When it comes to weight loss, weekends matter. There’s no getting around that fact. No pretending you can eat what you like and it doesn’t count just because it’s the weekend! If you want to hit your targets and achieve your goals, the weekends matter.
This doesn’t mean you can’t eat food you enjoy or go out to eat, it just means you have to be aware of what you’re eating and learn a few hacks to get around any extra calories you might consume.
Achieving a calorie deficit
You know that to achieve a calorie deficit you need to expend more calories than you consume, right?
If your aim is weight loss you need to achieve and sustain a calorie deficit and that’s going to be hard if you overindulge regularly at the weekends.
Whatever your chosen method, the key is consistency. If you follow your chosen approach, eat mindfully and hit your targets Monday to Friday but then you blow it all at the weekend, it can undo all your hard work during the week and take you right back to square one.
This can leave you wondering why you aren’t seeing results even though you worked hard throughout the week. And no progress will most likely lead to giving up and never being able to achieve your goal.
Weekends = nearly half a week
It depends on when your weekend starts of course, but for some people the weekend can make up 42.8% of their week! If you start on Friday and finish on Sunday, that’s three days or nearly half the week of falling off plan. That’s a big percentage.
Even if you keep your weekend to the more traditional Saturday and Sunday that’s still 28.6% of your week (over a quarter) when you might feel like you can ‘treat’ yourself and eat whatever you like without a thought for the amount of calories you’re consuming.
Let’s just do the maths to really make the point …
|3 days = 72 hours|
7 days = 168 hours
72 out of 168 hours = 42.8%
2 days = 48 hours
7 days = 168 hours
48 out of 168 hours = 28.6%
That’s what a weekend constitutes in a week … and that’s why the weekend matters!
If you stick to your target calorie allowance for half or three quarters of the week but then ignore your targets for the remaining amount you simply won’t see any progress or get the results you’re hoping for.
Even one day of extreme overeating can very easily wipe out the entire calorie deficit you worked so hard to create during the week, taking you right back to where you started.
So, how do you manage the weekends?
[Weekly average intake with one ‘cheat day’ is 2,286 kcals – 286 kcals surplus per day]
Firstly, it’s important not to label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. There is no such thing as a ‘cheat’ meal and foods do not have a personality … we hate to break it to you but there is no good, bad or evil amongst food.
Although not all foods are created equal, it is important that we do not demonise any foods as the healthiest dietary approaches encourage balance and include the food and drinks you enjoy.
If you happen to enjoy eating out at the weekends it is possible to make smart, healthy choices and still enjoy your food. You don’t have to go crazy and choose the most calorie-dense food on the menu or go for double desserts!
However, if you feel that you need a few extra calories in your allowance at the weekend it’s a good idea to plan ahead. Treat your weekly calorie allowance like you would your bank balance and save up for that special occasion.
Let’s say your calorie target is 1800kcals per day. That equates to 12,600kcals to use across the week. You know that you are going to go out with friends at the weekend and you are likely to eat and drink a little more than usual.
So why not try and save X amount of calories per day (Monday through to Thursday) that you can then spend at the weekend?
For example, you could budget your calories so your weekly intake ends up looking something like this:
|Monday – Thursday: 1500kcals/day (saving 300kcals per day) |
Friday – Sunday: 2200kcals/day (using the 1200kcals saved across the four weekdays)
Weekly total: 12,600kcals
Daily average: 1800kcals
|Monday – Friday: 1600kcals/day (saving 200kcals per day) |
Saturday – Sunday: 2,300kcals/day (using the 1,000kcals saved across the five weekdays)
Weekly total: 12,600kcals
Daily average: 1800kcals
This way you can hit your calorie target for the week, maintain a calorie deficit and any progress towards your goal – all while enjoying your meal or two out with friends! Who said losing weight was hard?!
Alternatively, you could look at your daily calorie allowance and slightly adjust your meal allocations for the day rather than the week. If you spontaneously decide to head out for Sunday lunch without any warning to bank some calories during the week, you could instead reduce your calorie intake at your other meals that day.
Eat a lower calorie breakfast and dinner and use the extra calories to enjoy a Sunday roast! Or if you decide to eat out one evening, you can restrict your calories earlier in the day. For example, your target total daily calorie intake is 1600kcals. You could break it down like this:
|Meal out allowance – 900kcals|
Breakfast – 300kcals
Lunch – 400kcals
By saving a chunk of your daily allowance you can really enjoy your meal out without worrying about restricting your calories too much or blowing your progress out of the water. Aside from the enjoyment factor, it’s far easier to restrict your calories if you are eating at home and have more control over what you eat and how it’s cooked.
But what if I don’t track my calories?
If you don’t track your calories the weekends are just as important. It’s all too easy to manage portion sizes and eat mindfully through the week to then go and have a blowout at the weekend because you feel like you ‘deserve it’.
But that one blowout could mean the difference between progress and landing straight back on square one on Monday morning. The weekends are not a green light to eat everything in sight and pretend that calories don’t exist!
On the other hand, it’s important to enjoy your food and be able to manage it as part of your social life without ostracizing it completely. If you don’t track your calories as part of your weight/ fat loss mission there are still ways to manage the weekends and meals out.
If, for example, you are going out for dinner and drinks on Saturday night you could remove or reduce your carbohydrate intake at breakfast and lunch earlier in the day. You could also reduce portion sizes the previous or the following day to ‘allow’ for some extra calories while out.
If you know where you are going out to eat you could take a look at the menu in advance and pre-select your food, choosing less calorie-dense foods. Even if you don’t choose beforehand you can still make smart choices.
For example, you can always ask to swap chips for a side salad with dinner. Or you could ask for your eggs to be poached instead of fried at brunch. Or you could ask for any sauces, dips and dressings to be served on the side and only use half of what is provided.
All of these options give you more control over the amount of calories you are consuming.
You can also make sure you are active on the day you are going out, or the following day to help burn some of those extra calories consumed. Don’t lie around feeling sorry for yourself if you drink a little too much, get out and get active instead. Or better still, limit the amount of alcohol you drink the night before as alcoholic drinks contain lots of extra calories.
Drinks contain calories too
Many people like to indulge in a tipple at the weekends, which is fine. No judgement from us but it’s important to remember that alcoholic beverages contain calories too.
As do other drinks. Don’t be fooled into thinking your skinny latte has zero calories – a grande skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks still contains 120 calories. Obviously, switching from full fat to skimmed milk in your coffee is going to reduce calories but it won’t eliminate them.
The key here is to make yourself aware of how many calories your drinks of choice (as well as food) contain so you know exactly what you’re working with. If you like to go out for a few drinks at the weekend you have to take these into account in your calorie allowance … so if you banked some calories from the week don’t go and blow them on drinks even before your main meal arrives!
Opting for clear spirits and switching from full fat to diet sodas and mixers is a great way to get calories down, and there are plenty of lower calorie beers on the market these days.
Consistency is key
Long-term results are a culmination of all the basic tasks you do every day. Weight/ fat doesn’t go on overnight and it won’t come off overnight.
There is no magic pill or powder that is going to get your body burning fat without lifting a finger. And sticking to your calorie allowance for a few days a week and then going crazy at the weekend is not going to result in any significant progress or change.
Instead, your progress will be dictated by the accumulation of all the positive decisions you make every day, over an adequate period of time. There are no shortcuts or easy roads.
By no means do you have to be perfect every single day. Everyone will have less optimal days of eating and moving so it’s also important not to allow one bad decision or one bad day (or weekend) to ruin everything.
If you occasionally stray off track, accept it and play the long game. Make the next decision better than the last and aim to accumulate as many good decisions as you can each and every day, even at the weekends!
Concentrate on the company not the food
We’re talking a lot about why calories at the weekends matter but life isn’t all about calories. Sometimes we just need to take the emphasis off food and think about other things we enjoy.
The more we obsess over calories the more likely we are to fixate on food and forget the reason we’re going out in the first place. If we shift our focus to think about the company we’re keeping or the activity we plan on doing the less we’ll worry about the food we’re going to eat.
If you’re going out for brunch on Saturday the chances are that you’re meeting friends or family, or maybe just spending time with your partner, but whoever you choose to spend time with just enjoy the moment.
Make the food you eat secondary to the people you are sharing your time with. If you treat the weekends as ‘cheat’ days rather than fun days you can become focussed on eating as much food as you can before Monday rolls round again.
This kind of thinking can prevent you from being present in the moment and appreciating the people you are with, as well as self-sabotaging all your effort throughout the week as you overindulge as much as possible during this time period.
If you make food and drink part of the experience of socialising at the weekends rather than the main focus you’re more likely to stay on track as you’ll have other things to think about. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to be mindful of what you eat but if you are changing your habits for the long haul you’ll be getting used to making smart choices and planning ahead a little.
It’s also possible to meet friends without eating and drinking, by the way! Go for a walk, a run or a cycle, for example, while you catch up.
The weekends matter. There’s no other way to say it. Weight/ fat loss takes consistency, patience, determination, a little planning and some smart choices. How you approach your weekends when it comes to food will make a big difference to the results you achieve.
Treating your calories as a weekly allowance will provide you with some flexibility to be able enjoy all the things you enjoy doing as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle, including going out to social events, seeing friends and family, and having a good time.
Understanding how many calories certain foods and drinks contain, remembering what percentage of the week the weekend constitutes and being mindful of what you eat without focussing solely on food will help to stop any self-sabotage.
Seeing results week on week will remind you to keep going and stop stalling your progress by pretending that weekends don’t matter. Because they do.
If you’d like to chat to us about any areas of nutrition please get in touch to book a consultation.
Performance Project Nutrition Coaching is a one-to-one bespoke service offering a personalised nutrition strategy and accountability to help you achieve your personal goals. Visit our Nutrition page to find out more.