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9 Tips to Stay on Track Over the Weekend

Don't Let Two Days Derail Your Diet!
  -- By Lyndsay Hasson, Licensed and Registered Dietitian
You work hard to stick to a healthy routine all week long. You choose and prepare healthy meals, avoid the temptations of junk food and make time for physical activitiy.  You reach your weekly goals and are feeling good about your healthy choices. Then, Friday comes along.  You make some not-so-healthy choices for a couple of days and feel as though the progress you made during the week was all for nothing. On Monday morning, you’re back at square one.  Sound familiar?

If so, you are not alone! Most Americans tend to consume more calories on the weekends than on the weekdays.  In 2003, a study published in Obesity Research found that the average person between the ages of 19 and 50 takes in an average of 115 extra calories on each weekend day.  

For many of us, the weekends allow us to step out of our work roles, relax, and spend some time doing the things we enjoy most. Typical weekend activities may include meeting friends for drinks at a bar, eating out at a restaurant, filling up on popcorn at the theater, or enjoying a lazy afternoon on the couch.  The excess calories and lack of physical activity on the weekends can easily derail your diet and cause you to slowly pack on the pounds. 

This weekly cycle is frustrating for many people, but it's not impossible to break out of it! Taking small steps and being mindful of where you spend your time and calories on the weekends can make a big difference.  Here are some tips that may help you avoid the downfalls of overindulgent weekends:

Build structure and routine into your weekends.
Many people ''slip up'' on the weekends because of a lack of structure.  Try to follow the same sleep patterns you would during the week.  Wake up in the morning at the same time and eat your meals at the same time.  This will help you to regulate the amount of food you eat each day and prevent you from grazing in the kitchen.

Make sure to eat breakfast.
Eating breakfast on the weekends is just as important as it is during the week.  Try to keep the same schedule and wake up for breakfast on the weekends.  However, aim to keep your morning meal low in calories.  Feel free to make eggs along with whole grain toast and fruit, but save calories and fat by skipping the cheese and high-fat breakfast meats!

Use extra time to bump up your physical activity.
Adding more physical activity on the weekends will give you room for a little splurging.  If you take the weekend off from exercise and also eat and drink more calories, your waistline is sure to show it! Burn some extra calories on the weekends and give yourself a little wiggle room.

Weigh yourself on Friday mornings and again on Monday mornings.
Seeing how your weight fluctuates from the beginning of the weekend to the end will help you stay on track.  You can make a note of what your choices were over the weekend and how those choices affected the numbers on the scale.  See what your results are on Monday morning and use this to help you stay motivated to continue your healthy habits throughout the weekend.

Don’t leave the house hungry.
Heading away from home on an empty stomach will make unhealthy choices much more appealing.  Always have a light snack (such as half a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread or an apple with peanut butter) before leaving the house.  Also, consider packing a bag of healthy snacks for the car just in case you are out longer than you expect. 

Plan ahead.
Prepare to battle the temptations of takeout and high-calorie meals.  Keep the house stocked with all the fresh foods you need to make it through the weekend.  If you have the ingredients to prepare delicious, healthy meals from home, you will be less tempted to make a quick stop for fast food.

Watch your portions.
Weekends can often mean outings to your favorite restaurants.  Unfortunately, restaurant meals tend to be high in calories, saturated fats and sodium.  Stay on track by keeping your portions small.  Don’t deprive yourself from having your favorite meal, but think about sharing with a friend to keep your calorie intake under control. Starting the meal with a small side salad will help fill you up so you are less likely to overeat during the meal. 

Entertain your friends and family from home.
Instead of going to a bar or restaurant to watch the big game, consider having everyone to your house! This way, you can control what kind of food is served and how it is made.  Try making healthier versions of your favorite snacks or appetizers. You’ll also be doing your guests a favor--and chances are, they won’t even notice the difference.

Make your weekdays top notch!
You never want to deprive yourself from the foods that you love.  If the weekend is your time to enjoy some of your favorites, be sure to make your weekdays even better! Add additional physical activity and do your best to make the healthiest choices during the week.  That way, you have some room to enjoy yourself on the weekend – just be careful not to overdo it!

Sources

Haines, Pamela S., Mary Y. Hama, David K. Guilkey, and Barry M. Popkin. 2003. Weekend eating in the United States is linked with greater energy, fat, and alcohol intake. Obesity Research 11, no. 8  (August).

Khare, Adwait and J. Jeffrey Inman. 2009. Daily, week-part and holiday patterns in consumers’ caloric intake. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 28, no. 2 (Fall). 

Roberts, Shauna S. 2004. Weekends prime time for weight gain.  The Diabetes Advisor 57, no. 7 (July).