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Weekend Food Frenzy

Get Happy, Your Life
11th November 2010

Are you as good-as-gold all week, then eat rings around yourself come Saturday? Here’s how to break that vicious cycle.

Unless you’re a very lucky sort indeed, your working week and weekend are two entirely different entities. In more ways than one, the former is marked with discipline, hard work and a nose stuck firmly to the grindstone. Little wonder then, that by the time Friday night rolls around, we go a little bats with the overwhelming, intoxicating joy of it all. Your weekend hair-down regime may make life worth living, but are these mixed messages playing havoc with your overall health?Brace yourself for the bad news, dear reader; your hard work during the week might come to nothing if you’re the sort to chow down with reckless abandon come Saturday.

Mind Yourself

“It’s not good for the mind in particular,” notes fitness trainer John Lark (www.spherefitnessstudio.com). “If you fly ‘off-radar’ for two days a week, you’ll feel pangs of guilt on Monday. Then you’ll think, ‘well, I’ve done enough damage now, so I may as well  continue like this’, and it’s Wednesday before you’re back on track.”And – horror of horrors – the partying that is part of any weekend could put your gym regime in danger.“Binge drinking flatlines your hormones, so if you go drinking on a Saturday there’s no point going to the gym until at least Wednesday,” he advises. “There’s scientific evidence that indicates you just won’t get any benefit from the gym if you have alcohol in your system. The benefits of any workout are then negligible.”

Work It Out

So why does this nutritional ship-jump happen with such regularity?“Lots of people eat at their desks and it’s a time-tabled environment with a thought-out packed lunch,” explains John. “Therefore, the key to success is forming new, good habits. A lot of my clients will take healthy lunches to work and drink lots of water. It’s cheaper than eating out and, of course, it’s easier to control. Very simply, when it comes to the weekend, it’s the change in routine that puts people off-course.”So far, so depressing.

However, John acknowledges that seven days of sensible eating simply isn’t sustainable in the long-run. Instead, the popular 80-20 Rule – where one eats well 80% of the time, or 90% if you’re actively trying to lose weight – is a much safer bet.“If you’re very lean, a weekend of bad eating is okay, but if you’re trying to lose weight if just won’t work. However, if you’re 100% healthy the whole time, that’s Spartan territory and also not ideal,” he says. “A couple of unhealthy meals amongst a good regime doesn’t do any harm.

If you have five small-ish meals a day, that’s 35 meals a week. I think three ‘reward’ meals a week is doing well. Amid it all, apply other good habits, like drinking at least two litres of water a day.”eatin’s not cheatin’Anyone who has been to the gym has no doubt heard trainers speak of ‘cheat meals’. It’s a concept that John is a staunch supporter of, even though he balks at the term ‘cheat’, hence the use of ‘reward’ meal.“I think the term ‘cheat meal’ has negative connotations for anyone trying to lose weight,” he observes. “But for one meal over the weekend, you can let the rules fly out the window, and it’s a healthier way of doing things. Look forward to your Saturday meal, and see it as a reward for your hard work during the week. A happy medium is ideal.”A ‘reward meal’ does more than it says on the tin; not only will it keep you more focused and heartened in a strict regime, and kill your cravings, but a cheeky weekend burger will also do something quite unlikely; it will boost your metabolism.

Very simply, your body gets used to healthy food during the week. A proverbial cat among the pigeons every so often will wake your body up, confuse it and make it work that bit harder. Think of it as a way to keep your body guessing instead of feeding it the same calories all the time.

An Even Keel

Chief amongst the easiest ways to keep on an even keel during the week is to have a healthy breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. Eat within an hour of rising, and take advantage of those extra few hours by grilling some tomatoes and mushrooms, scrambling some eggs and serving them up with wholemeal brown toast and a homemade smoothie.“I’ve also read research that indicates that the stress people feel when they believe they can’t eat something can be ageing,” informs John. “It’s better to feel that you can eat everything. If you make a transition towards healthier eating, you’ll feel better after every change you make. I believe in making one small change a week; try eating more salad one week, then upping your intake of water the next. All the while, you’ll remove the negative associations with comfort food when you start to feel better.”

Weekend Warriors

On the flipside, there are people whose wellbeing habits are in exact reverse to all of the above. Crippled by the daily grind during the week, some people let loose on the weekend by attempting a three-or four-hour workout one day a week. Known as ‘weekend warriors’ in the fitness industry, John notes that this sort of punishing regime is also pointless. Very simply, one big push in the gym once a week isn’t enough to increase fitness levels, and is more likely to lead to injury.“Being a weekend warrior is a bit like not eating breakfast and lunch, and then having a massive dinner,” he explains. “Everyone has 24 hours in a day, so it’s a matter of prioritising. Some people prefer to hide behind work, family or their social life as an excuse for not exercising. Doing 15 minutes every day is far more beneficial than a few hours in the gym at the weekend. Nowadays it’s possible to find an effective workout to suit everyone’s lifestyle, so there’s really no excuse.” That’s us told, so.

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