You did your job, you ate healthy food all during the week, you oggled that greasy fried chicken sandwich your co-worker was having while you dutifully crunched your way through your grilled chicken salad with exactly 4 croutons and 1tsp shredded cheese, and no dressing. You were counting down the hours until Friday after work.
Then, and only then, you told yourself, could you have your Big Reward for being faithful during the week.
Friday night’s Happy Hour drinks and appetizers turn into half a pizza for lunch Saturday, and wings, loaded nachos, and a few beers Saturday night. Sunday morning you start to feel a little guilty, maybe, so you skip breakfast and go to brunch where you have Eggs Benedict and a Mimosa, and finally, for dinner, you start to get back to more reasonably healthy food.
Reverting back to your old habits, especially consciously, on the weekend does a lot to undo all the good you accomplished during the week. It also makes it harder to maintain your healthy eating habits if you view the week as what you have to do, and the weekend as your reward. Food shouldn’t be bad, or a reward. There are foods that are extremely healthy for you, foods that are really healthy, and so on down the line, until you get to the things that you should really only indulge in occasionally.
Occasionally might be just once a week if, say, it’s a glass of wine, or a slice of pizza, or a small slice of cake (note the “or” is not an “and”!). Once a week is fine. But occasionally might also be no more than once a month, if it’s something like a full night out of a few high calorie drinks, some fried or high fat food, and the whole molten lava cake. Yikes. You probably feel fantastic after a night like that 😉
So why are you undoing what you just did?
Weekend binge eating often comes from being so restrictive in what, or how much you are allowing yourself to eat during the week, that you constantly feel deprived, and at some point you just say screw it. Then you feel guilty, so you are “good” again.
Healthy eating should not feel like you’re walking the plank, forever doomed. If you find yourself always thinking about the “bad” foods, re-evaluate what, and how much you are eating. If you are forcing yourself to eat salads because they are good for you, but you really couldn’t care less if you ever saw a piece of lettuce again, find other ways to get your vegetables in.
If you are sick and tired of chicken every single day, then either have some lean turkey, or look at new ways of spicing up chicken so it’s always a wonderful taste experience. If you are “dieting down” and eating too few calories overall, you’re going to be constantly hungry.
You are going to slow your progress, or even halt it, by weekend binging. Every calorie you “saved” during the week is lost on the weekend, so while it’s never bad to eat healthy foods, you’ve really reduced their benefits.
Avoiding the downward spiral
Unconsciously you might even start to eat less during the week to try to make up for how you over-did it on the weekend, and that isn’t helpful either. Worse, it’s counterproductive. It can set up a cycle of viewing food as something that is black and white with no middle ground, and become an unhealthy perspective.
So what can you do? Change how you are approaching your diet. Use a calorie-tracking app for a week or so to see exactly what you are eating, both on a day to day basis, and over an entire week. Put it all in there, without changing what you’d eat just because you’re doing it. You want a baseline of your current routine, so you can see what you want or need to change.
You might find you’re eating too little protein, or too much fat, or simply not enough calories. That allows you to adjust, track again for a short period, and see how you’re doing.
Set your expectations for the weekend, before you get to the weekend. Tell your friends and co-workers you are trying to avoid the binges, that you want a more consistent eating pattern. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a glass of wine Friday, and even a beer Saturday, but A glass, not multiples.
Share a dessert with a friend. Get grilled chicken instead of fried. Have the “good” dressing on your salad, but sparingly, not drowning. Find what perfectly imperfect way of eating works for you. You should feel good about it all, all the time, not feeling like you won yesterday but failed today.
If you found this helpful, leave me a comment! I would love to know if you’ve found yourself in this position, and how you worked your way out of it.