Weekenditis And Nighttime Overeating
How to break the all-or-nothing lifestyle cycle.
When snack monsters strike
Are you someone who eats in a reasonable way Monday morning through Friday afternoon? Or from breakfast through dinner?
But when that clock strikes 5 p.m. on Friday, or the kitchen closes down after dinner, you turn into a party animal or snack monster?
By the time the weekend or night is over, you’ve eaten (or drank) way too much, often of the foods you wouldn’t normally choose.
You feel crappy. Guilty. Regretful. Ashamed. Bloated. Maybe angry at yourself.
It might even seem like weekend or night-time eating is so strong, it’s like a recurring disease.
Let’s call it: Weekenditis. (Or, if you like, Eveningitis.)
How to catch Weekenditis
Looking to get a nasty case of Weekenditis (or Eveningitis)?
Here’s how the virus spreads.
- Try to be “perfect”.
Follow strict meal plans and rules to the last teaspoon. Be rigid and restrictive. Don’t be reasonable about this. That’s for weaklings and quitters who like being mediocre.
- If you’re not 100%, you’re 0%. Or -10%.
Small deviations are shameful failures.
- Don’t prepare for anything. Be a victim of circumstance.
If you over-ate or drank too much last Friday, and the 347 Fridays before that… maybe this one will be different. You don’t need a plan; just let life happen to you.
- Trade off good behavior.
Just like in prison or being five years old, you get time off your sentence, bonuses, and freebies for being “good”. “Good” eating sometimes gives you permission to be “bad” other times. And boy, are you gonna be bad.
- Say “Screw it”.
If you overeat, or eat the “wrong” foods, don’t stop eating. Eat more. Let loose.
- Game the system by “cheating”.
A “cheat meal/day” lets you “break the rules”. You get to eat (and/or drink) all the stuff you didn’t permit yourself when you were “being good”.
- Avoid the void.
It’s late at night. Or maybe Sunday afternoon. Or you’re on the long drive home from work.
For a brief time, nobody’s demanding your attention. No boss, no kids, no aging parent. You’re blissfully alone. Exhausted, maybe, but relieved.
Now there’s a big empty space. What do you do with yourself?
You eat. (Or you drink.) That’s what.
OK … the list above is a little facetious.
Let’s look at each of these virulent critters one by one, and talk about solutions.
Infection 1: Perfectionism
Treatment: Be “good enough”.
The decent method you follow consistently is better than the perfect method you quit.
Be reasonable and sane with your food (and alcohol) intake. Include foods you enjoy as often as possible, and eat them mindfully.
Allow yourself to be “good enough”. Because you are good enough.
Instead of “perfect”, try for “just a little bit better”.
Instead of “the best choice”, try for “a wise choice”. Or “a kind and loving choice”.
Infection 2: All-or-nothing thinking
Treatment: Operate along a spectrum of possible options.
All-or-nothing thinking gives you two options: perfect or failure.
In reality, there’s a continuum. What are the “pretty good” or “not too bad” options?
Is there an option that — again — is “just a little bit better”? Or “less worse”?
Instead of overhauling everything, try tiny changes that you can do consistently.
Infection 3: Lack of planning & preparation
Treatment: Learn your patterns, and look ahead.
Think about what’s coming up for you in the next hour, day, and few days.
What can you reasonably anticipate? What are some likely scenarios? Knowing yourself, which are more or less risky situations to be in?
What could you change, or do differently, to affect the outcome? How can you plan for that before it happens?
Walk through your environment, noticing what triggers you to over-eat (or over-drink).
Look at the options to change your surroundings or routine.
For instance, what’s in your pantry? Do all those snack foods absolutely have to be there within easy reach?
Or, what’s your standard Friday night activity? What might happen if you tried something different?
Infection 4: Good-bad trade-offs
Treatment: Come back to your grown-up values, and be compassionate.
Be a wise, kind, and sane adult with yourself. You aren’t “bad”. You don’t need to be “punished” or feel guilty.
*You& choose your life. Take responsibility for that.
Consider cause and effect, as grownups do, and stay true to who you want to be.
Infection 5: The “Screw It” Effect
Treatment: Learn your own physical hunger and fullness cues. Notice when, where, and how you’re likely to say “Screw it!”
Otherwise known as “disinhibition”, the “Screw It Effect” is actually caused by “food rules” that we ultimately want to rebel against.
If you keep trying to follow rigid external rules and prohibitions, you don’t hear your own inner cues and signals.
Instead, pause before you eat. Take a breath.
Notice how you feel physically. Are you hungry? Stressed? Tired?
Slow it down. Check in.
Infection 6: Cheat Day
Treatment: Cultivate an abundance mindset.
For some people, the occasional indulgence is a perfect tactic for helping them stay on track with their normal healthy habits.
For most people, having the mindset of “cheating” means that they’re playing a game with rules, and that game is scarcity and deprivation.
Scarcity makes us feel anxious, needy, and greedy. Deprivation makes us feel panicked, angry, and lost.
So if someone says “I can only have food X on Sunday”, this might just fuel the idea of overeating food X because they know they “can’t” eat X for another six days.
Abundance, on the other hand, allows us to feel calm, satisfied, and fulfilled.
You can know: There’s always enough food. You have enough. You’re OK. You can simply say, “Not right now.”
Infection 7: The void
Treatment: Get out of your head and into your life.
The rush and jangling noise of the busy week/day drowns out quieter things.
Like alone-ness and lack of real connections. Lack of meaning. Lack of purpose.
Reaching for a snack or a glass of wine is better than facing the emptiness, or sadness, or loneliness.
We know. It hurts sometimes. Or just feels like nothing.
The antidote: Do something.
If you’re lonely, reach out. Help others. Find a way to share your kindness and care, and to build relationships that really matter.
If you’re feeling adrift, start chasing a purpose that excites you. It could be a Big Thrilling Project. Or it could be a few minutes of a quiet hobby.
If you find yourself gazing into the void regularly, add meaningful activity to your weekends/evenings.
The activity doesn’t even need to be pleasurable. It might even be uncomfortable, like taking a new class.
Importantly: Don’t just add more quantity. You probably don’t need to be more busy. Or add more noise.
Instead: Add more quality. A few more minutes of something meaningful and soul-filling will go a long way.
Putting it into practice: Making complete, wise, and loving choices
A complete choice is one that understands all the trade-offs, now and in the future.
A wise choice is one that steps back and considers the options.
A loving choice is one that is kind and caring — that tries to take care of you.
If it happens to be a weekend or evening, and you notice yourself drifting towards a familiar story (like “I need to treat myself”), this is a red alert.
Pause. Take a moment. Breathe.
Let your thoughtful and compassionate grownup brain kick in.
Consider all the options and angles. What will you feel now? An hour from now? Tomorrow?
What are you willing to trade, and why?
Then choose (notice that word) accordingly. And consciously. Think through to consequences.
Decide what your “deal” is. What your priorities are, and what you’re willing to trade.
“Right now, I need some stress relief. I feel out of options, so I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream. I know I’ll feel nauseated and guilty afterwards… but I accept these consequences. Right now, getting a break from my feelings is my priority.”
You’re free to eat and drink anything you want.
you choose your behavior.
Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes.
Stuff to think about
Here’s a little thought experiment.
For weekend overeaters: Think back to when you had a weekend of eating that went well. What was different? And how can you do more of that?
For night-time overeaters: Think back to when you had an evening of eating that went well. What was different? And how can you do more of that?