Are you working on a weight loss goal, but have difficulty getting meaningful traction because you keep getting slowed down by weekend fun?
The combination of weight loss and weekends presents a common dilemma for many of my clients. The good news is that it doesn’t mean that you have weak willpower or don’t care about your goals – it just means you’re human.
However, it also means that – without a change in game plan – you may find it very difficult to get forward motion established!
So in today’s blog post, I’m going to present a menu of suggestions for nailing weight loss goals over the weekend.
To be clear, this is not a 10-step system where every bullet point must be followed perfectly in order. Instead, this is an array of choices that you can mix and match, and see what mindset shifts and strategies work for you! Used in tandem, even few of the suggestions would be very effective together!
I use a collection of these behaviors every weekend. It’s not always the same ones, but just like I’m encouraging you to do, there’s always at least a few in play.
So let’s explore some varying approaches that can be used alone, or combined…
Strategy 1: Eat What You Want, but with Smart Portion Control
Order the pizza, but literally have one or – at the most – two slices.
This is a good strategy if you are not extremely active, and know you’re eating out several times in a weekend, or even several times in one weekend day.
Strategy 2: Have Some Prepped Food Ready at Home
A big reason that I see clients suffer on weekends is that they run out of their prepped food by Friday. They’ve done great all week, but suddenly the fridge is empty and takeout seems especially compelling.
I highly recommend doing grocery shopping and some light cooking on Thursday or Friday. That way, your house has some healthy food options that you can fall back on as a default, so that takeout or going out doesn’t automatically become the default.
Strategy 3: Pin Down Breakfasts, Snacks, and Non-Social Meals
In other words, if you know that one meal is going to be indulgent on a weekend, make sure that’s the only meal that’s indulgent.
The advantage of this behavior is that you can relax when you eat out, because everything else is so on point. You just don’t have to worry about it. This really only works, though, if you’re truly only eating out 1-2 times per weekend and you take the time to prep food (or at least have healthy food choices around) .
Strategy 4: Take Advantage of Extra Time for Exercise
Order whatever you want at the restaurant, because you worked out on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, and went for several long walks.
This works well if you’re a very active person. While exercise doesn’t “cancel out” eating, you certainly have more leeway for small indulgences if you exercise vigorously and/or walk a lot (and I mean a lot) on weekends.
Plus, keeping a consistent exercise schedule often keeps you in a more healthy frame of mind – not “checked out” from your health goals for days at a time. Counterintuitively, instead of making people hungrier, more exercise often leads people to naturally eat more mindfully. Exercise helps greatly to attenuate hunger and tune us in to our natural physical signals.
Strategy 5: Eat What You Want, but on a Normal Schedule
Eat what you want in mindful portions, but don’t fret, because you’re still eating a “normal” breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule (rather than lots of grazing or large, loosely-connected snacks and meals).
This strategy can be a real winner especially if you are traveling. Don’t change your eating schedule or portion sizes all that much, and you can rest assured that you might not lose weight, but you probably won’t set yourself back even if you eat things you normally wouldn’t feature as part of your weekday menu.
Strategy 6: Preview Menus Before Dining Out
When your friends want to check out the new Indian restaurant in town, take five minutes to look at the menu online and decide what you’re going to order (and what you’re going to leave out of your order or leave on the table) when you’re not hungry and facing peer pressure.
The advantage of this is a sense of balance. You’re still going out with friends or family and having a good time, but you’re making decisions in advance while you’re still in a cool frame of mind (and can think about something like protein or carbs!).
Strategy 7: Take It Easy on Drinks
If you normally have a night out with the girls on the weekend, try to limit yourself to only three drinks or less. According to the CDC, more than three drinks in one occasion (for women) is considered binge drinking.
I advise all my clients to stick to the CDC guidelines for healthy alcohol consumption, and when weight loss slows in the context of a generally good diet and overall caloric deficit, to take a good look at alcohol consumption to trim down even from the “healthy” standards, since they truly are contributing empty calories to your diet.
This is a good strategy if you do enjoy imbibing and know that a little less would go a long way to helping you take in fewer calories and make clearer-headed food decisions. This is obviously not a helpful strategy if you have one or two drinks per week at most.
Strategy 8: Cook More Fun Meals at Home
Experiment with cooking an incredible Chinese meal at home, instead of going out.
This is a good strategy for most people. I’m not saying “don’t eat out at all,” but perhaps replace one or two restaurant experiences with creating a fun meal at home.
Remember this: calories are always more at restaurants. If you make Pad Thai at home, you can probably get away with 500-600 calories without approaching it from a “healthy” angle… and you could make it even lighter if you tried. But if you eat the same meal out, you’re probably looking at 1,000+ calories for the meal.
Cooking fun meals at home automatically buys you back some leeway because of this caloric difference between home cooking and restaurant preparation methods. Plus, it can be really fun! It can be a bonding experience with friends, a partner, or family – even if you’re not a great cook!
Strategy 9: Make Sure Your Weekday Eating Isn’t Restrictive
This may seem counterintuitive, but ask yourself: are you overeating on weekends because you’re actually not happy with how you’re eating during the week?
When someone struggles mightily with dining out on weekends and it seems like a remarkably consistent pattern, I start wondering if they’re under-eating on their regular schedule. Getting too “diet-y” five days a week can result in feeling deprived and over-compensating on weekends. Unfortunately, this tends to lead to cancelling out all your hard work every week.
Apply weekend strategies to weekdays – cook fun meals, eat fun foods with smart portions, and don’t over-delay gratification. You may find that you’re more satisfied by the time the weekend rolls around, and don’t need to overcompensate to feel like you’re living life.
Strategy 10: Get Real About the Weekend Attitude
Finally, it’s the moment for a little tough love. It may be that you just need to revamp your approach to weekends and admit to yourself that as soon as you clock out on Friday, you’re mentally clocking out of your healthy mindset, as well.
This “attitude adjustment” can be done with self-compassion, but sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes, you have to line up your behaviors with your goals, and make a commitment to yourself to do something differently so that you can see the results you want to see. You might need to put on a more serious hat to look at your weekend food and alcohol consumption.
Note: this doesn’t mean, “do something perfectly.” Just do something differently. Try the strategies in this blog post. Keep an open mind. Stay flexible and open to the idea that you could still relax and enjoy your weekends without over-indulgence.
I want you to walk away from this post understanding that weight loss and weekends are not mutually exclusive.
Instead, I want you to feel empowered to embrace the fact that balance is possible. Successfully and consistently losing weight doesn’t mean you can’t eat out, or can’t have the cocktail that you’ve been waiting for all week. Instead, weekends can look very different from the weekdays, but they can still be mindful and productive for your health.
So let’s experiment. Which strategies would work best for you to try this weekend? Only pick three of them at most, and give them a try!