Go ahead and eat a few French fries or a
couple of bites of chocolate cake – as long as it's the weekend, when diets
tend to fall by the wayside only to be resumed on Monday morning, a new study
"Regardless of who you are, there's a
rhythm to the weight you lose," one of the study's authors, Brian Wansink,
told Reuters Health.
"You're going to weigh the most on
Sunday night and the least on Friday morning," he said. "You don't
want to turn yourself into a glutton over the weekend, but realise that this
seems to happen to almost everybody," said Wansink, who directs Cornell
University's Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, New York.
Most likely formula
He and a team of researchers studied
Finnish men and women and found that weekday compensation for weekend weight
gain proved the most likely formula for long-term weight loss, they wrote in
the journal Obesity Facts.
The researchers analysed up to 10 months'
worth of self-recorded daily weights from 80 adults between the ages of 25 and
62. Participants were separated into three groups: losers, who dropped more than
3 percent of their weight; gainers, who put on more than 1%; and maintainers.
Overall, 18 people lost weight during the
study period, 10 were classified as gainers and 52 maintained their weight.
Read: The fast diet
Those in the weight-loss group showed a
clear rhythm of putting on pounds over the weekend and slimming down during the
Though the day of the week predicted weight in
all three groups, the pattern in the weight-loss group was more consistent than
the patterns among people who gained weight or maintained their weight."It
appears that long-term habits make more of a difference than short-term
splurges," the authors conclude.
Wansink's advice to those trying to shed
pounds: "Worry less about the weekends, and focus on the weekdays because
that's when weight loss occurs.
"Just start minding your business on Monday
morning." Nutritionist Susan Racette also believes that planned indulgences
may help some dieters. "It can be motivating if they feel this is actually
an allowance, and it can help them stay on track," she told Reuters
Racette, from the Washington University
School of Medicine in St. Louis, was not involved in the current study but was
the lead author of a 2008 study that found a similar pattern of weekend weight
gains followed by weekday drops.
Read: The slimming diet
Indulging over the weekend
The new study is "just more evidence
that people do fluctuate in their day-to-day intake, and that's normal in our
society," she said.
Dieters who stray from their regimens may
beat themselves up or feel guilty and then find it challenging to return to their
weight-loss programs, Racette and Wansink both said. "We can speculate that
there might even be a psychological benefit in indulging a little more over the
weekend in that it makes your self control on the weekdays a lot easier to
handle," Wansink said.
Weekend splurges "may be better for
people psychologically, and it may help them the rest of the week,"
"The key is there are different
strategies that work for different people, and there's no one strategy that's
going to work for everyone," she said. "But this can be a strategy
that can certainly help people."
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