“People get into this vicious cycle where during the week they stay true to their plan and then on the weekend they eat enough calories to override what they’ve done all week,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
And that could explain why your scale isn’t budging. Here, nutritionists and a couple of women who’ve successfully lost 20 pounds or more explain how to use your weekend to make a dent in your weight-loss goals.
The weekend presents no shortage of reasons to drink: Bloody Marys at brunch, a just-because spritzer at 5 PM, and a few too many beers late at night. But there’s a downside to all that cheers-ing: Each round comes with excess calories that can quickly undo your weekday diligence. “It can get in the way of your inhibitions and cause you to make poor food choices,” says Vicky Sullivan, founder of AspiringSocialite.com, who lost more than 40 pounds. Steal her trick next time you go out: Order one pricey cocktail or glass of wine as opposed to five cheap ones. You’ll be less likely to order more drinks so will consume fewer calories overall.
Even if you sit down to dinner with the best intentions, when your friend orders cheesy lasagna, you may be tempted to follow suit. Fight the urge by planning your order in advance, says Dawn Orsaeo, RD. “Look at the menu online ahead of time and pick something with lots of vegetables and fiber,” she says. And stick to your guns—don’t even look at the rest of the options.
A small indulgence—say sharing a dessert after dinner or slowly sipping a glass of wine—will keep you from feeling deprived, but the key is to plan these in advance so you eat healthfully the rest of the day. “Going to brunch on Sundays is fine, but take that into account when choosing the rest of the meals for the day,” says Mandy Enright, RDN, creator of Nutrition Nuptials.
Skip the frosted muffins at Starbucks and indulge in another way—by making that fancy, healthy breakfast recipe you never have time to whip up on a weekday (mmm, omelets), says Cara Walsh, RD, of Medifast California. Though a protein-packed breakfast rich in veggies is way healthier than that muffin or a bagel, it feels more special because you can take your sweet time cooking it.
“By sticking to nutritious, low-calorie meals, especially on weekends, you’re committing to a lifestyle change that can result in a significant amount of weight lost,” says Walsh. And that’s extremely helpful when you’re committed to your goals for the long haul.
Other healthy habits worth investing some time on when you have more of it on the weekend: Extending your workouts or embracing Sunday meal prep, says Cathy Leman, RD, owner and president of NutriFit, Inc.
Since you’re not distracted by your weekday routine, the weekend is a great time to tap into a support network that will help you keep your weight-loss goals top of mind. Don’t have one yet? Try DietBet or a Facebook page for people trying to lose weight. Then, block out a certain time to check in with your new squad every Saturday or Sunday.
After all, staying accountable is the number one thing that helped Stephanie Pitman of Kansas City, Missouri lose 50 pounds.
Use the weekend as a chance to unwind post-work week, since stress increases hormones, like cortisol, that make you put on weight, says Apovian. Indulge in a 90-minute yoga class, massage, mani pedi, or meditation for Zen vibes that will (hopefully) continue into the workweek, suggests Mashru.
You don’t have to ditch your social life to drop lbs—just find a way to make exercising with friends one of your weekend activities. For example, rather than catching up with your college friends over drinks, suggest a hike or bike ride together, says Rachel Begun, RDN, of Rachel Begun Food and Nutrition Solutions, LLC. “Not only are you changing your habits, but you’re surrounding yourself with people who want to engage in healthy lifestyle habits.”