You work so hard during the week. You are committed, diligent and focused on achieving your diet and lifestyle goals. Then the weekend comes along, and things seem to fall apart. This is a common frustration I hear from my clients. Sound familiar?
During the week, we tend to have a more defined routine that helps support our ability to make choices consistent with our diet and lifestyle goals. There are more structured times for meals and snacks. We have more of a routine when we eat, exercise and sleep. Because of this structure, there is less freedom to just eat and chill out when we feel like it.
Another significant different between weekdays versus weekends is the change in our diet and lifestyle behaviours. You may:
Before we delve into some strategies and tips for maintaining your diet and lifestyle progress over the weekend, let’s have a look at weekends and your body’s weight rhythms.
Days of the week are known to influence our eating and activity habits as are our sleeping patterns (1).
A recent study of 80 men and women in their forties examined how weight changed across the days of the week, and whether this pattern differed among those who maintained their weight, gained weight or lost weight (1). They had some interesting findings:
This study found that, weight fluctuates throughout the week, with weight being higher during weekends and lower on weekdays. Just like we have circadian rhythms, our bodies have weight patterns that fluctuate over the course of the week, likely resulting from environmental and behavioural differences.
The authors of this small study noted that fluctuations in our weight between weekdays and weekends should be considered normal, instead of being viewed as “weight gain” (1). They go on to say that weight maintenance and weight loss can still be achieved despite these slight increases in weight during weekends. It is the overall pattern of weight over time that matters most. Part of the ability to manage weight is being able to turn down an upward weight gain observed during the weekend over the course of the following week.
The study authors comment that having a “flexible” eating patterns allows people to enjoy all foods and to adjust their eating throughout the week are more likely to be sustained long-term compared to an all-or-nothing, allowed/forbidden foods approach (1). This more flexible approach prevents boredom, monotony and may contribute to supporting long-term successful weight management. Indeed, it is the long-term habits that make a difference than the odd splurge seen in the short term.
Another study looking at the behaviours of people who have lost a significant amount of weight (30+ pounds) and have maintained that weight loss (at least one year) found that people who had a more consistent pattern of eating over the week were more likely to maintain their weight within 5 pounds over the year than people who dieted more strictly on the weekdays (2).
When I think about diet and lifestyle, I imagine driving along a highway. The highway is represented by healthful, longer-term eating patterns. We want to spend most of our time here, while the shoulders are the 20% of the “soul food” you enjoy. The ditches are less healthful eating patterns such as dieting, restriction, over-eating and binges. We don’t want to spend much time here. If you were to drive along this highway, your drive would be smoother if you stayed mostly on the highway (~80% of the time) and shoulders (~20% of the time) rather than veering off into the ditches, only to screech back to the highway.
You can have your cake and eat it too, as long as it’s the exception and not the rule.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog post for tips to help you maintain your diet and lifestyle progress over the weekend.