How to stop overeating on the weekends and take back control of your training and nutrition.

A few weeks ago I got an email from a reader asking about how to stop overeating on the weekends and stay on track with their training. 

I’ve been pretty consistent with my nutrition and “training” during the week for the past 4 weeks, but when the weekend comes around we (family) typically spend it on the road. We have 6 kids, 5 adult kids in their early 20’s and none of them live in the same city. We traveled all day yesterday visiting 2 of our kids and spent today moving another kid to Detroit. We have eaten out 5 times this weekend. The biggest challenge I have is committing to waking up early to accomplish a workout instead of getting some much-needed extra sleep on a weekend.

I sent her a quick reply but after doing so I realized that you might have the same struggle. So, today I want to go a little more in-depth about how you can stay more consistent with your training and nutrition over the weekends.

Weekend Training And Nutrition: The Two Camps

Most people reside in one of two camps when it comes to the weekends.

Let’s call camp one, “Blue Triangle Wannarelax Fun Time Camp.”

Camp Wannarelax Fun Time Camp views weekends as an escape. A time to relax, unwind, and a chance to let go and that means weekends equal freedom. Freedom from the strict diet you’re trying to follow, freedom from the training program you’re doing, and freedom from work, stress, and anything else really.

Campers here feel like if they’ve been good all week they “deserve” a break. They’ve earned it for having to put up with shit all week at work, for depriving themselves of a certain food, and for killing themselves in the gym all week long.

Camp two is known as “Camp Perfection.” I couldn’t think of anything creative. My apologies.

Camp perfection believes there is no such thing as the weekend. No time to relax, no excuses, no wiggle room. Diet, training, and other routines all stay the same.

Folks in this camp feel guilty when they don’t do the things they said or planned they were going to do. Often beating themselves up for it and in response trying to be stricter by setting more training and nutrition rules, and trying to rely on more willpower.

When these campers screw up their answer might be to train harder or eat less during the week. This often leads to bigger blowouts during the weekend because of severe restriction and deprivation during the week.

I use to flip-flop between these two camps. I couldn’t decide which frickin one I wanted to be a part of.

Regardless of what camp you’re in here are a few strategies that can help you stay on top of your health, fitness, and life over the weekends.

Define What A Successful Weekend Of Training And Nutrition Looks Like For You

Try and keep this list short, simple, and sweet. I don’t really know what sweet means in this case but it sounded really nice so let’s just go with it.

Here’s my really shortlist of a successful weekend:

Priority #1: Spending time and connecting with people that are important to me.

One of my favorite things to do in this world is to have a meaningful conversation with someone. I try to make it a point each weekend to connect with someone over coffee, on a hike, on the phone, or doing some other activity together like taking a cooking class.

Priority #2: Making the best food choices I can in whatever situation I am in.

In the email above she mentioned she had to eat out 5 times over the weekend. I get the impression that she views this as a bad thing.

Eating out isn’t really a big issue and I’m not sure why it’s often viewed that way. Maybe it’s because you’re trying to follow a specific diet plan that involves foods you’re allowed to eat and not allowed to eat. For the majority of us and our goals following the perfect diet isn’t really necessary to have a body that we’re proud of.

Over the weekends I do my best to include a 1-2 palm-sized serving of protein, 1-2 fist-sized serving of vegetables, and 1-2 thumb-sized servings of healthy fat with each meal. I stick to mostly zero-calorie beverages with the occasional glass of wine.

I don’t try to eat 5 to 6 meals a day. If I only eat 1 to 2 then so be it. If I’m at a pizza joint and can’t get a salad with some protein on it then I just eat 1 slice of pizza instead of 3 or 4. I just do the best that I can in whatever situation that I’m in and I’m not trying to follow a plan or adhere to diet rules. I’m just trying to do the best I can.

Priority #3: Moving my body for at least 10 minutes in a fun and challenging way.

I don’t schedule workouts on the weekends anymore because I want to do other things that are more of a priority for me. So instead I try and do one of two things.

Get in a very short 10 minute “movement session.” I’ll do more if I want to but my goal is 10 minutes. This may include a workout like this, a walk with my dogs, or it may be some stretching and yoga.

Participate in fun and or social fitness. Weekends for me involve hiking, rock climbing, Muay Thai classes, dance lessons, and other fun ways to move my body. Sometimes I invite people I like these things and sometimes I don’t.

Social fitness kills two birds with one stone for me. I can get in some movement and during or after I can connect with someone that I really care about. #bigwin

Get Clear And Realistic Goals. Decide What You’re Willing To Give Up To Reach Them

A lot of people say they want six-pack abs. That’s until they figure out what they’ll have to give up in order to get them.

If getting really lean is a goal then some sacrifices will have to be made and it’s best to be honest with yourself about that. You’ll have to be that guy or girl that orders a super clean meal at a restaurant with your family or friends.

You’ll have to get comfortable being the “weird one” that passes on a late night out for drinks so that you can sleep and get up early to train tomorrow.

But extreme leanness might not be your goal. Most people that email me say they want to lose a few pounds, feel more confident in their own skins, build a body they’re proud of, and “tone”… whatever the heck that means.

Get specific and clear on what your goals are. Getting toned is so broad. What the hell does that mean to you? What does it feel like? Look like?

Whatever it may be determine what sacrifices you may need to make in order to do that.

Is it really necessary to get up early and train on the weekends to reach your goal or are there other alternatives? Does every meal need to be chicken and broccoli or is there some wiggle room on a Saturday with your family?

Are You Trying To Be Perfect? How About Just Good Enough?


Do you only give yourself credit for exercise if it lasts a certain amount of time? If you burn a specific amount of calories? If you sweat, if it’s hard, if it hurts, if your heart rate gets to a certain level, or if you’re in a gym and using the equipment?

You’re not alone. I use to be like that too and it’s hard to get away from that belief. For years we’ve been told very vaguely that we’re supposed to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity 5 days per week or 10 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity 3 days per week.

I’ve had clients who’ve scheduled a workout after work but ended up canceling it because they had to stay 15 minutes late to finish up a last-minute assignment. Upon asking them why they didn’t just get their workout in 15 minutes later – instead of a 30-minute workout why not just 15 minutes? They usually respond with something like this:

Because it would have only been 15 minutes. Why bother, that doesn’t even count as exercise.

WTF! Of course, it counts.

Something is always better than nothing.

I see it all the time with clients of mine. Hell, I use to do it in the past too. Getting too wrapped up in following a specific program.

  • Monday: Chest and triceps
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes of cardio
  • Wednesday: Legs and abs
  • Thursday: HIIT cardio
  • Friday: Back and biceps
  • Saturday: 60 minutes of cardio and abs
  • Sunday: Rest day

Meal 1:

  • 1 whole egg + 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • 1-ounce raw almonds

Snack 1:

  • 1 apple
  • 1 string cheese

Meal 2:

  • 6 ounces of chicken
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • ½ cup of brown rice
  • 1 cup broccoli

I’ll stop boring you. I think you know where I’m going with this.

I work full time and I bet you do too. You probably have kids. You may go to school. And I’m certain you have other responsibilities too.

I don’t think I really need to explain why most of us fail when it comes to programs and meal plans like this but I’ll say it anyway. These plans are for people without real lives and when your life isn’t dedicated to the gym and your kitchen – shit happens and that shit (gross) gets in the way of these programs and plans.

I just want to build a body I’m proud of without dedicating my life to the gym or a meal plan.

To do this I try my best to make working out and eating well easier to do. I drop the programs and meal plans and opt instead for what’s more important. Moving my body every day in a way that is “good enough” and choosing real food as often as possible in whatever situation I am in.

So instead of perfection decide what your “good enough” is and aim for that. A good enough workout would be the minimum effective dose that you’re happy with. For example, a good enough workout for me is a 10-minute workout like this.

  • What is a “good enough” workout for you? What does it look like? Feel like?
  • What about “good enough” nutrition? What does that look like? Feel like?
  • What’s “good enough” sleep?
  • What’s a “good enough” weekend in general?

Stop setting so many food and training rules like your workout has to be 60 minutes and you can’t eat carbs after 6 pm.

Good enough. Not perfection.

Will overeating on the weekends (“bad eating”) ruin progress?

One meal off doesn’t ruin anything just like a perfect meal doesn’t dramatically increase progress. Overeating on the weekends won’t ruin anything but it can slow down your progress if it puts you in a calorie surplus.

Calorie deficit graph

If weight loss is your goal It’s fine to take in more calories over the weekend. As long as you average a calorie deficit for the week.

If it’s not putting you in a calorie surplus for the week what is most likely happening is water retention. After a week of dieting (being in a caloric deficit) you’re depleting muscle glycogen, your stomach is less full, and you’re most likely losing some water weight.

Glycogen is the storage form of glucose and carbohydrates in animals and humans.

Your liver stores roughly 80 to 100 grams of glycogen. Your muscles store around 400-600 grams of glycogen. Each gram of glycogen can store up to 30 grams of water.

So if you have 90 grams of glycogen in your liver that is 270 grams of water. When you add the two together that equals 360 grams.

If you have 600 grams of glycogen in your muscles that is 1,800 grams of water. When you add the two together this is 2,400 grams.
All together that comes out to 2,760 grams.

glycogen and water rentention
Photo credit: Mac Nutrition Uni

When you reduce the number of carbohydrates in your diet the body begins to use the glycogen you have stored as fuel. If you walk regularly or exercise intensely you can burn through these stores pretty fast.

As you can see from the photo, as glycogen begins to get depleted so does some water. And with that, the weight associated with both. Thus, you lose weight from glycogen and water depletion.

During this time there could be some fat loss but ONLY if you were eating in a calorie deficit. If not, you may still have the same body fat but experience weight loss because of the glycogen and water lost.

And to completely beat a dead horse. Fat loss comes down to energy balance. So yes, you can eat carbs or not eat carbs and lose fat.

How do I not binge over the weekends?

If you’re overeating on the weekends and it’s causing shame, guilt, regret, or sadness a simple reflection could help.

  • Are you being too restrictive during the week?
  • Is the calorie deficit too low during the week?
  • Are you nourishing yourself in other ways during the week (self-care, relationships, etc..) weekends tend to be an escape for many of us?

If you notice that this might be the case. Spend a few weeks making small adjustments to create a better relationship with food and your diet

Should weekends be “cheat days?”

Many people eat out or include cheat days on the weekend out of convenience. They’ll eat uber-healthy during the week and let loose a bit over the weekends. The issue is that we’re not very good at estimating how much we’re eating during this time. Often undoing the calorie deficit created during the week.

More importantly, why are you having a cheat day? And please stop calling it a cheat day. It suggests that you’re doing something wrong, and you are not.

Is it because you feel restricted and deprived? If this is the case, you may be eating in a way that doesn’t feel sustainable for you. Could you create more food flexibility and still get results?

An argument that you’ll get for including cheat days/weekends is that it boosts your metabolism.

There is some slowing down of your metabolism as you diet but this doesn’t mean your metabolism is broken. It’s called metabolic adaptation. Smaller people require less energy. So 120-pound version of you might need fewer calories/energy than the 150-pound version.

Cheat days or overfeeding does “boost” your metabolism but that increase is 3-10% over a 24 hour period (1)(2)(3).Most of this is because your body needs to use more energy trying to digest the food. Instead, increase calories to maintenance (and eat some of those off-plan foods to help you)

How to get back on track after overeating on the weekends

If fat loss is your goal you’ll want to reduce dining out as much as possible. This is for a few reasons.

  • Meals out are typically higher in calories than meals we would prepare for ourselves at home
  • Restaurant meals have been shown to be up to 40% higher in calories than what is listed on their menu
  • Sunk cost fallacy. Because we paid for the meal we feel required to eat it all. Even if we’re full and have had enough

But that doesn’t mean you should never eat out. Dining out is a wonderful way to connect with people socially, enjoy good food, and even de-stress.

Dining out or getting takeaway

1). Slowly begin to reduce how often you eat out (1% better mindset).

Don’t you love how we tie these things together? If you’re currently eating at restaurants, fast food places, or ordering Uber Eats 5 times per week, try cutting it back to 4. Then eventually 3. And etc…

2). Check out the menu in advance and choose before you go. 

Most restaurants have their nutritional information online or on the menu when you get there. Look it up and make a choice that makes sense for your goals and calorie needs. This way you won’t have to think about it when you get there.

If the restaurant doesn’t have their info online you can do one of two things. Lookup a similar meal online from another restaurant like it. Or make a simple swap like a salad for the fries,  extra veggies instead of the baked potato, or only water and no calorie-containing beverages

3). Saving some calories for the night out. Or adjusting the next day. 

If you know you’re going to be dining out that night and possibly taking in extra calories. You could intermittently fast that morning (skip breakfast). Have a protein and veggie lunch lower in calories and enjoy your meal out that night. 

If you don’t want to try intermittent fasting, you could adjust your morning and afternoon meals so that they are lower in calories (protein and veggie-focused). Saving some calories for your meal out.

Lastly, you eat normally that day and evening as you go out. Then the next morning intermittent fast or make some small adjustments to your meals to reduce the calories in them.

These simple adjustments should be enough to help balance out any extra calorie intake.

Note: If you’re intermittent fasting as a form of punishment for overeating then this is not the right approach for you. 

4). Make the decision beforehand that you’re not going to worry about it.

And this is ok too. You’re allowed to simply go out and enjoy a meal without making any adjustments. As long as you’re ok with the tradeoffs. Wipe the slate clean and pick right back up at your next meal.


For most of us, weekends are a time to shut it down and unwind from the workweek. Maybe you ate really well Monday thru Friday and feel like you deserve a treat or two. This is entirely ok. Just keep calorie awareness in mind.

Many of the same strategies when eating out can be applied to your weekends. Just to recap what we’ve discussed in this article already. 

  • Define what a successful weekend is for you. What does it include? What are your priorities?
  • Get clear about what your goals are and decide what you’re willing to give up in order to reach them.
  • Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good enough. You don’t have to be perfect with your diet on the weekends. It can be good enough and still help you be successful.

1). The key to eating out and the weekends is to maintain calorie awareness. Get a good idea of how much food and how many calories are coming in. This doesn’t have to be precise – an idea is good enough to create awareness. 

2.) Be mindful of portions. Use your hands to estimate if you need to. Opt for the small over the medium or large or even split it with someone. 

3.) Make simple swaps with meals to make them just a little bit better. 

1% better

4.) Follow any not-so-great meal with a great one. My favorite strategy. Just pick right back off where you left off. 

Final Thoughts Overeating On The Weekends And Taking Back Control Of Your Training.

Let’s wrap this bad boy up.

  1. Define what a successful weekend is for you. What does it include? What are your priorities?
  2. Get clear about what your goals are and decide what you’re willing to give up in order to reach them.
  3. Strive for good enough instead of perfection.

Health and fitness, work, and personal relationships are often viewed as independent of one another.

But they’re not. If you’ve had a rough day at work it can affect you can take that frustration home and take it out on your significant other. If your health is poor and you’re exhausted it can keep you from doing a good job at work or having the energy to play with your kids.

What I’m trying to get at is this. Are there ways that you can build a body you’re proud of without working out and dieting taking over your life? Can you discover ways to combine your health priorities with the other priorities in your life?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment below or to reply back to this email. I read every single one that I get.