Weight Loss Stalls: Are Weekends to Blame?

By Mike Howard

If you’re finding your weight loss efforts are stalling, don’t take weekends off your diet. According to a new study out of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, weekend eating patterns could be a key reason for sluggish weight loss.

This is the first study to carefully monitor daily body weight, calorie intake and calorie expenditure for several weeks throughout a year, and to demonstrate that increased caloric intake is a problem on most weekends.
48 normal weight and overweight (but not obese) participants between the ages of 50 and 60 took part. Here are some of the details of the study and the authors’ conclusions;

Participants were broken into 3 Groups:

  1. Lowered daily caloric intake by 20%
  2. Increased physical activity by 20%
  3. Changed neither diet or exercise

Here are some of the study’s findings and observations:

  • Rats don’t have weekends the way people do” says Susan B. Racette, lead author of the study. “On weekends, human lifestyle patterns can be very different. People have social events, parties to attend, and if they have children who play sports, they might be at fields all day long, relying on concession stands for food.
  • Racette says people in the study didn’t always realize they were eating significantly more food on weekends.
  • She also noted that the findings were consistent amongst the 3 groups and that it was surprising how dramatic the impact of weekends were on the progress of the participants.
  • Saturdays seemed to be the worst day

What we can learn from this?

Weekends tend to provide all kinds of opportunities for overindulging. Whether it’s social gatherings, less structure or a more “relaxed” attitude – it’s an easy trap to fall into. Here are some way in which we can help avert a dieting pitfall on the weekends.

  1. Be prepared: Preparation is absolutely crucial. It’s so easy to go out for a few hours and all of the sudden getting the munchies. Bring some portable snacks with you on outings to help keep those munchies in check.
  2. Be a weekend warrior: Plan at least 1 active endeavor on the weekend. Take a couple of hours and go for a walk, hike, bike or play a sport. Doing prolonged activity will help take the focus off eating. Just be sure to pack snacks along with water.
  3. Keep a food log diary: This has been mentioned several times on this blog and is generally an excellent idea for many reasons – one of which may be to determine if you are overdoing it on weekends.
  4. Grocery shop close to or on weekends: Not an absolute necessity but from experience, we tend to run out of food by the weekend if we shop on Sundays or towards the beginning of the week. This can lead to “what the heck, let’s just go out”.

So if you find your fat loss efforts are stalling, it may be time to evaluate your weekend eating habits.


  1. Charles

    I often call gaining weight on the weekends yo-yo progress.

    A lot of people lose weight during the week when they are working, but they totally sabotage themselves on the weekend.

    I have found that if people have at least one really good weekend day then it’s not so bad. But 2 bad weekend days makes it really difficult to lose significant amounts of weight.

    I sometimes teach seminars on the weekends and this really helps me keep my weight in check because I don’t eat out of boredom on the weekends.

  2. Gary Winnick

    Mostly problem with diets is that if you’re starting anything that you can’t stick to for longer than 7 days, you’re shooting yourself right in the foot. It is very hygienic for health

  3. cari

    Well the whole problem with diets is that if you’re starting anything that you can’t stick to for longer than 5 days, you’re shooting yourself right in the foot.

  4. Claire Richards

    I just had a look at this and think it offers a different way of tackling bad food habits.

  5. BeautiFitt

    We should blame ourselves for having misconception about the food we eat…

  6. junjitai

    yes, I think weekends are hard to get by and keep up a diet. But it depends…weekdays could be just as hard and weekends easy..I suppose it depends on which lifestyle is adjusted to a consistent eating plan. I think people who tend to have ups and downs are more vulnerable. My husband gained a huge amount of weight just after we married. Afetr 10 years of being overweight we got divorced and he lost a huge amount of weight and remarried. Now he is gaining weight again. Maybe he thinks the weight has to do with external factors rather than internal. I wonder if his new marriage will last.

  7. Nat

    Agreed. Weekends seem to be a time to spoil yourself and the healthy diet goes out the window. There always seems to be limited healthy choices on the snack table at social gatherings.

  8. John's Weight Loss Blog

    I can relate to this – I do my weekly weigh in and recording on Sunday morning and I find it hard to stay good on Sunday, meaning I head into the week on a bad momentum.

  9. Spectra

    I don’t usually eat differently on the weekends, but I do take a day off from working out to give myself a rest. Sometimes I drink more on the weekend than during the week, but I account for it and figure it into my calorie total. As long as you are eating roughly the same number of total calories per week, it probably doesn’t matter which day you eat them. I’ve heard that a lot of people who do WW “cycle” their points so that they eat say, 18 points one day and 24 the next to keep their body guessing. I personally didn’t vary my points by that much, but I’ve heard that people who do it usually have pretty good success with it.

  10. Yongho Shin

    I think people are distracted from eating more often during the weekdays because of work or commute, so they have fewer chances of eating. On the weekends, we have more time and thus more time to be around food.

  11. Fat Butt No More

    It’s not just the weekend that could wreck havoc on your diet but the lack of knowledge about calories.

    You may consume some bad calories with out suffering a loss for it by knowing the amount (doesn’t have to be exact) of calories you are intaking.

    If you deny yourself junk food you risk a binge you will regret.

    If you have yourself on 2000 calories a day and you know that piece of cake is 400 and the ice cream was 300, then you only have 1300 left to play with.

    If you want to eat your 2000 plus the cake and ice cream then you need an activity that will burn up to 700 off. You have choices but stick to them with knowledge or you will get stuck with the big bellys and fat thighs.

  12. Giyen

    I agree that being prepared is critical. When I don’t plan meals, I end up eating processed food. Also, when I document my caloric intake, it makes a huge difference.


  13. Quito

    All great comments…. I understand the gag reaction from miss, and larry’s got a great point. but, there’s a lot of struggling people out there who need this kind of result. they don’t run like heather, they’re just trying to get a grip.

    I think that the best point is 3: keep a food diary. Point 2: be a weekend warrior, is okay, but I know a lot of people who could be better served exercising SOME during the week rather packing it all in the weekend…

  14. Larry

    I hate the word “diet” this is indicative of something you are on or off. We should NEVER be dieting but eating like we would if we were at our goal weight and maintaining. With that in mind weekends should be not much differetn from weekdays unless of course you add extra activities that burn more calories. Calories in vs calories out. That’s the bottom line in my humble oppinion.

  15. Heather

    For me, weekends are a chance to be more active than during the week…. Long runs or races, etc.

    I think that probably compensates for a diet not as perfect.
    Weekends certainly do have more going out– and less wanting to be tied at home to a certain plan or diet.

  16. Lose weight for life

    That being said many people feel so bad after binging they totally drop the bundle and is the start of the end. one bad day a week will not stop you from losing weight for the week if your other days have been good.

  17. miss

    Yes, HAVING SAID THAT, it is like Alli sai:
    “I’ve heard nutritionists suggest that “zig-zagging” calorie intake up and down can st”op your body getting too used to a low calorie diet.”
    Exactly. That doesn’t mean go hog wild, but it keeps your body from getting too used to the lower cals, and in turn halting weight loss.
    I really dont want to read one more single study. From anyone.

  18. Ali from The Office Diet

    I actually advocate eating a bit more at the weekends, on The Office Diet — it helps to make dieting more bearable, and I’ve heard nutritionists suggest that “zig-zagging” calorie intake up and down can stop your body getting too used to a low calorie diet.

    I completely agree, though, that it’s important to be aware of exactly how much you are eating at the weekend — it’s not an excuse to “forget” about the diet!

  19. Danielle

    I can definitely relate to that.. There were more times than I care to count when I was trying to lose weight and would do great during the week and treat the weekend as a free for all (and sabotage my diet in the process). It wasn’t until I stopped viewing the weekend as an excuse to go crazy and acknowledged that I wouldn’t lose weight if I stayed on that path that I actually started losing for good.