‘Everything was going well, and then the weekend happened’. It’s just a guess, but if you have been trying to improve your diet, chances are you have uttered this line, or similar, more than once before. Many weekends pose a large barrier to success when trying to improve their usual diet and body composition, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Let us first look at why weekends seem to go off the rails for so many. It might seem obvious, but your weekend routine is different to your weekday routine. There is less structure, more social engagements and if you have kids, you’re likely wearing your taxi driver uniform for most of Saturday and/or Sunday. So straight away, you can see how trying to apply your weekday routine to weekends is like trying to stick that old square peg into the round hole. And yet, so much stress, guilt and remorse has been generated across the weekend come Sunday evening.
So, what can you do about it?
The first thing is acknowledging that obvious point, you are not going to be able to do your same weekday routine on the weekend, so stop worrying about it. For most, weekends are more likely to consist of perhaps two larger meals (Brunch/lunch and dinner) and some gazing due to a later start to the day compared to weekdays, and this approach is totally fine. Even within those meals, there are plenty of opportunities to eat well and not write the weekend off.
You should also probably take a moment to consider just how straight-one-eighty you actually want to be at this point. If your fitness and body composition goals are front of mind right now and you are on a mission to get in the best shape possible, then you will probably need to find some areas to improve on – we’ll cover off on some strategies if this is you in a bit. But if your goal is to be functionally fit and healthy, but also enjoy your weekend socials, then perhaps you need to recalibrate your expectations of what you can sustainably achieve and accept, nay, enjoy that your weekends are a different speed to weekdays. Banging your head against a wall that you actually want to be there is a complete waste of time, not to mention painful.
While we’re here, if you’re looking for the lifestyle/balance choice also take a moment to check-in with how ‘bad’ your weekends actually are. Many people agonise over meals eaten on the weekend because they aren’t the grilled chicken and quinoa salads they prepped for the week. However, on inspection in many cases, the food choices aren’t horrendous either.
Side note here – If you do go charging into the weekend with the single objective of eating alllll of the ‘bad’ things after a week of ‘being good’, I’d suggest that you review if you are eating enough in the week. Commonly undereating during the week coupled with a decent training load will lead to an exaggerated drive to overeat (read – play catch up on energy due to an aggressive weekday calorie deficit) on the weekend.
And if you do want to tidy up your weekend to achieve your health and fitness goals faster, than there is plenty you can do! Peruse the pints below and see if there are a few action s you could implement to adjust your weekend.
- First, get an idea of how many meals you usually eat out on the weekend. How many of these are for legit social purposes, and how many are just because you don’t have enough food in the house or didn’t think about meals before leaving home. Social meals should always be a priority because life is fairly average if all you do is eat out of take-away containers. Choose which occasions you really just want to enjoy, which might be 1-2 over the weekend, and any other meals, get to work on improving. You may not achieve perfection, but you can also do a lot better with a bit of planning.
- Plan out the meals that you could be doing better on (the non-social ones). Say of the 8 meals you eat across the weekend, 3 are social/fun and the rest are at home or just on the fly, then make an active plan to improve the 5 that are currently just happening – that is low hanging fruit!
- Do you need to factor in a weekend shop? Then do it. Don’t sit at home and hope that a healthy option will present itself after you ate your 5 Chobani yoghurts during the week – buy 7 for the week, or factor in an extra supermarket trip so you don’t get caught out.
- If you are out and about, identify what healthier options are available to you. Most fast-food chains have a salad option now and there are lots of healthier takeaway options if you are dedicated to finding them, so put your healthy food blinkers on!
- Consider tracking macros. If you are really looking to dial things in but want a bit of flexibility to enjoy the finer foods in life in moderation, tracking macros on the weekend might be something you could consider. I don’t recommend tracking all day every day, but if you have a pretty solid weekday plan and want to go off-script, then having a calorie budget and protein target for weekends might be useful. As long as you stay within the budget for energy and hit your protein target, preferably with protein still evenly distributed across the day, you can let carbs/fats fall where they fall.
- If your weekend training is still significant, don’t forget your pre and post training nutrition practices. Not eating after a big Saturday morning session can lead to a big crescendo of hunger later in the day, so invest in a decent post-workout meal to avoid the sugar cravings that could ensue later from not eating post-training.
- Have a selection of less-perishable snack options on hand or in the car if you are driving around between kids’ activities. You pack your kids a lunchbox, right? Well, why not throw together a few healthy snacks for yourself to save you from the Bunnings sausage sizzle.
It’s true that weekends can make a big dent in your week calorie-wise if you are not paying attention, however, on the other hand, it doesn’t actually take too much work to tidy this part of your week up, once you pay it a bit of attention. Whether it’s accepting that you like your weekends how they are and rolling with it or coming up with a specific battle plan for improving weekend dietary patterns, we can all arrive on Sunday afternoon minus the Sunday blues with just a bit of planning.