Don’t Ditch Your Diet This Weekend
Posted by Sarah Parkhurst on April 6, 2012 at 5:44 PM
To lose weight and keep it off, you gotta stick with it. But there's something about weekends that sends caution—and calories—to the wind. Studies have found that subjects on strict diet-and-exercise programs tend to lose weight more slowly than expected because they ate more on weekends than during the week.
Of course you want to live a little on the weekend, but if you're trying to shed pounds or even just keep the scale steady, you have to maintain a certain level of vigilance. Here’s how to rethink your weekend habits so you'll lose weight all week.
1. I Deserve to Splurge
"This week was tough; I deserve to indulge."
Go for a healthier splurge with extra savvy. The need for a reward is human nature. And for many, that "something special" is food. You can't change what makes you happy, but you can minimize the diet damage. Choose one portion-controlled item that requires you to leave the house, such as a kid's-size confection from your favorite ice cream parlor or a small, fresh pastry from a bakery. It's more rewarding to have a nice treat than to waste calories on regular things you can have anytime, like potato chips or cookies.
If you're attending a social event, you should decide in advance how much you'll eat or drink. Tell yourself that you'll sample only three dishes or have one portion of a certain food or sip only one drink. Figure out what works best for you that will leave you satisfied without overdoing the calories.
Doing something special works too: Catch a movie, get a massage at the spa, or buy those hot Lululemon yoga pants you've been eyeing.
2. I've Got Dinner Plans
"I'm going out with friends to catch up."
A study in The New England Journal of Medicine 2 years ago revealed that your social networks could cause you to gain weight. If you're surrounded by friends and family members who are overweight or gaining weight and practice bad eating habits, the likelihood that you'll start packing on the pounds increases by as much as 57%!
Sticking to a healthy eating plan on the weekends is difficult because our environment makes it easy to overeat on many occasions. Activity is very important because if you're less active on weekends, that adds to the problem. People have to consciously try to get in more exercise to balance out the extra calorie intake.
Instead of catching up over a restaurant table, plan to socialize doing nonfood activities, like walking together, window-shopping, or visiting a new art museum. Likewise, when you want to get out of the house on a Saturday night, look for fun activities like bowling. If you do want to grab a bite, stick to lunch—it's easier to eat light, and you probably won't order cocktails.
3. I'm Overbooked
"Obligations throw off my usual routine."
Your weekends are often too packed to accommodate your regular diet-and-exercise schedule, but that doesn't mean you can't make healthy choices.
Planning ahead can't be emphasized enough. Pack healthy food if you're running errands, eat a little something before a party so you aren't starving when you arrive, and even pack a light lunch or snacks before going to the mall so that you have a choice other than junk food.
Going to a party? Pay attention to portion sizes, position yourself away from food, hold a drink in one hand (so it's harder to balance a plate and eat), bring a healthy dish, and focus on socializing (that’s why you’re there in the first place).
4. I Need to Relax
"I run around all week; now I want to kick back."
Some decompressing is essential, but planting yourself on the couch for hours while catching up on the TV shows you recorded all week can lead to trouble. A long stretch of inactivity can inspire compulsive nibbling, especially if boredom is one of your overeating triggers.
Sure, you can enjoy some relaxing tube time, but designate a time limit—say, 2 hours a day—so you can spend your free time doing other activities. Devote part of Sunday to prepping healthy food for weeknight dinners and lunches so you'll have more time to unwind during the week too.
And make it a point to squeeze in some activity each day. If a 150-pound woman ditches her 25-minute weekday walk both weekend days, that's almost 200 calories she's not burning off. It may not seem like much, but that adds up to an additional 3 pounds each year just for taking those 2 days a week off.
5. I'll Eat Better Next Week
"I'll just have one last hurrah before I start my diet on Monday."
Healthy eating for weight loss doesn't have an on/off switch; it's a way of life. Treat yourself during the week, maybe with a glass of wine one night and an ice-cream cone another, so you're not feeling deprived and desperate enough to polish off half a pint of ice cream on Friday night for 500 calories.
If you overdo it at one meal, start your weight loss plan at your next meal or snack. To rev up your resolve before the weekend hits, consider weighing yourself each Friday.