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Calorie Count Blog

Combating the Weekend Effect

By Erik on Jun 02, 2009 12:00 PM in Tips & Updates

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!

Damage Control

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.

Stay Active

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.

Your thoughts...

Do you struggle with weekends?  How do you stay on track?


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Weekend days are 1700-1800 calorie days, week days are 1300-1600 calorie days.  On average in a week I'm on target and I'm more active at the weekend anyway.  So I just live with weekends as they are and not worry about it since 6-7lbs a month is dissappearing consistently since February, thanks to help from the food log on this site.

Weekends are harder to control than weekdays, since the food choices tend to be more spontaneous than weekdays when I typically bring a packed lunch.  However, during the week I'm sitting at a desk all day with just a couple of physical activities thrown in, while on the weekend I tend to be more active.  The calories for me usually balance out (eaten vs. burned), so I just try to make the best choices I can on the weekends.

I love the weekends and tend to struggle more suring the week.  On the weekends I am very active.  Always doing some type of work around the house, mowing the lawn, gardening, etc, etc.  With all the activity, it is so easy for me to not think about being hungry or grazing.  However, during the week, I tend to think about my meals more and sitting at my desl all day makes it hard not to snack. 

I would think that weekdays with 2 hrs a day att he gym would be more productive days, but it just doesn't work that way for me Innocent

What throws me off is not being at home.  I still pack my meals to bring with me, but snacking can still become a problem.  Or seeing those homemade cookies sitting right next to me. I've found that I often gain a pound or two on the weekends.

So I've cut out alcohol which ruins my plans in two ways: (1) it is super caloric itself (2) it causes me to slip up and eat, eat, eat!

I'm having much better luck now that I've decided to change my weekend plans.  I'm actually continuing to lose weight during the weekends :)

So if we can just plan in advance and practice willpower, I think we can get the hang of it.

Great post, Eric. You said it all!

Thank you for writing on this topic.  I have lost 12 lbs since Jan 1, 2009 and "struggle" immensely with the last 3-5 lbs.  The weekends I tend to consistently gain .5 to 2 lbs and I have come to learn that most of it is water weight as I noticed much of the food I ate has a high sodium content. 

Now my focus is accepting my weight and improving my body fat %.  As women, I believe we have been taught that the scale is what matters and I am coming to learn that is not my truth any longer.  I feel good that at least 5 out of 7 days I make healthy food choices.  I feel proud of myself that I have maintained workouts at least 3 times a week...sometimes upto 5 since January 2009...I never could do it more than 60 days previously.  I am grateful I am beginning to see definition in my muscles from weight lifting and I am so tired of beating myself up when I "overeat" on the weekend. 

It is a daily choice and I am choosing to shift my negative perceptions back to the positive and in the case of this past weekend's 1 lb weight gain...SO WHAT! :)  Drink water...water...water...and continue to eat well and exercise. 


OMG - lalalacheesejah said it perfect for me too!  I too struggle during the week with constant grazing and snacking.  I tend to have the 3 meals per day schedule in my head AND grazing in-between. 

On weekends I do eat a protein bar and yogurt for breakfast then sometimes not touch or think about food until it is dark.  I am so active that sometimes I haven't sat down the whole day!  Then, usually on Saturday night my hubby and I try to go out to eat and I am still good at my healthy choices.  I do cook on Sundays and try to get creative with a healthy menu for everyone also.

It is my week days that are the worst!  I even try to get to the gym at least 3 times during the week for at least one hour.  This is why I haven't had any weight changes for a few years now - just fluctuating about 3 lbs mostly in the winter with the holidays.



Reading this I want to say "yeah, i just have to plan ahead for weekends and follow it and i'll be fine" because I too gain on weekends, and lose it through the week, but im not losing anything because the next weekend...hello 2 lbs...welcome back.
But then I think realisticly and weekends are when I reward myself. "you did so good all week, you deserve pizza!" and I need to get out of that way of thinking. Monday's basically all I eat is fruits and vegies and have maybe 800 cals max because I feel so guilty for over-rewarding myself. Weekends I'm very social and I have cut  back on alcohol to maybe once a month, but its the 'lets go out for dinner' or 'pizza and movie night' that get me, and its so hard to say no! Heeellpppp

I work most weekends and my co-workers like to bring in chocolate and ice cream that's my down fell.Now that I write my in take down and eating health.I just don't want those things.And yes I have one free day a week.

WOW! I just talked about this in my journal. I do plan ahead I tell everyone about my plan and then something happens. The obsession kicks in and I EAT! Lol. BUT I started hiking on Sunday to make me feel better about Saturday, Monday and Friday I do an extra hour of cardio! sooo I kina try to balance with adding more exercise.

I like the suggestion about having the family do a yard game after a big meal. Imma try that! Thanks.

ugh, this article came to me at the right time. i was just getting depressed about this past weekend. its hard for me because i travel a lot on the weekends and spend time with friends who aren't trying to lose weight so its hard to say no when they want to drink a lot and eat out for every meal. i'm 24 so i'm still in my party years and want to go out and have a good time unfortunately my metabolism doesn't allow for the excessive drinking and eating. i also want to look my best and be in the best shape at 24 because as you get older it gets harder and harder to lose weight.

my problem is drinking. i love to drink and party, but unfortunately i can't drink all that beer and lose weight at the same time. i'm trying to find a drink i like that isn't high in calories that i can consume and not feel guilty the next day. i've been told that vodka and club soda with some lime juice is good. any suggestions??

This article came just at the right time for me too....weekends are the hardest because I usually sleep in pretty late, so I skip breakfast, and then by the time I wake up I'm ravenous because during the week I've eaten breakfast by 7 and a snack by 10....and that makes me want to just grab whatever I can to eat.  And just like cmaxcy, I'm 25 and I love to drink and hang out with friends so that makes it even harder...and I ALWAYS regret my weekend on Mondays.

What I did this past weekend worked really well for me.  Although I think I ate a little more than I should have, I didn't go completely overboard.  Every time it was time to eat (mostly out in restaurants this past weekend) and the burger or chicken fingers on the menu were calling to me, I took a second and stopped, told myself, "just think for a second what you're going to feel like on Monday morning.  Do you want it to have been a successful weekend?  Or do you want to feel bad and have to start your week over and beat yourself up?"   And just taking a few seconds like that to think if it was really worth it or not helped me SO much.

So I wanted to share that with everyone, maybe it will help someone else here too.

The weekends are somewhat of a challenge for me too. It is not so much the social gatherings and going out to eat. It is the fact that I measure,weigh and log my food so diligently Mon-Sat. On Saturday night and Sunday, I take a break from logging but I still watch my portions. I will take a bite of something "bad", but I get back on track by looking at my pre-weight gain pictures so  nicely placed on the refridgerator door!  That helps me a great deal. I also have my list of reasons to get in shape,be healthy and fit right next to my pictures!  This helps. It brings me inspiration whenever I feel like "falling off the wagon"

Yeah! I do struggle with weekends, and i have taken sunday as my "cheat day". Has worked great for me, i've lost about 34 pounds Laughing!!

Totally have this problem. I'm glad it's not "just" me!!

I have the same problem but i got a trick form my one beer for monday morning or for the day after u drink and hav it when you wake up with the hang over......Stay Motivated


ughh weekends are kiler for me.. I love to cook souther home style meals for my nelwy wed husband and my kids. Its almost impossible for me to avoid the tater and gravy...  I am having to learn it is ok IN MODERATION... smaller portions of the fatty stuff and larger of the healthy.. a big glass of water before my meal helps too...  My other issue is having to give up beer... BOOOOO.. its a struggle everyday but i just have to ask myself is a beer worht a pound of unlost weight? NOOO.. a bit extreme but it works for me cause one beer usually leads to one too many...

This was exactly what I needed to hear! I'm sure there are many people out there that really worry about their weekend habits, especially me. Thanks for the post, it was informative and just what I needed!

After reading all the comments to this universal situation, Jewels2484 gave me the best "jolt" with:

"just think for a second what you're going to feel like on Monday morning.  Do you want it to have been a successful weekend?  Or do you want to feel bad and have to start your week over and beat yourself up?"

I actually decided that my weigh-in day is Sunday a.m. and am aiming to lose 20 lbs. and then I will have 20 lbs. to lose to as close to an optimal weight as possible. (It's been over 25 years that I was that weight, though.)

Getting into the habit of consistent logging food and exercise is my present goal.  Good luck to everyone in my boat!!!


Weekends are TOUGH for me as my DH and I are pretty social ... I work hard all week then blow it, then wonder  why I cannot lose faster?


Just yesterday my nutritionist challenged me to one weekday eating only 1500 calories, about 150 less than a normal on track day.  We are going to try to train my brain that eating less is OK - and creating a larger weekday deficit so that I can continue with my weekend enjoyment ..... in moderation!

vodka and diet soda... loooow calories! too bad i hate

It's all about choices, quality and quantity.  I found if I don't eat enough, my body goes into starvation mode and I actually will gain a few ounces over a weeks time.   I enjoyed reading your tips Erik!  Keep em comin!

I didn't know everybody had this problem!  Wow, that's a relief.  I like the idea of looking over my calorie count and seeing how much I lost on weekdays and how much I gained on weekends.  I think that'll provide extra motivation to eat better on weekends.  It's also encouraging to know that even if you do mess up on the weekend you can still lose weight.

The best way to combat this is to follow your regular nutrition plan 6 days a week and eat one or two cheat meals on the day you slack off a bit. People make the mistake of taking an entire cheat day where they binge on favorite foods for the whole day. If you are eating 6 meals on that day, four or five of them should still be healthy.

ha ha my friend calculated my calories JUST from drinks last week, and I found out that I had drank over 2,500 calories in drinks!  Definitely sticking to some rum and diet cokes this weekend. :(

WOW it is amazing to see so many with the same issues, mine are being to social and unable to stay away from a few glasses of wine or a cosmo or two during the weekend, it seems that I have no vices left except for a few drinks that I look forward to and I am not sure I am willing to give that up yet.....for the rest of you keep up the good work, perhaps one day I will get there......

I have a six day a week job- I own my own business so my weekend day times are pretty under control. Evenings in general are always harder for me. During work days I eat breakfast but I tend to sleep in on SUndays and my first meal is lunch. I try to eat some fat and protein at that meal so I feel fuller until dinner time rolls around. Have snack like natural almonds, fruit etc. sitting out helps.

The challenge comes if I eat out with friends. No one pressures me to eat certain things or drink alcohol so that is good. It is just the choice of restaurant or menu that can be problematic. Good news because I live near a seashore resort there are lots of seafood restaurants. Bad news is too many of them cook with tons of fats!

I completely agree with this especially since now that the summer is here and their are more cook outs and social gatherings. I was just thinking about how horrible i did this past weekend and im still beating myself over it but im happy to know im not the only one struggling with this issue. My biggest problem is im the type of person that likes to keep everything on schedule i like to eat my breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner at certain times and i feel on the weekend i wake up later and have so many things i wanna do that i either skip meals and then eat a huge last meal which is really bad, but this weekend i plan to "plan ahead" and take a second and think about how i will feel on monday, rather then acting on impulse. I have lost a total of 15 pounds and have 15 more to go! 

Wow! You are 50% to your goal! Great work! Only look back to see how far you have gone and then turn around to face forward again.

Congratulations and best wishes for continued success.

Thanks for the support! cant wait until i get to my goal but im taking it one day at a time. I look back sometimes and say wow i've come a long way, and that keeps me motivated. Laughing Thank u again sed1949!

This is a real problem when you get close to goal and you're older. I have a very small deficit every day. Blow it on the weekend and I'm just stuck. It really does ruin a week's diligence.

i'm just so tired of dieting by the time the wknd gets here!! I just want to blow it all out of the water! having forums on calorie count really helps.. i can talk all about it and here other people's ups and downs and sometimes I can resist....


I find that my allowing myself SMALL treats during the weekdays, I eliminate the cravings.  My strategy is to eat anything that I want, good or bad, just severely limiting the quantities on the bad stuff so that I stay within my 1200 calorie limit without feeling deprived.  And I try to find good snacks that seem like treats that are actually good for me such as fruit. 

An 'off day' is defo the way to go... You cannot deprive yourself forever!! and if u are really good every other day, then why not just have one day where you can eat what you like, within moderation!

My husband tells me every Monday that I have a perfect maintenace plan. I am almost perfect all week. I lose 1 to 2 pounds and gain it all back by Monday. I haven't really lost anything this year. Today I commit to losing this 65 pounds I need to lose for my health. I will use the strategies I've read about here at this sight.  At least I will be aware of what I'm doing just maintaining. I will remember that when I reach goal.



First off, i hate my co-workers that eat McDonalds and pizza every lunch day and never gain a pound. But, working with this site i have learned to count most calories without even tracking it on paper, and strangely after working at it, most weekends i come to about the same weight, maybe an extra pound from friday (eating 30$ of chinese food with a buddy, lounging on the couch watching fun movies and junk.) Luckily, i find, and obviously it might not be the same for everyone, if you eat that "junky" food on the weekend, monday make a note to eat light. Fruits and vegies, salads, small, and i mean small piece of turkey for dinner, cut out the potatoes for the day and it seems your weight catches up to your B4 weekend weigh in.

Hope that wasnt too confusing.

Keep fighting the good fight against weight, we CAN win this.

I really believe the key is to look at the Weight Loss GRAPH and not so much the daily weigh in.  I have 15 pounds I MUST loose and another 10 that would be nice.  I've given myself a year -till May 2010 - to loose the weight.  Faster is good.  So as long as my GRAPH is trending down, I'm good.  I do find that WHAT I eat on the weekends has almost as much impact as how much.  High salt foods tend to cause water retention which shows up on the scales.

Since our goal is to get to maintenance mode, keeping the big picture in mind and incorporating SMALL treats in our eating helps avoid binging on "forbidden" foods - since there aren't any if you don't "diet" but change your longterm lifestyle.

I have been eating healthy and exersizing since January and have lost 15 lbs . I eat healthy all week because I dont keep any junk food in the house and I usualy pack salads for lunch and keep healthy snacks like nuts at my desk. On the weekends it is alot harder to stay on track because me and my fiance, who is also dieting ( hes lost 30 lbs) like to go out to eat and we also occasionally like to hang out with freinds and have a few beers. Well anyway we both hit a platoue and have not lost any weight the last couple of months. Every weekend we pretty much eat what we want and every Monday we say that we are going to start eating better on Monday and eat healthy all week , and then the weekend comes! and then its back to monday. I think we should just stay home and eat at least semi- healthy allowing a few somewhat healthy snacks, Maybe try out a few new healthy recipes so we dont get board.

Thats the thing, Beer, friends, all that fun stuff leads to aft, how cruel.

Good call Momreine on the looking at the bigger picture, i also follow the "trend" line on this site, as long as it is dropping, its a win. Keep up the good work all.

It's soooo hard when you have friends in town. I mean, what are you supposed to do? I try to be a "good drinker" and stick to vodka and coconut water. But the alcohol makes me crave and binge! The next morning, I feel so guilty and eat only like 700 calories. My nutritionist confirms that is not the way to go. I've had maybe like three "cheat" days in the past month. And those three days have me starting all over again. So frustrating. My goal was to wear a bathing suit comfortably by August. All of a sudden it's June. Where did the time go?

Weekends are a bummer (or maybe a waistline(r))..whatever the problem is, its tough making the right choices when you love those burgers and fries.  I do like the idea of taking a second to think about how one would feel on Monday morning though.  That will stick in my craw when I search the menu for a bite.  Thanks to Sandie45 for that tip.   As always, I'll keep trying...

My downfall is eating out.  I usually order wise choices but restaurant serving sizes are so large that even though the meal is less fat- and calorie-dense it's more than made up for in volume.  In future, I'm going to ask the server to wrap half my meal To-Go BEFORE bringing it out.  Maybe then I won't feel compelled to eat it all at once.

My downfall is definitely my behavior on the weekends.  I'm so much better during the weekday when I'm at work & then busy in the evening.  However, once the weekend hits, I not only have time on my hands, but give into that stomach of mine & sometimes regain nearly all the weight it took me the whole week to loose. I have my meals planned out, but once I sit down for a little TV & quiet time, I give in to a little treat which ends up being much more than just one little treat.

Since it's not a question of having planned meals, it might be more of an issue of planning my time better so I'm away from temptation.  Unfortunately to keep myself away from food, I will probably have to keep myself away from the house & the rest & relaxation that I've been craving all week.  I am finding if I keep busy - long walks for the dog & going out more often, I am too busy to give in to the hunger that consumes my thoughts.  I'll try to keep this busy-ness going through the next weekend & see how it works.

just when i thought i was alone with this issue!!!! tada!!

Well my weekends r totally unpredictable and untimely. when im home alone during the weekdays, my family isnt here so im less destracted, but when there ALL home on the weekend oh lord!!! I normally eat every 2 two thats 6 meals a day. on weekends im out and about, doing laundry, shopping, doing some events at church, i end up eating 3 times a day or once, even making bad eat-out choices. like last week i had to be in the hospital with my cousin, we never left until 10pm and i was starved, so we got chinese, i felt so bad while eating but i wasnt going to be hungry, not anymore.

so here is what i  gonna do, i start working out 6days a week, to help balance my weekends, im going to try starting my day earlier, lessen my meals to 5 instead, no late night dinning grab a yogurt instead.

Weekends are my Calorie Counting Enemy! I go to the gym 5-7 times a week and eat very healthy (during the week :S). I dont go crazy on the weekends, but I do enjoy a few coolers/glasses of's Summer afterall! I wouldnt say I eat unhealthly on the weekend but I make less healthy choices and I usually take a day off from going to the gym but will go for a walk or go rafting. However come Monday morning Ive gained usually about 1-2lbs and spend the rest of the week working it off. So its a vicious cycle! I am leaving for Ireland to visit my family in 3 weeks and to celebrate my 30th birthday but am dissappointed that trying to loose a measly 4lbs is so impossible! Obviously I have to be more strict on the weekends but can anyone offer advise or shed some light as to why I cant reach my target? I started working out and eating healthy two months ago and although I have slightly toned up I feel I am no where near where I should be in regards to my weight and toning.



I'm just a beginner to the whole calorie counting regime and I was worried about the weekends. What I do, and it seems to help, is to make sure I eat lower calorie breakfasts and lunches so that if I'm heading to a BBQ my day isn't a total disaster.

I'm loving the site and all of the helpful tips other calorie counters are providing! Thanks:)


gost139 that was a gerat post about coworkers!

I find on mondays i have a very difficult time adjusting. i want to eat, all i think about is eating all day!!!!! how sad is that. i do eat three meals a day on weekends but during the week i have a shake for lunch and have several little snacks thorugh out the day. since this trend i have lost weight and my husband has lost over 20lbs.

I always gain what I've lost during the week on the weekends, but no more! I'm taking control once and for all Cool

amen amen

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