How do our weekends affect our weight loss goals?

Happy Monday! It’s time to get back on track and really work hard towards your weekly goals. Unfortunately, Monday can serve as a day of penance for the week prior. I’m going to walk you through a possible weekly scenario and how it leads to an endless cycle of weekend joyrides and weekday prayer over the scale. Then, we’ll discuss a few strategies to avoid the yo-yo diet cycle!

You’ve food shopped, meal prepped, and planned out your dinners for the week. It’s time you finally get on track with your health goals!

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are easy enough. You’re a little hungry on Wednesday, but that’s to be expected. You’re on a lower-carb diet to try and make up for the pizza, wings, and cake you had all weekend. Still, the hard work seems to be paying off. You’re feeling less bloated and your clothes are fitting a little looser. You may have even lost a pound or two! 

Thursday comes and you’re starting to feel a little run down. You have cut out carbs, eating as little as possible, and trying to stay active. You’ve hit the gym three times this week and taken walks every day at lunch. This time everything is finally clicking!

Now it’s Friday and your family is deciding what to do for the weekend. There’s a food festival in town and a little fair. That’s an obvious yes. You’re so excited for the weekend after a hard and productive week. The hard work is done so it’s time to celebrate!

You start strong with Pizza and drinks with friends from work. It’s a well-earned celebration for your good week. You’ve had salads for lunch every day so a slice of pizza couldn’t hurt. A few drinks go by and you realize how hungry you are. Soon, you’ve finished half a pie. 

Saturday you wake up exhausted. You are feeling a little off from the night before but you need to get moving for the food truck festival. You stop by Starbucks on the way for a pick me up. (Plus, you haven’t had a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino in a while). You’re feeling a little more alive as you pull into the parking lot of the fair. You’re immediately hit with the sweet smell of funnel cake. Your husband points it out and the kids are all in. Okay, why not? You decide to all split the funnel cake and some fried Oreos. It will be good fuel as you spend the day walking around!

You walk around for a few hours and decide to grab subs from one of the food trucks for lunch. It’s drizzled with an aioli that makes it incredibly mouthwatering. You get a large plate of fries and a diet coke. You are stuffed and need some time to digest. You let the kids run on the rides while you and your husband relax.

On the way home your husband asks about dinner. You are far too tired to cook and the kids are jealous of your pizza from the night before. You cave in and order a few large pies with some breadsticks. You are starting to feel the effects of 24 hours of eating everything you’ve been craving. Thus, you limit yourself to two slices and a few breadsticks.

Sunday morning comes and it’s time for family breakfast. It’s a weekly tradition in your household to go down to the local diner. Everyone gets the regular: pancakes with butter and syrup, two eggs scrambled, toast, and bacon. It’s delicious, as always. 

On the way home you stop by for groceries to begin meal prepping. You're full from the weekend and feeling sluggish, so it’s pretty easy to avoid your favorite treats. Instead, you make a b-line to all of the lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. You’re more than ready to get back on track. You go home and spend all day prepping your meals. Your weekly relaxing weekend is over and you get ready to go back to your goals on Monday morning….

Then you wake up Monday and weigh yourself. How is that possible?! You worked hard all week and only ate off-script for 36 hours? Could you really gain that much in a day and a half? Ugh. That’s it. You decide to leave the rice at home. You are going low carb all week to help lose some of that weekend weight. That is until Friday when you can finally gorge yourself on your favorite foods again….

This is a never-ending cycle. You are stuck between periods of over restriction and overconsumption. During over restriction, your calories are far too low. This increases your hunger hormones, lowers your energy, and affects your mood. It can be easy to override this with short-term motivation, but soon enough you will be thinking only about the foods you can’t have. Then, on the weekends you are giving in completely to hyperpalatable foods. These foods are calorically dense and can deliver an incredible amount of calories in a single meal. 

The calories you eat aren’t defined by the day. You can’t offset the calories of 2 bad days because you had 5 good days. Instead, we need to average out calories over the week.

Let’s say your daily caloric intake for weight loss is 1500 calories per day. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday you ate only 1000 calories per day. That’s a daily deficit of 500 calories! Then, on Friday you went out to have drinks and pizza. 4 slices of a cheese pizza can be about 840-1200 calories depending on size. If you had 2 margaritas with that, you can add 500 calories. Therefore, you’ve eaten 1340-1700 calories in a single meal! Presuming you ate breakfast and lunch, you are easily looking at a 2400 calorie day.

Saturday adds up quickly too! One large Pumpkin Frappuccino, though delicious, is 510 calories. A portion of funnel cake and one fried Oreo adds around 360 calories. Your sub is about 500 calories with an additional 180 calories from the delicious aioli. Surprisingly, the fries add another 500 calories to the meal with an additional 100 calories for condiments. The two slices and two breadsticks at night add an extra 890 calories. So, for the day you have consumed an estimated 3,140 calories!
Even your breakfast, which seems relatively lower in calories, adds up to a whopping 1300 calories for the day. If you have a normal lunch and dinner, you can expect to hit at least 2,000 calories on Sunday.

So, even though it was only about 36 hours off-script, you can see how much higher in calories you were. If we average the calories out over the week, your daily consumption was  about 1,650 calories. That means that even with all that sacrifice and hard work during the week, you ended up in a net surplus and gained weight!

Does this mean you need to give up your favorite foods? Absolutely not! It simply means that we have to change the way we approach weekly planning.

  1. Don’t starve yourself. If you messed up on the weekend, that’s okay! Starving yourself immediately puts a timer on your diet. You won’t be able to sustain the super low calories and it will give you a negative mindset of the foods you enjoy. Instead, choose a smaller deficit and try to work your favorite foods in.
  2. Avoid drinking your calories. Would you order the same drink if you knew that it was 500 calories beforehand? Try to stick to sugar-free and lower-calorie drinks so you can have more calories for food!
  3. Choose what you want to eat ahead of time. Look at the nutrition information for restaurants before you go out to eat. Oftentimes they will have a lower calorie option. If the restaurant doesn’t have nutrition information, try to find a similar item at a chain restaurant. It’s much easier to make a healthier choice before you’re starving and enticed by the sights and smells of the restaurant.
  4. Condiments can add hundreds of calories. Condiments might seem like small additions, but they can add a ton of hidden calories! Aiolis and mayos are fat-based and can easily add 100-200 calories. Even ketchup has 20 calories or more per tablespoon. The biggest offender in your weekly routine is syrup. One serving of syrup contains 100 calories! Instead, use a sugar free syrup. They taste delicious, have only 10-20 calories, and are carried by most diners.

Remember, the best diet is one that you can follow long-term. Cutting out your favorite foods completely or eating something you don’t like will only work in the short-term. Instead, we must try to find ways to adapt our calorie intake and needs to our lifestyle. Let’s start today!