Combating the Weekend Effect
Everybody loves the weekend, right? Everybody, perhaps, except our waistline. Weekends can wreak havoc on our willpower and diet, sending an otherwise consummate calorie counter off the proverbial rails.
Monday Morning Misery
Ask almost anyone logging their weight on a daily basis and you're likely to hear the same sad old saw on weekend weight gain. Whether it's the added difficulty of eating out in social situations, or merely the switch up in weekday routines, many find themselves back to square one Monday morning after two days and three nights of unintended indulgences.
Having personally suffered from the weekend effect, I decided to look back over my Calorie Count weight log and measure the actual impact during one year of weight history (2008). Over this period of time, I actually lost more than 40 pounds by limiting my daily caloric intake using the number suggested with the calorie target tool and increasing my physical activity by taking up running, including training for and completing a half marathon.
In order to determine the weekend effect, I looked at my average daily weight loss or gain for last year, counting Tuesday through Friday as "weekdays" and Saturday through Monday as "weekends", since the weight scale represents a lagging indicator. The results were staggering and confirmed my hunch - on the average weekday I lost about 0.75 lbs, but on the average weekend day I gained nearly 1 lb. Yowza!
Clearly, the weekends were not doing me any favors, despite the fact that I was making every effort to eat healthy and continue my exercise program. All too often, though, I found myself eating out or enjoying a few drinks, surrounded by unhealthy choices and friends or family encouraging me to bust my calorie targets. As much as I tried to stick with my plan, it was nearly impossible to avoid the temptations.
So what can we do to avoid falling into the weekend trap?
Plan, Plan, Plan
Without a doubt, the best way to avoid going overboard on the weekends is to plan your meals and activities well in advance. With a plan in place that you can stick to, you'll be able to avoid the bad choices that are so hard to resist when unprepared. Of course, the hard part is actually sticking to the plan, so make sure you start by setting realistic plans, then either write them down or share them with your friends or family to hold yourself accountable.
For help on eating out, read our advice on making healthy choices at restaurants.
Have a little spare time? Take up a sport or activity that will get your heart rate up and burn a few extra calories - even if it's as simple as enjoying a walk around the neighborhood or organizing some yard games with your family after a big meal.
Take a Cheat Day
It's important to remember that despite the fact that I gained weight on the average weekend day, overall I successfully lost more than 40 lbs. Since it's possible to lose weight over the long run without getting too worked up over the weekends, some think the best bet is to loosen up a bit and take a "cheat day". Of course, even with a cheat day it's essential to maintain some degree of moderation and ensure one day off doesn't lead to two or three (or more).
Above all, remember that weekends are meant to be a time of relaxation and rejuvenation. Whatever strategy you decide to take, make sure you maintain a sense of balance and enjoy your time off.
Do you struggle with weekends? How do you stay on track?