Search IconSearch

How To Stop Overeating on Weekends

6 ways to break the cycle

woman raiding the fridge on the weekend

You’re good about eating healthy during the week, but on the weekends? Well, that’s another story.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

“The week often brings stress and a strict diet mentality. Then the weekend signals relaxation. People often associate eating and food with stress relief,” says registered dietitian Lauren Sullivan, RD.

But she has the antidote to weekend binge eating. Follow her tips for healthy eating all week long.

Why do I eat so much on the weekends?

There are many reasons people eat and drink too much on weekends. And interestingly, Sullivan says that diet culture is often to blame.

“People get so in tune with being regimented about how they eat during the week that it gives them perceived freedom on the weekends to eat whatever the heck they want to,” she says. “Some people call them ‘cheat days.’ Others say, ‘It’s my day off, so I shouldn’t have to think about it.’ It takes the pressure off.”

Six ways to stop weekend overeating

Sullivan says it’s a myth that you have to eat like a bird to maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight. Instead, adopt these six habits to transform into a weekend eating warrior.

1. Just say no to cheat meals

No cheat meals? Say it ’aint so. But before you close your browser window, Sullivan says it’s more about eating consistently than banning certain foods.

“Cheat meals are not good for your body. They can lead to weekend binge eating and overeating, which is not healthy. People who overeat can become physically bloated and feel sick. They can also develop eating disorders,” Sullivan explains. “When you get compulsive about being strict during the week, it sets you up for a free-for-all, which is not healthy for your body or mental state.”

It’s also hard for your body to process too many calories at once. Instead, the body stores them. “So you go from these periods of your body getting what it needs and having a consistent metabolism to storage mode, which is how people gain weight.”

The solution? Have a small treat when you want to throughout the week. Then, you’ll be less likely to go overboard on weekends.

2. Practice mindful eating

Mindful eating means not scarfing your food as fast as possible but, rather, slowing down and enjoying the good vibes that your food gives you.

“Your mouth waters because you smell something that takes you back to your childhood, or you eat something that has a wonderful mouthfeel. Savoring flavors and making an event of eating allows you to recognize fullness and stop eating when your body has had enough,” Sullivan says.

“So have that piece of cheesecake. When you truly enjoy those first few bites, you may find you don’t need to eat the whole thing.”


Mindful eating also means planning ahead. “If you know you’re going to have a more extravagant dinner, maybe have a lighter lunch or increase your activity throughout the day. Or look at the menu before you go to a restaurant to figure out what you want. Being mindful about your choices means getting an extra 300 calories in a day won’t make or break your diet.”

3. Be consistent

When it comes to weight gain, it’s not just what you eat, but how consistently you eat. “People tend to save all their calories for nighttime, so they don’t eat anything throughout the day. Then, by the time dinner rolls around, they’re famished. But the body can’t mindfully eat because it just needs food,” says Sullivan. “You’re so physically hungry that you overeat the food you didn’t allow yourself to eat throughout the day.”

Instead, start your day with a well-balanced breakfast and don’t skip meals. Being consistent gives you more self-control in your food choices and the moment.

4. Start a food journal

Don’t underestimate the power of a visual. “I had a client who gained weight over the last year, and swore they were eating everything the same. When they started logging their food, we saw that they had added a new nighttime snack routine. If you can see it, then you can change it.”

5. Adopt healthy habits

Sullivan recommends incorporating healthy habits into your life. “One study compared parents who drank sugar-laden drinks and those who didn’t. The parents who drank sugary beverages had a much higher incidence of obesity, as did their elementary school-aged kids. And about 70 or 80% of people who have obesity as kids will have obesity in adulthood,” she reports. “One major way to prevent this is to avoid extra calories from sugar.”

A great healthy habit for snacks and meals, Sullivan says, is to include 5 portions of vegetables and/or fruits per day. That can help you feel full on bulky, low-calorie items.

Exercise is another healthy habit that will help. “But don’t do it to burn off the calories you ate. Do it to keep a healthy body.”

6. Slow down

When you eat, your brain and stomach are having a conversation — but it can take a while. “It takes 20 to 25 minutes for your brain to give you that satiety feeling and your stomach to distend. When you eat too quickly, you don’t recognize fullness before you overeat.”

To see this process in action, look no further than Thanksgiving. “People eat a whole plate of food in 10 minutes and then have a second helping because they don’t feel full yet. Then they eat a piece of pie, and suddenly, the food coma hits.”

Ultimately, Sullivan says it’s important to liberate yourself from old-fashioned food rules. There are no “bad” foods, so eat them in moderation when the mood strikes — even on weekdays. Food can be both fuel and fun, and staying consistent with your eating habits throughout the week is key.

Food freedom gives you more choices — and fewer reasons to weekend binge eat. “If you still feel an urgency or compulsion to eat, you may have a binge eating disorder that a behavioral psychologist or doctor could help you with. But often, it’s a matter of setting yourself up to be healthy and not go overboard. Nothing’s off limits if you’re mindful about what you’re doing.”


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

person with burgers and fries on plates over their lap
October 16, 2023/Nutrition
13 Reasons Why People Overeat

Being bored, not getting enough sleep and waiting too long to eat can all contribute

Man watching TV and having a snack
December 26, 2019/Weight Loss
Here’s Why We Overeat in Front of the TV (and How to Stop)

Five tips for breaking your distracted eating habit

Pile of donuts wearing crown
January 22, 2019/Weight Loss
Ruled by Food? 5 Strategies to Break the Cycle of Overeating

A psychologist offers tips for healthier habits

Clock face with utensil hands, indicating fast time, and water bottle pouring in background
July 16, 2024/Nutrition
Dry Fasting: Why You Should Avoid It

This no-water trend increases your risk of dehydration, as well as other issues

Person in an apron, kitchen carrying a loaf of sour dough bread on tray
July 12, 2024/Nutrition
Is Sourdough Bread Healthy for You?

Sourdough can be healthier than some other bread choices — but that doesn’t give it ‘health food’ status

Bowl of horseradish
July 8, 2024/Nutrition
4 Health Benefits of Horseradish

This spicy root helps fight cancer, bacteria and inflammation

An array of meatless foods in different vessels on table
July 5, 2024/Nutrition
Going Vegan 101: A Beginner’s Guide

The meatless, plant-based eating style has countless tasty and healthy options

Happy, smiling child running amidst floating snacks
July 5, 2024/Nutrition
Sugar: How Bad Are Sweets for Your Kids?

Too much added sugar early in life is linked to obesity, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims