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Getting Back on Track: How to Recover Quickly

By: Melissa Page, MS, RDN, LDN

We’ve all had those Mondays. I’m talking about the ones where we feel heavy, bloated, and maybe a little guilty after indulging in too much high calorie food and beverages over the weekend. And it’s a lot more common this time of the year when the weather is warm and people are socializing more.  The problem isn’t necessarily the overeating, it’s how quickly you recover. Many people take days to get back on track and then, all of a sudden, the weekend is here again. Don’t get stuck in this cycle. Here are some ways to combat this trend and keep working toward your weight loss goals.

1. Stay Hydrated: Don’t immediately rely on caffeine to boost energy. You’re probably a little dehydrated and the caffeine could exacerbate this issue. Drink plenty of water (12-24 fl oz) first thing when you wake up and continue drinking throughout the day to reach a goal of 64 fl oz. Staying hydrated is also important for hunger control. Dehydration can be mistaken for hunger and lead to excess calorie intake. 

2. Don’t Skip Meals:  Many people skip breakfast the day after overeating in an effort to cut calories. Don’t fall victim to this temptation. Having something small with some lean protein and a complex carbohydrate can help control hunger throughout the day and reduce the likelihood of overeating later in the day. Here are some examples of a good recovery breakfast:

a. 6oz of nonfat Greek yogurt + ¼ cup high fiber cereal + ½ cup berries
b. One whole wheat English muffin + 1 Tablespoon all-natural peanut butter + 1 sliced banana
c. 1 boiled egg + 1 slice whole wheat toast + ¼ mashed avocado + ½ cup berries
d. Don’t have breakfast options at home? Grab a ready-to drink protein shake (such as Muscle Milk Light, Pure Protein, or Slim Fast High Protein). This will be much better than a fast food breakfast sandwich. 

3. Buy the Essentials: After a busy weekend, it might seem impossible to find time to get to the grocery store and prepare for healthy meals. The solution? Keep it simple! It might even be necessary to purchase some pre-prepared options to get you through the week. That’s okay! It’s much better to have one or two portion-controlled frozen meals than to eat fast food all week. Here are some essentials to get you started on the right foot.

a. 5-6 nonfat Greek yogurts (sugar <10g)
b. All-natural peanut butter (no-sugar-added)
c. High fiber cereal (Fiber One Original, All Bran, Kashi Go Lean)
d. Low-fat milk or non-dairy milk
e. Low-fat cheese (string cheese, babybel, etc.)
f. Sliced low-fat deli meat (turkey, ham, roast beef)
g. Whole wheat bread or low carb wraps (Joseph’s Oat Bran and Flax tortilla/pita, Fiber One Wraps, etc.
h. Hand fruit (apples, oranges, peaches, etc.)
i. Salad greens
j. Tuna packets (Starkist tuna creations)
k. 2-3 frozen meals (please refer to our frozen meal guidelines handout for more information on appropriate products)

4. Move Your Body:  You might assume that we are recommending exercise to burn-off those extra calories you ate. However, it’s extremely difficult to do this. To burn 1000 calories (approximately the size of restaurant burger and fries) you would need to run for 90 minutes. That’s unrealistic for many people.

Try to move your body in order to increase energy and endorphin production. Exercise has been shown to improve your mental health and mood, which can support a better attitude as you start your week of recovery.

5. Break the Cycle:  Reflect on how you can avoid feeling this way next week. Identify patterns that led to overeating and develop strategies for better dealing with these challenges. Here are some quick tips for getting through social situations without overeating:

a. Plan for challenging meals by bringing extra salad or vegetables to fill-up your plate with low-calorie, filling foods.
b. Decide what you will eat before entering the restaurant or party.  You can look for menus online or ask the party hostess for the menu.
c. Limit alcohol as it reduces inhibitions and adds lots of empty calories to your meal.

6. Ditch the Guilt: It’s easy to feel guilty after over-indulging, but don’t fall into that trap. Guilt perpetuates negative thinking and can delay recovery. Further, ask yourself if there a valid reason to feel guilty? Probably not! Weight loss is a journey that includes bumps in the road. No one is perfect and having lapses is a part of that journey. It’s how quickly you recover and how often the lapses occur that will affect the scale. Don’t let these lapses turn into a full collapse. Stay positive and you’ll learn to deal with these challenges in a much more rational and healthy manner.