July 07, 2008

Weekends: Whoops!

[By Crabby]

(Image courtesy of someecards.com)

So a new weight loss study came to this not-so-shocking conclusion: Dieters tend to eat a lot more over the weekends, often without even realizing it.

This was just one finding from a study with a bigger goal, to explore the anti-aging effects of calorie restriction. Does calorie restriction provide the amazing benefits for humans that it does for rats? Alas, we may never find out.

"Rats don't have weekends the way people do," complained one of the researchers.

Reading between the lines, it appears that the researchers are having a hard time studying the benefits of calorie restriction in humans, because unlike rats, you can't get humans to actually restrict their calories. They kept eating more over the weekends than they were supposed to.

Rats are easy--they have no access to refrigerators or vending machines or drive-through fast food joints. Unfortunately, pesky ethical guideline make studying humans much harder.

Please just bring me a burger...
(Photo by Justin McPhee)

And if you try to slice humans up when a weight loss study is done to see exactly what happened in their brains and organs? All kinds of fuss!

But while this makes studying the anti-aging aspects of calorie restriction harder, it does provide some "you're not alone" reassurance if you find that weekends are more of a struggle when it comes to eating healthier or trying to restrict your calories.

It's interesting, because theoretically, it could be just the opposite, right? You might think that with more free time and flexibility, people who would be more likely to plan, shop, cook and eat healthy meals.

But apparently that's not the way it works.

I'm of two minds about this: I think it's a shame when people sabotage their hard-won gains during the week without even realizing it--mindlessly making bad choices because "it's the weekend and I worked hard all week." (Those of you who find this sort of thinking sounds vaguely familiar may want to check out the entitlement post).

On the other hand, I'm not a big believer in "go on a diet temporarily" camp. I think any diet or lifestyle change needs to be sustainable for the rest of your freakin' life. Or else you're gonna end up right back where you started a few months after your "diet" is over.

So in my mind, there needs to be some wiggle room for treats and cheats and indulgence. For many people, weekends are a more natural time to get wiggly. But if you're going to take this approach, perhaps it might make sense to still stay conscious and accountable about weekend behavior?

This is of course much easier said than done. But if you find you're doing the black & white, all-or-nothing thing about weekends versus the rest of the week, it may be time to start writing stuff down again.

The researchers also stressed the benefits of advanced planning. "Packing healthy food if you're running errands, eating a little something so you aren't starving when you arrive at a party, even packing a light lunch before going to the kids' ballgames so that you have a choice other than junk food at a concession stand," were some of the suggestions.

Sounds very sensible.

Or, you could just pretend you're a rat and build yourself a big wire cage and lock yourself in!

So what do you folks find: is it harder to watch what you eat on the weekends, or during the week?


  1. Im with ya crabby on the wiggle room.
    and a firm believer that aforementioned wiggling if it is ONLY one weekends isnt necessarily a bad thing----if you eat too clean or restrictive 7 days a week 365 a year your body will become used to that and hold onto the fat like my Toddler to her PostPooPooPotty lollipop!

    I think the treats on the weekends keeps our bodies confused and fat burning.

    that said, it can be hard to keep the treats ONLY to the weekends :

    not that id know a thing about that (sayeth the woman with a dozen red white and blue cupcakes in the friday)


  2. I second Mizfit, wiggle room is what separates a diet from a lifestyle me thinks. Personally, I pretty much always pack my lunches and make sure I do not go anywhere where nasty food will be available hungry. On the weekends, I tend to eat less, because I am usually running around as opposed to having a set schedule, but this is also the time where I give myself some wiggle room: I usually indulge in one really calorie filled item. Be it chocolate molten cake, a big plate of pasta, or well, french fries. I'm not into indulgence mode all weekend, I pick one thing.
    Now that being said, all my best habits have been derailed at some time during pregnancy.

  3. Wiggle room is essential! Weekends are a great time to get together with friends for a drink and some darts, which usually leads to nachos, but why feel overly bad about it? Personally, if I over restrict myself, I'm just setting up for a huge binge on down the road. Occasional treats help keep me sane and happy; I just know when to cut myself off (from the food. not always from the booze).

  4. Ya'll are spot on. I tried for years to lose the 30 pounds that crept up on me in my early 30's--did WW, Jenny Craig, you name it. Couldn't sustain it. Diet plans are too rigid for me.

    I finally got it right by making small changes I could live with. Well, that and building a ton of muscle, which lit a fire under my metabolism. I've sustained the loss by eating what I want, but in smaller portions. I'll order a cheeseburger, eat about half of it, and put it down. It gets easier with practice!

    Sounds simple, but it took seven years to figure it out.

    I lost about a pound a week, sometimes not even that, until it came off. Weekends aren't a challenge, because once it's a habit to not pig out, it stays a habit--no matter what day it is. Funny thing is that eventually, I quit thinking about food all the time, when I used to eat all the way through the weekends and undo all the good I did during the week.

  5. I do find weekends harder. I think it is partially due to not being on any kind of schedule. I'll get busy, skip lunch, wind up starving and in the kitchen looking for the first thing I can find to eat...This usually leads to less than healthy choices. Plus, weekends are more likely to involve social events with lots of food and alcohol.

    It's a fine balance - I do think it's good to allow yourself treats now and then, the challenge is not to go overboard.

  6. Not much to add here beyond what a great idea it is to take your own food with you. It's healthier and cheaper and no standing in line.
    The wiggle room is important for anything. I have to watch certain foods due to intolerances, but I let myself have them sometimes. A world without ice cream? Not bloody likely!

  7. Back when I still had weekends, the last few years that I was working after my father quit driving, before he broke his hip and moved in here, I was likelier to eat badly during the week, because I was on the go from six in the morning until I got back from taking my father home again after supper at my house. I'd take my lunch to work, of course, (allergies demand that) but when I finally got home I'd often have a fourth meal before bedtime, just for the pleasure of eating What I Wanted When I Wanted and not on somebody else's schedule.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky, all weekend all the time

  8. leah? world with no ice cream? we'll freeze hell over in a great big churn...

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  9. I know I need a little wiggle room, but I tend to take it way too far. Hubby and I spend a lot more time together on the weekends and we tend to be each others' excuse for over-indulging. I need to cut back!!!

  10. I have a harder time on the weekends because I tend to have more social events--dinners out, parties, etc.--that are centered around eating. It's so hard to stand and eat crudites when everyone else is having crab dip!

    I don't consciously make the weekends "cheating time"--I do still TRY to eat well no matter what day it is. I'm just much worse at it on days that begin with F or S...

  11. I may be the odd one out, finding weekends easier.

    I find that I'm more tempting by people in my office to eat out and buy treats when they do and am more active on the weekends and plan my meals ahead then, so I'm more on track.

    I guess it's when I'm sent back to my cage that I'm more successful.

  12. Defintely need the wiggle room..I am usually pretty good during the week, but occasionally overdo it on the weekends. That's why the gyms are usually the busiest on Mondays!!

  13. I usually have one "bad" meal a week and it's on the weekend. The rest of the time I eat healthy (except for the occasional chocolate!) so it's all good. Once I have my weekend splurge, I'm satisfied and back to my healthy ways. I see nothing wrong with giving in to a weekend craving as long as you exercise and eat healthy the rest of the time.

  14. I am a weekend eater. Not that I mean to be but I'm def. one of those who feels restricted by eating clean all week and then blows it on Saturdays:( Well, at least I'm not alone!

  15. The Wiggle Room is my favorite room.


  16. I have more trouble on the weekends because that's normally when I eat out (if I do). I generally eat the most unhealthily when eating out, as I eat what I want to (not normally something really bad like fried chicken or something, but I did have steak and eggs for breakfast yesterday (and I'm not talking healthy steak, I'm talking fatty greasiness). I'm all about wiggle-room, but it's only because I work out so much that I can get away with that. I eat plenty of desserts, but on a day-to-day basis I eat "healthy" desserts, like popsicles or low-fat ice cream sandwiches. I second the motion that many people have said that weekends are harder because there's isn't the same routine - at work, I have the routine to drink lots of water and have two low-calorie snacks plus lunch. Then on the weekends, I eat more snacks (or skip them and then get really hungry and eat more), and don't drink water which turns into terrible dehydration.

    I definitely wasn't healthy this weekend for the holiday. I had so many cookies and drinks and fatty things, but as it was a holiday I figured what the hell? One nice thing was that I was eating a cookie (one of many I had that evening), and one girl said to me "whenever I see you you're eating a cookie, how do you do that and look like you do?" This kind of floored me, because while I know I have a good figure because I work out, I've never considered myself "that girl" - the one that people think eats all she wants and still looks thin. And no they're not seeing all the insane exercise I'm doing all the time, but I've never seen myself that way, so it was kind of startling. But it's also probably because I eat healthy most of the time too, and eat all natural, whole grain food that I've cooked myself probably 80% of the time.

  17. The Bag Lady needs to stay out of the Wiggle Room and just wiggle more.....

  18. While weekends are a bit more challenging (why? I work from home, one day is the same as the next!), I find I'm really challenged when I'm only cooking for myself.

    Should be the easiest time. But that "weekend" mentality kicks in of: freedom? laziness? letting loose? Who knows. It comes back in about 2 days. Just like a weekend. And it's often not eating enough, and not eating often enough and not drinking water. It's the not as well.

    Wiggle room - or permission to eat lazy once in a while - is the hallmark of a lifestyle decision as opposed to a temporary action. If I'm "on a diet", no wiggle room. If I'm "making choices for my 40 year plan", both wiggle room and responsibility.

  19. Its harder if I just have too much time on my hands and am bored with lots of food around. Doesn't matter so much what part of the week it is! And MizFit, I like that about keeping our bodies confused. Not a bad idea!

  20. I'm a stay at home mother.

    I don't have weekends. I don't have sick time. I don't get vacations. I am on call all the time, 24/7/365.

    That being said, it's harder to plan and cook when you have two someone's underfoot all weekend. Easier when I can get the daughter involved in some project or other and go cook before the husband gets home from work...

    And weekends have more social activities. But we build that into our planning. For the most part, husband and I save our "flex points" for the weekends so we can do more and be more flexible about eating than we can during the week.

  21. I can handle weekends just fine: it's really a matter of planning, to some extent, the healthy part and assuming that the unhealthy part will happen naturally.

  22. I think a bit of extra *once* on a weekend is OK, but if you go at it all weekend...well It kind of defeats the purpose of being good all week. You need to have a bit of room though...just not get carried away.
    I find it harder when things are not "normal" to keep up on good eating. Last week during house renos all sense of good eating and regular meals went out the window...

  23. Weekends are definitely harder for me to stay on track. I guess, during the week, I run on automatic. I have have a schedule that you can set your clock to. Eat breakfast @ this time, snack @ that time, lunch...you get the point. On the weekends, there is no schedule. Just go with the flow. That can be dangerous when it comes to staying on the healthy track, especially when the boredum induced munchies attack!

  24. I always knew I was assbackwards, but this proves it. I'm much better when I'm home on the weekends. When I'm at work, there are so many land mines -- the vending machines, bagel wednesdays, birthday cake -- that I don't always dodge them.

  25. We have a Zumba class late Sunday afternoon. There's as much wiggle in that room as one guy can take :-)

  26. I've got to come down on the side of not finding weekends more difficult, but that's basically because at least one of those days, I'm also taking a rest day, so need to scale back somewhat on the ol' cal intake to compensate.

  27. as long as i'm still living at home with the parents (so ... for the next few months, at least), wiggle room will be all the time. it's extremely difficult to try to plan foods when the family says, "we're doing this" and you don't want to offend anyone.

    granted, i do the best i can, but it's hard.

  28. Saturdays are hard for me because that's my "date" day with my husband. But I allow for the extra eating by doing a lot of extra exercising.

    Problem solved. :-)

  29. I love the wiggle room - I have to leave the wiggle room. I do have a few toes out the door, but it is hard.

  30. Yes, I think Wiggle Rooms are welcomed additions for many people, as long as they're small, cozy Wiggle Rooms, and we don't stay in them too long. Kind of like a formal room, but this one holds only a soft chair and antique table next to a bay window - with cushions. Gotta have the cushions!

  31. THis is hilarious, Crabby!

    I think those researchers from the university of BORES -- Bleeding Obvious Research Scientists -- have come up with a brainwave: rats don't have weekends!

    Yep -- and guess what else -- rats don't have monthly mood swings, boyfriends who let them down, stressful jobs, temptation at the cookie counter and money to buy with .....

    Yeah rats are completely USELESS for research -- why on earth were we ever using them ?!

  32. It's called the Rat Race for a reason... :) During the week we have the rat routine, eating included. But weekends are usually much less routine.

    In my opinion, a lot of us (aka me sometimes) over-restrict on a regular basis. During the week is when this usually happens because we make restriction a normal part of our routine (again, i'm talking about myself obviously, but i don't think i'm the only one, so i'm just generalizing-- sorry if i offend anyone).

    The over-restriction routine means we are actually NOT eating enough regularly, believe it or not. So when we do have some free/weekend time and allow the wiggle... we might actually finally eat enough... and also too much. My too much eating happens about every 6-8 days, and it sometimes falls on the weekends. Sometimes not. It just ends up being a day where my body must need food more than I realize, but I of course go overboard, like how a lot of people describe their weekends. So this actually isn't necessarily a break from routine, but rather a consequence of the routine itself.

  33. The days where I eat the best are my 12 hour workdays. I bring food to work and that's all I get to eat - there's nothing else and no chance to buy more.

    The days I eat the worst are the ones when I go out and do something fun with my hursbend, because we always end up eating somewhere.

  34. I find it way harder on weekends than during the week. I'm mostly on my own weekdays and can usually keep on track. Weekends - friends visit, neighbours socialize with drinks and hunger strikes at different times and usually packs more of a punch. I gain nearly every time.. even when I think I've done alright. Weekdays are the time to lose for me.

  35. "Rats don't have weekends the way people do," complained one of the researchers.

    Rats don't have to do meal prep either.

    And if that researcher thinks rats don't party, obvs he doesn't get to NYC much.

    It's their world. We just live in it.

  36. I agree with what many of the other commenters have said - during the week, I have a schedule and I'm away from home. To eat healthy I've planned my food and bring it with me (therefore providing myself with limited options). At home, I don't have to worry trying to answer a phone with food in my mouth, or only eating when on break etc. since I don't plan the weekend as well, I don't eat as well. Sucks... but I'm working on it. I'm going back to a food journal as well - even if I only write the names of teh food items, and not the amounts etc., I find I'd really rather not see that I ate three candy bars (it's much easier to forget if it isn't written down).

  37. Crabby (and Merry),

    You have a mention in my blog today.

    Best wishes,

  38. Wiggle room is vitally important. If someone wants to be skinny for the rest of there lives then that means they need to eat right for the rest of there lives which means that they need a diet that they can follow for the rest of there lives, and there arn't many people who can go the rest of there lives without there treats.


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