Avoiding Weekend Weight Gain
Universal truth: the weekend always seems like the perfect opportunity to really live out all of our healthy aims. We’ll sleep in, we tell ourselves. We’ll have more time to exercise or to cook healthy meals. Finally, we’ll have the chance to kick back and de-stress. Yet, how often does the reality end up matching the intention? Weekends are actually the toughest times for some of my clients and leads to weight gain.
For many, it’s the lack of routine. For some, it’s the lack of free time because their schedules end up even more crammed than their work weeks are. Others struggle with the predicable pitfalls of weekend socializing. Whatever the reason, none of us want to surrender our work week gains to the hazards of a Saturday-Sunday backslide!
According to researchers our eating habits change quite dramatically at weekends, particularly as we reach for more alcoholic beverages and calorie-dense foods. If this is the case for you it can certainly be very easy to gain weight over time. A study published in the journal Obesity reports, statistically significant dietary intake differences occur for different days of the week. Researchers found that 19 to 50 years olds take in 115 calories per day more on the weekend in comparison to weekdays.
While that may seem like a small amount, over the course of a year it could add up to nearly 18,000 extra calories and weight gain.
The struggle is not necessarily due to being weak, lacking motivation and willpower, or having too strong cravings. The struggle is related to what you think! How you encounter meals and the thoughts associated with eating any meal will determine whether you are successful or unsuccessful at maintaining your healthy eating and fit lifestyle.
What you think is vital to your eating behaviors and whether or not you will maintain your weight loss and health goals. Researchers found that people on diets failed because certain foods triggered enjoyable and pleasurable thoughts about the food. People that struggled with self-regulation were less successful at avoiding the temptation, whereas people that were able to evaluate their thoughts were more successful avoiding weight gain.
Here is how you can win the battlefield of your own mind and stay on track this weekend:
- When going for a meal or snack; stop, take a few breaths, and think. Ask yourself if the meal is worth it? Is this really something that you want right now? Is there another choice that sounds good? How will you feel after eating this meal? Is it worth it to feel that way? If you are not sure how eating makes you feel keep a food diary. This is different than apps like MyFitness Pal (for example). In addition to writing down what you are eating and tracking the number of calories consumed and the number of macronutrients you also write down how eating that meal made you feel physically and emotionally.
- Avoid boredom eating by keeping the mind focused. Say to yourself, “I am in charge. I control my thoughts”. You are the boss of you, not the food. You have the power to tell yourself what to do and how to do it. In that moment you are in charge of your behavior.
- You choose what you put in your mouth. Say, “I choose what to eat and right now I choose not to eat that”. This kind of thinking is only asking you to stay on task and focused for this meal and this moment in time only. You worry about the next meal at the next meal. When learning new behaviors it is a step-by-step process. Take the urge to binge and eat poorly one meal and one step at a time.
Think about your goal and your motivation. Ask, “How will eating this meal impact my goals?” You know the answer to this and you know the right decision to make. Trust that. If you make a choice to refuse tempting foods that should cause pride and confidence for you to make healthy decisions at your next meal. If you choose to binge or “cheat” that one meal it is still ok. Remember you are OK with taking things one meal at a time.
A cheat meal is not a slip up. A binge is not a slip up. It is ok. Tell yourself that. You can keep going forward and choose to eat something healthier next time. You can avoid future cheats and binges by applying the thinking above to each meal situation. Changing thinking can be hard, but you will gain confidence as you are successful at each meal. To help improve compliance and increase confidence try carrying healthy snacks with you so you do not get too hungry. Or if you are craving a food try finding a healthier alternative. Pinterest (for example) has many clean and healthy recipes to satisfy any tantalizing craving and eating the “clean” version will leave you feeling guiltless.