Avoid Weekend Weight Gain

How to unwind without undoing your diet.

By Heather Hatfield
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Happy hour after work on Friday. Dinner out at your favorite restaurant on Saturday. A home-cooked feast on Sunday.

Before you know it, a weekend of unwinding can turn into a calorie-fest that undermines a week's worth of healthy eating -- and, come Monday morning, sends the needle on your scale creeping upward.

"Individual eating habits tend to change dramatically over the weekend," says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "You tend to see people consuming more alcoholic beverages and more calorie-dense foods. It's a real easy recipe to gain weight."

But avoiding the weekend weight-gain trap doesn't have to mean your favorite Friday-through-Sunday treats are off-limits, experts say. Below, they offer some tips for enjoying your days off while avoiding the weekend food frenzy.

The Weekend Trap

Research has shown just how much damage weekend overeating can do to our diets.

"There is a large and significant difference in energy intake on the three-day weekend versus the four-day weekday, particularly for young adults," says Barry Popkin, PhD, co-author of a study on weekend weight gain.

The study, published in the August 2003 issue of Obesity Research, found that Americans 19 to 50 years old take in 115 more calories per day on the weekend (defined as Friday through Sunday) than on the other days of the week. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 17,940 extra calories -- or about 5 pounds.