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Beat the Weekend binge

It’s not just binge drinking we need to worry about. New research reveals we’re also a nation of weekend binge eaters – and that can have disastrous effects on our health and waistlines. Dietitian Juliette Kellow explains

How to Stop Weekend Overeating

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

After a hard week at work, most of us are keen to spend our weekend relaxing and indulging in the things we love – and it seems that food is no exception.

According to research carried out by Unilever, whilst many of us are strict with our diet during the week, at weekends, we completely forget about healthy eating and massively overindulge.

Overeating or Just Relaxing?

The study of more than 11,000 households in the UK revealed that intakes of saturated fat can increase to a staggering 61g for men on a Saturday or Sunday – more than twice the recommended maximum of just 30g a day – thanks to a menu that includes buttered toast, cheese sarnies, sausage rolls, pizza, chips, chocolate, crisps and full-fat milky coffees.

Women were found to be equally as bad. A diet of croissants, buttered jam and toast, pizza, chips, ice cream and cake adds up to provide women with 33g saturated fat on a weekend day, compared to the maximum of 20g they should be sticking to. 

Weekend Binge Eating

No surprises then, that a weekend of bingeing can have disastrous effects on our attempts to lose weight. Indeed, more research published in journal Obesity, found that Saturday is actually the worst enemy for slimmers.

The study followed 48 adults, aged 50-60 years, and found those who followed diet or exercise programmes over a year lost weight more slowly than was expected because they ate more at weekends.

In other words, much of their good work carried out over the week was undone at the weekend through eating considerably more.

Lazy Sunday Afternoons

But it’s not all down to what we eat at the weekend that hinders our weight loss attempts. Lazy Sunday afternoons really do exist according to other research, especially if we’re overweight or obese.

A study published last year in the International Journal of Obesity measured the number of steps taken every day by more than 100 adults.

The study found that overweight people were consistently less active, taking an average of 2,221 fewer steps on a Sunday, when compared to the rest of the week.

In contrast, those adults who were a healthy weight had little variation in the number of steps they took on weekdays and at weekends.

Why Oh Why?

So just why do we end up jeopardising our weight loss attempts at the weekend when we’re so strict about our diet and exercise routine during the week?

As is often the case, it’s usually a combination of things. After being ‘good’ all week, many of us feel we deserve a treat at weekends – and, in many cases, actually plan to have our treats at the weekend.

The problem is, unless we’re really careful, even a few treats can easily provide more calories than we’ve saved during the week.

Calorie Loaded Treats

For example, cutting 500 calories a day during the week, saves a total of 2,500 calories from Monday to Friday.

However, have a chicken korma with pilau rice and naan bread on a Friday night and that’s already 2,000 calories.

Then add a chocolate muffin and latte whilst you’re out shopping on Saturday and that’s another 700 calories – already more than you’ve saved during the week.

If we have a few unplanned treats, many of us end up thinking we’ve ‘blown our diet’, so give up on it and eat whatever we want, regardless of the calorie content

Weekend Sabotage

But whilst we might always ‘start again on Monday’, a weekend of bingeing can easily provide more than enough calories to find ourselves 1lb heavier when we get on the scales at the start of the week.

The result: we spend the whole week struggling to lose a pound, only to instantly put it on again over the weekend – and so ultimately, our weight stays the same.

At weekends, our daily patterns also differ considerably from our week days and this may give us more opportunity for eating and drinking.

Going shopping may mean we stop for lunch or a coffee; watching our children or partners playing sport may leave us heading to the bar or vending machine; and not wanting to cook may result in us ordering in a takeaway.

Sunday Lunch Downfall

In contrast, some of us actually spend more time cooking at weekends or at least sitting around the table together as a family and this means we may make more effort with meals and serve up more courses – for example, Sunday lunch is often the only time we make or buy a pudding.

Plus, if we’re having friends around for dinner, we’re more likely to use ingredients like butter, cream, chocolate and pastry in our cooking – and indulge in drinks and nibbles as well as three courses.

Social Events

Weekends usually involve more social events, too, and many of these include eating and drinking, such as going for dinner or a drink with friends, having the family over for Sunday lunch, going to a party with a buffet or barbecue, going on a family picnic, eating burgers while ten-pin bowling, or munching on popcorn at the movies.

Unsurprisingly, the foods that tend to be available when we’re relaxing or socialising are often high in calories and fat – plus, there tends to be little nutrition information available to enable us to work out just how many calories they contain.

This means we often end up ‘guestimating’ their calorie content – and usually end up considerably underestimating!

How To Stop Weekend Overeating

So just what can we do to make sure we don’t end up undoing all our good work during the week?

If you want to avoid the weekend bringing your diet to a standstill, the golden rule is to make sure you stick to your daily calorie allowance.

However, if you know you like to indulge at the weekend, it makes sense to ‘bank’ some of your calories each day and then ‘withdraw’ them at the weekend.

The easiest way to do this is to have, for example, 200 fewer calories than your daily allowance allows each day from Monday to Friday.

This will leave you with an extra 1,000 calories (200 calories a day x five days = 1,000 calories) to splurge at the weekend.

Use the History Report in the Food Diary which will keep a day to day record of your calorie quota and actual calories consumed managing your calories over a weekly period.

Pay Attention

It’s even more important to pay attention to exactly what you’re eating and the quantity you’re eating at the weekend, especially if you don’t have access to nutrition information – we’re talking takeaways, dinner at friends, popcorn at the movies and that pastry and cappuccino at the coffee shop!

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