Weekends are the exclamation point of our week. It’s a chance to sleep in and have a whole ton of fun, whether that’s relaxing and laying low, or going out with friends. Weekends feel deliciously good in some ways, but it’s when a lot of people struggle with their nutrition progress. Whether that means creating healthier eating habits, feeling more in control of food choices, or working towards fat loss, weekends can be tough to navigate when our routines are thrown out of whack and there are more food and drink options available.
I totally get it, because I was there myself.
Several years ago when I was dieting, I had developed a love/hate relationship with weekends. I loved them because I would eat everything that I wanted, but I hated them because of the guilt, and the way it made me feel to go wild with food.
I was “being good” Monday through Friday which, back then, meant I was being extremely restrictive with my food. Then, beginning on Friday evening, I would let loose and eat everything I wanted – sort of a nutritional exhale – which would continue throughout the entire weekend.
I felt so deprived each week from Monday through Friday afternoon that the weekends became a free-for-all. My weekday restriction made me feel like I had to eat All Of The Things on the weekends, because Monday was right around the corner which meant my reluctantly climbing back on that dreadful wagon from dieting hell.
I was white-knuckling my way through each week, counting macros, divvying out almonds, and hating the food that I was eating because it was so bland and gross. (More grilled chicken and steamed broccoli, anyone? No? Yeah, I didn’t think so.) On the weekend I was eating everything in sight, which left me bloated, lethargic, and feeling guilty for stuffing myself. Every Sunday night I would go to bed feeling like a failure, and I would vow to be even more strict come Monday.
Week after week this went on as I vacillated between restriction and over-indulging. I was either hungry and thinking about food, or I was stuffed… and still thinking about food. Food was no longer enjoyable; it had become a constant source of stress. My body composition wasn’t changing at all even though I was being “so good” during the week, and the worst part was that my behavior was making me feel more and more out of control with food. No part of my eating process felt intuitive whatsoever.
After a considerable amount of time, and a whole lot of trial and error I finally realized the mistakes that I was making. I am now to a place where I am completely satisfied, in control, and madly in love with the way I eat seven days a week, and you can be, too!
I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of clients and weekends are, without a doubt, the hardest parts of the week to navigate nutritionally. Seeing as how so many people struggle with this, I wanted to pass along everything I have learned to make your eating enjoyable and effortless on the weekends and never feel guilty again.
Nutritionally, weekends count.
You are probably thinking, “Well, no, duh”, but not so fast. Most people treat weekends as if they are nutritional freebies for a couple of different reasons.
First, weekends signal the end of a work week. Hooray! For many people this is a cause for celebration, which means that they eat and drink like it is, too.
Second, it’s sort of easy to feel like weekends don’t really count in terms of nutrition because they fly by. One second it’s Friday evening and then WHOOSH! it’s suddenly Sunday night. How many times have you said, “Holy crap, where has the weekend gone?” Because of this, it’s easy for weekends to give the illusion that they don’t count as much as they as they actually do.
Let me give you some hard data that has surprised every person I’ve shared this with:
Weekend meals make up one-third of your weekly meals.
Check it out: assuming you are eating three meals per day x seven days per week = 21 meals. Friday evening meal (which is when most people start to indulge) + three meals on Saturday + three meals on Sunday = seven meals. Those weekend meals are 33% of your weekly meals. In sum, this means that what you are eating on the weekend counts. Big time.
Here are the most common ways that people get tripped up on the weekend when it comes to nutrition, and some changes you can make immediately.
The Hall Pass
“I was so good all week. I deserve this.” ::mows down chocolate cake::
Sound familiar? Yeah, it was my thought process for years when it came to the weekend, too. Restrict all week long, and then grant myself a hall pass* to eat whatever “bad foods” I wanted on the weekend based on my good behavior throughout the week.
While it’s fine to indulge, it’s important to remember a few things.
- There is no such thing as “being good” or “being bad” with food, just like food itself is neither good nor bad. To quote my good friend Jessie Mundell, “It’s just food.”
- When we tell ourselves we’ve been “good” it opens the door for temptation to participate in behaviors that we then deem to be “bad” (you little rebel, you).
- You do not need a certain day of the week to indulge. If you want a cookie, and you deem it to be truly worth it and it’s a Wednesday at 10am, then eat one. You’re an adult, which comes with the luxury of doing fun stuff like paying taxes, emptying the dishwasher, and choosing when you eat a cookie. You do not need a hall pass in the form of the weekend to enjoy food.
In order to get your weekend eating under control, the first step is getting rid of the good/bad food mentality which starts with changing your language. Work hard to resist using the descriptors of “good”, “bad”, or “cheats” when it comes to food or your behavior around it. There is no more “on/off the wagon” or “on/off track”. When it comes to food, there is no such thing as cheating (which implies moral indiscretion), nor is there a wagon or a track; it’s all just food.
Some of my Strongest You Coaching clients have struggled with the fear of removing the label “bad”. They worry that if they see food as neutral, rather than as good or bad, that they’ll go wild and eat whatever they want, whenever they want. It’s a valid concern, but that’s not going to happen. Once you realize that you can truly eat whatever you want whenever you want it, the allure of certain foods disappears. Often times we want to eat things simply because we have deemed them as off-limits. When we can actually have them, they aren’t as appealing.
When I was dieting for a Figure show the only thing I wanted was carrot cake. I had never even liked carrot cake until I was in show prep, but then it was all I could think about. Now, I can eat carrot cake whenever I want it, and sure, I still love it and will have it once in awhile though it’s rare. Why?
Cake is no longer off-limits so I just don’t care as much.
The mind is funny like that. When we know that there is abundance of something, we don’t really concern ourselves with it as much. But when we restrict food like crazy during the week, we cultivate a scarcity mindset which makes us wild for food on the weekends.
*Fun fact: Roy Baumeister refers to the hall pass as ‘The Licensing Effect’ in his outstanding book, ‘Willpower’.
The ‘What the Hell’ Effect, aka, ‘The F*ck-its’
Let me set the stage: it’s Saturday morning and you go to the coffee shop to grab an Americano, and notice the donuts look extra delicious. You impetuously buy one and quickly eat it. You immediately find yourself feeling guilty for the unplanned indulgence and promptly think, “Great. I blew it. Well, what the hell, I guess I’ll just eat whatever I want for the rest of the day and start again tomorrow.” You eat a bunch of pizza at lunch, have a burger, fries, and beer for dinner, and then wash it all down with a huge dessert.
All because of one unplanned donut.
A little extreme, no?
Let’s zoom out and do some math which can help put things into perspective.
Your unplanned donut was probably an extra 300 calories. No biggie, and certainly not enough to affect your bottomline. However, when you take the 300 calories from the donut, and pair it with the extra cals from the pizza, burger, fries, beer, and dessert that you had, now it’s making an impact.
You guys, this part is really important, so I put the entire thing in bold:
It is rarely the original indulgence – in this case, the donut – that is a problem; it’s the calories from your subsequent indulging after the original indiscretion that causes an impact.
The next time that you have an unplanned indulgence don’t sweat it. Relish in how delicious it was, and then keep it movin’ by getting right back to your healthy, yummy, feel-good foods. No harm, no foul. Nutrition doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing; it can be a little something.
Calories Add Up More Quickly Than We Think
If fat loss isn’t a part of your goals, feel free to skip to the next section. .
When it comes to fat loss, you have to be in a caloric deficit. I often see people nail their nutrition Monday through Friday, but the weekend rolls along (yay!) and they end up consuming enough extra calories to pull them right out of that deficit.
If you are eating in a small deficit Monday through Friday afternoon, but then on Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday you are consuming more than you need, fat loss isn’t gonna happen. I need to note here that the size of your deficit and the indulgences matter, but for the most part I see people over consuming on the weekends and then feeling frustrated because they aren’t making progress when fat loss comes to a screeching halt.
While I don’t know your specific numbers or details, I feel that this is a common enough occurrence to bring your attention to this matter by reminding you to be mindful of what you’re consuming. It’s easy to consume several hundred extra calories without really trying because they add up quickly. You can tack on a few hundred extra calories per day simply by adding one cupped handful of trail mix or a small (!) Frappuccino from Starbucks. Add one of those little extras in Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and you’ve tacked on an additional 1,000 calories to your week. Of course, there isn’t inherently wrong with this (or any food, for that matter), but when fat loss is the name of the game you need to be mindful of your intake and understand that a little extra here and there all weekend can add up.
“This Old Crap Again?”
One of the biggest mistakes that I made, and continue to see other people making, is being overly restrictive with food during the week. I remember thinking, “I can’t wait for the weekend so I can eat better food!”
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning it’s nothing but egg whites, grilled chicken, and steamed veggies. Friday evening rolls around, your willpower is zapped and you’re exhausted from your work week. It’s no wonder that you go wild and eat everything that crosses your path.
While I commend your efforts during the week, it’s crucial that you enjoy your food every single day of the week for your approach to be sustainable.
Being really strict during the week is a set-up for failure on weekends.
When you truly love your food during the week then there is absolutely no need to eat all sorts of different things on the weekend because you are already completely happy with what you’re doing.
How can you do this? You bump up a little something that Jill Coleman refers to as the Satisfaction Factor. Your meals during the week need to be delicious and satisfying. Treat those two things as non-negotiables. This means taking a few extra minutes to prepare your foods in ways that explode with flavor. You can change up the seasonings, try different cooking methods, or use new ingredients. Or, my favorite way, is to enhance flavor by adding little extras in the form of parmesan cheese or real butter to my veggies, bacon bits to my salad, or a little sharp cheddar to my eggs. Do these things have a few calories? Of course, but if they prevent you from feeling deprived and help you love your food and feel satisfied then those calories are well spent!
On the weekends, I eat the exact same way that I eat any other day of the week. Moderate amounts of protein, tons of veggies, carbohydrate based on which activities I’m doing, and my dietary fat is almost always to boost flavor: cheese, bacon or other cured meats, and guacamole.
Now, I bet I know what you’re thinking – you are thinking that you don’t have time to make more delicious meals, and I’m going to give you some push-back on that. You have an extra 15 – 20 minutes to make your food – the stuff that sustains your life – more satisfying, yes you do. It can be as simple as a bit of pre-shredded cheese, prepped bacon bits, pre-made guacamole, or whatever else your hungry little heart desires.
Take a quick meal inventory right now:
- Which meals are you eating groundhog-day-style, even though you can’t stand them?
- Which meals are you eating that never leave you satisfied, and you always find yourself digging through the pantry for “a little something extra” afterwards?
These are the meals that I encourage you to revamp starting right now. Don’t eat another meal that grosses you out. Food is meant to nourish us, and it should be enjoyable.
Find Something to Do
If you have read my writing here, on Girls Gone Strong, or on social media, you probably know that I’m a big advocate of doing things. I love to get outside as much as possible, and adventure my little tail off every chance I get. While I don’t necessary feel compelled to always be doing something (because that would be exhausting), I have found that going and doing fun things has served my relationship with food really, really well. Rather than sitting at home and trying to avoid the pantry all day, I have found things to do that I love. For me, that is biking, MX, hiking, and paddle boarding. It’s all good if those things don’t float your boat, but find some things that get you excited. Art class, a book club, a hiking club, a dance class, gardening… whatever you can do that provides you with joy.
Often times food and alcohol gets too much attention on the weekend. While you’re fully entitled to like whatever you like, I firmly believe that there are bigger things out there for you on Saturday and Sunday that can bring just as much – if not, MORE – joy, than food and drink. I’d say it’s worth exploring, right?
Food is amazing and I love wine and whisky as much as the next gal. It’s important to find a way that you can eat every day of the week that makes you incredibly happy, and in a way that serves your body really well. When we chill out and find peace knowing that we can eat whatever we want whenever we want, we take food off of the pedestal and everything feels so much more effortless. Let food be amazing and glorious and beautiful, and when we feel in control of our choices every day of the week, it’s incredibly empowering and even more joyful.
You want to enjoy your weekends, eat the foods you love, order whatever you want at restaurants, and get rid of weekend guilt forever. You deserve that, so I put my best tips into a FREE How-to-Eat Weekend Cheatsheet for you. It’s down and dirty, with easy tips to implement starting right now.
Spoiler: You won’t find anything about getting online to look at a restaurant’s menu ahead of time, or ordering the most bland item on the menu. What a buzz kill. I have far better tricks up my sleeve than that.
Get your FREE Cheatsheet here: http://bit.ly/WeekendCheatSheet