A Realistic, Two-Part, Labor Day Survival Guide

Ahhh…one of my favorite holiday weekends is right around the corner. Once upon a time I used to go off the rails for 72 hours straight, using the holiday as an excuse to stuff as much food as I could into my mouth (and drinking so much that I felt like shit for a week straight). My mindset was stuck in such a bad pattern that I literally pushed myself into extremely unhealthy behavior around food that often spiraled out of control, and a 3 day weekend was just another excuse for it to manifest. The past 10 or so years however, have looked really different than my early (ok, and maybe mid) twenties because of an entirely different mental outlook and a few little tricks. If anything I just said resonates with you at all, have a read - cheers to hoping this helps. 

PS: The photo above is totally a joke...champagne and kale juice sounds like a terrible combination. ;) 

Part One:  Your Attitude Adjustment

I’ll never stop addressing mindset first when it comes to anything wellness-related, because it’s truly the only part of health that requires genuine discipline. You can to control your actions around food and lifestyle as much as you want and fight your brain for the rest of your life, or you can do the work upstairs and watch as the rest of it naturally falls into place. I won’t make you guess which is both easier and more effective (cough, option two), so step one is adjusting the way you look at a long, potentially food and fun filled weekend. 

Here’s where you’re going to begin:

1. Let Go of the Guilt. 

if your Saturday plans include a Labor Day BBQ and you really want a cheeseburger and a couple beers, do it and enjoy it - three day weekends are meant to be celebrated! That doesn’t mean you have to go off the deep end and dip every bite you take between Friday night and Tuesday in Ranch dressing, but it’s ok to enjoy a holiday weekend and not feel like you’ve done something wrong or “blown it.” A negative association with food will stir up a whole lot of crazy behavior around eating and make an effortlessly healthy life impossible, and guilt just reinforces the idea that you’ve done something wrong. Not to mention that it often triggers more emotional eating, which is compacted further when alcohol is involved (I assume most of you will be doing that too this weekend). 

2. The Diet Does NOT Start Monday (err…Tuesday). 

When you give in to the “Diet Starts Tomorrow” mentally, you know deep inside that deprivation is just around the corner - a major cause of for a free-for-all in the days leading up to Monday (or whatever, Tuesday). This can be a real downfall for weekend warriors: you’re super focused on eating well during the week, but by time the weekend rolls around all hell (or some variation of that) breaks loose. 

I’ve actually encouraged many a client to loosen the reigns a bit during the week so that by the time Friday night comes around they aren’t as fixated on “cheat” meals or tired of the grind. When true balance and moderation (as opposed to strict “rules”) are practiced, it takes the power away from those trigger foods and situations.   

I know it’s easy to take comfort in the idea of “starting clean,” but if you’ve ever done that you probably already know that you’re just stepping onto a merry-go-round. Expect much more on this subject coming soon, but for now try and get comfortable with the idea of balance, and acceptance if you go off the rails a little. 

3. So Ditch the “All of Nothing” Mindset. 

This goes back to the aforementioned, but just because you indulge in brunch with your girlfriends doesn’t mean you need to go on a drive-through crawl for the rest of the day. You aren’t going to begin a diet tomorrow (you’re just not) so you don’t need to squeeze in all the food over the next 12 hours. You also didn’t do anything wrong, so you don’t need to eat because you’re upset. Enjoy the brunch, and have a healthier dinner. Go for a long run in the morning, drink Rose on the patio in the afternoon. You get the gist. 

Got it? Now, on to Numero Dos. 

Part 2: Taking Control of Your Weekend

Now it’s time for some of my favorite long weekend tips - a handful of little things you can do that add up to a big, collective impact on your weekend.

1. Be Proactive. 

If you know you’ve got several BBQ’s or parties this weekend and the food offerings won’t be super nutritious, get online and find a healthy makeover of something(s) you love. There are literally thousands of healthy recipes online that are legit just as delicious as the “real” version- no one will even know the difference. I brought a vegan, sugar-free raspberry cheesecake to a dinner last weekend and even the boys ate it. If you really don’t feel like cooking, march into Whole Foods and pick up some pre-prepared sides that look good to you, or order something from a healthy restaurant - put you own spin on this in whichever way works for your lifestyle.  

2. Make Small Healthy Choices.

Remember that lots of little choices can equal big impact: wrap your burger in lettuce, reach for more grilled veggies than potato chips, cut your wine with soda water (insert the emoji that’s rolling it’s eyes here, but I’m kind of serious), load up on sriracha hummus instead of processed mayo-based dips. This is pretty 101 stuff; you get the idea. 

3. Pick and Choose. 

If there’s something you really, really want that doesn’t exactly score a 10 on the nutrient scale, eat it and enjoy - then reference the section above for everything else.  

4. Schedule Some Stuff. 

Don’t let your weekend spiral into one long party. If you know you’ve got a big night out on Saturday, plan something productive during the day. For example- a long run, a hike with friends, log some beach hours with a good book, or run the errands you’ve been putting off for two weeks. Balance that out with the patio wine and parties.  

5. Focus on some of the other aspects of health.  

In my coaching groups (shout out to FitSquad!), we focus on what we call the 7 Pillars of Health: Water, Sleep, Vitamin D, Meditation or “Me Time,” Connecting with Others, Exercise, and Food…and food is not necessarily the most important of the bunch. We tell our crew that if they know they’re going to come up a little short in one area, to focus on the other Pillars because it’s all interrelated. You can splurge a more little on food from time to time if you’re caught up on sleep, have worked out, are drinking plenty of water and are in a happy place because you’ve just spent a day with your family or closest friends. Do what you can with this list, and focus on the wins.  

6. Cocktail -> water -> cocktail -> water. 

Enough said. 

What do you all have planned this weekend?! Anything fun? (<- This right here is a great example of why I'm so bad at online dating). Let's try a different approach: what's your favorite healthy, make-ahead party recipe? Rose is not an applicable answer!