The summer is nearly here and that means holidays, special events, camping—pretty much a packed calendar of weekend get-togethers. As fun as they may be, it also throws you off your typical routine and can create some concerns regarding your health and wellness.

Weekend eating has been linked to weight gain and weekday habits lead to weight loss, according to research. Even worse is how this type of on-again, off-again “yo-yo dieting” can affect your body long-term. The constant up and down weight battle increases inflammation in your body, raises stress levels, impacts your gut bacteria, and potentially boosts your risk of heart disease. To avoid this pattern, the first step is to enjoy the weekend without going wild.

That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 5 tips to take with you on your long weekend!

1. Start your day off right

A healthy breakfast is a good start to a successful day, regardless of what is happening later on. One study from 2020 found that eating a large breakfast compared to a large dinner helped to prevent obesity and high blood sugar down the road. The reason is due to diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT), which is how well our metabolism is running and its energy expenditure for digestion, absorption, and the transport of nutrients. “Our results show that a meal eaten for breakfast, regardless of the amount of calories it contains, creates twice as high diet-induced thermogenesis as the same meal consumed for dinner,” states one of the studies authors, Juliane Richter, M.Sc., Ph.D., in an interview. “This finding is significant for all people as it underlines the value of eating enough at breakfast.”

2. Don’t linger near the food

Out of sight, out of mind—right?! That’s actually true, and if you’re standing near the food table then you may find yourself reaching for it without actually feeling hungry. An older study conducted on 40 adult secretaries wanted to determine how the proximity and visibility of food impacted their consumption volume. When it came to visibility, the study put chocolate candies in a bowl that was covered or in a bowl that was clear. Proximity was determined by placing the candies on the desk of the participant or 2 meters away from the desk.

The study results found that individuals ate an average of 2.2 more candies per day when they were visible in the clear bowl and had 1.8 more candies per day when they were sitting directly on their desk compared to being further away. The participants even ended up underestimating how many candies they ate when they were within close proximity, which could indicate mindless eating.

3. Be mindful of alcohol calories

We are often aware of the food that we eat and how calorie-dense they can be. On the other hand, we can overlook the fact that our beverage may be contributing the same amount of calories or even more.

When choosing a cocktail, skip the mixers that are sugar-filled like sodas, juice, and sweet-and-sour mix. Don’t be fooled by tonic water, either. Although the word “water” and the fact that it’s clear can make you believe it’s a healthy option, it can contain almost 32 grams of sugar in 12 ounces. Instead ask for carbonated water, which is still bubbly but lacks all of the sugar. You can boost up the flavor by adding in fresh fruit or a splash of fruit juice—emphasis on splash.

If you’re more into beer and wine, go for the “light” versions of beer compared to their regular counterparts which could save you about 50 calories per 12 ounces. Darker, craft beers will also boost the calories sometimes 2 fold. When it comes to wine, aim to sip on the drier versions such as chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon.

4. Start your meal off with fruits and veggies

All those fruits and vegetables you pile on your plate during the weekday also want to be part of your routine on the weekend. Not only are they easy to pack and store for a weekend getaway, but your body will thank you for staying consistent.

A 2016 study found that flipping between a healthy diet during the week and a diet full of junk food on the weekend is just as harmful as having a diet that always consists of junk food. Although the study was conducted on animals, it was found that their gut microbiome was impacted when given a diet consisting of junk food and a diet that cycled between healthy food and junk food.

“The findings indicate that intermittent exposure to junk food three days a week is sufficient to extensively shift the gut microbiota towards the pattern seen in obese rats consuming the diet continuously,” states the lead author of the study, Margaret Morris, in an interview.

Not to mention, your body will thank you for providing nutrient-dense foods and you’ll likely have more energy, get better sleep, and avoid any gastrointestinal upset.

5. Stay active and get moving every day

This doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to get in an intense workout before every party-packed weekend. Instead, focus on the intentional movement you could get in while still being a part of the events. If you’re at a wedding, hit the dance floor to some of your favorite up-beat songs. Out camping? Browse the area to see if there are any hiking trails you could explore or just take a walk. We often forget that we still can be physically active without being drenched in sweat (although I’ve definitely broken a sweat while dancing at a wedding).

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