Eating healthy on the weekends: Is your weekend making you fat?


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Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 9.46.01 PM

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Early Saturday morning seems as good a time as any to talk about the weekend weight gain cycle that many of us find ourselves in come Friday night. A week of relatively well controlled eating quickly replaced with overeating, over drinking and basically overindulging until Monday morning. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the weekend with plenty of good food, wine and company, a weekly ritual of consuming many, many more calories than anyone needs, simply because it is the weekend is a habit that has to be broken instead we should all be eating healthy on the weekends too.

Whether it is programming imprinted in our brain when we are small, or that we are overly restrictive with our diets in the week and feel that we need to reward ourselves on weekends, straying too far from our calorie controlled meal plans simply because it is the weekend is a recipe for disaster â research has proven this. The US Weight Control Registry, a research group that tracks the progress of those who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for longer than 5 years has shown that people who control their weight keep their food intake stable MOST of the time. What this means in relation to the weekend is that while they many enjoy a meal with more calories than they usually would for special weekend occasions this does not equate to an addition two coffees a day, a bottle of wine on Friday and Saturday nights as well as Sunday afternoon, some extra cake with coffee as well as dessert simply because it is the weekend.

My observation is that clients get things wrong on the weekend due to three main factors; too much alcohol, café style eating and high calorie restaurant or takeaway meals. These extra calories, combined with far less physical activity mean that you can easily gain a kg or two, just over the weekend and find yourself starting each week behind the eight ball when it comes to controlling your weight long term. The good news is that just a few simple tricks will help you to balance your caloric intake over the weekend to ensure you can still enjoy your weekend minus the extra few kg to match.

Café breakfasts are a lovely way to enjoy the weekend with friends and family, but heavy banana breads, Turkish toasts, large juices and jumbo coffees are far too many calories for the average person. Instead focus on your protein rich options of eggs, ricotta, smoked salmon or even lean bacon and aim for just 1 slice of grain or sourdough toast to balance the calories.

Remember your mantra of ‘no one needs a large coffee’ and keep the freshly baked goods to special occasions only. Order extra vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes to give your café breakie plenty of bulk and remember that you are unlikely to need to snack if your breakfast is much larger than it usually would be.

When it comes to the alcohol, self-control is the key. A highly controlled intake of wine and beer during the week is pointless if you then down 2-3 bottles of wine or 10-15 beers in a sitting over the weekend. Try and shift this binge drinking mentality to a more moderate approach in which you can enjoy a few alcoholic drinks without feeling the need to drink for the sake of it. Be mindful of spending time socially with people who encourage binge drinking and if you can limit heavier drinking occasions to just once or twice each week. Alcohol tends to be a habit rather than an enjoyable addition to life and for this reason can be managed.

Finally watch those calories from higher fat fast and restaurant style meals. The average fast food or restaurant meal will have at least 200 calories more than a meal you prepare for yourself at home simply because of the extra sauces, breads, oil and dressings and larger serving sizes. Have a substantial protein or vegetable based snack an hour or two before you venture out so you do not put a food order in while you are starving. Share meals where possible, especially dessert as portion sizes tend to be large and again try and avoid overeating simply because you are out. Training ourselves to not eat extra simply because we are ‘going out for dinner’ is a key way that you are able to enjoy eating out regularly without associated weight gain.

Aside from these tricks and tips for specific weekend eating occasions, another simple way of keeping your own weekend under control when it comes to your food intake is to follow as normal a food routine as possible and if you do have breakfast or lunch out, compensate with a light soup or salad the following meal. If you find that you have a number of heavier meals over the weekend, then have a lighter day or two of eating earlier in the week. We live in a world of constant calorie overloading and minimal activity and for this reason we cannot wipe out two entire days of the week if we want to maintain let alone lose weight, so identify your food rules and stick to them, even on the weekends.

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