July 7, 2014 at 4:55 PM ET
A weekend of barbecues, pool parties and picnics can make Monday even less appealing than usual. Plus, overdoing the alcohol and food wreaks havoc with your body in some potentially serious ways.
Blame enzymes and dehydration for the bulk of your misery. “Your body requires an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase to metabolize alcohol,” says Dr. Pouya Bahrami, internal medicine specialist with HealthCare Partners in Torrance, Calif. If you overwhelm your system with excess alcohol this enzyme can’t keep up, and not all the alcohol is broken down, so it lingers longer. This combined with dehydration causes headaches and other hangover symptoms.
Overeating can be equally toxic. For the most part, binging simply leads to feeling bloated and uncomfortable and maybe triggers heartburn and nausea. Taken to extremes, a high intake of carbs and protein combined (think burgers and chips) can lead to pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, says Bahrami. “It happens quite often, usually with young men…most often after a weekend of barbecues.” Symptoms include severe abdominal pain that shoots around the back. Pancreatitis requires hospitalization, but most people improve within 48 hours in the hospital, says Bahrami. Either way, let’s just not go there.
Short of participating in a hot dog eating contest and binge drinking, typical overeating on a weekend can be undone by returning a semblance of balance to your diet, says Amy Goodson, Dallas Cowboys sports dietitian and co-author of "Swim, Bike, Run—Eat." “Having a big weekend of eating does not mean don't eat the next day, it just means you need to clean it up.” Try these tips to get back on track and feel less awful about yourself:
Drink less during the week or cut out alcohol completely
Drink water with dinner instead of alcohol and be sure to hydrate well throughout the week. Dr. Bahrami recommends drinking two 8-oz glasses of water four times a day to keep well hydrated at all times. Your body could probably use the break from alcohol.
Cut out the extra
Leave a few bites of food on your plate at each meal, says Goodson. “Doing that over the course of three to five meals each day can really add up.” In addition, eat until you are just not hungry, instead of until you are full. Stop eating the last bite of your child's plate, don't lick the spoon of peanut butter, don't put a handful of nuts or cheese in your mouth when cooking, etc. This eliminates hundreds of excess calories and can go towards reversing some of the damage done over the prior weekend.
Cut out all processed food and fast food if your weekend was full of heavy sauces and desserts, says Goodson. Eat complex, high-fiber carbs such as oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes and quinoa instead of refined carbs. The fiber helps you feel full faster and stabilizes blood sugar, making you less likely to overeat. Choose plain, grilled chicken or fish and try eating your veggies steamed or roasted. Add healthy fats like nuts and nut butter, avocado and hummus.
Skip the nighttime snack
Many people don't eat dessert after dinner during the week, but they add a small nighttime snack, says Goodson. “Cut out those 150-to-200 calories and you'll save almost 1,000 calories that week. The extra deficit can help counter balance the weekend damage.” Eat a healthy dinner, drink water and work on your discipline by going to bed without a snack.
Whatever you do, don’t think: “Well, I was already so bad. Might as well take the rest of the week/forever off.”
Rather than focus on the negative or all the things you ate and drank, think about a new start and get back to your workout routine, says Dan Nguyen, fitness behavior expert and creator of AbsIn8.com. “Leave the past in the past. Focus on new momentum to get where you want to go next. One night of eating and drinking what you like doesn't make a habit. What you do every day is what affects your long-term health.” Include some extra time at the gym and don’t skip any workouts this week.
In general, try to live by the 80/20 rule, says Goodson. “Eat for health and performance and your goal 80 percent of the time and 20 percent of the time you can splurge.” But keep in mind this includes two splurge meals and maybe one dessert, not a weekend of total abandon.