If your waistband feels a little more snug after the weekend, it’s probably not your imagination. It’s actually very easy to pack on a few pounds between Friday and Monday and undo all your hard-fought weight-loss work. “Weekends can be a challenge when you’re keeping an eye on your waistline,” says nutritionist Rob Hobson. “We tend to socialize more, and most of us like to let go a bit and relax with our family and friends, making it more difficult to stay on track.” But enjoying yourself doesn’t have to ruin your diet completely. Here are our clever cheats for enjoying the weekend without piling on the pounds.
What if I’m going to a party?
If you can’t resist a slice or two of cake and a glass of wine to celebrate a friend's birthday, you’re not alone: Other readers say this is a common reason why they find it hard to stick to healthy eating on the weekend. The number one rule? Don’t turn up hungry or you’ll be likely to overdo the cake. Instead, make sure you eat something healthy and substantial at lunchtime — such as poached eggs on rye toast with some wilted spinach — so your blood sugar is balanced and you have more control over what you eat and drink at the party.
What if I’m drinking alcohol?
Your body will focus on the calories from alcohol before food, which will ultimately get stored as fat,” says Hobson. “Make your alcohol last longer by using water or low-calorie mixers. Don’t be fooled into thinking clear spirits are less caloric — there is very little difference in calories between a shot of your favorite spirit and a small glass of wine.” And have a balanced meal prepared before you start drinking — it’s all too easy to let good food intentions fly out the window once you’ve had a few drinks, so plan ahead to prevent that from happening.
What if I go out for a meal?
A lot of extra calories can creep in when we go out for lunch or dinner. Fortunately, research has uncovered some nifty ways to trick yourself into making healthier choices in restaurants. Pick a relaxing place to eat with low lighting and soft music — you’ll enjoy your food more, eat slower, and take in fewer calories, research has found.
And be sure to look beyond menu descriptions — according to Cornell University researchers, the least healthy dishes will often be highlighted on a menu, making us more likely to pick them. Instead, ask the waiter to recommend one of their most popular lighter dishes. “A simple way to reduce calories when you’re eating out is to avoid the bread,” says Hobson. “And if you want a starter, choose something light and vegetable-based, like a soup or salad.”
How do I stop being tempted to eat treats in the house?
Consciously or not, most of us let some of the usual rules go at the weekend. “Having time on your hands and pottering around the house can lead to temptation,” says Rob. “So don’t leave yourself open to it. Put healthy snacks such as fruit and nuts where you can see them and don’t stock up on biscuits and crisps. “There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself, but do it mindfully. Save your calories for a small serving of your favorite treat and make it a well-deserved occasion. Place it in a nice bowl or plate, have it with a cup of tea and savor every mouthful by eating slowly. You’ll enjoy it more and that should mean you don’t crave other sugary, fatty food as much.”
Can I still have Friday night takeout?
There’s no need to avoid it altogether, but be takeout-savvy. “If you’re having a curry, opt for tandoori-cooked white meats (no sauce) with dahl and veggies,” says Rob. And don’t order too late — choose your meal before you get too hungry, or your blood sugar will drop, leading you to crave the unhealthiest options. Why not alternate with your own home-cooked version of a takeout dish you love? Fish baked in breadcrumbs with baked french fries is much lower in fat and calories, but still feels like a treat.
How do I get back on track after the weekend?
Weekend weight gain may be frustrating, but it’s also a normal part of the weight-gain/weight-loss cycle, say researchers from Cornell University. In a study, they found weight loss tends to happen during the week, with most of us at our lowest point on Friday and Saturday, while weight peaks on Sunday and Monday after indulging more over the weekend. So don’t worry if the scales give you disappointing news on Monday morning — the research suggests that as soon as you get back to your healthy regimen, you’ll shed the pounds again. Just don’t let the weekend knock you off course for long.
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