When it comes to healthy eating, a lot of us do fine during the week. We have our meal prepped containers or batch-cooked food ready to go and we know what we’re eating Monday through Friday. At the same time, though, we can also struggle when it comes to staying “on track” when the weekend rolls around.
If this is you and you find yourself gorging on fast food and junk starting Friday night, only to wake up on Monday morning feeling like you got hit by a truck, I’m here to help. Here are some of my favorite tips to stay “on track” over the weekend.
Change Your Mindset
Changing your mindset around your diet and how you eat during the week vs how you eat on the weekend can make a big difference and help you to avoid overdoing it when the weekend arrives.
You might need to loosen up a bit during the week, for example. That way, you won’t feel the need to eat lots of food that you normally wouldn’t turn to over the weekend.
If you don’t think of the week as a time for only clean eating and the weekend as a time for only indulging, it might be easier for you to avoid huge variances that derail your progress and leave you feeling less than your best.
Plan Your Indulgences
If you know that you’re going to go out to eat somewhere on the weekend or go to a party or another event, plan out your indulgences ahead of time. Take a look at the menu online if it’s available and think about what is worth it for you and what is it.
If you go in with a plan, it’ll be easier for you to avoid eating things that you don’t actually want or that don’t serve you just because they’re there.
Remember Your “Why”
Remind yourself why you’re eating in a particular way. What is your motivation for following this particular diet? Are you trying to lose weight? Are you trying to heal a specific health issue?
Staying focused on your larger goal can help you avoid foods that might taste good at the moment but that won’t actually do you any favors in the long run.
Track Protein and Calories
It helps some people to still have some structure on the weekend. Tracking every single calorie and macro to the gram might not be realistic, though.
If you’re one of these people, you may want to consider loosening up your guidelines so that you just track your protein and calories. That way, you can ensure you’re not eating too much and derailing your weight loss progress (or, conversely, eating too little and derailing your weight/muscle gain progress).
I recommend tracking protein, too, since it’s an easy macronutrient to under eat if you’re not thinking about it. Undereating protein for one day isn’t going to totally throw off your gains, of course, but if you’re eating way below your goal, you might be less satiated and more inclined to overeat.
Before you’re about to dive headfirst into a plate of nachos or a carton of ice cream, take a second to pause and think about whether you actually want it.
Think, too, about how you’re going to feel after you eat it. Will nachos make your stomach hurt in a couple of hours? Will eating a cookie full of sugar and gluten give you a migraine? If you pause, you can check in with yourself and assess whether or not something is worth it for you.
If it is worth it, go ahead and enjoy it. Remain mindful while you’re enjoying this food/drink, though. Pay attention to the taste, texture, smell, and experience of consuming it. This makes it easier for you to listen to your body and stop when you’ve had enough to satisfy you — but not so much that you feel stuffed.
Stop at 80%
Another good trick you can use to avoid overeating, especially when you’re eating high-calorie or hyper-palatable foods, is to stop when you’re about 80 percent full.
If you stop at 80 percent, you’ll still have had a chance to enjoy the food/drink you wanted, but you’ll be less inclined to consume more than you need. You won’t feel deprived, but you won’t feel stuffed or uncomfortable, either.
Keep in mind, too, that you can go back and finish the food that’s left later if you find that you’re still hungry. Give yourself about 15-20 minutes to start digesting your food and check in with yourself. Then, if you still want more, go ahead and have some more.
If All Else Fails, Forgive Yourself and Start Again
These practices sound simple in theory. In practice, though, I know that they’re not always easy. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect about it.
There are going to be times when you eat more than you wanted or eat foods that don’t agree with you. What matters more in these moments isn’t what you ate or how much. It’s what you do after.
Do you throw in the towel and give up on your diet altogether? Or, do you forgive yourself and try again the next day?
The former is setting you up for a lifetime of binging/restricting and feeling guilty about what you eat. The latter is setting you up to be a mindful, informed eater who learns from “mistakes” and is constantly trying to improve. Which one sounds better to you?
Were any of these tips helpful to you? What other strategies do you use to stay on track with your diet?