When Friday at 5 hits, it can be tempting to splurge at happy hour with coworkers or simply pick up a cheesy pizza on your way home. Saturday is spent sleeping through the gym and shuttling kids from soccer practice to birthday parties and back, with no time for a sensible meal or sweat session. Sunday is your day to relax and recharge before the work week begins -- complete with unhealthy snacks and treats.
All of this weekend activity means that by the time your alarm sounds Monday morning, you're left feeling overstuffed and bloated, which inspires you to get back to your disciplined diet. But if you're looking for real weight-loss results, you must stop this counterproductive cycle, and build weight loss into your plans seven days a week. Here are the strategies you need to make it happen.
Limit the Cheer During Friday Night Happy Hour
Alcohol is high in calories and makes that free snack bowl on the bar look even more inviting. To still socialize without weight gain, ask the bartender to take the snacks away, or choose a seat where you can't easily reach them. Instead of a group pitcher of beer, order your own drink to keep track of how much you've had (white wine, champagne or soda water and vodka are all diet-friendly choices). In between drinks, down a full glass of water to fill up without excess calories and help prevent a morning hangover. Lastly, don't forget to eat! A sensible dinner will help you drink less and avoid any late-night food temptations. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dinnerseries/6032167463/" target="_hplink">Dinner Series</a></em>
Order Well While Out To Dinner
There's no reason to skip dinner with friends because you're on a diet -- just be smart about what you order. If you can, go online and look at the restaurant menu before you get there, advises Melissa Joy Dobbins, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., a national spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a dietitian at the NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill. Plan your ordering strategy so you're less tempted to splurge in the heat of the moment. Decide to choose fish, lean meats, or poultry that's steamed, baked, broiled or grilled. Skip any dish that's fried or battered or served in a creamy sauce. If the portions are oversized, see if one of your friends wants to share an entrée or, before you start eating, ask the waiter to pack up half for you to take home. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, average restaurant meals are four times larger than they were in the 1950s and, not surprisingly, adults are 26 pounds heavier.
Run Saturday Errands Healthfully
Turn your Saturday shopping spree into a weekend weight-loss workout. Park far away from the entrance and build a few extra, calorie-burning steps into your day. Visit stores on different levels and take the stairs, not the escalator. If you must hit the food court at lunchtime, look for places that offer healthy choices, where you can get a lean protein that's grilled, not fried, and a salad with dressing on the side and without high-calorie toppings, Dobbins says. If you know you'll be out for hours, pack a few healthy snacks so you're not starved and tempted to splurge at the ice cream or bagel shops. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ubrayj02/6917315165/" target="_hplink">ubrayj02</a></em>
Streamline Your Saturday Night Soiree
The key to going to a party is not showing up starved. Have a small snack before you head out of the door, so you can indulge on party favors in moderation. "An apple is a great choice," advises Joseph Ciccone, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., associate director of Columbia Orthopaedics Sports Therapy in New York City. "Researchers at Penn State University found that people who ate an apple 15 minutes before lunch consumed nearly 190 fewer calories at lunch than those who didn't." Another good snack choice is a handful of almonds. Almonds provide protein, monounsaturated fats, and fiber that will fill you up. Just be sure to limit yourself to one handful so the calories don't add up. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardmunckton/5281025166/" target="_hplink">Richard Munckton</a></em>
Skip Saturday Night Movie Snacks
"Movie theater popcorn is ridiculously high in fat," Ciccone notes. Wash it down with a large soda, and you'll put back over 1,000 of the calories you spent all week cutting out. Instead, indulge your passion for going to the movies, but stick to your weekend weight-loss plan by skipping the concession stand. If you just can't stomach a movie without snacks, Ciccone suggests popping a 100-calorie bag of microwave popcorn at home and taking it with you. If you're watching a movie at home, portion out any snacks into a small bowl rather than eating directly from the bag or container.
Be Sensible At Sunday Brunch
Sunday brunch can be troublesome for weekend weight loss if you're ravenous when you get there. If you're not meeting until 11 a.m. or noon, have a light breakfast at home. That way you'll keep your hands out of the muffin basket while you're waiting for your meal to be served. An egg-white veggie omelet with whole-wheat toast is a great diet choice because it delivers filling protein and fiber to keep you fuller longer . Enjoy the company and eat slowly, Ciccone advises. "People eat way too fast," he says. "When you eat fast, it doesn't give the body enough time to catch up and realize it's full." <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dinnerseries/5974881786/" target="_hplink">Dinner Series</a></em>
Don't Be Sedentary On Sunday Afternoon
It's tempting to spend Sunday sitting on the couch, watching baseball or football or catching up on your favorite TV shows. Instead, take advantage of the fact that you have free time and go for a hike, bike ride, or swim. Using the day off for some intense, calorie-burning activities that you can't squeeze in midweek can result in weekend weight loss, Ciccone explains. Create a plan to keep busy. "People tend to eat more when they have a lot of free time because they're bored," he adds. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/25951201@N07/3610982039/" target="_hplink">Vatsek</a></em>
Savor Sunday Dinner With Family
Most experts warn against diet cheat days -- feast on junk food, and you can easily consume 2,000 to 3,000 extra calories, warns Sarah Dolven, M.D., an endocrinologist in Charleston, S.C. However, one cheat meal over the weekend "won't kill you and it may actually help keep you sane," Ciccone says. During this meal, allow yourself to have your home-cooked favorites. Even though you're "cheating," manage the splurge by limiting yourself to smaller portions and eating sensibly the rest of the day. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rocketboom/1054630311/" target="_hplink">Parker Michael Knight</a></em>
Get More Sleep On Sunday Night
Sleep deprivation often makes you eat more -- about 500 extra calories a day -- studies have found. Maximize your Sunday by unwinding and getting ready for bed early. Instead of splurging on a late-night dessert you'll regret or stress-eating your way through the night while you think about Monday morning, cap off your weekend weight-loss efforts with a relaxing activity and then head to bed early to squeeze in some extra sleep.
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