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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Are the weekends making you fat?

Early Saturday morning seems as good a time as any to talk about
the weekend weight gain cycle that many of us find ourselves in come Friday
night. A week of relatively well controlled eating quickly replaced with overeating,
over drinking and basically overindulging until Monday morning. While there is
nothing wrong with enjoying the weekend with plenty of good food, wine and
company, a weekly ritual of consuming many, many more calories than anyone
needs, simply because it is the weekend is a habit that has to be broken.

Whether it is programming imprinted in our brain when we are
small, or that we are overly restrictive with our diets in the week and feel
that we need to reward ourselves on weekends, straying too far from our calorie
controlled meal plans simply because it is the weekend is a recipe for disaster
â research has proven this. The US Weight Control Registry, a research group
that tracks the progress of those who have lost significant amounts of weight
and kept it off for longer than 5 years has shown that people who control their
weight keep their food intake stable MOST of the time. What this means in
relation to the weekend is that while they many enjoy a meal wth more calories
than they usually would for special weekend occasions this does not equate to
an addition two coffees a day, a bottle of wine on Friday and Saturday nights as
well as Sunday afternoon, some extra cake with coffee as well as dessert simply
because it is the weekend.

My observation is that clients get things wrong on the weekend due
to three main factors; too much alcohol, café style eating and high calorie restaurant
or takeaway meals. These extra calories, combined with far less physical activity
mean that you can easily gain a kg or two, just over the weekend and find
yourself starting each week behind the eight ball when it comes to controlling
your weight long term. The good news is that just a few simple tricks will help
you to balance your caloric intake over the weekend to ensure you can still
enjoy your weekend minus the extra few kg to match.

Café breakfasts are a lovely way to enjoy the weekend with friends
and family, but heavy banana breads, Turkish toasts, large juices and jumbo
coffees are far too many calories for the average person. Instead focus on your
protein rich options of eggs, ricotta, smoked salmon or even lean bacon and aim
for just 1 slice of grain or sourdough toast to balance the calories. Remember
your mantra of ‘no one needs a large coffee’ and keep the freshly baked goods
to special occasions only. Order extra vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach
and tomatoes to give your café breakie plenty of bulk and remember that you are
unlikely to need to snack if your breakfast is much larger than it usually
would be.

When it comes to the alcohol, self-control is the key. A highly
controlled intake of wine and beer during the week is pointless if you then
down 2-3 bottles of wine or 10-15 beers in a sitting over the weekend. Try and
shift this binge drinking mentality to a more moderate approach in which you
can enjoy a few alcoholic drinks without feeling the need to drink for the sake
of it. Be mindful of spending time socially with people who encourage binge
drinking and if you can limit heavier drinking occasions to just once or twice
each week. Alcohol tends to be a habit rather than an enjoyable addition to
life and for this reason can be managed.

Finally watch those calories from higher fat fast and restaurant
style meals. The average fast food or restaurant meal will have at least 200
calories more than a meal you prepare for yourself at home simply because of
the extra sauces, breads, oil and dressings and larger serving sizes. Have a
substantial protein or vegetable based snack an hour or two before you venture
out so you do not put a food order in while you are starving. Share meals where
possible, especially dessert as portion sizes tend to be large and again try
and avoid overeating simply because you are out. Training ourselves to not eat
extra simply because we are ‘going out for dinner’ is a key way that you are
able to enjoy eating out regularly without associated weight gain.

Aside from these tricks and tips for specific weekend eating occasions,
another simple way of keeping your own weekend under control when it comes to
your food intake is to follow as normal a food routine as possible and if you
do have breakfast or lunch out, compensate with a light soup or salad the
following meal. If you find that you have a number of heavier meals over the
weekend, then have a lighter day or two of eating earlier in the week. We live
in a world of constant calorie overloading and minimal activity and for this
reason we cannot wipe out two entire days of the week if we want to maintain
let alone lose weight, so identify your food rules and stick to them, even on
the weekends.