The weekend as a concept has significance to us. I don’t know who first came up with this idea, bit it’s a common practice in our culture to make weekend meals epic. And by ‘epic’ I mean ‘sizable’ and calorie-dense. They are the types of meals that make you call out:  Where are my stretchy pants!?!

It’s a weekly occurrence for a lot of our friends and family. But as people on the ‘fitness journey’ we fall into the same trap. Five days a week we adult and keep our lives together more or less. We make countless decisions and deny ourselves dietary pleasures. But when the clock strikes 5pm on Friday night … it’s party time! We are DONE making healthy choices, DONE restricting ourselves. The muscle of our will power cannot contract anymore.

There’s absolutely no biological reason to be 5 days a week ‘ON’ and 2 days ‘OFF’.

We talk ourselves into believing that two days of eating till we’re stuffed cannot possibly undo all the hard work of working out and following the healthy diet during the five days of the week. We tell ourselves all kinds of stories:

• I went to the gym 4 days this week and I can safely eat whatever I want.
• I ate that darn pint of ice-cream, so I blew it. Let’s just keep going.
• There’s always Monday…

Come Monday morning, we feel remorse and regret the choices we made over the weekend. So that gives us enough motivation to tough it out till next Friday night. Ebb and flow, ebb and flow.

We want to reach our goal so badly, but cannot seem to break through this pattern we’ve created in our lives. How can we navigate weekends without going overboard? How do we hold it together AND get some stress release?

A lot of it begins with how you think about it.

1. I eat well during the week because I think I should (I want to be good)
2. Eating well is part of the value system of who I am, and I do it seamlessly (it’s my lifestyle)

If you chose #1 you are doing a lot of cognitive control, which is quite exhausting. It requires a lot of decision-making. Thinking is a very costly activity. You think about food all day long. You think about how to offset that via exercise. So when it comes to weekends, if fueling your body with healthy and whole foods is not part of your routine and daily habits, it becomes very difficult to maintain this cognitive control for long.

If you are a weekend over-eater it might be helpful to retrace your steps. Get a full analysis of your situation. How exactly does it go down? Most of us have a specific pattern. Let’s say it’s Friday night and your family orders pizza at 6pm. Can you have it ordered for 6:30pm instead. In the meantime you grab a healthy alternative from the fridge to take the edge of that ravenous appetite, or go for a quick walk in the neighborhood (with or without your dog), etc. Now you broke a link in the chain of events that is habitual to you. You do it often enough, you’ll create a new routine. Overtime you begin to alter other unhealthy habits replacing them with the ones that are actually beneficial to you.

For me, personally, this was a huge help. Living with my in-laws after hurricane Katrina meant having pizza every Friday night. When I came to realization it wasn’t the best choice for me, I started going to the gym at that time. After the gym I’d fix myself my own meal. That quickly became my new norm. Very soon I added more gym time to my week. It was right at the beginning of my fitness journey and was one of my first habits. Now training and being active is part of my lifestyle. It’s so integrated, I cannot imagine my life without it. I don’t think about it, I just do it. The same goes for my eating habits. I didn’t get a whole new set of them overnight. I stacked them one on top of the other overtime.

You can also try to replicate the conditions of when the over-eating problem is NOT happening. Is it when you are occupied? Is it when your meals are all planned for the week? Is it when you go to the gym at night and as a result avoid overeating at dinner? Is it when you stay away from going out with certain people? Going to certain restaurants? Do what’s working for you during the week also on weekends. Focus on what’s working and do more of that. Sometimes ignoring the problem and expanding on your strengths will lead to huge wins, and the problem will self-resolve.

I am interested to hear about the strategies you come up with. Find me at the gym and share. You can also do that in the comments section below. I am sure the readers will be interested.

• Coach Natalia

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