August 3, 2020

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.”

Related Articles

overhead photograph of open and empty energy drinks
February 19, 2024
Are Energy Drinks Bad for You?

Regularly drinking these sugar-fueled, stimulant-laden beverages can increase your risk of adverse health effects

Pouring a homemade spinach and banana smoothie into a glass
February 16, 2024
7 Reasons You Should Eat More Spinach

Vitamin-packed and antioxidant-rich, spinach can benefit your brain, eyes, blood and more

Older couple eating lunch on outdoor patio
February 15, 2024
Calories and Aging: Cutting Back Can Slow Age’s Creep

Calorie reduction can do more than just help you lose weight — it can also lower age-related inflammation

Various cuts of red meat displayed
February 14, 2024
Is Red Meat Bad for You?

It has nutrients your body needs, but it also comes with some serious health risks

A roasted pork chop on a mound of vegetables with sauce, displayed in a white bowl
February 12, 2024
Is Pork Red or White Meat? And Is It Healthy?

Despite what you may have heard, pork is actually red meat (and it comes with the same risks as other red meats)

Flaxseed sprinkled on a salad in a white bowl on a dark wooden table
January 31, 2024
Flaxseed: A Little Seed With Big Health Benefits

Ground flaxseed is full of heart-healthy omega-3s, antioxidants and fiber, and easy to add to just about any recipe

smoothie with acheta protein powder in scoop
January 24, 2024
What Is Acheta Protein? What To Know About Eating Crickets

This edible insect powder can be a good source of protein, fiber and other nutrients

Four pieces of cooked chicken in an air fryer
January 22, 2024
Are Air Fryers Healthy?

The popular cooking method can help you cut down on fat without losing the flavor and texture of your favorite foods

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery