Saturday can be the worst enemy of our waistlines, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. They found that people on strict diet and exercise programs tended to lose weight more slowly than expected because they eat more on weekends than during the week. Past research had shown that people tend to gain weight during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Years, but this is the first study to demonstrate that increased caloric intake isnt just a problem over the holidays. Its also slowing weight loss on most weekends.
WEEKENDS CAN BE BAD FOR WEIGHT-LOSS PROGRAMS. STUDYING PEOPLE WHO WERE EXERCISING MORE OR EATING LESS, RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS HAVE FOUND THAT SATURDAYS ARE THE WORST ENEMY OF EXERCISE AND CALORIE RESTRICTION PROGRAMS. JIM DRYDEN HAS MORE
LOSING WEIGHT IS ALWAYS HARD. KEEPING IT OFF IS EVEN HARDER. BUT ONE THING THOSE WHO DO LOSE WEIGHT TEND TO HAVE IN COMMEN IS THAT THEY MAINTAIN CONSISTENT DIET AND ACTIVITY PATTERNS OVER THE LONG TERM, ACCORDING TO WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY EXERCISE AND NUTRITION RESEARCHER SUSAN RACETTE.
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From day to day, weekends to weekdays, they follow a more regular
pattern that helps them to maintain a significant weight loss. So
we were interested in looking at this because another thing, in
the way of background, is that a lot of people when theyre trying
to lose weight whether on their own or through a formal, research
study like ours they dont lose as much as is expected sometimes.
And so we were also curious in understanding what hinders adherence
to some of these diet and exercise programs.
SHE FOLLOWED ADULTS BETWEEN 50 AND 60 YEARS OLD WHO WERE EITHER EXERCISING OR RESTRICTING THEIR CALORIES. SOME SUBJECTS CUT CALORIE INTAKE BY 20 PERCENT. OTHERS INCREASED THEIR DAILY ACTIVITY BY 20 PERCENT. RACETTE SAYS BOTH THOSE WHO EXERCISED AND THOSE WHO RESTRICTED CALORIES HAD PROBLEMS MAINTAING THE PROGRAM ON WEEKENDS.
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People were eating more, in particular on Saturdays, as
compared to the weekdays. Their exercise was higher on
Saturdays, lower on Sundays, but it was, you know, a bit
variable. But clearly, the energy intake contributed more
to the weight gain than the activity patterns, but even
during the intervention with the CR intervention, people
would lose weight nicely during the week, and then on the
weekend, they would stop losing.
THIS WAS PART OF A BIGGER STUDY TO LEARN WHETHER WEIGHT LOSS MIGHT ELIMINATE SOME OF THE COMMON MARKERS OF AGING AND DISEASE. CALORIE RESTRICTION, IN PARTICULAR, IS KNOWN TO INCREASE THE LENGTH OF LIFE AND TO ELIMINATE DISEASE IN RATS. NOW RESEARCHERS ARE TRYING TO LEARN WHETHER IT HAS SIMILAR EFFECTS IN HUMANS, BUT RACETTE SAYS THERE IS AT LEAST ONE BIG DIFFERENCE.
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Rats dont have weekends the way people do, and so we know that
on weekends, lifestyle patterns for a lot of people are very
different. We have social events, and so for example if you have
parties to go to, if youre out at a bar, if you have family
gatherings where theres a lot of food, if you have sports
events for your children, and youre out at fields all day,
and youre relying on concession stands; a lot of things are
just very different, and were less structured on weekends
than we generally are during the weekdays.
RACETTE SAYS ONE WAY TO TRY AND LIMIT THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF WEEKENDS IS TO PLAN AHEAD SO THAT YOU DONT SHOW UP HUNGRY AT THE PARTY OR DRINK TOO MUCH ALCOHOL AT A FAMILY GATHERING. AND AS RACETTE AND OTHER INVESTIGATORS CONTINUE TO LOOK AT CALORIE RESTRICTION AND EXERCISE IN TIGHTLY CONTROLLED STUDIES, SHE ALSO RECOMMENDS THAT STUDY SUBJECTS PLAY TO WEIGH IN EVERY DAY.
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One of the recommendations for our intervention participants
is to do daily weights because it enables us to keep track more
closely. Instead of arriving, you know, on Wednesday and saying,
Oh, my goodness! Look at my weight is so much up! If they do
daily weights, it does help people adhere a little bit more on
the weekends and to be aware that, okay, Saturday I ate a little
too much or drank a little too much, so Sunday I need to be a
little more careful.
SHE REPORTED THE FINDINGS IN THE JOURNAL OBESITY. IM JIM DRYDEN