Relax on your own terms
Start by planning your long weekend to make sure that you spend it the way you like best. If you want to take a break from the frantic pace of life and free yourself from your daily stresses, take a walk in the woods, read a book, listen to music or meet up with friends to catch up on the latest news. This is the perfect time to unwind and recharge your batteries for the coming weeks, so think about the best ways to rebuild your energy reserves.
But keep in mind that, paradoxically, lying on the sofa for days is likely to do you more harm than good. If you have no definite plan and spend the weekend at home, you’re likely to snack to ‘kill time’ and reduce your physical activity to... nothing. Of course, no one is saying that all of a sudden you should go all-out on exercise, but spontaneous physical activity (NEAT) is a great way to relax in tune with your body’s needs.
So, when visiting your friends, try to change body positions frequently so that you don’t sit in one place for hours on end. If you’re staying in town, walk or take a bike to get your morning shopping, instead of driving. This time, at least, you can shop at your leisure. If you decide to take a city break jam-packed with sightseeing, you don’t have to worry. You’re bound to clock up an impressive number of steps and walk dozens of kilometers exploring new places. That’s what it should all be about! Make it your goal to combine the pleasant with the practical😉.
Don’t count every single calorie
You must be wondering how to get through the long May weekend without ditching your diet forever. Well, it is possible, and you can even indulge yourself a bit, as long as you eat and act wisely. According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), the largest study examining the long-term effects of weight loss in the US since 1994, people who are concerned about their body shape tend to plan more rigid dietary restraints for their vacation, but at the same time, they gain more weight than people who do not plan any restraints (Phelan et al., 2008).
How is it possible? This is mostly due to failure to listen to the signals sent by the hunger and satiety center in the brain, which knows best when we should eat something, depending on whether we feel physiological hunger. By counting calories and denying ourselves food, we ignore physiological hunger, which inevitably leads to emotional hunger and, as a result, to binge eating or snacking between meal times.
Sticking to your diet is important. But remember that a well-designed diet allows you some leeway for imperfection. This is confirmed by scientific studies, which show that “people who use flexible dietary restraint are less likely to overeat and have lower BMI than those applying rigid dietary restraint (Westenhoefer et al., 2013).”
Dr. Anna Januszewicz, a psychologist and specialist in mental health dietetics, says that “rigid dietary control is not good for building a healthy relationship with food. People who have their meals strictly according to schedule don’t focus on what their bodies communicate. They fail to ask themselves whether they are hungry or full, or what foods they feel like eating.”*
Put together your fit menu for May’s festivities
What should you do to have a great food experience without deviating too much from your regular diet plan? Choose slightly lighter versions of meals and sweets. Are you planning a barbecue with your friends? Make vegetable salads and skewers with vegetables. Instead of barbecue sausages, which are neither healthy nor nutritious, it may be a good idea to grill fish. Instead of buying heavy, calorie-rich sauces, prepare your own condiments based on natural yogurt and herbs. The same goes for juices. Those that you buy at the store have more fruit on the packaging than in the ingredients list. Make your own juices from freshly squeezed fruit! What about sweets? Celebrate the first days of spring by taking a walk and having ice cream. Try fruit sorbets, which are just as tasty, but have fewer calories.
Remember that it takes all year to accumulate these extra kilos, and one weekend of indulging won’t make the results of your fitness regimen go away for good. Even if your long May weekend menu deviates from your nutrition plan by more than the customary 20 percent, keep in mind that “a brief departure from your diet, even one eating binge, will not result in gain weight but only swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues” – as explained by nutritionist Iwona Wanat**.
We have made use of the following publications:
****Westenhoefer, J., Engel, D., Holst, C., Lorenz, J., Peacock, M., Stubbs, J., i Raats, M. (2013). Cognitive and weight-related correlates of flexible and rigid restrained eating behaviour. Eating Behaviors, 14(1).
*****Phelan, S., Wing, R. R, Raynor, H. A., Dibello, J., Nedeau, K., Peng, W. (2008). Holiday Weight Management by Successful Weight Losers and Normal Weight Individuals. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.