When it comes to weight loss, every day of the week brings unique opportunities and challenges.
How do you boost your chances for slimming down as some of the biggest eating holidays of the year approach? TODAY asked Isabel Maples, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; and Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of “Read It Before You Eat It.”
Here’s your daily plan:
The beginning of the week is a good day to begin a healthy eating regimen and set goals.
“People view Monday as a day for a fresh start… (it) helps them carry out their healthy intentions for the week,” according to The Monday Campaigns, a non-profit public health initiative.
Put your goals in writing and be specific, Maples advised. Instead of “Lose 10 pounds,” write down what you will actually do this week to do it. Your list could look something like this:
- Four nights this week, I’ll eat a salad before my dinner entrée.
- I’ll pack my lunch for work twice this week: Monday and Wednesday.
- Three days this week, I’ll walk the 3-mile loop around the neighborhood: Monday after work, Tuesday after dinner and Thursday before work.
“It’s OK to start slow, with easy, doable steps, then build momentum to tackle harder habits. You’re working on getting better, not perfect,” Maples advised. Focus on how you will benefit, rather than what you will give up.
Monday is also a good day to step on a scale so that you can see if you gained any weight after the weekend and adjust accordingly, Taub-Dix said.
Some surveys have found this day to be the most stressful of the week because after coasting through Monday, you realize how much work is still ahead before the weekend finally arrives. Be ready for stress eating, when the vending machine, your coworker’s birthday cake or the fast food joint may be particularly tempting — even when you’re not truly hungry.
“If you eat for the wrong reasons, you’ll wear the wrong sizes,” Taub-Dix warned. The strategy here is to plan ahead: Have nourishing, satisfying, portion-control snacks readily available wherever you are. A single serving hummus and baby carrots, individual size cheese or a handful of nuts are good examples.
This might also be a good time to go shopping for those healthy snacks: Tuesdays are some of the least busy days at grocery stores, giving you lots of time to explore fruits, vegetables and grains. Stock your kitchen with the good stuff, and banish the chips and sweets. “Don’t rely on willpower — change your environment instead to set yourself up for success,” Maples said.
Track your progress mid-week, Maples advised. Have you been paying attention to portion sizes, food groups, calories and your activity level? Which behaviors do you need to adjust?
If you feel your healthy eating resolve is going down on hump day, try a simple exercise to be more mindful, Taub-Dix suggested: Take a moment to eat with your eyes closed. Notice the taste, the temperature and the texture of your meal. You’ll eat less when you appreciate more, she said.
Wednesday is also the best day to step on the scale for the most accurate result, research has found.
This may be a particularly good day for a workout. Gyms register some of their lowest attendance towards the end of the week, so you’ll have more machines available and fewer people competing for space.
Need some extra motivation as the weekend nears? Wear your two-piece bathing suit under your clothing, Taub-Dix suggested. “Every time you go to the bathroom, you’re going to see that bathing suit and it might make you re-think visiting the vending machine at 4 p.m.,” she noted.
If you’re planning to go out Friday or Saturday night, trim off a hundred calories from food choices today, tomorrow and the next day, so you have some extra calories to enjoy while eating out, Maples said.
The end of the work week is another good day to step on the scale to track your progress, Taub-Dix said. Record the number on graph paper or in an app to see the trend over time.
Acknowledge the successes of the week and treat yourself with non-food rewards, such as buying a new workout top or taking a relaxing bath, Maples suggested.
Plan for slip ups when you go out to eat, both experts advised. If you tend to eat and drink too much at restaurants, especially when you’re with a large group, look at the eatery’s menu online ahead of time to pick out what you’ll order and stick to it.
Once at the restaurant, pass the bread to the other side of the table out of reach and choose a side salad as an appetizer to start filling up, Maples said. Ask your server for a box as soon as you get your entree because the portion size is always more than you need. Alcohol decreases your defenses, so limit how much you drink, Taub-Dix said.
Keep moving: Physical activity tends to plummet on Sundays, so buck the trend and squeeze in a workout or go for a walk.
Plan your menu choices for next week and cook ahead so that you have healthy meals ready to go. If you grill a big piece of salmon on Sunday, for example, use the leftovers in a salad on Monday, setting you up for another healthy start.
Assess what’s been working and what needs improvement, and expect ups and downs, Maples said.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself: Your goal is progress, not perfection. Are you getting the results you want?” she noted. Remember: Monday is your chance to start all over.
This article was originally published in September 2017.