Thinner on Monday: Keep Off Weekend Weight

10 tips to avoid the trap of weekend weight gain

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You're only human if, halfway through a workweek, you've already begun a countdown to the weekend. What's not to love? There's extra time to spend with the kids, dining out with friends, and sleeping in. But if you're not careful with your choices, the weekend can really wreak havoc on a waistline. Between Friday happy hours and Sunday brunches, the weekend is jam-packed with opportunities to eat tempting food. Some people use it as the perfect excuse to let their diet slip away. You've worked hard all week to keep your weight in check. From Friday night to Monday morning, keep these 10 tips in mind so you don't end up with more weight than when you started!

Heather Bauer
Heather Bauer
1. Don't be a weekend warrior. Putting pressure on yourself to lose weight while trying to enjoy your downtime can potentially stress you out and lead to emotional eating. Take a more realistic approach, and aim to maintain your weight instead of losing it. If you wake up on Monday at the same weight you were when you left the office on Friday, consider yourself a success!

2. Start strong. The first few hours of your weekend can set the tone for its entire duration. For instance, if you start off your Friday night with happy hour and a couple slices of pizza for dinner, you'll probably continue this behavior all the way to Monday morning. It ruins the effort you put in all week, and makes you less likely to reset your good habits when the workweek begins. Kick off your weekend the right way with a flavorful yet reasonable dinner option. Try a lean cut of red meat, such as filet mignon, to ensure satisfaction without tons of calories. Or if you're craving Chinese food, allow yourself to enjoy some Moo Shu chicken; just skip the pancakes and opt for lettuce wraps instead. It's perfectly fine to reward yourself after a week well done, so long as you choose something that will keep you on the right track!

3. Get in some "you" time. Lazy weekends are great every once in a while, but allot some time into your morning to work up a sweat. Putting it off until later in the day gives you the chance to get too busy and just not go. Simply get up a half-hour earlier, and hit the gym. Even twenty minutes will help!

4. Take advantage of breakfast. It really can be the most important meal of the day. I recommend clients take a few moments of their downtime to enjoy some morning fare. There are so many healthy, smart options readily available. Nix the pancakes and calorie-laden waffles, and order an omelette instead. An egg-white omelette with spinach, mushrooms, and peppers only has about 250 calories, but tons of satiating protein. Switch it up and choose hot sauce over ketchup since it contains less sugar. Avoid starting your morning with any type of simple carb such as bagels, Danishes or muffins. These types of foods will only lead to additional carbohydrate cravings throughout the day.

5. You snooze, you lose. If you do decide to sleep in, don't feel as though you have to make up for the meal you may have missed. Move on to whatever meal is next, and go from there. You may need to add a second snack later in the afternoon, but it's much more ideal than doubling up your meals.

6. Think ahead, and be prepared. Planning meals ahead of time and packing a few healthy food items can be your best defense against fast food and mindless weekend snacking. Why waste the calories on the drive-thru when you can enjoy something scrumptious at dinner with friends instead? Save your indulgence for a time that is really worth it. Keep a fiber bar and a piece of fruit with you at all times. You'd be surprised how this pairing can fill you up and ward off future cravings.

7. Embrace finite foods. Extra free time can mean extra pantry time. There's less structure on the weekend, which increases your chance of going on a random pretzel binge. Keep finite foods on hand, so you know exactly where your snack begins and ends. Stick to items like a Greek yogurt with a pack of almonds or a high-fiber nutrition bar. Avoid snacks that aren't pre-portioned or, next thing you know, you'll have seven servings of trail mix under your belt!

8. Enjoy one extravagance. Dining out is one of the most enjoyable ways to relax after a hard week. It can seem virtually impossible to stick to a boring grilled protein and a side of steamed vegetables when everyone around you is partaking in a decadent meal. Whether it's a second cocktail, a shared dessert, or a reasonable portion of starch, allow yourself to enjoy one extravagance. Be sure to plan it at a time when you're around loved ones. It automatically makes the treat that much more enjoyable.

9. Stay hydrated. Daily hydration routines usually fall by the wayside on the weekend. People tend to weigh heavier on Monday because they've dined out for the past few days and consumed considerably less water. Aim for at least a liter by lunch to ensure proper hydration.

10. Recover on Sunday. Unwind after a busy weekend, and opt for a low-calorie frozen entrée for dinner. Choose one that's under 300 calories and has at least 3 to 4 grams of fiber. It's a controlled, finite meal that will give you a head start on your week. Or, partake in a "veggie night" dinner to recover from a particularly rough weekend. Choose 2 cups of your favorite non-starchy vegetable, and pair with one baked white or sweet potato. Simple yet slimming!

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, is a nationally-recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur. She is the author of two top selling books, The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil. She is the founder of Nu-Train, a nutrition consulting company, and Bestowed, a subscription service that offers consumers a personalized way to discover, sample, shop, and learn about the best nutrition and lifestyle products on the market.