How to Stop Overeating On The Weekends
One of the most common misconceptions by a lot of ball sport and strength sport athletes is that they DESERVE this ridiculous pig out meal or day once they've trained hard or heavy.
This even drew me in when I started doing strongman. We would train hard and heavy then go eat somewhere as a group, which to be fair was great bonding, but I would eat WAY more than I needed to. This would lead to me eating another big meal later, since I was "eating big anyways", then add a few beers or scotch and suddenly it was a whole weekend of overeating and indulging.
Add in my wife sometimes having cravings too, calls like "we should get a pizza! Or ice cream!" and that made Saturday nights way harder. When she was pregnant...? Forget about it.
Then Monday would come around and I'd be right back on the train, and I was "good" through Friday again... but you know what happened after training Saturday again and eventually...
Saturday became a gateway drug to not eating what I should all weekend.
Before driving the 90 minutes to go train on Saturday, I ate big a breakfast, then got gas station food half way there and an energy drink, then the group meal after we discussed. Then after I got home my wife and I would go out on for drinks and a heavy meal. Or order in food and binge a show.
Then came Sunday brunch with friends or family and of course the Eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary were calling. Sunday night? Family night, usually a big meal or something we had been smoking or grilling all day.
None of this was a problem though, because it's Friday... or Saturday... or Sunday-Funday.
We often look at the weekend as a complete break from all things adult or necessary, a time to relax, indulge and pretend there are no issues.
Let's not confuse this, I was not compulsively bingeing, I was well aware of my actions and choices, I simply enjoyed it and was not willing to make the change.
This is different than people with a true binge eating disorder where they feel disassociated during their moments of overeating. If this is happening they often need the help and guidance of a doctor or therapist.
In order to better support these habits and my reliance on them, I would lean on my social circle, with whom I would enjoy these food and drinks and I wrote it off as simply, "normal weekend behavior". This was just another way for me to cope and make peace with the decisions that I knew weren't helping me reach my goals.
After a while, though, weekend overeating started to suck.
As every overeater knows, sooner or later, you get less and less joy out of these actions, usually because of the long term negative effects and also the shorter and shorter feeling of joy after the meal.
When a person eats a specific craving or meal they've wanted for a while, there is a physical and psychological satisfaction that occurs, we all know that amazing first bite of a meal we've wanted for days or weeks... mmmm
When that craving is constantly met, that satisfaction becomes less and less each time. Suddenly we're chasing more food or different tastes for that same response, but it's unlikely to happen.
Now also with this constant overeating and poor food choices, you feel sick, bloated, and often immediately after the meal, uncomfortably full.
Mentally? Guilty. Regretful. Angry.
Performance? Often feeling achy, tired and lethargic start to bring down performance in any sport. Your recovery will slow, you ability to produce the same intensity and power lessens and overall you just don't feel as good.
Weight? Weight loss or recomposition will often screech to a halt if this becomes the norm. Even for those looking to gain weight, this eating habit can slow progress there too, the huge influx of calories wouldn't be so bad if it were with foods that don't promote and produce more inflammation.
Overall health? Joints hurt, everything feels inflamed from the junk food, feel too full to train, breathing becomes more labored... etc.
Once it becomes a habit though, this cycle can be hard to break.
Getting it under control.
I think we've all been there where we make excuses or tell ourselves little lies to help make it "ok". For me it was training harder during the week and tracking calories & macros in a spreadsheet. This however did not stop the excess on the weekend.
The cycle continued; even though I made some progress, my health and performance goals remained elusive.
Then I made a surprising discovery.
How did I finally end my overeating cycle?
Not with, "one trick", or hypnotism, or even a seance... though that would be cool...
I did what many of you are doing, I reached out for help from a fellow nutrition coach. She helped me recognize and name triggers that lead to my actions on the weekend. She also helped me understand some of my weekday habits that were also a challenge, and in the end were more crucial to the whole picture than anything else.
As I worked to identify these habits, actions and triggers, it helped me to work on my values, my why, my actions, and how to relate all of those to my relationship with food. This internal focus is what made all the difference.
That being said, here are 5 strategies that we utilize with out clients after it helped me turn things around.
Strategy #1: "Good enough" not "Perfect".
We've talked about this many times in our blog, the ideal of a "perfect" or "best" diet. Most of our athletes and clients want to be the best, and we LOVE that, this driving competitiveness, however often leads to holes and blind spots in their thinking. They start to compartmentalize and can't see the forrest for the trees.
They come to us after a lack of success with a strict meal plans, but then they ask us to coach them the same way. Only the weekdays of course though... we all know weekend calories don't count, because by the weekend, there is no more willpower to lean on. They're tired of the restrictions and need to be perfect, they breakdown mentally and just say "screw it" before diving face first into a comfort food.
Their flawed logic is that... there are only two options:
Perfect or Crap.
With that in mind they go to brunch Saturday morning with friends and think:
"I can't have my perfect pre-portioned salad with 4oz of chicken, like at home. Instead I'll have a bacon covered everything and home-fries, covered in gravy, as a side please!"
When you stop looking to be "perfect" it makes life way easier. Suddenly you are in control and you can pick off or our 4 Components of a Perfect Meal cheat sheet to help yourself reach your goals and stay on track. A great middle ground would be:
"I'll have a chicken salad, but I'll add some bacon and a small side of home-fries please!"
The solution here? Finding a meal that is "good enough".
Even during the week, when before the craziness of eating on the weekend, the goal should be to consider your goals, current wants, what you had available, then use that info to figure out what is "good enough", and make that your goal.
Good enough, done consistently, is better than the "perfect" for a short period of time.
Strategy #2: No food rules.
The perfect model really only works if there is an opposite, an "imperfect" to blame it all on. This is how a lot of people see certain foods, either perfect, or imperfect. Good or bad.
Then people create rules for food:
- What? What foods are good and what are bad?
- When? Some foods are morning food and some are night?
- How much? There is only 1 specific portions of each food
This can add up to a lot of stress and quickly push us back to the Screw It Effect mode we discussed earlier. Specifically if you are eating on a very restrictive diet.
The story I always use here is my friend who was keto, and while we were traveling across the state he had very limited options, next thing you know we stop somewhere and his options were so limited he is eating 15 individual butter pads just to try and get some calories... not a good day for him. The next rest stop, he quickly hit the screw it button and pounded a medium pizza all to himself.
If he had simply had a "good enough" approach, he could have easily found some better options and been able to still eat towards his general goal of health and fitness.
*NOTE: We don't dislike keto for specific people and it's got some good research behind it, but it is difficult to keep going for people who don't plan appropriately and have a good set-up for it.
Easiest solution here? Eat more intuitively, by listening to your body, specifically your hunger cues. Then when you are eating like that, you should listen again and try to eat until you are 80% full. These cues are there for a reason and have worked for centuries.
The more you pay attention to your body and its responses, the better you'll get at recognizing them and being able to adjust. Then from there our coaches here at PP can help you use those to reach your goals.
Strategy #3: Remove "Cheat Days".
Most people, when told not to push a red button... want nothing more than to find out why.
Tell someone there is something they can't have... that's all they want (down south we call that the Chic Fil A on Sunday effect, Kanye wrote a whole song about it)
For most people, when they are "eating clean" all week and cheat day finally comes... it's glorious, they usually have most of their day already planned out. None of it is good, matter of fact, here is an extreme example by a famous PowerLifter and coach, Dave Tate, who racked up 13,000 calories... in one cheat MEAL.
Most people as this glorious day is ending crank it up even more... often reminding themselves of the terrible day coming tomorrow where they have to ::gasp:: eat normally...
Solution? Eating the foods you want during the week, finding balance in your food and life.
When you're only allowed to eat foods at a certain time or on a certain day, it triggers a psychological response that you have to take advantage of it before it's gone. We don't want that, we want to improve our life via addition, not by constantly removing things... except for stress and other negatives, more on that here...
When you find balance and know how to work towards your goal while eating mindfully and having some acceptance, it make things much less scary and you don't have to worry about making a "mistake", you simply eat better the next meal or snack and keep making progress.
Strategy #4: Own YOUR Choices
Most mornings when I wake up, I try to tell myself that I deserve another couple snooze rounds of sleep... I tell myself that I "deserve it" and that as long as I hurry while driving, I can make it work. I am essentially bargaining with myself. Have you ever done that when it comes to food?
"Alright… if I do this extra set of heavy squats, lunges, or pull-ups, I'll need an extra round of dessert tonight to fuel my next workout."
With this mindset, the "positive actions" gives you the RIGHT to have "negative actions" guilt free elsewhere. This doesn't work well long term, and usually just results in avoiding deeper discussions, thoughts and making tough decisions. This lack of going deeper into the actions and what is the real reasoning behind it, allows people to justify negative actions that lead away from success.
The only time this bargaining works is when there is an overseer who can punish you and control you, if you're looking for that level of accountability, we're not the right coaches for you. WE are all about empowering and helping people unlock their own strengths.
Solution: Owning your choices, do the deep work to figure out our values, how to implement values based actions and how to reach your goals.
This ma sound like the normal nutrition article saying "make good decisions", but what we're really saying is to own the actions by acknowledging the likely outcome from your actions.
"To me, this Thanksgiving meal with my family and friends is worth any physical discomfort and a small set-back on my eating goals. I own it and I'm ok with it."
Don't fight and struggle with your choices, just make sure you remember that different choices and actions elicit different outcomes.
Own your decisions and actions, this is how you own your progress.
Strategy #5: Don't rationalize.
Family events, travel, outings and of course food... that's what I think of when someone asks "what're you doing this weekend?". The problem is this leads to us rationalizing a lot of our food and other choices.
- Busy schedule. Or you sat on the couch mindlessly eating.
- Travel. Or you were at home with the same habits as before.
- Food with Family & Friends. Or you ate alone.
The problem is, you could make any or all of these situations and experiences still work towards your goals. So, the need to not use new actions and habits are simply you rationalizing it to yourself that it is not convenient. These relationships and words to ourself allow us to accept and even encourage behaviors.
Solution: Stopped rationalizing, recognize and name triggers and ask the deeper questions for WHY you do this.
Having and acting on desires is normal, but instead of rationalizing and making it seem as though the circumstances caused it, own it and use it as an opportunity to figure out the real reasons.
Boredom? Stress? Sadness? Celebration?
Actions almost always show up as patterns. Those are what you want to follow, they will lead you to the real chance for change. This opportunity will allow you to address the root of the issue and avoid bingeing.
Use our Mindful Eating Journal to figure out why you are eating certain foods and what emotions are prompting them. This will often help us understand our mindset and it will help identify the patterns we discussed earlier.
Ask yourself: Are you spending your weekends how you want?
We've talked about this before, it's OK to have days or meals where you know you are going to eat certain foods. You have made a decision that the experience, event, situation, etc. is worth making these sacrifices for. We wholeheartedly understand and support that, we plan on this when our athlete's have a birthday, wedding or a big life event, instead of guilt tripping them or trying to change the situation, we tell them to enjoy and then the next meal or day we're back on track.
Look at your weekends and your eating habits during it, are YOU ok with how you eat over the weekend? If so, no worries, hope you enjoyed the article, but this probably isn't for you.
BUT, if you think about your choices and don't think it's the best thing, let's get a little deeper into the Why. Here are some questions:
What do you get out of this overeating?
Does this behavior lead you to a goal you have or solve a problem?
How do you feel before these actions? How do you feel after?
As you answer those questions, if may realize that it is potentially more hazardous to your goals and well being than you originally thought. This can be an eye opening experience when you take stock in exactly what is going on and how it is affecting you, your health and your goals.
Some of you may not remember, this toy, but it was a drawing board that used magnets, allowing you to write on the surface with the attached "pen". The beauty of the toy was the simplicity to erase it and move on to the next drawing you wanted to make. You simply shook it and the white board would be fresh again.
For our purposes, we use it the same way. Messed up? Shake it off, next meal do your best, no guilt or regret, we are simply moving forward. No need to go run an extra 10 miles to burn off the "mistake" it's simply time to own up and attempt to do better with each following rep, by getting back to all our key components.
Put someone else in control for a while.
Yes, you are the boss of you, and you should own your choices. But changing a deep-seated habit—even one that on the surface may seem silly and harmless, like overeating on the weekend—is challenging. Really challenging.
And just like weight loss, the process of changing your habits will have ups and downs. It helps to team up with someone who will support and encourage you.
Find a friend, a partner, a trainer, or a coach, who will listen to you and keep you accountable. For many clients, relinquishing control is a choice they're glad to own.
If you're like most people, it's a way to unwind, hide or escape from the reality of life, while sharing the experience with friends and family. If that's the case and you want help changing these habits and reframing your actions, then our staff here at PP and this article can help you do that.
*Compulsive overeating, or similar should be spoken about with your doctor or a qualified medical professional to ensure proper treatment and to speak about potential binge eating disorders.