You’ve been “good” all week – getting your salads in and making sure not to eat after 8:00 p.m. and then Friday sets in. After a long grueling week at work it’s time to unwind. If you’re a bit like me then you know that by the time it’s Sunday you’ve stayed stuffed, gorging on goodies and indulging in social eating.
We tell ourselves to do this because we want to live a little. On Fridays I’ll have a cookie to celebrate the end of another week. On Saturday I’ll have that extra slice of pizza because what am I going to do . . . watch my friends eat? On Sunday I’ll get two lattes from the coffee shop, one during the morning walk and then with my second latte I might as well grab a danish!
Sometimes in our heads we take the weight off our shoulders and “normal rules” don’t apply during the weekends. Overeating rituals make us feel stress-free and everything is all dandy . . . until Sunday night. You feel uncomfortably bloated (have you ever had pain in your tummy from over-eating? I have…), you feel guilty and maybe even angry at yourself.
Then on Monday morning you start noticing your knees hurt more than usual. You feel lethargic and you have a case of the Monday’s… all the way until Friday when the cycle starts all over again.
This cycle is hard to break but here are five ways that could help.
Aim for “good enough” instead of “perfect”
We see this often with clients. They want to follow the perfect diet. From Monday to Friday they’ll adhere strictly to a diet plan- almost like they’re being paid to do so. The thing is most people aren’t paid to stick to a strict diet and by the time the weekend rolls around the finite will power that’s available runs out.
Then it happens . . . they have one “bad” meal and things get out of control.
This black and white thinking is troublesome. If you remove this idea of needing to be perfect for your diet then it’s possible to start thinking like this:
“That cookie was delicious, I’m still in the mood for pizza . . . I’ll add some veggies to it and ask them for a salad with it because I might have another cookie later”
This solution will allow you to still have a good time with your friend, you’ll enjoy the pizza you were craving and still have some space for nutritious veggies and even another cookie!
Let go of food rules
Being good and being perfect makes your food choices a moral and mental battle. Ease up on yourself. Having rules that tell you what to eat or what not to eat, how much you can have or not have, when you can eat or can’t eat is stressful. All these rules make it easy to “mess up”.
Instead of the food rules, try to let hunger guide you. Stop paying attention to the rules and start paying attention to your body. Notice when your starting to feel bloated and stop.
No more “Cheat day”
I use to be a cheat day god. I would eat like The Rock. Twenty pancakes for breakfast, then for lunch I’d skip the chicken and get some mac and cheese and by the time dinner came around I was full but screw it might as well have the lasagna because I only have a couple more hours of this bliss!
It was the happiest day of the week. Waking up on cheat day morning was like waking up to the first day of summer vacation. If a cheat day has worked for you then continue using it. If it hasn’t then start giving yourself permission to choose what you want when you want it. Restriction makes people go crazy.
You don’t need to cheat because there’s nothing to cheat on. You have that chocolate mousse after dinner on Tuesday night, but on Thursday you feel really satisfied from your steak dinner so you don’t feel like cake. What you want is up to you and how hungry you feel.
Own your choices
Do you ever make deals with yourself related to food? Maybe you have a monologue like this in your head: “Okay, I’ll turn down the pecan pie today but tomorrow I’m going to have two pieces of pumpkin pie.”
With this mindset you rationalize that because you were being “good” one day you can be “bad” another day.
These trades rarely pay off, they usually help you justify overeating another time. The thing is there is no being “bad” and being “good” . . . this is kid’s play. This dichotomy is useless to adults.
Mind games like this allow you to avoid responsibility for your decision and undermine your health goals. So start owning your choices and let your values and principles guide you when you sit down to eat.
Make food decisions based on acknowledging the outcome you expect.
The weekends can help you rationalize all sorts of reasons to justify eating a bunch of non-nutritious foods. Reasons like you were traveling or you were home, you were eating with family or maybe you ate alone or you were busy or maybe you had nothing to do.
Making excuses just allow us to victimize ourselves. That’s not empowering is it? Stop rationalizing and ask yourself why you’re overeating. Sometimes you’ll want to eat crap and a lot of it and that’s ok. Instead of having a victim of circumstance mentality take an opportunity to ask yourself what’s going on. Are you stressed? sad? happy? Keep doing this until you build some sort of awareness around your patterns. This may be your opportunity to change overeating behavior and address your emotions in a way that doesn’t go against your values and health.
All of this is easier said then done . . . but start somewhere!
If you need help getting started give us a call at (516) 513-0252!
Ahmed Ahmed is the owner of Lotus Fitness in Levittown, where he is a personal trainer and nutrition counselor.