The weekends are your cherished time to unwind after a long and arduous work-week. They are also a time when routines often fly out the window, leading you to stray from your normal diet and exercise habits. When the weekend comes around, it can be very tempting to just relax and unwind with some well-deserved “Me” time.
Your oh-so-wonderful “Me” time and your usual health routines don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
There are several reasons why diet and health efforts are hindered on the weekends, particularly in the summer months. People often have less routine, take more vacations, and dine out and engage in social events more frequently. I’ll address each of these obstacles and give you some of my favorite strategies to cope with these concerns.
“The weekend is my time to unwind. I’ve worked long and hard all week and have earned an opportunity to relax. Just give me a break from my weekly exercise routine!”
It is wonderful that you have committed yourself fully into your weekday routine. Give yourself a bit of a break on the weekend without completely “slothing” on the sofa!
- Try scheduling in exercise for at least one of the two weekend days, and allow yourself one day of complete rest. Scheduling the exercise makes it much more likely to happen. Also, try getting the exercise done in the morning to avoid the excuses that may develop as the day progresses.
- Make it a social occasion and find a friend or family member who is willing to do something active with you on weekend– try a fun exercise class at the gym, a brisk walk with a neighbor, a hike in nature with an old friend, or get the family involved in household chores.
Physical activity is an essential component of weight management and health and it keeps you motivated, energized, and at your best. While you may be able to skip out on formal exercise on the weekend, do your best to get up, get moving, and have some fun!
“I’ve stuck to my diet all week. This weekend I am going on a long weekend vacation with my family and plan to eat whatever I want to reward myself for all of my hard work.”
Try your best to stray away from the word “diet” and instead use the word “lifestyle.” Once this transition occurs (easier said than done), the weekends will no longer feel like, “I’m cheating on my diet” and instead feel like “I’m incorporating variety and indulgences in moderation into my healthy lifestyle.” I’ll be honest with you, one weekend of over-indulgence may not be a deal-breaker, but most people report difficulties with getting back on track once Monday rolls around. Try out some of these tips to help control weekend over-indulgences:
- Keep track of calories using a food diary or calorie-tracking app like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt. This will allow you to self-monitor your food choices, track trends, and look at the weekly big-picture of your eating habits. Food tracking keeps you accountable for all of your choices…just be sure to provide a honest report!
- Use non-food rewards for working so hard to improve your health. Consider treating yourself to a new haircut, manicure/pedicure, massage, date-night, etc.
- Remember, moderation is key. I like to preach the 90% rule—follow your health routine 90% of the time, while 10% of the time “life happens.” This means, you may occasionally go off track for your birthday, a holiday, a yearly vacation…and this is completely okay! No one follows a perfect diet 100% of the time.
“I tend to eat out for most meals on the weekends, making it very difficult to make the right choices. Eating out often involves shared appetizers with the group, a few alcoholic beverages, and larger than normal portion sizes.”
Eating out doesn’t have to lead to weekend diet sabotage. Below are several strategies to help you continue with your health efforts when dining out.
- Practice mindfulness…meaning enjoy the experience of dining out. Notice all the sensations around you– What does the food taste like? What do you smell as you walk into the restaurant? What does the restaurant look like? Listen to all the sounds around you! Savor the experience and savor the food.
- Use the Hunger and Fullness scale (pictured below). Stop eating when you are about a 6 or 7. When you are an 8 or higher on the fullness scale, you’ve eaten too much.
- Ask for half of your meal in a to-go container before it even reaches the table. This will not only limit your total calorie intake during the meal, but also help you to save a dime when you have lunch already prepared for the next day!
- Skip the bread bowl. These are often mindless calories that can really add up, as well as create stronger cravings for food when the meal actually arrives to the table. I recommend taking a small bag of nuts with you to the restaurant. If you feel overly hungry before the meal starts then you will have something satisfying to munch on. Don’t forget to sip water as another tactic to calm hunger-pangs.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Liquid calories can make a huge dent in total caloric intake. Did you know a classic margarita can contain upwards of 500 calories! Eek! Create a goal for limiting weekend adult-beverages, especially those that are high in calories and sugar.
There is no doubt that it is extremely tempting to take a break after a long week of diet and exercise. The ultimate goal should be that healthy eating and regular physical activity become lifestyle habits. Yo-yoing between binging on the weekends and restricting during the week is not sustainable and will not produce the results you desire. Try incorporating these health tips into your weekend routine. Make your health a top priority this weekend and every weekend thereafter!