Being ‘good’ all week and then overeating on the weekend can stop any progress you want to make with your health and your body.
A typical Friday night after a tough week for many people means indulgence. A stressful job and a monotonous commute means coming home on Friday night and crushing some fast food and booze to unwind.
However, it’s easy to make this one meal on a Friday night a gateway to the rest of the weekend. Waking up on Saturday and Sunday to a big breakfast/brunch, snacking throughout the day on treats and then going out for a heavy dinner and drinks or relaxing at home with a takeout.
In people’s heads, it seems the weekend is a time where “normal rules” don’t apply. It’s a time to relax, put your feet up, and let the soothing crunching and chewing take you away. I’m not talking about compulsive binging but the kind of convenient, stress fueled, and often social overeating habit. Often social circles are happy to support it. Having weekend binge buddies and going a bit nuts is just what people do on the weekends.
However, every weekend overeater knows, the joy of runaway indulgence comes with consequences. You feel physically uncomfortable, bloated, and perhaps even sick to your stomach. Mentally, you feel crappy, guilty and maybe angry at yourself.
And while 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 sabotage your goals. Aside from the obvious extra body fat or stalled performance, there’s other unwanted stuff. Like your joints hurt because of inflammation or you’re too full to workout properly.
There is not one weird trick, biological manipulation, or reverse psychology to break this cycle. The solution is developing a healthier relationship with food.
Aim for “good enough” instead of “perfect”
Do not try and follow the “perfect” diet or adhere to strict meal plans (to the last measured teaspoon) Monday to Friday worrying about screwing things up and by the weekend you’re so sick of restrictive eating, willpower has been depleted and you can’t wait to eat food you actually enjoy.
For most people, there are only two options: perfect or rubbish. Don’t fall into this mindset and instead aim for “good enough” throughout the work week and the weekend. Consider your health and fitness goals, what you are in the mood for and what is available. Come up with a definition of “good enough” and aim for that.
The decent method you consistently follow is better than the “perfect” one you quit.
Let go of strict food rules
Strict food rules tell you:
- what you can and cannot eat
- when you can or cannot eat it
- how you can or cannot eat it
- how much you can or cannot have.
These rules take up an awful lot of mental space and set you up for disinhibition… “the F*** It Effect”.
For example a common food rule is to not eat carbs… No croutons on the salad; no sandwiches; no rice with your chilli.
However, picture the scenario, you find yourself out with friends, and everyone’s having beer and pizza. You hold out for a bit. Finally, you give in and grab a slice. That means f*** it, you’ve “blown your diet”, so you might as well keep eating. Cue the binge and uncomfortable after effects.
Eating by strict rules almost always leads to overeating crap, because once you deviate, there’s nothing left to guide you
Own your food choices
Do you ever barter with yourself? Make deals, trades or swaps related to food?
In this mindset, one “good deed” gives you license to “sin” elsewhere. These trades rarely pay off. They usually just amount to a lot of mental gymnastics that help you avoid making tough decisions and help you justify overeating.
Mind games like this undermine your health goals and your authority over your decisions. Start owning your choices, and let your principles guide you when you sit down to eat.
Make food decisions by acknowledging the outcome. At the end of the day you’re free to eat and drink anything you want. You choose your behaviour.
Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes.
Weekends present all sorts of comfortable justifications for eating a ton of non-nutritious foods.
It could be anything:
- I was busy / I had nothing going on.
- I was traveling / I was at home.
- I had to work / I had no work to do.
- I had social meals / I ate alone.
Any excuse will do. Powerless victim of circumstance!
But busyness, boredom, travel, work, or family dinners don’t inherently cause overeating. People eat or drink too much in lots of different situations. Their explanation simply matches whatever happens to be going on at the time.
Rationalisations are a convenient script which help us make sense of overeating. Stop rationalising and asked yourself why are you really overeating?
Sometimes, you’ll want to eat crap. And too much of it. That’s normal. But instead of falling back on the tired victim-of-circumstance narrative, take the opportunity to ask yourself what’s really going on.
Are you bored? Stressed? Sad? Happy?
Do this over and over and over, and you’ll start to see some patterns. That’s your pot of gold. That’s your opportunity to change overeating behaviour and do something else to address those emotions instead of binging.
What to do next:
There is no “perfect time” to eat better. Not tomorrow or Monday. Life is always a bit crazy so start now. All we can do is try our best with what we’ve got. Right here, right now.
You don’t “pay back” the damage in the gym, nor do you kamikaze your way through a packet of biscuits. Just pick yourself up and go back to doing your best.
Put someone else in control for a while.
Yes, you are the boss of you, and you should own your choices. But changing a deep-seated habit even one that on the surface may seem silly and harmless, like overeating on the weekend, is very challenging.
Just like weight loss, the process of changing your habits will have ups and downs. It helps to team up with someone who will support and encourage you. For many people, relinquishing control is a choice they’re glad to own. Find a friend, a partner, a trainer, or a coach, who will listen to you and keep you accountable.