In my world, weekend overeating (and over-boozing) was ‘just what people did’. But when I let go of weekday food rules, the cycle broke. I dropped the guilt, improved my health, and lost weight.
Sure, I was “good” all week.
But weekend overeating? That was my jam.
Every Friday around 5pm, as I waited for the bus after work, I’d start to salivate. The end of the work week meant red wine, pizza, a giant bag of chips, and bad movies. It was a Friday ritual.
Sometimes I’d call my husband while waiting. What should we get on the pizza? They do that really good pesto sauce with goat cheese. What about extra sausage?
Friday night, when I got to eat whatever I wanted, was the highlight of my week.
My job was stressful. The commute was long. Coming home, dumping my stuff, and crushing some fast food and booze was my way of unwinding.
I ate big breakfasts on Saturdays before I went to the gym, and big lunches afterwards. I went out on Saturday nights for drinks and a heavy meal. Or stayed home for more takeout and movies on the couch.
Then came Sunday brunches, of course. And picking up some of those amazing cookies at that little coffee shop on Sunday walks. And, naturally, you close weekends with a big Sunday roast… because it’s Sunday.
Because it’s Friday. Because it’s Saturday. Because it’s Sunday.
Which bled into: Because it’s Thursday night. Technically close enough to Friday. Friday-adjacent, and good enough.
In my head, the weekend was a time where “normal rules” didn’t apply. It was a time to relax, put my feet up, and let the soothing crunching and chewing take me away.
I’m not talking about compulsive bingeing here. That’s where you have episodes of eating without thinking, almost like you’re on autopilot.
(People with binge eating disorder feel disassociated while overeating and that can be hard to break without help from a doctor or therapist.)
But for me, it wasn’t that. Rather, mine was the kind of overeating where you’re all-in: a convenient, stress-fueled, often social, habit.
My social circle was happy to support it. I had binge buddies and pizza pals. As far as I was concerned, going hog wild was just what people did on weekends.
Looking back, I also know that in the face of a stressful job and overwhelming responsibilities my overeating ritual made me feel sane and human.
As every overeater knows, the joy of runaway indulgence comes with consequences.
You feel physically uncomfortable, bloated, perhaps even sick to your stomach. Mentally, you feel crappy. Guilty. Regretful. Maybe angry at yourself. Or just angry in general.
And while weight fluctuation is inevitable when you’re trying to get in shape, if you want to stay healthy and fit, or make fitness and health a permanent part of your lifestyle, then weekend overeating can sabotage your goals.
Aside from the obvious extra body fat or stalled performance, there’s other unwanted stuff.
Like your joints hurt because of inflammation from last night’s junk food. Or you’re too full to run properly. Or you lie awake in bed with meat sweats, huffing in small breaths around the food-baby in your belly.
Yet the cycle can be hard to break.
I tried to get it under control.
I started cutting deals with myself, such as, if it’s “real food” then it’s okay to overeat. (Cue jars of almond butter, spinach pizzas, and all-you-can-eat sushi.)
During the week, I trained harder. Ate less. Tracked low and high calories in a spreadsheet. But every starvation attempt was inevitably followed by an even bigger blowout on the weekend.
The cycle continued; my health and fitness goals remained elusive.
How did I finally break free? Maybe not how you think.
I didn’t use “one weird trick”, or biological manipulation, or reverse psychology.
Rather, I developed a healthier relationship with food… and myself.
I’ve seen it in so many nutrition coaching clients.
They want to follow the “perfect” diet.
So they adhere to strict meal plans (to the last measured teaspoon) Monday to Friday. And, the whole week, they worry incessantly about screwing things up.
By the weekend, though, the willpower gives out. They’re so sick of restrictive eating and can’t wait to eat food they actually enjoy. Bring on the weekend binge!
For most of them, there are only two options: perfect or crap.
So the logic follows:
“It’s Saturday, I’m out to lunch with my family, and I can’t have my perfect pre-portioned kale 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 kale salad vs. five servings of fries, there’s:
“I’m actually in the mood for a salad with my burger because I had fries at that work lunch on Thursday.”
Therefore, my solution: Always aim for “good enough”.
Throughout the work week and the weekend, I started to consider my health and fitness goals, what I was in the mood for, what was available, etc. I came up with a definition of “good enough”, and aimed for that.
Remember: The decent method you follow is better than the “perfect” one you quit.
If perfectionism is the Wicked Witch of overeating, then food rules are the flying monkeys.
Food rules tell you:
These rules take up an awful lot of mental real estate. They also set you up for disinhibition… aka “the F*** It Effect”.
Here’s how the F*** It Effect works.
Let’s say your #1 food rule is Don’t Eat Carbs. No croutons on the salad; won’t touch a sandwich; no potatoes with your omelette. Thanks.
But this Friday night, you find yourself out with friends, and everyone’s having beer and pizza. You hold out for a bit. Finally, you give in and grab a slice.
That means f*** it, you’ve “blown your diet”, so you might as well keep eating. Cue the binge and uncomfortable after effects.
Of course, if you have one food rule, you probably have several. That means there are lots of ways to “mess up” (and disinhibit). Maybe all night. Maybe all weekend.
Eating by the rules almost always leads to overeating crap, because once you deviate, there’s nothing left to guide you.
My solution: I ditched the rules and let hunger be my 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 food rules and responses.
When, where, and how are you likely to say, “F*** it?” What might happen if you let go of that rule and really tuned in to your physical hunger and fullness cues instead?
Monday through Saturday is all about being faithful to your diet. But Sunday… That’s Cheat Day.
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 maybe drink) even more. Because tomorrow, it’s back to reality. Back to fidelity and compliance. And no fun.
Sure, some people find the idea of a weekly Cheat Day useful both mentally and physically. If this is you, and it works for you, then by all means continue.
But for most of the people I’ve coached, having one Cheat Day means the rest of the week is food purgatory.
My solution: I quit the Cheat Day routine, and gave myself permission to choose what I wanted all week long.
Like the F*** It Effect, Cheat Day depends on scarcity.
Scarcity makes us feel anxious, needy, and greedy. The counter to a scarcity mindset? Abundance.
For you and most people around you, food is abundant — not something to be hoarded or feared. (If that’s true in your life, be grateful. It’s a privilege.)
You don’t need to “cheat” because there’s nothing, and no one, to “cheat” on. Maybe you enjoy some dessert on a Tuesday night because you’re in the mood for it, or maybe you don’t because you’re satisfied from dinner.
What and when you eat is up to you — and your hunger and fullness cues. No matter what day of the week it is.
Do you ever barter with yourself? Make deals, trades or swaps related to food?
“Okay, self, I’ll turn down dessert today… but I’m gonna collect on the weekend and you better pony up the whole damn pie.”
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.
My solution: I started owning my choices, and letting my adult values and deeper principles guide me when I sat down to eat.
I started making food decisions by acknowledging the outcome I would expect, based on my experience. For example:
“I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream on Saturday night. I’ll probably feel nauseated and anxious afterwards. In this instance, I’m fine with it.”
In the end, own your choices: Don’t moralize them. You’re free to eat and drink anything you want. You choose your behavior.
Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes.
It’s your call.
Weekends present all sorts of comfortable justifications for eating a bunch of non-nutritious foods.
It could be anything:
Any excuse will do. Powerless victim of circumstance!
But busyness, boredom, travel, work, or family dinners don’t inherently cause overeating. 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 behaviors.
My solution: I stopped rationalizing and asked myself why I was really overeating.
Sometimes, you’ll want to eat crap. And too much of it. 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 overeating behavior — and do something else to address those emotions instead of bingeing.
There is no “perfect time” to eat better. Not tomorrow; not on Monday. Life is always a little nuts.
All we can do is our best with what we’ve got. Right here, right now.
Here’s where to start.
If you’re loving your Cheat Day, Friday junk-food bonanzas, or gut-punching Sunday brunches, and you’re happy with the results, keep doing it.
But if you’re conflicted, it could be time to investigate further. Ask yourself: What does weekend overeating do for you? What is it a path to? What does it enable you to get or feel? How does it solve a problem or have a purpose for you?
In my case, weekend overeating was self-medication for stress, stimulation and novelty, and a way to connect with other people.
To rearrange your mindset and break the cycle of weekend overeating, try:
If you feel urgency or compulsion when you overeat, consider talking to your doctor or a trained professional about binge eating disorder.
In Precision Nutrition Coaching, the clean slate approach means that after any and every “screw-up”, you get to start fresh.
Overate Friday night? No problem, wake up Saturday morning and start again. Don’t try to compensate. Just get on with things as normal.
You don’t “pay back” the damage in the gym, nor do you kamikaze your way through a jar of peanut butter. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back to doing your best.
Yes, you are the boss of you, and you should own your choices. But changing a deep-seated habit — even one that on the surface may seem silly and harmless, like overeating on the weekend — is challenging. Really challenging.
And just like weight loss, the process of changing your habits will have ups and downs. It helps to team up with someone who will support and encourage you.
Find a friend, a partner, a trainer, or a coach, who will listen to you and keep you accountable. For many clients, relinquishing control is a choice they’re glad to own.
The health and fitness world can sometimes be a confusing place. But it doesn’t have to be.
Let us help you make sense of it all with this free special report.
In it you’ll learn the best eating, exercise, and lifestyle strategies — unique and personal — for you.
The post How I quit weekend overeating. 5 strategies that helped me ditch the bingeing, guilt, and extra weight. appeared first on Workout Tips.
Avoiding heart disease and looking ‘fab’ aren’t always great reasons to lose weight. However, here are 5 immediate and significant ways your life can change when you trim the fat.
I’d like you to join me in a thought experiment.
I promise there’s a point to it. In fact, we’ll soon talk about why most popular reasons for losing weight are either uninspiring or scientifically worthless.
But, for now, let’s begin by setting our feelings, insecurities, assumptions, stories, and beliefs about body fat aside.
You might feel confused. Or defensive. Or saying “Yes, but…”
Please bear with me. Just for a few minutes.
Forget about “thin privilege”. Forget about “fat privilege”.
Forget about personal rights or civic obligations.
Forget about abs and guns and lats and whatever other laundry list of nonsense is now used to describe various body parts.
While you’re at it, forget about whatever other wretchedness the Internet has spawned this week. (Thigh gap? Duck lips? Bikini bridge? Manscaping?)
So, yeah, forget about body image.
Forget about all the big-name medical scares including atherosclerosis, arterial plaque, cardiac arrest, pulmonary hypertension, stroke, all the cancers, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
And forget about what some randomly chosen biomarker says.
“My glucose tolerance is good. I’m healthy and fat!”
“My triglycerides are low. I’m healthy and thin!”
“My cholesterol is excellent. I’m healthy and jacked!”
For a moment, let all of that go. (More on why in a second).
Yes, obese people do have the right to be treated with dignity.
Absolutely and certainly.
And, yes, obese people should be supported in efforts to become more healthy outside of weight loss. As we all know, health isn’t a direct function of your weight.
However, the “health at any size” movement goes one step too far in suggesting that obesity is harmless. That it’s not bad for you. That having excess body fat is of no more consequence than wearing a red sweater or driving a Nissan Sentra.
This is simply not true; it contradicts most of the available evidence.
Each of these obscures the real, significant reasons people should consider losing weight.
For example: The mainstream conversation about fatness and health focuses on medical conditions that can kill or disable us. While these make for great headlines, this angle isn’t very compelling.
Why not? Well, imagine that bacon (or broccoli, or some other food) causes a 10 percent increase in some horrible cancer-type disease. Scary, right?
Not when you realize that your chance of dying from that horrible cancer-type thing without bacon (or broccoli) is only 1 in 100,000 (or 0.00001 percent). And that a 10 percent increase from eating bacon (or broccoli) means your chance rises to 1.1 in 100,000 (or 0.000011 percent).
Since we’re all going to die anyway, medical scare tactics simply don’t come off as scary (especially when you know what the data really mean). Nor do they motivate change.
The fitness industry, of course, takes another approach.
In fitness it’s all about looking great in a certain type of clothing, or on the beach, or at your high school reunion. And while that can seem inspiring for a minute, it’s not proven to be a sustainable way to achieve long-term weight loss and maintenance.
In the end, the most popular incentives — scary disease statistics and fitness industry vanity trips — aren’t very effective, useful, or scientifically valid ways to promote weight loss.
That’s a huge missed opportunity, because there are much better reasons to lose weight. More pressing, more evidence-based, more quality-of-life focused reasons.
Sadly, they’re not often talked about in the public debate.
(Notice that I said public debate. Scientists and doctors talk about them all the time. They’re well established in research. They just haven’t made it to the public yet).
So let’s talk about them now.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, in which we lose cartilage and gradually destroy the bones of our joints.
Imagine two rocks grinding together and you get the idea of how fun that is.
In my experience, healthy people don’t think much about osteoarthritis because it’s common. Aging makes it more likely. Everyone’s grandma has a twinge of arthritis.
So we think it’s normal.
This hides the degree to which it can be very unpleasant and debilitating.
Like most chronic illnesses, osteoarthritis is a vicious cycle.
The point? Obesity makes it much more likely that you’ll get osteoarthritis.
In one study comparing the heaviest patients to the lightest, the chance of being diagnosed with osteoarthritis in one knee was more than 6 times in the heavy group. For both knees it was almost 18 times.
(Naturally, other studies over the last 20 years have investigated the same relationship. Some estimates are higher, some are lower. But the association between body fat and osteoarthritis has been replicated several times.)
The reason this happens is complicated.
It isn’t just that heavier people put more weight on their joints, and those joints then degrade over time. It’s also that there seems to be a relationship between the presence of excess fat tissue and inflammation.
Thus, osteoarthritis probably comes from a combination of excess joint loading plus the inflammatory chemical and hormonal environment that having too much body fat creates.
Bottom line: One important reason to lose weight is to reduce joint pain and improve your movement. These are are things you can benefit from almost immediately.
Think of what happens when a rockslide blocks a tunnel.
That’s sleep apnea: The upper airway collapses while you sleep, cutting off that oxygen tunnel.
Just so you know, sleep apnea is more than a little snoring.
Sleep apnea means you stop breathing. Over and over and over. As you sleep.
Which is bad.
More body fat means more potential for sleep apnea. This comes from a few combined factors:
While around 25 percent of adults have sleep apnea, 50 percent of obese adults have it.
Even more scary: If you have mild sleep apnea, and you put on weight, the chances of you graduating to moderate or severe sleep apnea are:
(And it’s scariest for children: 46 percent of obese children have sleep apnea, while the typical incidence in children is approximately 3 percent).
So, why is sleep apnea bad?
Sleep is a major regulator of our metabolism. If our sleep is bad, so is our metabolic health.
This means things like elevated inflammation, rapid cell aging and oxidation, and hormonal disruption (and, yes, higher risk for all kinds of nasty chronic diseases in the long term).
Bottom line: Another important reason to lose weight is so that you can sleep better. Not only does this help regulate metabolism, hormone systems, and more. It helps you feel, think and live better right away.
This may sound weird, but it seems that people who struggle with their weight don’t taste food as well.
Wait, what? People who often eat more food can’t taste as well? Exactly.
Why? We’re not sure. We don’t yet know whether excess body fat changes your tastes. Or whether your tastes change your appetite and cause weight gain.
We also don’t know whether this is an issue of:
Here’s what we do know.
People vary in how well and sensitively they can perceive different flavors and textures such as fattiness or sweetness.
One hypothesis is that if we can’t taste as well, we eat more food to compensate.
On the flip side, people with high BMIs seem to avoid bitter foods more, and have a stronger “disgust” response. As it happens, many vegetables are bitter or astringent (think of kale, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, etc.).
So there seems to be a relationship between:
How might this happen?
Animal models are handy here, since we can control their food intake and they don’t seem to care much about food advertising.
So, in animal models:
Put simply, what this could mean is:
The only observation I’ll add is that the foods we consider to be the most responsible for obesity just happen to pander directly to this dysfunction by having aggressively over-sweet, over-salty, over-fatty, etc. flavor profiles.
We eat and eat and eat them, but they never seem to satisfy. It’s a Sisyphean irony.
The good news is that in both humans and rats, tastes are changeable.
This means that losing fat, getting fit, and consistently building healthy habits can actually change how we perceive flavors. In a good way.
(One day, you might just find you like Brussels sprouts after all).
More importantly, when you truly enjoy food, you eat less, but you feel much more satisfied.
Bottom line: Obese people have altered taste perceptions leading to eating more and eating more of the wrong foods. By losing weight you’ll end up craving less high-sugar and high-fat food. You might even enjoy and extra veggie or two.
We tend to think of body fat like an ATM: a place where we deposit or withdraw energy. It isn’t.
Instead, fat is an active endocrine organ. That means it secretes hormones and cytokines (cell signaling molecules).
Hormones and cytokines have effects throughout the body. They “talk” to one another chemically.
Like all things, balance is important. If we have a healthy amount of fat, our hormones and cell signals work properly. If we have too much, things go wrong.
For example, with too much body fat our immune systems get off kilter.
There’s a huge, scary pile of evidence here so let’s keep it simple.
Increased BMI and more body fat is associated with greater risk for several kinds of bacterial infections including:
Why? Too much adipose (fat) tissue can release large amounts of immune chemicals. Over time, this chronic high exposure can interfere with the body’s ability to spot and stop actual outside infections.
Bottom line: Losing body fat can mean a healthier, more responsive, more robust immune system. And that means less colds, fewer infections, and a healthier daily life.
People with a lot of body fat:
Surgery is a risky business for people who are obese.
This is a double whammy because people who struggle with obesity also struggle with more health issues that may require surgery.
So obese people may need surgery… but not be able to get it, or not recover as well when they do.
Pregnancy is a good example of this.
This is aside from other pregnancy complications, which also go up significantly as body fat increases.
Bottom line: Every surgery patient wants a safe and speedy recovery. And every mother wants a safe birth and a thriving, bouncing baby. Having a healthy range of body fat makes those happy outcomes much more likely.
Let’s forget about all the “shoulds”, as in, “You should lose weight because blah blah terrible thing will happen.”
Let’s focus on how awesome life can get when your body is as functional, mobile, and metabolically healthy as it can possibly be.
We’ve noticed a trend in the stories of people who lost a great deal of weight:
They focus on the small blessings and achievements of everyday life.
And they always sound so satisfied.
“Thigh gap” and “healthy at any size” are the two extremes of one problem: an all-or-nothing approach to health and body weight.
Real, lasting changes in diet and lifestyle require a different approach.
Precision Nutrition Coaching clients who achieve the most success come to realize that incremental change serves them best — and, to their surprise, produces immediate improvements in quality of life.
Losing weight isn’t magical. Your life is still your life, regardless.
Yet with a healthy amount of body fat, your life often becomes a little bit easier and better. You’re a little more functional and mobile. A little more able.
So if we talk about fat, let’s not tell people (or ourselves) how to feel. Or how to cheat death.
Keep the focus on positive changes you could see in your life in just a few weeks’ time:
Our Precision Nutrition Coaching program helps give men and women eat, move, and live better in a way that works within the context of their actual lives.
If you’re interested in that, we’d be happy to help you too.
We accept new clients every 6 months, and coaching spots typically sell out in hours.
However, those motivated enough to put themselves on the presale list get to register 24 hours before everyone else. Plus, they receive a big discount at registration.
So put your name on the list below — because, as always, spots are first come, first served, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
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