Weekend Sabotage Can Jeopardise Fat Loss Goals

Tania Rakchaev
July 10, 2023
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Do you follow a healthy diet and fitness routine during the week but then completely abandon them on the weekends? Let's explore the reasons behind that and what you can do to exert more control over your weekends.

We can "let our guard down" over the weekends for countless reasons. Just a few of the more typical ones are listed below:

  • On weekends, we frequently attend social gatherings that encourage excessive alcohol consumption, indulgent eating, and later bedtimes.
  • The weekends are seen as a time to "relax" and "let loose" because we work so hard all week at work and in life.
  • We believe we are entitled. "I've worked so hard all week, one or two bad days won't really hurt me too much, and I deserve/have earned it anyway."
  • We have created a habit (every Saturday is movie, wine, and popcorn night).
  • We leave things to chance and don't have any plans or strategies for success over the weekend (for example, we prepare lunch for work from Monday to Friday but don't consider what we would eat during the weekend).
  • We are not fully aware of the impact it may have on slowing our progress towards our goals.

If we are unable to plan or prepare our meals, social occasions can take some of our control away from us. They can also put us in an uncomfortable situation if we feel compelled to eat or drink what everyone else is. We don't want to have to justify what we are doing if we choose something different or have others question us, and we don't want others to feel bad or judged because our healthy choices can highlight some differences with their lifestyle.

Here are a few pointers to assist you in navigating social gatherings and weekends:

  • If dining out, check the menu beforehand and choose what you will eat before you go.
  • Avoid giving in to the temptation of a delicious sounding special that will lead you further away from your goals.
  • Don't be trapped into thinking you can't ask for modifications. Ask for a salad instead of fries, ask for dressing/sauce on the side, and don't feel you have to eat your entire plate.
  • Don't fall into the trap of thinking you must finish your entire dish. Before even starting to eat, ask for takeaway containers and pack away some of your meal.
  • Don't go to a restaurant hungry.
  • Eat healthier options at home before going out.
  • Try to exercise the day of your social event, ideally before you go out.
  • While out, make sure to drink plenty of water and decide beforehand how much alcohol you'll drink.

But, most importantly, enjoy yourself! There is no reason to feel bad about your choices, and if you prepare for them beforehand (for example, by looking at a weekly "meal plan," adding in another training day, making sure you don't skip any scheduled training days that week, etc.), there is absolutely no reason not to fully enjoy them. Remember that to achieve and maintain your goals, your lifestyle needs to be sustainable, and if that means eating out a few times each week, then that's what you plan for.

Viewing the weekend as the time to relax and weekdays as a time to work hard pre-empts all kinds of behaviour that may not be conducive to your goals over the weekend. Instead, try to give yourself some relaxation time daily. Be proactive with your stress management and take good care of yourself before your stress becomes a problem. This means taking care of your health, happiness, and desires regardless of the day.

Choose one or two easy self-care behaviours that you are ready and willing to participate in every day and make sure it is not linked to food or drinking. This can be something as simple as a 5-minute meditation, zoning out watching your favourite show or playing your favourite game, going for a short walk, getting a massage or beauty treatment, etc. That way you are not busting to relieve stress as soon as Friday evening rolls around. Be proactive, and not only will you be better able to curb the weekend sabotage, but you'll likely feel better every day.

The "I'll get back on track on Monday" or the "screw its" can result from feeling entitled or from wanting to "reward" yourself. You might need to start taking better care of yourself every day rather than attempting to fill an empty cup on the weekend. Not only that, but think of the additional workload the next week will bring as a result of the weekend's free-for-all. A philosophy of "work hard, play hard" can result in a cycle of "working harder due to the weekend, then indulging more the following weekend to make up for the added sense of responsibility from the prior week." Your "future self" is also something to think about. Which choices will benefit your future self the most? Which decisions would be for instant gratification (which is okay sometimes!)? If you choose instant gratification, will it truly be worth it?

The majority of people picture themselves in the future as having more energy, time, motivation, and willpower than they do now. You might believe, for instance, that you'll be more motivated to exercise and eat healthily, and more organised to complete everything on your to-do list. Most people make the mistake of assuming that their future selves will be capable of handling all of the tasks they put off today, leaving their future selves to shoulder the burden of their present-day choices or inactions. Your future self is still you, even if it's likely that you'll grow, develop and be able to handle challenging situations more easily in the future with continued practice and experience.

"We think about our future selves like different people. We often idealise them, expecting our future selves to do what our present selves cannot manage. Sometimes we mistreat our future selves, burdening them with the consequences of our present selves' decisions." – Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct

We often overlook the needs of our future self because today feels more important than our future needs and feelings, or what we'll want or need in the future. We unintentionally load our future selves with expectations and a never-ending list of chores because we are frequently so focused on what feels good in the moment. So take responsibility for yourself and think about how your weekend decisions will affect you and any additional burdens they may bring.

You can deal with weekend habits that keep you from achieving your goals in a variety of ways. We must first be conscious of the factors that trigger our behaviours. All behaviour, whether we consider it beneficial or not, serves some purpose. One strategy is to swap out the bad habit for a healthier one. For instance, rather than cancelling movie night, try swapping the glass of wine for a glass of kombucha served in a wine glass, or the popcorn for air-popped popcorn with nutritional yeast instead of butter. Whatever you choose to trade, make sure it is actually a wiser option. Just because something is considered healthier does not automatically make it a better alternative (for instance, swapping chips for crackers may not actually be less caloric or even healthier).

As you may have noticed, all of these suggestions require some sort of planning. It takes time and practice to develop this skill. It's certainly well worth the time to take a few minutes to set yourself up for success. All you need to do is stop, think, and make choices ahead of time instead of reacting or making choices impulsively. Make this a weekly habit to plan the week ahead, and you're more likely to succeed.

Lastly, weekend sabotage can occur simply because you are not aware of how much of an impact your actions can have. For example, let's say you normally eat at home and don't drink any alcohol during the week. Imagine having roast chicken and veggies for dinner (about 420 calories), a roast beef sandwich for lunch (around 640 calories), yoghurt with granola for breakfast (around 380 calories), plus some fresh fruit and nuts for a snack (around 300 calories). That's roughly 1740 calories. Now, let's say on Friday you go out for dinner (around 1300 calories) and drink two glasses of wine (about 240 calories). You just increased your regular daily calorie consumption from 1740 calories to 2860 (using the same information for breakfast, lunch, and snacks). That's a 60% increase. Now imagine that happens once or twice a week. To maintain your weekly intake without the "weekend hurrah," you'd have to reduce your intake during the week to 1553 calories per day from Monday to Saturday to accommodate for 1 evening out, and to 1292 from Monday to Friday for 2 evenings out. Nutrition information derived from apps Cronometer and That Clean Life.

This information is not here to deter you; in fact, enjoying yourself and indulging every now and then is a wonderful thing to do (the 80/20 rule likely applies here). However, if you do this regularly and add to this skipping training because you don't feel great after the weekend fun, over time this can have a significant impact on how long it takes you to reach your goals.

What changes are you going to make now that you are aware of a few reasons for weekend sabotage as well as a few suggestions to help you manage your weekends?

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Tania Rakchaev
Tania Rakchaev