For those following a strict diet to lose weight, a new study proposes that there may just be merit in the idea of a weekend cheat meal in loosening the bonds of food self-control.
Making concerted dietary changes and having them stick long term to help with weight loss is tough. Just how many people fall off their best intentioned diet plans is testament to this. We only have enough willpower to force dietary changes upon ourselves and one day that firm resolve will fail. Enter the idea that having a cheat meal day or weekend may lessen the feelings of self-deprivation when following a strict diet.
Researchers from the United States examined the idea that because our lives follow a weekly rhythm where weekdays are normally very different to weekends, there may be merit in having our eating habits follow a similar pattern as well.
Looking at the self-recorded daily weights over a 10-month period of 80 adults, a clear pattern of weight fluctuation was seen. The highest weights were seen on Sunday and Monday with weight gradually decreasing through the week before a spike back up again on Saturday.
The results became even more interesting when the people were split into three groups: those that lost more than 3 percent of their body weight, those that maintained their weight, and people who gained more than 1 percent of their body weight.
The weekly weight fluctuation of people who lost weight showed a clear rhythm of weight gain over the weekend contrasted against weight loss over weekdays. This weekly weight rhythm pattern was much less obvious in the other two groups.
What it all means
This was only a small-scale observational study though the finding of weekly weight variation was not that novel. The really interesting observation was how those that were successful in losing weight showed a much stronger weekday-weekend weight variation, which likely means they were nowhere near as strict in their weekend eating habits. A weekend splurge or ‘cheat meal’ should not be seen as a dieting disaster or something a person should beat themselves up about. If anything, a cheat weekend may be a positive weight-loss behaviour.