Most dieters know weekends present a challenge. On one hand, you want to take part in all the fun things your friends and family are doing; but, on the other, you want to stay within your calorie goals. Often, it can feel difficult to do both.
Of course, the answer isn’t to stay home like a hermit all weekend. “There should always be room in our lives for some indulgences, but during weight loss, it’s too easy to go overboard if we don’t plan ahead,” explains Lauren Harris-Pincus, a registered dietitian and author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.”
While it’s not so bad to go off plan over the weekend occasionally, it can add up over time.
“Even if you’re someone who consistently hits her calorie goals and does the same workout most days, you could gain up to 12 pounds in one year just by eating 400 extra calories on Saturdays and Sundays,” points out Kim Yawitz, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “What’s more, overindulgence during the weekend can make it more difficult to get back on track come Monday. It’s best to stay as consistent as possible, seven days per week.”
But how can you actually accomplish that? Expert advice, ahead.
“When you know you’re going out to eat with friends and family, look at the menu in advance,” suggests Meredith Price, a registered dietitian nutritionist.” That way, you can make a plan and stick to it when ordering. “This helps reduce anxiety you might feel about going to a restaurant and what to choose. However, I really stress that you should enjoy the foods that you eat, especially when you’re with friends and family, so don’t overthink it!”
Even if your weekend workouts aren’t as intense as your weekday ones, they could help you make better food choices. “No one wants to feel sluggish when working out,” notes Libby Mills, a registered dietitian. “This commitment to your fitness will help you slow down the rounds at happy-hour and scale your food choices to set yourself up for feeling good. Working out on weekends creates structure that will set a tone for the rest of the day.”
“Think outside the restaurant when meeting up with friends,” Yawitz says. “Having an active social life is so important for overall health, but it’s more difficult to stay on track when eating at restaurants. If you regularly eat out with friends, suggest meeting up for coffee, a walk, a museum tour or a workout class instead.”
Alcohol doesn’t have to be off-limits when you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, but it’s definitely not something you want to consume a lot of. “If you are drinking, choose single alcohols with non-caloric mixers like seltzer,” Harris-Pincus recommends. “If you have wine, make it a spritzer to expand the volume without extra calories.”
Lots of people track what they eat during the week, but come the weekend, they let the habit lag. “Don’t break a winning streak,” Mills says. The fact is, tracking keeps you accountable. “If you’re the type who doesn’t track your weekdays because you always eat the same things and do the same activities, it’s all the more important for you to track what you eat and do over the weekend.”
One way to make eating healthy on the weekend easier is to allow yourself to have indulgences all week long. “Throughout the whole week, it’s important to remember that you’re allowed to eat anything,” says Anna Mason, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “When we restrict ourselves completely from foods by labeling them as ‘bad’ or ‘illegal,’ things tend to go downhill. Eating a food we’ve told ourselves not to sends us into a tailspin. We figure if we’ve already broken our rule, we might as well just go full steam ahead and start over on Monday.”
Sound familiar? Instead, consider taking away the rules. “Ate a chocolate bar that put you over your calorie goals? It’s OK. You’re not defeated. You’re just ready to move on. Legalizing food actually takes some temptation away and can help prevent a restricting-and-binging cycle.”
Practice moderation by allowing yourself to have and enjoy indulgences without eating the whole thing. Especially when it comes to dessert, “three bites should be enough to savor the flavor without overdoing it,” Harris-Pincus says.
Having nothing in the fridge is a common reason for ordering takeout or eating out several times in one weekend. “Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are easy to stay on track because what you prepped for the week is around and fresh,” Mills says. “By Thursday and certainly Friday, you are out of prepped foods or you’re tired of the leftovers. Plan easy, no-prep dinners for Thursday and Friday that can be made simply with basic, non-perishable ingredients that you can keep stocked in the pantry or freezer.”
You may even want to plan a mid-week trip to the grocery store so you have appealing options at home over the weekend. Plus, if you’re not able to pick up fresh dinner supplies for the week on Sunday, you’ll be set for Monday.