Eating strategies to combat the weekend effect

The Weekend effect: Strategies to change your Eating Habits

Happy hour to close out the work week, followed by date night at your favorite restaurant on Saturday, then a large gathering and a large spread of game day spread on Sunday.  The unwinding effect of the weekend accrues enough extra calories to move that number up on the scale come monday. 

An August 2003 study published in 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. This trend followed consistently over the course of a year adds up to 17,940 extra calories -- or about 5 pounds.  News flash: That 115-calorie-a-day difference is not coming from healthy food choices, it comes mostly from an increased consumption of alcohol and fat.

Last week we discussed ways to move (not necessarily exercise) in order to increase our calorie expenditure. This week we’ll spend some time focusing on small changes that will make a big difference in the caloric total of your weekend consumption.

Use this list as suggestions of strategies to try, this list is not meant to be something where you adopt ALL of the strategies.  The one that reduces the amount of calories you consume overall throughout the weekend is the only one you need! 


  1. Don’t skip breakfast. - Believe it or not, waking up late and waiting until you’re out to lunch for your first meal will actually cause you to eat more throughout the day compared to starting your day with a healthy breakfast! 

  2. Have a healthy snack or appetizer at home before you head out for dinner at a restaurant.  (I do this all the time!)  Restaurant meals are notoriously high in calories, so an appetizer vs arriving at the restaurant hungry will net you a significant reduction in the total calories you order (and consume) out to eat.  

  3. Put your phone down!!! - Whether eating out at a restaurant or at home, spend the meals you eat focused on your company or at the very least the food you are consuming.  Statistically, eating while in front of a screen promotes higher calorie consumption compared to mindful eating.

  4. Stretch your meal time out.  Your body takes 20 minutes MINIMUM to register that you are full, most Americans are already putting their plate in the dishwasher (or trash) by the 20 minute mark.  This means that we let our eyes dictate the amount of food we need to feel full, not our brains and stomach. Slow your meal time down, especially on the weekend when you have more time.  See for yourself how much food you ACTUALLY need to feel full. Ways to do this? Chew your food 10 times more than you normally would, put your fork down between bites, engage in conversation (without talking with your mouth full), or use chopsticks. 

  5. Start your meals with 16 ounces of water.  Having water before your meal can help you feel full faster.  

  6. Split a restaurant entree with a friend.  I find that a ½ plate at a restaurant is the perfect amount for me, if you have someone who is happy to share, make the suggestion. 

  7. Share a dessert with the table.  Most of the time you don’t actually want the whole dessert and would be satisfied with a bite or two.  Sharing your dessert is a great way to have your cake and eat it too.

  8. Watch the alcohol intake.  The calories from alcohol add up quickly, the first step is awareness.  How many calories are in your favorite beverage? How many of those do you have on an average weekend night?  What’s the grand total of the calories you consume over the weekend? What can you do to reduce those calories?

  9. Monitor your other calorie laden beverages.  Whether you’re a soda drinker or you go for the Venti Latte at Starbucks, the calories from beverages can add up quickly.  Even an 8-ounce glass of fruit juice is going to add over 100 calories of mostly sugar to your daily total. Can you reduce the venti to a tall or sub out the soda for a sparkling water? 



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