Weekend Backsliding?

Weekend RetreatResearchers say Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the most productive days of the week. Monday tends to be “recovery” day from the weekend, and the rest of the week, well, we’re often coasting along waiting for the weekend to arrive, aren’t we? (Ah, the lure of the weekend: the free time, the social activities, special occasions, the chance to kick back…) But is our cherished refuge also our health’s downfall?

A study from the Washington University School of Medicine suggests that the tendency toward weekend backslide on health goals is a common problem. The researchers assembled daily weight, caloric intake, and physical activity data from participants both before and during assigned intervention programs. The participants included a total of 48 men and women, aged 50-60, whose BMI scores ranged from normal to obese.

Initial, “pre-intervention” data showed that participants ate an average of 236 more calories on Saturday than during the week. To top it off, activity levels on Sunday hit a slump. Researchers found the same pattern after assigning year-long weight loss intervention programs, which included a “caloric restriction” group (20% reduction in daily caloric intake) and an “exercise” group (20% increase in daily physical activity). Participants kept food diaries or wore activity monitors throughout the intervention programs. During this period, the caloric restriction group lost weight during the week but only managed to hold steady over the weekends. The exercise group also lost weight during the week but actually gained weight over the average weekend given the higher caloric intake.

Susan Racette, the study’s author, offered this perspective on the findings: “There is less structure on the weekend for a lot of people, and that can wreak havoc. …A little indulgence turns into a big indulgence. Being vigilant on the weekends is really important for people either trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss.”

The study seems timely, given the responses of a few Primal Health Challenge participants (and other readers), who have noted that staying Primal on the weekend is tough. We would agree. As the study author suggests, weekends don’t go by the book. Weekends are, after all, about three hour brunches getting caught up with friends, long days at the beach with the kids, an afternoon of errands and home projects, long naps on the couch, movie theaters, dinners out, hosting guests. They’re packed, spontaneous, free form. And that’s the point of weekends really, don’t you think? A break from the day to day grind.

But we think that “grind” shouldn’t necessarily include a good diet and fitness program. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water! (Can you hear the siren song coming from the kitchen, the concession stand, or the weekend specials menu?) It’s hard to hold onto the regimen when life becomes, well, so unregimented over the weekend. Nonetheless, if you’re committed to sticking to your goals 100% (like the Primal Health Challenge), it’s clear you need to up your resolve on the weekends. Get up in time to make a decent breakfast. Pack your “lunch” the night before if you’ll be on the run all day. Call ahead or check online for restaurant menus to plan any dinners out. Have a hearty salad before heading out to Batman.

And then there’s the other side of the coin. Though the Primal Health Challenge dares us to go for the gold every time, settling into that personal, sustainable level of Primal can mean simply allowing for Sensible Vices on weekends as part of an overall health and wellness scheme. No, it’s not about letting everything go to pot, but it is about letting loose (guilt-free) to enjoy the best weekends life has to offer.

What are the tricks and treats behind your Primal weekends? Best strategies to share? Most frequent temptations?

Oh, and by the way, Happy Thursday, everyone. Back to the regularly scheduled grind… 😉

Johnny Thirkill Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

How Our Eyes Deceive Our Appetites

The Original Sensible Vices

Sensible Vices: Round 2

The Art of Compromise

How to Eat More Chocolate and Drink More Wine Every Day

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10 thoughts on “Weekend Backsliding?”

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  1. I usually plan a morning Saturday hike. That way I still get up early so I don’t mess up my sleep routine. By the time my roommates wake up, I’m back from the hike, ready to see Batman, and I’ve had a good dose of sun and exercise.

    By the way, this study….really? People let loose on weekends? Really? It’s almost as revelatory as that study that proved college kids drink more alcohol than librarians, or the study proving that teenage boys often think about sex.

  2. I really enjoy my Sunday morning buffalo burger on a whole-wheat bun, as well as my evening movie with a big bowl of popcorn. I go grainless the rest of the week, so I figure I can get away with it.

    On the plus side, I don’t slack off on my morning workouts. Actually, I usually get in some extra activity in the way of bike-rides with my husband.

  3. I often fast on either Saturday or Sunday as a way to counter-balance the ‘weekend effect’. Admittedly this is not always practical, but since most of the time for me it’s a Saturday evening meal that represents letting my hair down, if I have fasted until then on Saturday or instead fast until the evening on the following Sunday I feel better about my excesses!

    Pay Now Live Later

  4. My indulgence is to sleep an extra hour then I’ll do a long (1.5-2hr) bike ride on Saturday and my long run 10k max on Sunday. On Saturday I will do chores until noon and most time have a sensible lunch and dinner.

    My family and I had been going out to have Mexican on Friday nights but it proved to inhibit my ability to get rid of the last amount of fat and to get up early on Saturday. It’s a hard battle to be good on the weekends. Having good healthy food around helps.

  5. Luckily, Saturday is one of my most physically demanding days, so I sometimes need MORE calories than on weekdays.

    But on Sunday, my off day, I cut back considerably.

  6. I usually don’t pay as much attention to my diet on weekends. Although I do wish I’d be more active during the weekend. My _current_ gym’s on the other side of town though, right by work, and finding friends to be active on the weekend with is kind of tough, as everyone is working on saturdays and too tired from the week to do anything active on sunday.

    With regards to food though…I follow a quasi intermittent fasting/calorie restriction during the week, so my usual daily caloric counts are at ~1600 during the week. I don’t find that I really negate the effect by upping that up a bit on sat/sun. I’m still making fat-loss and fitness progress I find. Yes it may be not as quick as I’d like to, but I’m also enjoying the weekends more so.
    I still eat clean food. No grains with the exception of maybe a whole wheat croissant or a slice of dark russian rye, and stay away from processed foods. But do usually consume a bit more fruit, and maybe even a touch of honey or some other indulgence occasionally.

    I think it’s all more of a mental challenge and people fall off cause of “laziness” or whatever (such as myself 😉 😉 )

  7. Got to admit I’m rubbish when it comes to the weekends. My problem is that I struggle to get myself out of bed on a Saturday unless I have something specific to get up for and then this messes up my eating and exercise routines. Sunday’s are usually a little better but the weekdays are my best in terms of fitness and exercise because I have a more structured plan of attack.

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