Will a Weekend of Bad Eating Ruin Your Diet?

Today, we are talking about weekend weight gain. And if a weekend of bad eating can ruin your diet. If you’re someone who works a day job, you’re a 9-to-5 professional. This is something that I’ve seen as a common pattern.

People tend to have very good discipline with their food during the week, but come the weekend. They feel fatigued and have so much stress from the week. They want to take some time off.

And this usually results in them going off track completely from their diet; from their nutrition. And when the next week resumes, they’re filled with a sense of guilt:

“I spent a weekend doing things which I was not supposed to do.”

Let’s address the issue.

To be honest here, if you think of the weekend as three days of the week. That is three days out of seven days.

And if you completely let go during those three days. You know the answer yourself. It will indeed affect the achievement of your goals.

If it is just for one meal of the week and it happens only once in a while.

Maybe not so much then.

But from what I have generally noticed. When people say that on weekends they go off track. It usually means at least for 2 days they don’t track their food and are not mindful of how they’re eating.

If you’re doing that, it’ll be hard to reach your goals in the time-frame that you wish to achieve them. Look at this infographic:

graphical representation of how a bad weekend can ruin a diet

If you eat under your calorie limit and according to your goals throughout the week.

But go off track during the weekend, the average for the entire week is offset.

So it is not what you eat in one day or what you eat during one meal that makes a difference to your weight loss progress.

It is what you eat on average throughout the week; throughout the month, that overtime leads to changes in your body weight.

One weekend may not make that much of a difference, but if you continue this every single week. And then you also do this for every single holiday that comes up.

These things cumulatively add up to hinder your progress.

There are few ways you can mitigate this from happening.

The most effective would be to plan ahead of time, i.e. you sparing a certain amount of calories for your weekend beforehand.

So that even when you go out and indulge. Even when you go out and have a good time with your friends. It doesn’t throw your progress off track.

The way I like to think of this is in the form of a budget. Say I assigned you a budget for your finances. And I allotted a fixed portion to spend throughout the week.

If you spend all of that during the week itself. When weekend comes around, you won’t be left with sufficient money to spend.

And if you spent despite not having sufficient money. You will go into debt.

We are very cautious when it comes to our finances, but when it comes to the budget for our food intake, we are not so mindful of it.

You must plan ahead. In the sense, you have to understand that:

“If I’m going to be eating more during the weekend. I need to plan the days leading up to that in such a manner that I save some budget saved for those days.”

So when you actually go out and have a good time, you don’t feel guilty afterwards.

A lot of the times people give excuses like, “This is too much work. I don’t want to have to think so much.”

But imagine if I was talking about your finances. Would you think it was too much work to budget your expenses beforehand so you could spend on something you enjoy the next month or week?

It would not. Right?

When it also comes to your food intake, you have to think along similar lines. Because people around you don’t share the same goals as you.

They don’t have goals of looking toned or losing body weight. But if you have those specific goals, you have to make specific arrangements that other people around you are not willing to.

And that means planning a little bit ahead; making the effort to ensure that you don’t go off track just because your friends wanted to go out for dinner, or just because you felt stressed during the week and wanted to take a break.

Plan at the beginning of the week. So that when the weekend comes, it doesn’t have to be a disaster.

Tired of losing and regaining the same weight over and over?

woman wearing sunglasses and a blue dress lying on a rock

Don’t always make your plans centred around food.

When you hang out with friends, everything doesn’t always have to be an eating event. You go out with friends because you enjoy their company.

You cherish the time spent together; the conversations you have. And it doesn’t always have to be centred around eating.

Once in a while, that is perfectly fine.

But if every time you go out with friends it means that you would end up eating a lot. Or eating foods that you don’t want to. It’s going to be conflicting with your goals.

And it will be difficult for you to adapt to the lifestyle you’re aiming towards.

I don’t want to put you in a position where you have to choose between having to hang out with your friends or having to achieve your goals.

Because it doesn’t have to be like that.

If you are someone who is trying to achieve a certain lifestyle and you know that’s good for you. Which is something that even your friends could strive towards.

Then you should be the one taking initiative saying things like:

“Maybe this week we can go for a long walk”

Or

“This week let’s go for a morning hike.”

Or

“This week, let’s go for some other fun activity”, maybe bowling or, laser tag. Anything which is besides eating.

Because eating is not the only fun activity out there. There are so many social activities available these days. You can pick any of them and go have a good time. Without having to indulge in foods you don’t want to eat.

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When the weekend comes around, people tend to also become more sedentary compared to their main week.

When you go to work, you will usually walk for your transportation a bit. Maybe you’ll go to the bus stop. You’ll walk during your lunch break. You would walk around your office.

But when weekend comes around, if you’re someone who has a tendency to be sedentary. You won’t move that often.

It’s in a way, a double whammy.

Because you’re going out; you’re eating with friends. Plus you’re not moving around during the day.

Both of these things combined reduces the likelihood that you will be able to stick to your weight loss action plan.

You’re meant to have high activity levels in order to achieve your weight loss goals. You’re not able to adhere to that.

And you’re meant to be eating lesser calories. You’re not able to adhere to that either.

One way you can prevent this from happening— make conscious effort to increase your activity levels during the weekend.

If you feel that you will go out for a party; you’ll be going to places which serve greasy high-fat food.

Then during the day, make sure you’re moving around enough; that you are doing your steps.

In fact I’d suggest that do a few thousand extra steps; maybe get a cardio session in. That will mitigate the damage that you may incur if you stayed sedentary the entire day. Then went out and indulged.

Think of it from a perspective of energy balance. Because fat gain is ultimately dependent on calories in vs calories out.

If you’re not able to completely control the calories in i.e., how much energy you’re consuming. Then you need to make sure that you’re expending enough energy in the form of moving your body during the day.

This would help.

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Another thing I’ve noticed with people is that they get scared when they wake up the next morning after a day of heavy eating. And see an increase in scale weight.

They wake up and they’re like: “The scale is up by 1kg! I’ve gotten fat overnight.”

You need to realize that the quicker you gain weight, the quicker it usually disappears.

So overnight weight gain would also disappear overnight.

It is not that you gained fat overnight. It is just because you have extra food in your system. And it is also probably because you are retaining extra water.

If you weigh yourself again in two days, you will see that your weight is back to normal. So it is definitely not fat.

You don’t need to worry about that.

Overnight weight gain is not permanent. Permanent weight gain happens very slowly over time. And you would not even notice it.

It is something that happens over months; over years. And suddenly one day you wake up and realise:

“This person that I’m looking at in the mirror. It’s not me. It’s someone else.”

If you also have a tendency to feel that:

“I messed up one meal. I went out with my friends on Saturday afternoon and now my diet is completely off track anyway.

Let me just eat whatever I want for the rest of the Saturday. Then Sunday too, I’ll do whatever I want.

I’ll just reset on Monday.”

This is also something people struggle with.

They think of their weight loss progress as some kind of on-off switch.

“If I’m on, I’ll be completely on.”

Or

“If I’m off, I’ll enjoy and have a good time. And then I will get back on the diet when Monday comes around.”

Instead of thinking of your weight loss in terms of an on-off switch, I suggest thinking of it in terms of a dial that goes from 0 to 100.

100 being max effort.

If you’re not able to adhere to your nutrition, to your exercise routine 100% when the weekend comes through. What you should do instead is dial down your effort to maybe 20-30% and stay there.

When you have more energy; when you have more time once the next week comes around. Dial it back up to where you can sustain it at a higher level.

Instead of thinking of it in terms of the switch-on switch-off approach, try to think of it in terms of a dial approach. This removes the all-or-nothing mindset that a lot of people struggle with.

They’re like:

“I did some damage might as well go all out and I’ll just reset next Monday.”

Try not to do that because if you keep resetting every weekend, you’ll not let yourself build the habits necessary to get long lasting results.

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Don’t use food as reward.

“I have worked so hard during the entire week.

I have been so good with my diet.

I deserve a treat.”

But using food as a reward reinforces all kinds of behaviors that you don’t want to reinforce.

Every time you do something good, you will feel the need to reward yourself with food.

And that is not conducive for your goals. Think of it in this way. If say someone was a recovering alcoholic (maybe this is not the best analogy to use, but let’s roll with it).

And they had a week of sobriety. They did not indulge in alcohol and they were like:

“Now weekend is coming around. I need to treat myself with two drinks because I’ve been so good.”

It doesn’t make sense, right? Because it doesn’t align with their goals.

So instead of rewarding yourself with food, try to make your rewards non-food. Try to make them something else that you enjoy.

Maybe you want to watch a good movie. Maybe you want to do some activity which you have not created time for yourself to do.

Maybe you want to go to that amusement park that you had been planning to. Do things which are not food-centric and don’t use food as reward for being a good person during the week. Or for being on track with your diet.

A good tool for this that I have come across recently is a decision-making framework, which is dependent on your core values.

What are core values?

Core values are fundamental beliefs and principles that guide your behaviour.

list of core values

It’s important for you to understand what your core values are.

What do you value as a person? What are your beliefs? What is important to you?

Is health a core value for you? Are friends, family core values for you?

Are relationships a core value for you?

When it comes to making decisions. When you go out in the weekend and you have this decision to make:

“Should I go out to indulge in this food-based thing, or should I go out for this other activity?”

Ask yourself which of these decisions aligns with your values.

If health is a core value for you, you need to ask yourself:

“Does doing this align with my core value of being healthy? Or does doing this other thing align with it more?”

When you know what your core values are, you’re able to make better decisions in such confusing situations.

Because a lot of the times when we are subjected to such situations. We usually go with the option which makes us feel good at the moment.

We know that going to a nice place, having a great meal would make us feel really good. This is just how our brain rewards circuitry works. We like to get that instant gratification.

But what will actually make us feel good long-term is doing the things which align with our core values.

So if your core value is health, doing things which keep you healthy long-term is what will bring you greater satisfaction. But if you’re not able to see through that. If you’re not able to make good choices. By the time you actually realize this you’d have done things over a long period of time, which didn’t align with your core values.

And it would be too late for you to mend the damage.

In order to avoid that, this exercise is something that I highly recommend.

Go figure out your core values.

And once you figure them out, when you come across situations where you have to make decisions like:

“Should I do this activity?”

“Should I do that?”

“Should I eat this protein rich food? Or should I eat this desert?”

Ask yourself:

“Which of these decisions aligns with my values?” The answer would be different for different people.

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There is no right choice or wrong choice here.

But if you have certain goals. If you have ambitions you want to strive towards, you need to have a proper decision-making framework to guide you.

If you want to reach your goals in terms of your health. It usually requires choosing options which provide a delayed reward.

And the reward often comes after months; after years.

But if you instead pick the short-term reward. That won’t help you get to where you want to be.

Summarising the the whole thing. Weekend weight gain can be of concern if you keep repeating bad habits week after week

One or two days off track from your diet will not do much damage.

But if you keep repeating this pattern over and over every single week, it will take a toll on your health. It will take a toll on your weight loss progress.

And that is why people feel:

“I’m getting stuck in this loop forever. I’m not able to lose weight.”

It’s because you let these slip ups keep happening over and over. Either during the weekend; or on a holiday.

You feel you deserve that break. You deserve that time off.

But when you are trying to make lifestyle changes, there is no time off really.

And there is no time on.

Think of it in terms of a dial and that will take you a long way.

If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.

It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.

If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.

Ajitesh Gogoi is an online fitness coach and the founder of Workday Physique™. His mission is to empower busy executives to achieve their weight loss goals. And transform them into their most confident selves.
Ajitesh Gogoi

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