Do You Suffer From Weekend 'Food Guilt'?

A common line that I hear from people who find themselves in the position of wanting to get lean and lose weight is ; ' I am pretty good with food during the week, but my weekends are a disaster'.  Its probably the most repeated line when it comes to people relating to their problems with healthy eating, and is a pretty easy thing to get to the bottom of.

During the week, you have a routine that is quite similar on most days. You get out of bed at a similar time, you get your break, lunch, and dinner at similar times, you go to bed around the same time, and you do housework and family stuff around the same time on weekdays.

On the other hand, the weekend brings later nights, irregular days, more socialising, longer lie ins, you don't have as much food in the house, you want to let your hair down, and you feel like you deserve a treat after your hard work during the week.

This all makes perfect sense. Unfortunately there are a few elements to this situation that make you feel guilty, and also set you back in terms of your progress towards being leaner, fitter, and healthier.

Firstly, and most obviously, over-eating and over-drinking every weekend will hamper your progress, and make sure that you do not get the results that you want from all your good effort during the week. Secondly, and more importantly in my own opinion, is the mindset of good vs bad. I.e. I am 'good' during the week, but 'bad' at the weekend. The fact that every action has an equal and opposite reaction guarantees that if you feel you are depriving yourself during the week, you will want to indulge at the weekend. If you feel you are eating 'clean' during the week, you will be inclined to eat 'dirty' at the weekend. If you feel like you have been strict on yourself during the week, cutting loose at the weekend (or eventually) is inevitable. Over-exerting during the week results in over-resting at the weekend. This works as a vicious cycle. Poor eating at the weekend makes you feel guilty for cutting lose, which makes you eat even 'cleaner' during the following week, which results in a bigger blow out the following week, and so on and so fourth. This is the main reason most diets fail miserably to bring real long term results.

So what's the solution?

The solution is in taking the right approach. There is no single right way that fits everybody, but generally speaking, this is what I recommend, and is what works best for me personally.

1. Adopt a nutrition approach that is easy to implement, based mostly on whole foods, and that you enjoy.

2. Pick a time during the weekend that you plan on having a treat meal. Some ice cream, a glass of wine, a pizza, a bar of chocolate, or something that you really enjoy. Keep the portion reasonable, enjoy the treat, and get back on track with your nutrition afterwards.

3. Schedule in an activity session before your treat meal. At ACLAÍ, we hold an open session on most Saturday's at 10-12 and then hit the local Farmer's market for our big treat, but you can schedule in anything that tickles your fancy. A cycle, a long walk, a hike, some surfing, a gym session, a puck around, or a jog on the beach. Personally, I like to meet up with people at the weekend, and do some fun activity together, as I train by myself enough during the week

The main take-home point here is that if you are in the cycle of depriving yourself during the week, over-eating and drinking at the weekend, and trying to make up for it during the next week, then you could really do with a fresh approach and more positive mindset. Getting fit and eating healthy should be a positive, fun, and enjoyable experience.

This article is by Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS.