Between seeing to work, health, family, and a cure for cancer (or at least it can feel that way), you deserve an occasional break. And Friday through Sunday is supposed to be your window for relaxation and stress-free fun.
But your habits during these 60 or so hours may threaten to undo much of the hard work you put in sweating and eating right during the week. How can you make room in an effective Health Esteem routine for recreation that rewards your hard work?
Check out these seven habits most of us fall prey to once we’ve clocked out on Friday.
1. Staying Up Too Late
“One of the biggest mistakes I commonly see is poor sleeping habits on the weekends. Staying up late and sleeping less will make your body suffer,” says Detroit-based physician Partha Nandi, M.D., host of “Ask Dr. Nandi.”
A study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found those who stayed up just two hours later on the weekend compared to their weekday bedtime had higher BMIs and worse glucose regulation (a predictor of diabetes) after five years.
And since most of us don’t score enough z’s during the week either, cutting into bedtime on the weekends just increases this risk. Continuing the cycle, this weekend neglect can spill over into Monday, too.
“If you have a weekend of unsuccessful nights’ rest, this spells doom and gloom for your focus, attention, and energy for the upcoming workweek,” adds Rusty Gregory, C.S.C.S., owner of Forte Personal Fitness in Austin, Texas.
And even if you counterbalance staying up late by sleeping in to still score eight hours, snoozing later can quickly sabotage your workout plans and cut into your hours of productivity for the day.
2. Letting Cheat Meals Snowball
One cheat meal: 100 percent fine. In fact, research suggests that metabolism may even increase slightly after you consume a meal based primarily on carbs. But care should be taken, as an association has been found between this strategy and binge-eating, among other types of disordered eating behaviors.
It’s often a slippery slope from “I’m going to let off some steam this weekend” to binge drinking and stuffing your face with greasy comfort foods, Gregory points out. “One of my clients even refers to it as ‘Train Wreck Sunday’ because of the terribly unhealthy lifestyle choices he makes,” he adds.
3. Giving Yourself Too Much Freedom
“Most of us do better with a structured daily plan, so an overall change in routine brought on by the weekend will wreak havoc on your ‘plan’ to exercise and eat well,” Gregory says.
“When your weekend is regularly different — less sleep, more alcohol, a steady diet of junk — it can throw you off several days into the following week.” You have a lot more variables on the weekend, but make a plan and factor these in.
“Your weekend routine of diet, exercise, and sleep should mirror your weekday plan with few exceptions,” Gregory adds.
4. Overscheduling Yourself
“If your weekend is full of dates, weddings, parties, tailgating, or concerts, it’s so easy to just replace your healthy weekday practices with an unhealthy diet, less-than-optimal sleep, and an overconsumption of alcohol,” Gregory says.
Not only are you tanking your progress, but you’re actually taxing your systems. “Many workaholics plan an enormous amount of projects and activity throughout the weekend, but you need the weekend to recharge and rejuvenate, both physically and mentally, from weekday stresses,” Dr. Nandi says.
That’s not to say you should roundly turn down plans with your friends. “Try and take time for yourself before going out, to recharge — listen to your favorite music, go work out, play with your pet,” suggests health coach Emily Littlefield.
Giving yourself a little time to reset will help you go into your social plans less stressed and frayed, which can reduce the inclination for comfort food or one drink too many.
5. Hiding Inside All Weekend
We’ve all also experienced the flip side of over-scheduling yourself — not moving from the couch for two straight days. And hermiting is totally understandable.
All those problems and stresses we put off while trying to meet deadlines at work finally catch up with us the moment we slow down, so it’s easy to feel down on the weekends, Littlefield points out. But parking it on the couch for a few days just spells trouble.
For starters, this means you’re not working out. And while taking two days off from your routine is a-OK, we all know exercising encourages healthier habits throughout the day.
The bigger problem of spending all of Saturday binge watching Netflix? You’re more likely to eat junk when you watch TV, according to a study in The International Journal of Communication and Health.
“You do deserve a break on the weekend, but make it a feel-good break,” Littlefield says. Lay around in the sun instead of on the couch, where you’ll score the mood boost of vitamin D. Spend solo time in healthier environments, like the farmer’s market or on a walk.
“There’s no need to ruin disciplined healthy habits during your downtime,” she adds.
6. Drinking One Too Many
Alcohol is the homewrecker of diets. And if you’re committed to a Health Esteem routine, you’ve probably cut back on your wine with dinner or weekday beer with buds.
The problem: “Many of us avoid alcohol during the week only to binge on alcohol because it’s the weekend and, thus, it’s no problem,” Dr. Nandi says.
But binge drinking can lead to real problems with your liver, heart, and brain, he points out. Not to mention the immediate damage you’ll do to your diet.
Studies show you eat considerably more than usual when you’re intoxicated. In fact, consuming just three drinks can lower levels of the hormone that helps you feel full (leptin) by up to 30 percent, according to research in Alcohol & Alcoholism.
And that doesn’t address how badly a hangover can ruin any plans you have to work out or be productive the following day.
7. Taking Care of Your Kids — And Not Yourself
If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance your weekends often center on shuttling your kids from one sports game to another. “Weekend-long youth tournaments can take a toll on parents since they easily generate last-minute meal decisions (fast food), leave no time for exercise, put you in stressful game situations, and are a cycle of late nights followed by early mornings,” Gregory says.
Having a plan in place for these weekend sporting events is essential. “Know in advance which restaurants you’ll go to that fall in line with your diet plan, take a cooler of healthy snacks for your entire family, and enter the weekend as rested as possible to help alleviate mindless eating and mitigate the high stress levels of games,” he suggests.
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