We have all made and broken this promise... “I’ll start again on Monday". I would follow my “diet” perfectly during the week, only to sabotage all my efforts over the weekend. Weekend overeating (and drinking) was ‘just what I did.’ It felt good to let loose after a long hard week… Friday became a gateway drug to the rest of the weekend, until I got sick of the regret, guilt, bloating, and extra kilos. That’s when I discovered the surprising reason behind my Friday-to-Sunday gorging. Here are the five strategies I used to ditch the habit (and the weight) for good.
AIM FOR GOOD ENOUGH INSTEAD OF PERFECT
I’d adhere to strict meal plans (to the last measured teaspoon) Monday to Friday. And, the whole week, I would worry incessantly about screwing things up. By the weekend, though, the willpower gives out. I was so sick of restrictive eating and couldn’t wait to eat food I enjoyed. Bring on the weekend binge! For most of us, there are only two options: perfect or crap.
“It’s Saturday, I’m out to lunch with my family, and I can’t have my perfect pre-portioned chicken salad like I usually do, so instead I’ll just overeat a giant bacon cheeseburger and a huge heap of fries.”
If you take “perfect” off the table, things change. You feel empowered because there are now other options. Instead of eating nothing vs. five servings of fries, there’s:
“Even though there might be added sauces and ingredients not found on Happy Shrinkers “allowed list” in the chicken salad I just ordered, it is still a better option than the burger and fries”
Simply aim for “good enough”.
LET HUNGER BE YOUR GUIDE
Non-dieters (or so-called “normal eaters”) eat when they’re physically hungry and stop when they’re physically full, no matter if it’s Wednesday or Saturday, morning or evening, work lunch or happy hour.
Start by paying attention to your own hunger ques, especially in social situations over the weekends. Often, we are not experiencing true hunger but end up eating because everyone else around us is. Be aware of when, where, and how you are likely to say, “Screw it?” What might happen if you tuned in to your physical hunger and fullness cues instead?
TREAT DAYS VS CHEAT DAYS
Oh, Cheat Day. The happiest day of your week. You wake up on Cheat Day morning like a kid at Christmas. Go hog wild all day long, eating all the stuff you didn’t permit yourself during the week. As evening nears, you start to freak out. So, you eat (and drink) even more. Because tomorrow, it’s back to reality. Back to fidelity and compliance. And no fun.
Cheat days make you feel like you are missing something. Instead, I introduced TREAT days into the HAPPY SHRINKER FAT LOSS PROGRAM, simply allowing myself to choose from a list of healthy treat options once a week. This way I always had something to look forward without experiencing the guilt and negative side effects of cheating on all the wrong foods.
I STARTED TO REALLY OWN MY CHOICES
Do you ever barter with yourself? Make deals, trades or swaps related to food?
In this mindset, one “good deed” gives you license to “sin” elsewhere. These trades rarely pay off—they usually just amount to a lot of mental gymnastics that help you avoid making tough decisions and help you justify overeating.
Look, we’re all adults here. Trading off “good” and “bad” is for little kids and convicts. There is no “good” and “bad”. There’s no prison warden holding the keys. Mind games like this undermine your health goals—and your authority over your decisions.
I started owning my choices and letting my adult values and deeper principles guide me when I sat down to eat. In the end, own your choices: Don’t moralize them. You’re free to eat and drink anything you want. You choose your behaviour. Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes.
I STOPPED LOOKING FOR EXCUSES
Weekends present all sorts of comfortable justifications for eating unhealthy foods. It could be anything from:
- You were busy. Or maybe you had nothing going on.
- You were traveling. Or maybe you were at home.
- You had to work. Or you had no work to do.
- You had family/social meals. Or maybe you ate alone.
- Any excuse will do. Powerless victim of circumstance!
But busyness, boredom, travel, work, or family dinners don’t inherently cause unhealthy eating. People eat or drink too much in lots of different situations. Their explanation simply matches whatever happens to be going on at the time.
Rationalizations are a convenient script. They help us make sense of—and perpetuate—our overeating or other unhelpful behaviours. I stopped rationalizing and asked myself why I was really deviating from the protocol. Sometimes, you’ll want to eat crap. That’s normal. But instead of falling back on the tired victim-of-circumstance narrative, take the opportunity to ask yourself what’s really going on.
Are you bored? Stressed? Sad? Happy?
Do this over and over and over, and you’ll start to see some patterns. That’s your pot of gold. That’s your opportunity to change your unhealthy relationship with food —and do something else to address those emotions instead of bingeing and sabotaging your weight loss goals.