Of all the non-diet but actually-a-diet diets I’ve reviewed over the last few weeks, this one is by far the easiest for me to write about because it’s the one I did for like ten years.
For some people, myself included, this diet means eating “clean” during the week and then basically eating whatever you want over the weekend. Others may choose a few nights every week to incorporate a so-called cheat meal. Either way, these diets are basically the same – eat healthy most of the time and eat whatever you want the rest of the time.
Even though this may seem like a very livable nutrition plan, it’s still based on restrictive rules and thus still a diet.
To illustrate some of the issues with this diet, let me share some of my own experiences:
The Epic Weekend – When I reflect on my years following a weekday/weekend diet, I recognize that there were many times when I way overindulged on the weekends. I’d typically make burgers and fries on Saturday night complete with beer and ice cream. I’d eat past fullness and often wouldn’t sleep well because I was so stuffed. Then come Sunday morning, I’d whip up cinnamon rolls and an omelet even though I was still full from the night before.
I felt like I had to eat all these foods over the weekend, even if I didn’t really want them, and even if I didn’t feel very good after eating them.
I always had this vague fear that if I didn’t have a burger on Saturday night, I’d spend the entire week craving one. Oh yeah, and even though I really enjoy eating vegetables, I’d often feel like I didn’t want to waste my weekend by filling up on veggies.
Who wants a salad with their pizza when they could just eat more pizza? As it turns out, I do.
Because I like salad and I feel way better when I eat a salad and a few slices of pizza than I do when I eat a whole freaking pizza. I was depriving myself of what I really needed to make space for what I thought I wanted.
What’s “Eating Clean” Anyway? – My definition of “clean” foods was never super specific. I generally tried to avoid highly processed foods and added sugars, and I always made sure to incorporate lots of veggies in at lunch and dinner. But I’d often find myself feeling like my weekday foods weren’t healthy enough. I stressed about eating lasagna (made with homemade spinach pasta, tons of peppers and spinach layered in, easy cheese, and chicken sausage) because I thought it was too high in carbs and didn’t have enough veggies.
So then I started making lasagna with thinly sliced zucchini instead of pasta. Which I hated. So I stopped eating lasagna.
I didn’t want to make BBQ chicken even though it was a super easy weeknight meal because I thought the sauce had too much sugar. And I often felt embarrassed when people asked me about my favorite lunch (a wrap with spinach, chicken, blue cheese, apples, and walnuts) because the wrap I used contained lots of gums and fillers. The thing is all these foods are nutritious and delicious. (So cliché, I know). I thoroughly enjoy all these foods and when I allow myself to eat them without guilt or judgement I find that my cravings for pizza, burgers, and ice cream are greatly reduced.
Here’s the thing – since finding Intuitive Eating, my eating style hasn’t changed that much. I still like pizza on Friday’s. I generally eat lighter meals during the week because I don’t want to feel weighed down by a burger while I’m at work. It makes sense to have a routine during the week and less structure on the weekends. The difference is I don’t feel pressure to pound ice cream on Saturday if I don’t want it. Because I can have ice cream any day. And I don’t feel guilty if I have dinner with a friend on Tuesday.
The Weekend/Weekday diet allows for some freedom, but if you’re still bound by lots of food rules you may not be as liberated as you think.