When I got my first personal training job after college, I was also bartending every weekend & would often see gym clients at the bar. I got more than one shocked look when groups of ladies would look up from their nachos (the bar was famous for them & they were sooo good) and realize that I was their trainer.
I never really gave anyone a hard time about it at the gym because inevitably they’d walk into the session looking guilty and trying to explain.
However, I did start to pick-up on a pattern of behavior that I knew was keeping my clients stuck. It’s part of why I branched into nutrition, as well, and I want to shed some light on the vicious live-for-the-weekend cycle that may be sabotaging your weight loss (or maintenance) efforts.
Monday – I am going to be perfect this week! I’m not going to eat any carbs. Or fat. Or snacks. And definitely nothing after dinner. I’m going to be a fat loss machine! This is so easy!
Tuesday – I was so good yesterday. I’m killin’ it. I didn’t even look at the ice cream in the freezer even though I had a long day because it’s off-limits. I can’t wail til I can have some this weekend!
Wednesday – HUMP DAY! I’d really like a muffin for breakfast but I’m not eating any carbs, remember? No sir, not today. OK, I made it. I really want some snacks while I watch Grey’s Anatomy tonight [is that even on on Wednesday? I don’t know. No fact checking, thank you] but I’m not going to because I’m being good. It’s almost Friday, anyway, and then I can indulge a little. Especially after how good I’ve been this week!
Thursday – I could have killed my coworkers when they were eating donuts afternoon but I’m being good so I didn’t have any. Can’t stop thinking about them though. Those holiday themed sprinkles, yum! After dinner on Thursday is basically Friday, right? And I was so good all week. I could have a little somethin’ somethin’.
Friday – I mean, I was gonna wait until happy hour but since I caved last night & had that ice cream, after all, a little “you made it through the week” morning pick-me-up couldn’t hurt, right? Plus, I was so good
all almost week. Ahhhh happy hour! I survived another work week! I can’t wait for #allthedrinks and #allthecarbs! The specials are so good, it doesn’t make sense not to get one of everything! Oohh shots? Yes, please.
Saturday – Ouch. Last night got out of hand. I’m so bloated, the scale is way up, and I feel like crap. It’s ok, though. I have all day tomorrow to prepare for next week so that I can double down and be even more perfect than last week! Oh but if I’m gonna be really strict starting Monday, I should get in a little more ice cream while I can. I’ll try that new restaurant tonight and grab some drinks after.
Sunday – Ouch. Last night got out of hand. It’s ok, though. I’m so bloated, the scale is way up, and I feel like crap. It’s ok, though. I’m going to the grocery store today to prep all my meals so that I can be perfect starting first thing Monday. I’ll go there right after brunch. What’s a mimosa or two, anyway? I’m gonna be so good this week and this is like my last hurrah!
Monday – OK, I was really bad this weekend but I’m doubling my efforts today and I’m gonna use every last ounce of willpower to make sure this week is different! I am going to be extra perfect this week! I’m not going to eat any carbs. Or fat. Or snacks. And definitely nothing after dinner. I’m going to be a fat loss machine! This is so easy!
Rinse and repeat.
Does that sound at all familiar?
Trust me, I get it. I have been there. I’ve worked exhausting jobs where I couldn’t wait for the weekend and I felt like I deserved whatever treats I wanted just for making it through the week.
I’ve hit the beginning of the week with steadfast resolve. Until it started to catch up to me, my resolve weakened, and I had to white-knuckle my way through the week, literally counting down the minutes until I could let loose for the weekend.
And ya know where it got me? Nowhere. Living like this is just causing you to spin your wheels; not setting you back (if you’re lucky), but not allowing you to make any progress forward, either. Here’s why:
Initially: You overly restrict
While eliminating entire food groups is likely to create a calorie deficit, it’s also likely to make you obsessive about whatever it is that you “can’t” eat. You may be able to get away with this short-term, but often times, by not allowing yourself even a bite of “bad” food, you’re only succeeding at sapping your willpower and you’re not making any strides toward building the habits necessary to live a healthy, moderate, lifestyle. You can’t maintain this forever and it starts to wear on you.
There is no such thing as perfect. But when you set your sights on it, it becomes impossible to succeed. You’re setting yourself up for failure.
Then: You give in a little
Once your early-week zeal wears off around Wednesday, it becomes harder and harder to stay “perfect.” You’re still going through the motions but it’s getting harder and harder to resist. You feel proud of your perfectness so far and that seems like it warrants a reward, right?
So you give in a little but you find it hard to stop.
Then: It snowballs
You’ve entered a slippery slope. The downside of striving for perfection, of being all-in, is that when you slip-up, you are ALL-OUT. There is no in-between. You’re indulging more than you would have if you hadn’t restricted so much in the beginning of the week, you’re feeling guilty about falling short of perfect, and if you’re gonna feel bad, you might as well at least enjoy what you’re eating and drinking.
Finally: You double down
After essentially a weekend-long binge, you feel like crap mentally, physically, and emotionally. You want to get back on track ASAP so you do the thing that seems like it makes the most sense: prepare yourself for a week of perfection to make up for your sins.
Except now, you know how that goes.
You need to break this cycle.
1% Improvement > Perfection
The pressure of striving for perfection makes it harder to bounce back from inevitable slip-ups. Instead of settling for nothing shy of perfect, understand that slip-ups are going to happen & strive to be just 1% better each day.
Allow mindful indulgences
Part of what makes “bad” foods so enticing is the fact that you’ve put them off-limits. Instead of making concrete lists of “allowed” and “banned” foods, choose to indulge mindfully, when it’s worth it.
That doesn’t mean eating every tasty treat that crosses your path; it means taking a minute to assess whether you really want it or not and if you do, slowing down to actually enjoy it.
Eat balanced meals
Rather than banning certain foods/groups, strive for meals comprised primarily of lean proteins and veggies, paired with modest amounts of smart carbs and healthy fats.
These balanced meals help you stay satisfied and on track toward your goals.
Act like your future self
Generally when people want to lose weight & transform their bodies, they have an image in mind. A future life that somewhat resembles their current life but in it, they’re thinner, fitter, healthier, happier. How do you get there? Think about what kind of behaviors, what kind of lifestyle Future Self has.
You probably envision delicious, healthy meals coming together effortlessly. Slow-mo runs on the beach. Healthy decisions coming with ease. Future Self probably doesn’t restrict all week just to “blow it” on the weekend. She listens to her body, understands her hunger & fullness cues, indulges mindfully and stops when she’s no longer enjoying the treat. Future Self doesn’t have to live for the weekends because she knows no food is off-limits.
Try to think and act like you are already your Future Self. After all, those decisions that she makes are the exact ones that will help you become her in the first place!
My Body Transformation Guide is a great place to start if you need help figuring out what to eat, how much, and how to put together balanced meals.
If you’re not sure how to go about prepping your meals in advance, check out this recent article: Meal Prep Made Simple. For Real.
Want some one-on-one help? Book a free coaching call with me so we can figure out how to help you break this cycle!