weekend eating

10 Ways to Keep Your Weekend Eating on Track

January 27, 2017

Note: This article "10 Ways to Keep Your Weekend Eating on Track" contains some recommendations concerning types of foods to be included in your diet. If you have had weight loss surgery, please first and foremost follow the guidelines and recommendations provided to you by your surgeon and/or dietitian.

You could be the most regimented person in the world during the weekdays. Breakfast at 7, work from 8 to 5 with a noon lunch break, and maybe a mid-afternoon snack at 3, and dinner by 7… you know the routine. Weekend eating can be another matter entirely.

But when it comes to weekend eating, you may not have to be up at the wee hours of dawn, and bedtime becomes more flexible. The downside of this is that the relaxed structure of weekends can make it easier for your meal schedule to fall off-kilter. Not to mention that you may be home (and closer to the kitchen) for a significant majority of the day, which can increase the temptation to emotionally eat and/or eat solely out of boredom.

So, it’s no wonder that many individuals on the weight loss and post-bariatric surgery journey can find weekends extremely challenging. An extra couple hours of sleeping in can lead to a late breakfast, which can lead to a late lunch, late snack, and perhaps an even later dinner at 10 pm. Eating meals closer together and later in the day can conjure up feelings reminiscent of binge eating.

How to Handle Weekend Eating to Keep You on Track

1. Wake up at a similar time on weekends as weekdays

Okay, I know. This is definitely an unpopular piece of advice. But it wouldn't be part of this list if it wasn’t important. The time that you wake is usually a determining factor of the time that you eat breakfast (or whether you even have breakfast at all). Your wake-up time can really set the tone for the day in terms of your eating. Waking up on weekends within 30 minutes to 1 hour of your usual weekday wake up time can help you stay on track throughout the day with your eating pattern and help stabilize hunger levels.

2. Make sure to get protein in at each meal

When losing weight, there is a tendency for our bodies to lose almost equal parts of lean muscle and fat. It is important to get enough protein in at each meal and snack so that you can maintain as much lean muscle as possible throughout the weight loss process1. Lean muscle mass is very important and impacts your basal metabolism, immunity, and organ function (remember, your heart is a muscle too!)(2). Protein also helps to decrease one of your major hunger hormones, ghrelin, after eating(1). This decrease in ghrelin prevents your hunger levels from stubbornly persisting after eating meals and snacks.

3. Make sure to include a small amount of healthy fat at each meal and snack

Getting nutritious fats in at meals and snacks helps to keep us feeling more satisfied and increase our production of the fullness hormone leptin, which signals to our brain that we are full, satisfied, and can stop eating(3). Omega-3 fats (think salmon, flax/chia seeds, nuts, olive oil) also make our cells more sensitive to the fullness hormone leptin, making the eating of these foods a double advantage! Note: seeds and nuts are usually not recommended for those who have recently had weight loss surgery. Please consult your surgeon and/or dietitian before newly incorporating these foods into your diet.

4. Plan some fun social activities outside of the house

There is something uniquely energizing about being outside of the house and socializing. All the dopamine and oxytocin (you know… that great mood-boosting chemical, and oxytocin, the love hormone) being released from spending time with friends and family subdue some of the urges to seek out that mental boost from the overindulgence of foods(4).

5. Stay hydrated

You've heard it before, our bodies can sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. Not always, but it can happen. Try to get between eight to ten 8 oz. glasses of water per day. When we are dehydrated, it can also make us feel more sluggish, can cause headaches, and prevent us from wanting to do much–so be sure to stay hydrated!

6. Go to bed on weekends at a similar time as weekdays

This one may be even less popular than the first point, but equally as important. With individuals who struggle with eating for reasons unrelated to hunger, staying up into the late hours of the night can increase the likelihood of constant grazing and binge eating given that sleep deprivation can increase cravings(5). Also, late nights can lead to fewer hours of sleep overall, which can also impact your likelihood to have increased urges to binge eat the following day. Less sleep also impairs your decision-making process. So, do yourself a great service and try and get in a good amount of zzz’s on those Saturdays and Sundays by having early nights.

7. DON’T avoid all social functions because there is food served

“What!” You might be asking. If you know that there is a tempting food item served why shouldn’t you just skip out on the event altogether? Well, the answer is two-fold. First, if you avoid social functions where tempting food items are served, it can be an extremely isolating experience and can lower all those good chemicals and hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin that actually help to regulate your appetite (hunger and fullness) cues. Secondly, before going to a function, making a decision to pick one food item to have an appropriate portion size of, and really savor may help prevent you from constantly feeling deprived.

8. Write down the non-weight related reasons you are pursuing health

Try and explore non-weight related motivations to sustaining healthy eating and exercise behaviors. Write down these motivations and post them where they are visible to you on a daily basis. Maybe you want to be able to take your dog on a long walk without running low on stamina, or maybe you want to have more energy to play with your kids. Seeing these motivators daily can help you stay on track and reduce the temptation to stray from healthier routines.

9. Pick 1 special item per day to enjoy in a moderate portion size

Maybe it's a serving of your favorite plain frozen yogurt or some low-fat chocolate milk. Whatever it is, decide one item each weekend eating day that you want to enjoy in moderation as a snack. Permitting yourself to have this helps prevent your brain from going into deprivation mode and increasing the temptation to binge later on.

10. Enjoy your meals and snacks

Don’t underestimate the importance of creating a relaxing and enjoyable environment at meals. Weekends are an advantage in this respect since there is often more time to create such an environment because we have more time at meals and snacks. Always make an attempt to serve yourself on a plate and sit down for meals rather than eating straight out of the Tupperware container, or eating while standing in the kitchen. This helps your brain realize that meals have a start and stop time rather than lingering on.  Taking the time to sit down and savor your meals and snacks also allows the body more time to produce the fullness hormone leptin, which travels to your brain to signal that you are satisfied and can stop eating.


  1. Blom WA, Lluch A, Stafleu A, Vinoy S, Holst JJ, Schaafsma G, Hendriks HF. Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006;83(2):211-20.
  2. Noakes M, Keogh JB, Foster PR, Clifton PM. Effect of an energy-restricted, high-protein, low-fat diet relative to a conventional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on weight loss, body composition, nutritional status, and markers of cardiovascular health in obese women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005;81(6):1298-306.
  3. Gray B, Steyn F, Davies PS, Vitetta L. Omega-3 fatty acids: a review of the effects on adiponectin and leptin and potential implications for obesity management. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;67(12):1234-42.
  4. Taheri S. The link between short sleep duration and obesity: we should recommend more sleep to prevent obesity. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2006;91(11):881-4.
  5. Colaianni G, Sun L, Zaidi M, Zallone A. The “love hormone” oxytocin regulates the loss and gain of the fat–bone relationship. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2015;6:79.

Tiffany Haug, MS, RDN, EDOC  works as an outpatient Dietitian at a private practice and tiffanyhaugrd.wixsite.com/freedomwithnutrition

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Tiffany Haug, MS, RDN, EDOC is a Master's level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in treating eating disorders as well as obesity. Tiffany holds a Certificate of Graduate Study in Eating Disorders and Obesity (EDOC) from Northern Illinois University—the only graduate certificate of its kind in the nation. She currently works as an outpatient Dietitian at a private practice and tiffanyhaugrd.wixsite.com/freedomwithnutrition

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