How To Stop Weekend Binge Eating
Weekend Binge Eating…A typical story…
It’s Friday. You had a long and stressful week at work. Your boss piled an extra project on top of you. Your kid was sick and you had to scramble to make babysitting arrangements. Your house is a disaster. But you’re super proud because you hit every one of your workouts and you followed your ultra-strict diet to a “T”. You deserve a little “reward”, right? After all, it’s the weekend, it’s time to cut loose a bit!
So you down an IPA and a slice of pizza. Boy, that’s good. Just one more piece. Twenty minutes later you’ve knocked back three beers, most of a large pizza, and now you’re rummaging in the freezer for ice cream. “Gah! I blew it! Might as well eat whatever I want this weekend…diet starts again on Monday!”
Why Does Weekend Binge Eating Happen?
Most people believe binge eating and emotional eating are some sort of personality flaw or a lack of willpower. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A binge is nature’s way of telling us that our needs – physical, emotional, or both – are not being met. Binges are a cry for help.
Restrictive diets cause weekend binge eating.
Nearly 45 million Americans report being a on a diet…and you can see how well that’s working as more Americans than ever are heavy, sick, and report disordered eating behaviors. Restrictive diets cause binges.
Severely limiting calories or macro nutrients like carbs, fat, or protein, often leads to undernourishment, intense hunger and cravings, and feelings of resentment and deprivation. By Friday we feel as though we’ve “earned” a treat, but because our biological hunger hormones are out of whack, it’s almost impossible to maintain control. Despite the fact that this type of bingeing is caused by the diet itself (not your lack of willpower), you feel awful and vow to “hit it hard again on Monday”…but the rest of the weekend ends up being a food free-for-all in anticipation of the impending restriction.
Lack of self-care during the week causes weekend binge eating.
We have to work. We have to pay bills. We have to do dishes and laundry. We have to get dinner on the table. We have to help our kids with their homework and ferry them to 15 different extracurricular activities. When was the last time you did something for yourself or took a 15 minute break at work to – gasp! – eat a meal or get up and stretch?
Modern society frowns on self-care. Taking a break to do absolutely nothing or to feed ourselves a proper meal is seen as self-indulgent and non-productive. Then we “use” food on the weekend to meet the biological need to kick back and relax. In this way food can take on a huge significance: it’s our only form of indulgence and escape…the one thing we look forward to after a hectic week.
Unstructured time causes weekend binge eating.
It’s really easy to stick to a restrictive diet during the week when we’re busy and our time is very structured. We know when breakfast, lunch, and dinner are happening, and there’s less chance we’ll be invited out for drinks with friends. Many weekday meals are also eaten alone, making it easier to plan, prep, and stick to our “diet”.
Weekends, on the other hand, are often a free-for-all. We sleep through breakfast, overeat at lunch because we missed breakfast, skip the workout because we’re too full from lunch, forget our kid has a soccer game at 1:00 PM and end up arriving late, have no plan for dinner and end up eating burgers and fries at Five Guys. And since we already blew it by not working out and eating greasy fast food, we might as well eat as much as we want right now because “diet starts again on Monday”! Sound typical?
Alcohol causes weekend binge eating.
Ever notice how you can eat way more pizza and wings after downing a couple of good IPAs? Alcohol relaxes our inhibitions around many things, including food.
Again, after a long work week many of us feel the need to “let our hair down”, which often involves having a drink…or five…which then leads to overindulging in food...and usually not the healthy kind!
How can I break the cycle and stop weekend binge eating?
Thankfully the above reasons for “emotional” and binge eating are fairly easily remedied!
1. Stop dieting during the week. Something really interesting happened when I quit dieting during the week: the weekend binge eating stopped. The change was almost immediate. Because I was no longer actively trying to restrict foods, calories, or carbs during the week, I no longer felt the need to overindulge on those things on the weekends.
I know it can be really scary to stop dieting. After all, we are conditioned to believe that if we are even the slightest bit overweight, we should only be allowed to eat carrots and kale. Even women who are not overweight often feel compelled to be “on a diet”, if not to achieve some ridiculous ideal of perfection, then at least to fit in with our diet-obsessed culture. Diets cause binges. Stop dieting and you’ll stop binge eating.
If you want to stop dieting, but don’t know how, or wonder what you should do instead, join the next round of my 12 Week Online Intuitive Eating course that starts on November 1st! Take the quiz first to find out if you are intuitive eater, or head straight over to the Intuitive Eating page to sign up!
2. Take care of your needs every day. Emotional and binge eating will stop when you address the underlying causes of those behaviors. If you lead an extremely hurried and stressful life, and eating is the only part of your day where you get a break, it’s time to reassess how you work and live. You owe it to yourself to make basic self-care a priority and take time to do things like exercise, eat, shower, use the toilet…or just sit and do nothing at all.
3. Create a weekend routine. You don’t have to take the fun or spontaneity out of your weekend, but even the addition of a small and consistent routine can make a big difference. Consider keeping a regular wake-up time and breakfast routine, plan a workout or walk with a friend every Saturday morning, or shop and prep meals on Sunday afternoons.
4. Go easy on the alcohol. I’ll be the last person on Earth to tell you to stop drinking entirely. I love a glass of red wine or a hearty IPA, and I frequently indulge in one or both on the weekends. But I also know myself. If I drink more than one, I’ll be face-first in a bag of Oreos within an hour. My tricks to overcoming this: I impose a strict one-glass limit on Friday and Saturday nights, which I drink on an empty stomach, and most importantly: I sit down, sip slowly, and truly enjoy that glass of goodness. Most times I find that one is enough.
Special note: emotional and binge eating can also be a form of coping with past hurts like physical or verbal abuse. The above tips to stop weekend binge eating may not be useful if you are using food to cope with these types of deep-seated and unresolved emotions. I encourage you to seek counseling!