How to quit weekend overeating - 5 strategies to help you ditch the bingeing, guilt, and extra weight.
In today's world, weekend overeating (and over-boozing) is ‘just what people do’.
But when you let go of weekday food rules, the cycle can break.
You can lose the guilt, improve your health, and lose weight.
Here’s how you can do it, whether you do it on your own or with my help.
A lot of people these days overeat.
They're really good at it in fact.
Sure, they are “good” all week.
But weekend overeating?
That is what people look forward to.
Every Friday around 5pm, as you're finishing work, you start to salivate.
The end of the work week means red wine, pizza, a giant bag of crisps, and movies or drinking at the pub.
It's a Friday ritual.
Sometimes you'll call your partner on the way home.
What should we get on the pizza?
They do that really good pesto sauce with goat cheese.
What about extra sausage?
Friday night, when you get to eat whatever you want, is the highlight of your week.
Your job is stressful.
The commute is long.
Coming home, dumping your stuff, and crushing some fast food and booze is your way of unwinding.
Friday becomes a gateway drug to the rest of the weekend.
You eat big breakfasts on Saturdays before you go to the gym, and big lunches afterwards.
You go out on Saturday nights for drinks and a heavy meal. Or stay home for more takeaway and movies sat on the sofa.
Then comes Sunday brunches, of course.
And picking up some of those amazing pastries at that little bakers shop on Sunday walks.
And, naturally, you close weekends with a big Sunday roast… because it’s Sunday.
Because it’s Friday. Because it’s Saturday. Because it’s Sunday.
Which bleeds into: Because it’s Thursday night.
Technically close enough to Friday. Friday-adjacent, and good enough.
In your head, the weekend is a time where “normal rules” don’t apply.
It is a time to relax, put your feet up, and let the soothing crunching and chewing take you away from the stresses of the week.
I’m not talking about compulsive bingeing here.
That’s where you have episodes of eating without thinking, almost like you’re on autopilot.
(People with binge eating disorder feel disassociated while overeating and that can be hard to break without help from a psychologist.)
But for you, it isn’t that.
Rather, yours is the kind of overeating where you’re all-in: a convenient, stress-fuelled, often social, habit.
Your social circle is happy to support it.
You have people you binge with, whether it's food and/or alcohol.
As far as you're concerned, going crazy is just what people do at weekends.
Probably if you think about it, you also know that in the face of a stressful job and overwhelming responsibilities your overeating ritual makes you feel sane and human.
After a while, though, weekend overeating starts to take its toll.
As every overeater knows, the joy of runaway indulgence comes with consequences.
You feel physically uncomfortable, bloated, perhaps even sick to your stomach.
Mentally, you feel crap.
Maybe angry at yourself.
Or just angry in general.
Does any of this sound familiar?
If it does, trust me, you're not alone.
While weight fluctuation is inevitable when you’re trying to get in shape, if you want to stay healthy and fit, or make fitness and health a permanent part of your lifestyle, then weekend overeating can sabotage your goals.
Aside from the obvious extra body fat or stalled performance, there’s other unwanted effects.
Like your joints hurt because of inflammation from last night’s junk food.
Or you’re too full to run properly.
Or you lie awake in bed with meat sweats, huffing in small breaths around the food-baby in your stomach.
Yet the cycle can be hard to break.
You might have already tried to get it under control.
You might have started cutting deals with yourself, such as, if it’s “real food” then it’s okay to overeat. (Cue jars of
peanut butter, spinach pizzas, and all-you-can-eat sushi.)
During the week, you might train harder.
Track low and high calories in a spreadsheet.
But every starvation attempt was inevitably followed by an even bigger blowout on the weekend.
The cycle continues; your health and fitness goals remain elusive.
How do you finally break the cycle of weekend overeating?
How can you finally break free?
Maybe not how you think.
There's not “one weird trick”, or biological manipulation, or reverse psychology.
Rather, you can develop a healthier relationship with food… and yourself.
Aim for “good enough” instead of “perfect”.
I’ve seen it in so many people.
They want to follow the “perfect” diet.
So they adhere to strict meal plans (to the last measured teaspoon) Monday to Friday.
And, the whole week, they worry incessantly about messing it up.
By the weekend, though, the willpower gives out.
They’re so sick of restrictive eating and can’t wait to eat food they actually enjoy.
Bring on the weekend binge!
For most of them, there are only two options: perfect or crap.
So the logic follows:
“It’s Saturday, I’m out to lunch with my family, and I can’t have my perfect pre-portioned kale salad like I usually do,
so instead I’ll just overeat a giant bacon cheeseburger and a huge load of chips.”
If you take “perfect” off the table, things change.
You feel empowered because there are now other options.
Instead of kale salad vs. five servings of chips, there’s:
“I’m actually in the mood for a salad with my burger because I had chips at that work lunch on Thursday.”
Therefore, my solution: Always aim for “good enough”.
Throughout the work week and the weekend, start to consider your health and fitness goals, what you're in the mood for, what is available, etc.
Remember: The decent method you follow is better than the “perfect” one you quit.
Let go of your food rules.
Food rules tell you:
These rules take up an awful lot of mental effort.
They also set you up for disinhibition… aka “the F*** It Effect”.
Here’s how the F*** It Effect works.
Let’s say your #1 food rule is Don’t Eat Carbs. No croutons on the salad; won’t touch a sandwich; no potatoes with your omelette.
But this Friday night, you find yourself out with friends, and everyone’s having beer and pizza.
You hold out for a bit.
Finally, you give in and grab a slice.
That means f*** it, you’ve “blown your diet”, so you might as well keep eating.
Cue the binge and uncomfortable after effects.
Of course, if you have one food rule, you probably have several.
That means there are lots of ways to “mess up” (and disinhibit).
Maybe all night.
Maybe all weekend.
Eating by the rules almost always leads to overeating rubbish, because once you deviate, there’s nothing left to guide you.
My solution: Ditch the rules and let hunger be your guide.
Non-dieters (or so-called “normal eaters”) eat when they’re physically hungry and stop when they’re physically full, no
matter if it’s Wednesday or Saturday, morning or evening, work lunch or happy hour.
Start by paying attention to your own food rules and responses.
When, where, and how are you likely to say, “F*** it?” What might happen if you let go of that rule and really tuned in to your physical hunger and fullness cues instead?
Check out my blog for help with breaking unhealthy habits.
Give up “Cheat Days”.
Monday through Saturday is all about being faithful to your diet.
But Sunday… That’s Cheat Day.
Cheat Day. The happiest day of your week.
You wake up on Cheat Day morning like a kid at Christmas.
Go wild all day long, eating all the stuff you didn’t permit yourself during the week.
As evening nears, you start to worry.
So you eat (and maybe drink) even more.
Because tomorrow, it’s back to reality.
Back to fidelity and compliance.
And no fun.
Sure, some people find the idea of a weekly Cheat Day useful both mentally and physically.
If this is you, and it works for you, then by all means continue.
But for most of the people I’ve seen, having one Cheat Day means the rest of the week is food purgatory.
My solution: Stop the Cheat Day routine, and give yourself permission to choose what you want all week long.
Like the F*** It Effect, Cheat Day depends on scarcity.
Scarcity makes us feel anxious, needy, and greedy.
The counter to a scarcity mindset?
For you and most people around you, food is abundant — not something to be hoarded or feared. (If that’s true in your
life, be grateful. It’s a privilege.)
You don’t need to “cheat” because there’s nothing, and no one, to “cheat” on.
Maybe you enjoy some dessert on a Tuesday night because you’re in the mood for it, or maybe you don’t because
you’re satisfied from dinner.
What and when you eat is up to you — and your hunger and fullness cues.
No matter what day of the week it is.
Own your choices.
Do you ever negotiate with yourself?
Make deals, trades or swaps related to food?
“Okay, self, I’ll turn down dessert today… but I’m going to make up for it at the weekend.”
In this mindset, one “good deed” gives you license to “sin” elsewhere.
These trades rarely pay off.
They usually just amount to a lot of mental gymnastics that help you avoid making tough decisions and help you
You're an adult.
Trading off “good” and “bad” is for young children.
There is no “good” and “bad”.
Mind games like this undermine your health goals, and your authority over your decisions.
My solution: Start being accountable for your choices, and let your adult values and deeper principles guide you when
you sit down to eat.
Start making food decisions by acknowledging the outcome you would expect, based on your experience.
“I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream on Saturday night.
I’ll probably feel nauseated and anxious afterwards. In this instance, I’m fine with it.”
In the end, own your choices: Don’t moralise them.
You’re free to eat and drink anything you want.
You choose your behaviour.
Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes.
It’s your call.
What is your priority?
Stop making excuses and rationalising.
Weekends present all sorts of comfortable justifications for eating a load of non-nutritious foods.
It could be anything:
You were busy. Or maybe you had nothing going on.
You were travelling. Or maybe you were at home.
You had to work. Or you had no work to do.
You had family/social meals. Or maybe you ate alone.
Any excuse will do. Powerless victim of circumstance!
But busyness, boredom, travel, work, or family dinners don’t inherently cause overeating.
People eat or drink too much in lots of different situations.
Their explanation simply matches whatever happens to be going on at the time.
Rationalisations are a convenient script.
They help us make sense of and perpetuate our overeating or other unhelpful behaviours.
My solution: Stop rationalising and ask yourself why you're really overeating.
Sometimes, you’ll want to eat crap. And too much of it. That’s normal.
But instead of falling back on the tired victim-of-circumstance narrative, take the opportunity to ask yourself what’s
really going on.
Where are you?
Who are you with or who is around?
What are you doing?
What time of day is it?
How are you feeling? Are you bored? Stressed? Sad? Happy?
Do this over and over and over, and you’ll start to see a pattern.
This is your 'cue' and it's your pot of gold.
That’s your opportunity to change overeating behaviour — and do something else to address those emotions instead
Read my blog on overcoming unhealthy habits
There is no “perfect time” to eat better. Not tomorrow; not on Monday. Life is always a little crazy.
All we can do is our best with what we’ve got. Right here, right now.
Here’s where to start.
Ask yourself: How’s that weekend overeating working for you?
If you’re loving your Cheat Day, Friday junk-food bonanzas, or gut-punching Sunday brunches, and you’re happy with
the results, keep doing it.
But if you’re conflicted, it could be time to investigate further.
Ask yourself: What does weekend overeating do for you? What is it a path to? What does it enable you to get or feel?
How does it solve a problem or have a purpose for you?
For many cases, weekend overeating is a self-medication for stress, stimulation and novelty, and a way to connect
with other people.
To rearrange your mindset and break the cycle of weekend overeating, try:
If you feel urgency or compulsion when you overeat, consider talking to your doctor or a trained professional about binge eating disorder.
Apply the “clean slate” method.
The clean slate approach means that after any and every “mess up”, you get to start fresh.
Overate Friday night?
No problem, wake up Saturday morning and start again.
Don’t try to compensate.
Just get on with things as normal.
You don’t “pay back” the damage in the gym, nor do you kamikaze your way through a jar of peanut butter.
You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back to doing your best.
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 would like help with getting over your unhealthy habits including weekend bingeing then reach out to me.
I always personally reply.