It was a Friday evening, and my friend came into the restaurant as if she was blown in by a hurricane. She collapsed into her chair, dropped her phone into the overflowing bag on the seat next to her, and grabbed a menu. “Finally, Friday! It’s my cheat meal, so I can eat whatever I want!” And she proceeded to order something that felt indulgent, scandalous, and satisfying. As she ate her reward for being good all week, I thought about the pendulum she was on, swinging from closely monitoring her nutrition and meals to eating whatever she desired in whatever amount she desired. I wondered if she was enjoying the ride or hanging on for dear life. I’ve done both, as I suspect you have as well.
As a wellness coach, I hear a lot of stories of being “good” during the week and “bad” on the weekends. It wasn’t long ago that my weekends felt like that, too. I was eternally ticked off that I seemed to always be taking three steps forward and two steps back. Weekends are a notoriously difficult time to be healthy and stick to a routine. The whole essence of the weekend begs for something different, a break from the norm. But if you are working hard on making progress on changing your health risks, consistency over the weekend can be the element that takes things to the next level. Over time, I have created some strategies to get over the weekend hurdle and come out the other end feeling much, much better.
First, Decide What You Want. Yes, you get to choose! When you look forward you’re your weekend, how do you want to feel at the end? Energized? Relaxed? Rejuvenated? Prepared? Put some adjectives on your mood for Sunday night. Then, consider what needs to happen on Friday and Saturday in order for you to feel that way on Sunday. Also, consider what needs to not happen. You know what I’m talking about.
Adjust the Dial. Once you know your desired outcome, it’s time to look at the big picture and determine how realistic that outcome is based on you are willing to do or not do to achieve it. I often hear of goals to not drink as much beer on the weekends. A goal of drinking no beer is not usually realistic, but a goal of drinking less beer is. Be honest with yourself about what that means for you, and adjust the dial to something that feels like you’re making progress without swinging the pendulum over too far.
Do a Gut Check. Any good wellness coach is going to challenge you to go deep. Why is this outcome important to you? Why do you want to change your weekends? What are you missing out on if you don’t change? What will you gain if you do work hard for change this time? This is important, because when the going gets tough, you’ll need a reason that really pulls at you.
Clear the Obstacles. Make it easy to achieve your goal by removing the obstacles in your way. If your goal is to maintain good nutrition, keep as many meals the same as during the week as possible, and log them in advance in a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal. This gives you an opportunity to see potential slip points and correct for them ahead of time.
If you're going out, check out the restaurant menu online and decide what to order before you arrive. Then, once you are there, order first before you lose your resolve and get sucked in by other people's plans.
Workout on the weekend! Starting the day with exercise helps reduce your appetite for splurges and revs up your metabolism.
Chop fruits and veggies for snacks all at once or buy them pre-chopped. It's easier to grab them out of the fridge than take out a piece of fruit, knife, and cutting board.
Put a white board on your fridge and write out your menu for the weekend. Seeing it in black and white will not only keep you organized, but also serve as some extra accountability when you try to open that door and grab something to snack on.
Don't buy junk. If it's not there, you won't eat it. And don't say you're buying it for the kids or your husband or wife or whatever. They don't need it either.
Be loud and proud! Sharing your intention to be healthy over the weekend to a buddy, family member, random people at the coffee place, gives you extra accountability and makes you feel more in-charge of your weekend! Plus, you may inspire a friend to follow with you, and then you can keep each other honest.
Here are some great ways to voice this goal:
Keep it positive. Focus on what you're doing for yourself (having a healthy weekend), not what you're missing (I'm skipping dessert).
Keep it present-tense. Talking about being healthy in the future is great, but the difference between, "I'm having a healthy weekend," and, "I'm going to have a healthy weekend," can be huge. The second one could have the word, "tomorrow," added way too easily!
And finally, remember: a cheat day only cheats you. You deserve better! You work hard all week to establish healthy behaviors and fuel your body, and you can take it to the next level when you maintain consistency over the weekend. Decide what you want, move the barriers aside, and make it easy to jump off the weekend pendulum and over that hurdle.