It’s no surprise that a person tends to gain weight over the weekend. However, by following certain weight loss tips, you can not only outsmart your body, but even lose a few pounds.
The curse of weight gain over the weekend
Weekends can wreak havoc on your waistline when healthy habits like drinking enough water and eating regular meals seem to slip your mind over the weekend, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a nutritionist nutritionist. What’s more, many people reward themselves with food for getting through a tough week. What are the results?
“Overeating, poor eating habits, skipping meals and drinking alcohol,” says Taub-Dix. It all boils down to one thing: Russians consume about 180 extra calories on Saturdays compared to the rest of the week, according to a study of more than 11,000 adults. Unsurprisingly, most people weigh more on Monday morning than they did on Friday.
Get out and play!
The weekend is a great time to engage in more physical activity. But don’t think about exercising, it can backfire. In one study, participants went through the same exercise routine, but half of them were told they were exercising; the rest thought they were just listening to music. Afterwards, the ‘exercisers’ felt more tired and ate more sweet treats at lunch.
Find fun, active activities that you can do in your free time, but can’t do on your workdays, and you can feel happier and make healthier choices. Put on some music and dance (that’s a 408-calorie-an-hour loss). Ride a real bike (543 calories). Take your dog for a long walk (237 calories). Play a round of golf in your garden (339 calories).
These are all bonus points for any activity you do outdoors. Many studies say that exposure to nature around you boosts your mood, and people in a good mood tend to eat less.
Allow yourself some sleep
In an ideal situation, you would go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and you’d have at least seven hours to sleep in. In the real world, you probably stay in bed longer on weekend mornings because you’re up later than usual, and you also try to make up for the sleep you miss during the week. It’s OK.
“If you’ve been sleep deprived during the week, the weekend is a great time to make up for lost sleep. We know that sleep loss is linked to weight gain,” says Jennifer McDaniels, MSc, a nutritionist nutritionist with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Make a quick, tasty (and healthy) breakfast
Breakfast can reduce the number of calories you eat for the rest of the day. And when you’re not in such a hurry to get out the door, you have a little more time to liven up those meals. One little trick: ‘Take a food you normally eat and move it up a notch. Breakfast will be special and even slightly decadent,’ says Taub-Dix.
For example, if you normally eat skim yoghurt, indulge in 2-4% yoghurt, then add sliced mango chunks and season with honey. Other healthy options: toast a frozen waffle, then top with almond butter and sliced banana. Or chop up an apple, put it in the microwave and then add the warm apple and cinnamon to the oatmeal.
Make a plan before you eat out
During the week you have plenty of food, such as lunch on your table, cooked by yourself. On weekends, people socialise more often. “Studies show that you tend to eat the same way as the people you live with. If your friends eat a lot – order a whole basket of bread, buy drinks – then you will eat the same way,” says Taub-Dix.
One way to keep your composure is to choose your meal before you even enter the restaurant. Check out most restaurant menus online so you can make healthy choices ahead of time. Have a craving for desserts? Split it up. “Splitting doesn’t necessarily mean cutting the dessert in half – you can just eat a quarter,” says Taub-Dix.
Don’t go overboard with cocktails.
‘Alcohol can be a diet bomb,’ says McDaniel. You’re consuming empty calories, which can increase your appetite and cause you to start eating more. If you overdo it and don’t feel well the next day, you’re likely to crave junk food before the weekend is over.
One way to cut down on your intake is to alternate a glass of sparkling water (you can also have a lime slice) with an alcoholic beverage. Water will also compensate for the dehydration caused by alcohol.
Give yourself a massage.
Or practice some other form of stress relief such as deep breathing techniques, yoga or tai chi, reading an engaging book or meditation. There is a strong link between stress and weight gain, partly because stress hormones such as cortisol increase appetite, according to the Mayo Clinic. Weekends, when you’re off duty, are a great time to relax.
Arm yourself with healthy snacks
For many people, especially parents of school-aged children, weekends can be a continuous frenzy of running errands and transporting kids around town. And when there’s no time for real food, it’s hard not to be tempted by the deceptive promises of places like McDonald’s. “Convenient portable snacks are key to maintaining a healthy diet,” says McDaniel.
She recommends nuts; tropical mix, fruit that comes with a peel such as bananas, apples and oranges, apricots and figs, cheese (it can be safely stored outside the fridge for hours), packaged mini bars containing fruit, nuts and whole grains. McDaniel makes a simple, three-ingredient bar by mixing together ½ cup chopped dates, ½ cup nut butter and a third of a cup of oats.
They are rolled into balls the size of meatballs, put into bags and stored until they harden a little. “They’re great for a snack when you’re in a hurry,” says McDaniel.
Preparing for next week
“The weekend is a great opportunity to plan ahead for the week. Create a workout plan, plan your meals, and make some extra preparations for weekday meals. Wash and chop vegetables, prepare whole-grain meals and foods with protein content in large batches and pack them so they’re easy to take with you,” recommends McDaniel.
Spending a few hours at the weekend preparing will make things much easier for you when weekdays come around.
Remember that weekends count too
“For many people, weekends are a time to take a break from the standard way of eating during the week,” says Taub-Dix. But behaving as if healthy eating is ‘included’ in the meal plan during the week and ‘not included’ at weekends is a surefire recipe for weight gain.
Successful dieters eat the same seven days a week, according to the National Weight Control Registry, people who have succeeded in losing 30 pounds or more have maintained their weight loss for at least a year. If your meal plan is unsustainable for an entire week, you may need to loosen up your rules and settle for a more realistic approach.
Also, note that there are other ways beyond nutrition to reward yourself before the weekends. “Think about what can give you back your energy. Does overeating really give you what you’re looking for? Perhaps a yoga class or a walk in the park with a friend will provide better eating habits,” says McDaniel.