve prepared it yourself or know the nutrition facts so you’re more aware of the calories, macros, or portions you’re eating and can control the quantity.
Before the weekend hits (ideally on Wednesday or Thursday), head to the grocery and schedule a pre-weekend meal prep.
If cooking during the week isn’t your jam or you’re pressed for time heading into the weekend, you can at least buy some "low-prep” foods like a rotisserie chicken, canned tuna, salad greens, fresh fruit, frozen veggies, canned soups (Amy's makes great ones), or good quality frozen meals (Amy’s, Evol, Saffron Road and Trader Joe's make really good ones).
#2 Create some structure
Generally, weekends tend to be more laid back. There’s nothing wrong with that but “winging it” doesn’t usually work too well for staying on track.
Creating some structure that resembles your life and eating during the week can really help keep you from going rogue.
Here are some examples:
Keep the number of meals you eat per day and meal timing similar to how it is during the week. You may think only eating once a day is keeping you from overeating, but if you’re so ravenous by the end of the day you might just end up going completely apeshit on some food. Consider that you could keep your frequency and times normal and have small indulgences because you’re not starving.
Sleeping in or staying up a little later is ok, but don’t go crazy. Wake up and go to bed at your normal hour as much as possible.
Schedule when you plan to work out.
Schedule a weekend grocery run or meal prep sessions.
If you track or log your food, consider logging most of your meals and have 1-2 untracked meals instead of an entire weekend.
Obviously, these are very general. What you do will need to be personalized to you but the point is to create some resemblance of routine and structure to help keep you on track.
#3 Give yourself a healthy habit to practice
Choose one, simple, #basicAF habit you'd like to focus on during the weekend. Examples include:
Eating veggies and lean protein at each meal
Drink water with every meal
Workout twice over the weekend
Log your food
Choose one thing to focus on and go into the weekend with a strong commitment to do it.
Even if the weekend was a complete shit show, you will have at least have done something to support your goals rather than nothing at all. That’s a win.
Make sure it’s something you know you can do. If it seems “too easy”, arguably, that’s perfect. You need to be super-confident, ready, willing and able with the task so that nothing can keep you from executing.
#4 Ditch the “Cheat”
If you’re diet sucks so much that you can’t wait to “cheat” on it, you’re doing something very wrong with your nutrition and whatever you’re doing probably isn’t going to stick around long-term.
This is going to be a tough pill for many to swallow, but perhaps your super-strictness during the week is exactly why you want to cheat on the weekends. Think about it. You spend all week white-knuckling and depriving yourself of foods you enjoy because they are “bad” only to overindulge on them on the weekends. Then you feel guilty about it and vow to be “even stricter” during the week only to repeat the process the next weekend. You’re literally doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Doesn’t make too much sense, right?
Consider the alternative: what if you just allowed yourself to have a little of what you were wanting during the week and just managed the amount?
Want some chocolate? Have a square (not an entire bar) of chocolate. Want a piece of pizza? Have yourself a slice (not an entire pie) on a random Tuesday instead of waiting until Friday. Have an appropriate serving of any food when you want them and stop depriving yourself.
That may sound unsettling, but it’s absolutely helped me and many people I’ve coached quit the weekend benders. When we stopped depriving, putting certain foods on a pedestal, and making rules about our food, it removed the scarcity and those foods lost their allure. We stopped overeating these foods and sometimes we chose not to eat them at all because we truly didn’t want to. That is food freedom, folks!
Maybe the thought of not being strict gives you anxiety and you’re telling yourself you aren’t ready for that yet. Ok, that is fair.
But ask yourself: “is what I have been doing working out for me?”
If it has, keep doing what you’re doing. If not, maybe you need to get a little uncomfortable.
#5 Dig for the Real Reason You’re Overeating
From my personal experience and coaching others, there’s generally a reason, trigger or series of events that lead to overeating. They don’t just happen out of thin air.
If you’re going to stop weekend overeating for good, you need to truly understand WHY or WHAT triggers you to overeat in the first place.
That’s the only way you’ll be be able to break the cycle. Here are some examples of underlying causes I’ve seen:
Diet is way too restrictive during the week
Too much stress at work leads too wanting to let loose on the weekends
Starving/not eating enough calories during the week
Feeling bored or lonely on the weekends
Pressure from friends and family
Only by understanding the root cause can you fully address the overeating. You’ll really have to dig deep and ask yourself questions you may not want to answer, but it’s necessary to really get out of the cycle.
I really like Precision Nutrition’s behavior awareness worksheet. I have my clients fill it out anytime they have an overeating experience they weren’t ok with. After a few times of filling it out, you may start to see patterns and identify areas where you can change and break the cycle.
#6 Take Ownership of Your Behavior
Even though things may trigger us, nothing is truly making us do anything. We choose to behave a certain way. We choose how we respond to something. Start taking ownership of your actions and stop making excuses, explaining or blaming outside factors.
Want to feel totally powerless and helpless? Blame everything that happens to you on something else and don’t take any ownership for your actions. It’ll be really easy then for you to defer responsibility and ultimately not change anything about what you’re doing.
Consider two people:
Person A: I’m going to eat this entire pie of pizza. It tastes good and I want it all. I know it’s not supporting my goals and I know I’m going to be uncomfortably full, but I’m choosing to accept those outcomes.
Person B: Well, there is this giant pizza in the house. Work’s been stressful and my girlfriend is pissed at me, so I ended up eating an entire pizza. I felt really bad about it and I wish I didn’t but it didn’t have any other options for food.
Which one of those people do you think will be more successful changing their behavior? When you stop playing the victim of circumstances and take ownership, that is true empowerment. When you let your values guide your decisions, that is empowerment.
Take ownership. Empower yourself. Remember that you are 100% in control of your behavior at all times. Choose wisely.
Now I’m not saying you should completely stop having all fun or enjoying foods/events you love over the weekends. That’s not sustainable. I am saying that if weekends are getting in the way of your goals, you do need to approach them smartly and perhaps change how you view nutrition in general even though it may be a little uncomfortable.
Make sure you have a game-plan going into the weekends. Don’t just leave things to chance and circumstance.
Be flexible and aim for good enough rather than perfection.
Ditch the scarcity mindset
Overall, great nutrition is about eating that makes you feel good. Take ownership of your actions and choose to do things that make you feel good physically and mentally.
Most importantly, if you manage to mess up, be kind and don’t beat yourself up over it.
Just pick right back up where you left off ASAP, keep working the process and you will be successful.
Have a great weekend everyone,
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