You do so great during the week with your healthy habits only to completely fall apart and overeat on the weekends. You want to stop, but can’t. You’ve tried and tried and nothing works long-term. Sound familiar? Let’s fix it.
There is a reason why you do great during the week and then fall off on the weekends. In fact, there’s a set of reasons. Very specific reasons. And if you address these reasons, you can get back in control. You can find more consistency. You can be more successful.
These aren’t all the tips I have on this topic, mind you. But they’re a great start. Here they are…
1. Stop depriving yourself during the week.
When people struggle with overeating on the weekends I start by asking, “Tell me a little bit about what you’re doing during the week. What is an average weekday look like for you?”
It usually turns out that there’s a lot of counting. There’s a lot of tracking. There’s a lot of weighing. Most of what they’re doing is very antagonistic.
If you’re using willpower and discipline during the week, that requires a lot of physical, mental, and emotional resources. When the weekend comes around you don’t have the resources you need. Furthermore, the routine of the week isn’t there to save you anymore.
When the week is stressful and depletes your resources, the weekend becomes a decompression period. You start to look forward to the decompression. For a lot of people, this means medicating with food and alcohol.
While you can’t put an immediate end to all the stress you’re under during the week, you can stop depriving yourself immediately. You can end the deprivation relationship you have with food and you can orient your fitness toward intrinsically motivated activities.
That’s going to help you big time. Nobody has enough willpower or discipline to deprive consistently. You’re creating weekend overeating by depriving during the week (on top of all the other stress you’re under).
2. Do a better job protecting your physical, mental, and emotional resources.
For most people, the workweek tends to drain physical mental and emotional resources. This is especially true if you don’t make enough time for yourself.
You’re putting all this energy and effort into your work, your kids, your spouse, bills, and chores and there’s not much left over for you. And the time you are investing in yourself is often spent doing exercise or other healthy habits that aren’t intrinsically motivated. You don’t find enjoyment in them, so even your attempts to be healthy and invest in yourself are a drain on resources.
Take for example somebody who loves to play racquetball. They get recharged by that hour they invest in racquetball because they love racquetball and get to play it with their friends. That is recharging their physical mental and emotional resources.
Now take somebody who is spending that hour with a personal trainer. Maybe they’re in a mindset of losing weight. They’ve hired a trainer because they want to lose weight, not because they love going to the gym and working with a trainer. It’s a means-to-an-end strategy. That mindset is a drain on resources.
If you do a better job of protecting your physical, mental, and emotional resources, you’ll see less of a need to medicate and decompress when the weekend rolls around.
3. Adopt the bank account philosophy.
The bank philosophy says, “Make more deposits than withdrawals and stay out of debt.” So your goal during the week is to make more deposits than withdrawals into your “health bank account.”
Very briefly, deposits are things like real food, great sleep, or an intrinsically motivated fitness practice that restores or even boosts your physical mental and emotional resources.
Withdrawals are things like processed food, not getting enough sleep, or even engaging in a toxic conversation with somebody like your boss or a coworker.
You stay out of debt by avoiding things that help you borrow success but that you have to pay for later, like quick-fix dieting strategies.
When you get to the weekend, you simply continue with the bank account philosophy. You don’t go to the extremes as easily because it’s a much healthier mindset to be in and a much healthier approach to use.
I wrote a more in-depth article on the Bank Account Philosophy that you should check out for additional context.
4. Intentionally change your behavior patterns (and work to fulfill your core human cravings).
A lot of people overeat on the weekends because they’re bored. Your weekday routine ended and you don’t have any weekend plans.
There are many reasons people eat out of boredom. One example is that you want to be distracted. You’re uncomfortable in boredom.
But boredom isn’t the only reason people overeat on the weekends. It can also be a behavior pattern attached to rituals.
Football season creates a weekend ritual for a lot of people. So as the weekend approaches, you start getting into ritual mode. And food is a big part of that ritual.
People have so many different rituals that happen on the weekends that are food related. If you make some changes to the ritual, you can change the outcome.
What about boredom? If you’ve got nothing going on this weekend, find something to do. Go on meetup.com. Go join a hiking group or yoga group or a business group. Change the pattern that continues to lead you into this cycle of destructive eating.
As a bonus, if the changes you make can also work to fulfill your core human cravings (for things like relationships, autonomy, purpose, economic security, etc.) then the positive effect will be amplified. You’ll find consistency is much easier to achieve.
5. Stop compartmentalizing the week.
Compartmentalizing is something that comes up over and over again in my coaching calls. People think certain things are *supposed to happen* on certain days.
A week is seven days long, right? But the days are all the same, fundamentally. They’re just 24 hour periods.
The fact that we give them names and then further segment them into “weekdays” and “weekends” invites you to compartmentalize. There’s this narrative that “ABC happens during the week and XYZ happens on the weekend.” It becomes a narrative that rules over you.
If you end the compartmentalizing, you can free yourself from this narrative. Saturday is the same thing as Sunday and Sunday is the same thing as Monday. There are always going to be differences, but you don’t have to follow a stale narrative or a predefined ritual, even if you have a conventional career.
And really, this point only applies to the narratives wrapped around food behavior. You can compartmentalize everything else if you want, just free yourself from the food-related patterns of thinking.
Remember, there is more to the overeating-on-the-weekend issue. But the triggers I’ve highlighted here along with the five tips should help move the needle.
As usual, it’s 20% mechanics and 80% heart, soul, and psychology. You can’t just flip the switch on behavior. The choices you make and the behavior patterns you engage in are a direct reflection of your relationship with food, body, and Self.
If you want more help with this issue, come join the Rebooted Body Online Academy.
Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s worked with thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and programs like Shut Down Your Sugar Cravings.