Tips to Stop Weekend Binges

The structure of the work (or school) week can be extremely conducive to maintaining good eating habits. If you have a very predictable daily routine, it can be easier to plan meals and snacks and eat on a consistent schedule so  you never get too hungry. But when the weekend comes, all that structure disappears, and leads many people to make unhealthy eating choices that can derail all the good efforts from the previous week. But by recognizing the most common weekend food pitfalls, you can be prepared to make better choices and maintain healthy eating—no matter what day it is.

Weekend Pitfall #1: You're not at home much, so you end up grabbing food from coffee shops and fast food restaurants. 

There are two solutions to this pitfall. First, think ahead and always keep a few healthy choices in mind at the restaurants in your area. Most chain restaurants' websites include nutrition information so you can look it up before you head out. Your second option is to buy a small cooler or insulated bag and some ice packs. That way, you can pack whatever food you might need during the day and stop for an impromptu picnic whenever it's convenient for you. It may seem weird at first to always bring food with you, but it's worth it since you never have to worry about getting too hungry or not being able to find a decent place to eat (no matter where you find yourself). Try some portable snacks that don't require refrigeration, and always keep some on hand in your purse, in your car and when you're on the go.

Weekend Pitfall #2: One cocktail with friends turns into three--and then you just eat whatever is available

Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, increasing the chances of making poor food choices or simply eating when you're not really hungry. On top of that, research shows that we tend to mimic the eating habits of the people we spend time with, so if your friends are drinking and enjoying bar fare, you're more likely to do the same. That said, there's no reason to skip a drink with friends as long as you can stop at one. Wine is the most diet-friendly drink you can choose, plus it offers proven health benefits. To stretch your one drink to two, order wine mixed with seltzer water to create a spritzer. And no one will think less of you if you switch to seltzer with a slice of lime after your one cocktail. Another solution is to spend more time with friends who eat the way you want to or are also trying to manage their weight. Their good habits and lack of pressure and temptation can rub off on you, and you can support each other's diet efforts no matter where you are.

Weekend Pitfall #3: When you go to a party, you don't want to have to worry about what you're eating.

The easiest way to manage this pitfall is to bring a healthy appetizer to share. That way, you'll know there is something you can eat. You can also prepare by having a healthy snack or even a full meal in advance so you'll be less hungry.

Weekend Pitfall #4: You hang out with your significant other and just eat whatever s/he's eating.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this pitfall. You can eat the same food as your partner, just not as much of it. You can also offer to cook for him/her and make something that fits into your eating plan. Or you can suggest a date that doesn't revolve around food, like dancing or playing mini-golf. In any serious or committed relationship, you should discuss your weight-loss goals with your significant other. If they're the right person for you, they'll be supportive and will find ways to help you make good eating decisions.

Weekend Pitfall #5: You were "good" all week, so you think you deserve to have a treat (or two) on the weekend.

Following a healthy eating plan is not about being "good" or "bad." It's also not about cutting out all the high-calorie foods you enjoy. Instead of depriving yourself of your favorites all week only to overdo it on the weekend, plan for a few small treats throughout the week. If chocolate is what you typically crave, buy a bar of high-quality dark chocolate and break it into reasonable portions to last all week. You can even schedule a treat break into your day when you know you'll most enjoy it, like after a stressful meeting or during those few blissful moments when you're alone before the rest of the family gets home.

Weekend Pitfall #6: You slept in, so you skipped breakfast and think you can eat whatever you want for the rest of the day.

Unfortunately, sleeping through breakfast doesn't give you "permission" to overeat the rest of the day. Even if sleeping in caused you to get a late start, you should still begin the day with a balanced meal to give you energy and prevent you from pigging out later. Another thing to keep in mind is that having a regular sleep schedule is important for any weight loss plan. When you're sleep-deprived, your body releases cortisol, which makes you feel hungrier than you normally would. No matter when you wake up, try to eat a balanced meal within a couple of hours.

Weekend Pitfall #7: Your friends want to meet for brunch and you don't want to miss out on seeing them.

Brunch is fun and, if you can make a healthy choice from the menu, there's no reason for it to ruin your eating plan. But if you just can't resist that stack of pancakes or the second mimosa, you might want to see if your friends would be willing to meet up for something other than a meal. What about an early morning hike that lets you watch the sunrise and enjoy nature? Or, if your friends aren't outdoorsy, meet them at the mall or schedule a spa day. While many of us tend to socialize around food and drink, there are plenty of ways to catch up, bond and spend quality time with friends and family that don't involve eating.

Weekend Pitfall #8: You just want to veg out on the couch and watch a movie with a bag of chips.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to take a break and enjoy a movie at home. If you've had a stressful week at work or done multiple hard workouts, your body needs some down time to heal and recover. Just be smart about how you handle the snacking portion of your break. Instead of grabbing a bag of your favorite junk food and eating mindlessly while you watch, use a bowl to hold a reasonable portion of whatever you're craving most, then put the bag away in the cabinet. If you're still hungry after you enjoy your snack (really hungry, not just bored or tired or thirsty), choose a healthy snack from your well-stocked kitchen, like an apple or a piece of low-fat string cheese. Whole, unprocessed foods will fill you up much more than snack foods, which will likely only leave you wanting more.