Beer and pizza

You’ve been so good all week: packing healthy lunches to eat at work, snacking on fruits and vegetables, avoiding sweets, and not eating after 8 pm. And then Friday comes. It’s reward time. It’s been a long week. Hot wings and beer it is. Then Saturday arrives with the promise of a BBQ or a brunch and, of course, Sunday wouldn’t be Sunday without mash potatoes, gravy and a few slices of roast beef.

Now it’s post-Sunday dinner and you’re comatose on the couch with your pants cutting into your waistline.

Sound familiar? Perhaps the foods and the activities are different, but many of us treat the weekend as a chance to cut loose gastronomically.

No problem, you say to yourself. I’ll just eat healthy all week. But the reality of the situation is you could be packing on nearly 10 extra pounds by the end of the year if you eat like this.

According to a recent study from the Washington University School of Medicine, regularly overeating on the weekends can result in significant weight gain. Moreover, your healthy eating all week long doesn’t compensate for all the extra calories you’re consuming on Saturday and Sunday.

In the Washington University study, researchers tracked the food intake, exercise and body weight of 48 adults, aged 50-60, for one year. Prior to the study, the researchers determined that those participating consistently gained weight on weekends.  At the beginning of the study, participants were divided into three groups. Group one reduced their daily calorie intake by 20%, group two increased daily physical activity by 20%, and the control group didn’t change their eating or their exercise habits.

During the one-year study, all three groups consumed significantly more calories on the weekend compared to the weekdays. The calorie-restricted group stopped losing weight on the weekend and the exercise group gained weight. In addition, other research shows that people who maintain their healthy eating throughout the week are 1.5 times more likely to keep off those unwanted pounds.

You might think eating sensibly all the time is impossible. Chances are you’re probably right. Every once and a while it’s fine to indulge—have a slice of chocolate cake, treat yourself to a cheeseburger.

It becomes problematic when the diet ‘cheat’ meal or day stretches into the ‘cheat’ weekend. If you’re indulging all weekend and every weekend that means you’re overeating 29% of the time, and it’s going to show.

Here are a few tips inspired by Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based dietician, to keep you on track with your weekend eating:

  1. Keep Active: Take a walk in the park or head to the gym. Staying active will help you burn extra calories and keep you from feeling sluggish. Watch out for feeling sluggish. It can lead to getting cozy on the couch with a bag of chips!
  2. Eat Breakfast: Start the day with a meal that includes protein and fibre to keep you satisfied until lunch. This will help you control the urge to snack.
  3. Plan Ahead: If you find it challenging to eat regular meals on busy weekends, use a food diary to plan your menu. If you’re going to be out all day long, pack healthy snacks to prevent hunger.
  4. Choose Healthy Restaurants: If you’re dining out with friends or family, choose restaurants that you know have a number of healthy options.
  5. Limit Alcohol: Watch the number of drinks you have. Cutting out two drinks over the weekend will save you around 300 calories. If you’re at a party, try having a glass of sparkling water in between alcoholic beverages. You’ll feel better in the morning too!
  6. Portion Control: If you’re at an event where there is food, make sure you watch your portions when it comes to the high calorie treats. Also load up on foods like salads because they’re healthy and they’ll keep you full.
  7. Avoid the ‘Last Supper’ Mentality: If you blow your diet on the weekend, don’t wait until Monday to get back on track. Start with the next meal or snack. The ‘last supper’ approach – i.e., I’ve already binged, so I may as well enjoy what I want until Monday – makes it more difficult to resume your healthy eating routine.