Dieting? Beware of Weekend Eating!

fat burger

A recent study shows that one of the biggest challenges to weight loss is not the slice of chocolate cake you had with dinner Monday night but how you eat all weekend long.

Although weight is something that most Americans struggle with at this time of the year, it’s really a battle that lasts all year long for many. As a matter of fact, since 1980 the obesity rate has more than doubled, going from about 15 percent from 1976 to 1980 up to 33 percent from 2003 to 2004.

The study had several key findings. It revealed that when people eat more at one meal, they tend to make up for it at the very next meal by eating much less than they normally would. But, the converse is also true. If they didn’t eat very much at one meal, they tended to “reward” themselves by eating more at the next meal. So if they skipped or ate a very light breakfast, they usually had a bigger lunch.

Most people, approximately 84 percent, evaluated and grouped their meals by day rather than by several days or a week. So calories for one meal were compared to another but separated by days. Calories of one day were not compared to other days. It is this mindset, then, that affects weekend calories.

“On average, people ate 37 calories more on the weekends than weekdays, mostly at breakfast. The researches speculate this breakfast bump may be due to people having more time to eat on weekend mornings. Participants who ate more on weekends than weekdays at all three meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — devoured as much as 400 calories more on weekends, a 20-percent increase.”

What was not so shocking about this study was the “revelation” that the largest amount of calories is consumed around holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, since they are centered around food.

But even that increase in calories varied from one group to another. The average increase in one group was 174 calories, but that number jumped to 900 calories in another group of participants. Both groups overate, but that sure is a huge difference.

However, while indulging during the holidays may mess with your caloric intake for a couple of weeks, weekend overeating may be as bad, if not worse, because “there’s a lot more weekends than there are holidays,” according to Jeffrey Inman, a professor of marketing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Inman suggests that rather than counting the 1,800 to 2,500 calories that most people take in within a day, people should instead count between approximately 14,000 and 18,000 calories per week. It’ll be a better gauge to help keeping on track.

The key take away from this study is that calorie counting cannot be limited to one day at a time. It may be healthier to consider a week at a time so that the weekends don’t prove to be detrimental to the efforts of the weekdays. Calories don’t get wiped away at the end of the day; they stick around well after the twenty-four hour period for which we counted them.

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