If you feel like you're always dieting but never losing weight, take a closer look at what you eat (and drink) on weekends. Grabbing meals at malls and fast-food stands, going to parties and other social events, or indulging in a little bar food while having a few drinks, are all sure ways to sabotage a diet. On weekends, you're more relaxed, having fun, and not paying full attention to what you eat. Or maybe you're thinking you'll let yourself off the hook, "just this once." But when you're trying to lose weight, these indulgences could be just enough to undo a week's worth of willpower.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are among several who have performed scientific studies to confirm what seems like a no-brainer: People eat more on weekends. After a particularly heavy social weekend of eating and drinking, the result is a slow-down in weight loss, and sometimes even weight gain.

While researching consumer shopping and eating behavior, Dr. J. Jeffrey Inman, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, found that since eating patterns are different on the weekend for many people, the types of foods people eat on weekends is also very different than what they eat during the week. The result, he says, is not only more calories but less nutritional value.

University of North Carolina researchers also found that the average adult consumes between 82 and 115 more calories and eat more fat each day from Friday to Sunday than from Monday to Thursday. They calculated that weekend overeating can result in an average weight gain of 5 pounds a year.

For some people, weekend eating is very much like holiday eating. Everything is different, including your mindset. There is less of a routine to the day, and normal eating patterns are interrupted. So what can you do? The first step is to compare your weekend eating habits to the way you eat during the week.

A food diary is a tool that has proven to help many dieters stay on track. For a full week, including the weekend, carry a small notebook with you wherever you go. For every meal and snack, write down what you eat, how much you eat, and where you eat. You'll soon become more conscious of your daily eating habits and how they change from weekday to weekend. That awareness, along with tricks like carrying a healthy, low-cal snack such as apple slices or sunflower seeds in your purse when you go to the mall, eating a healthy meal before you go out, or bringing a healthy dish to share at a party, can help prevent random or indulgent eating.


Washington University in St. Louis: Weekend Eating Slows Weight Loss

University of Pittsburgh: Pitt Chronicle: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Journal of Obesity (2003) Weekend Eating in the United States (pdf file)

Brigham Young University: Food Diary Instructions