Does this sound familiar?
You work hard in the gym Monday to Friday and practically starve yourself all through the week in a bid to lose weight.
You’ve been to the gym, been to spin class and even endured some HIIT workouts that almost made you throw up, but somehow, someway, when you step on the scales Monday morning the number you see staring back at you isn’t what you expected and is making you seriously consider giving up on everything and just indulging in the cakes and sweets that have been calling your name for the last 7 days.
It’s an all too familiar story.
I speak with people on a weekly basis that can’t understand why their weight loss efforts are failing despite all of their hard work.
Is it me?
Am I doing something wrong?
Am I eating the wrong foods?
Am I exercising enough?
If you’ve ever asked any of those questions or wondered why your Monday morning weigh-in isn’t living up to your expectations then this article may tell you why.
Understanding the Basics
When it comes to fat loss the basics don’t change, the calories you expel must be more than the calories you consume.
You get that right? Course you do.
That’s why you exercise and eat healthier, isn’t it?
So that you lose weight, feel better and look better.
But are you committing the cardinal sin of only counting 4 and a half days of the week?
You know, Monday to Friday afternoon?
It’s what most people do.
You work hard all week and as a way of reward someone normally brings some treats or baked goods into the office.
You nibble on this and take a bite out of that and later that evening you have a beer or glass of wine.
Saturday normally involves a few drinks and a pizza and Sunday obviously involves Sunday lunch and a few more drinks.
You go to bed feeling good about yourself because you know you’ve had a good week and you didn’t overindulge at the weekend so you know you’re making progress.
But unfortunately, what you’re forgetting is that the week didn’t end on Friday afternoon, there were still 2 and a half days for you to work on your goals and make effective progress.
The reality is that the scenario is actually pretty common, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were sat there reading this, nodding in agreement because it’d happened to you too.
But let’s look at where you went wrong and why that scenario isn’t one that leads to long term success.
Where You’re Going Wrong
We’ll use you as an example and we’ll say your calorie goal is to consume 1800 calories a day, that’s 12,600 calories over the week.
It doesn’t matter if your actual calorie goal is more or less than that, the formula still works.
If you stick to this and don’t overdo it, you’ll lose weight, that’s how it works.
Now let’s say that you diligently stick to your goal and actually don’t go over it.
Monday to Thursday you only eat 1,600 calories and you track everything you eat and drink, you’ve been doing really well, well done.
And actually, by doing this you have saved 800 and now have 6,200 for the remaining 3 days.
Everything is going to plan.
Well, Friday starts as normal but around mid-afternoon someone brings some treats into the office.
We mentioned that above but we didn’t mention the calories, well, let’s be moderate and say it was ONLY 300 calories for the sugary snacks you enjoy and when you get home the beer or glass of wine turns into 2 and adds another 300 calories, you add a few more nibbles and a tasty cookie or two (another 300) and actually end the day 900 calories over your 1800 goal, that means you’ve got 3,500 calories left for the weekend, plenty to play with when you’ve been eating 1600 a day so far right?
Except, it doesn’t go to plan does it?
Your normal breakfast is replaced with something more substantial and your lunch was heavy too, you’re somehow at 1600 calories and the day isn’t done.
We already mentioned the pizza, let’s say it’s a standard cheese Pizza from Dominos (fewer calories) and you have what, 4 slices?
Well, that’s 1160 calories and as it’s a little heavier on the drink those 4 glasses of wine or 4 bottles of beer will add another 600 calories to your day.
Add something sweet to your meal, another 300 calories, and you end the day on 3660.
By the time Sunday morning rolls around your head hurts a little plus you need to soak up the alcohol.
You still want to ‘be good’ so you opt for eggs Benedict with bacon and with that you can add another 600 calories.
The day isn’t off to the best start.
We’ll give you a break and say the rest of the day goes well but your Sunday lunch will normally come in around 600-800 calories (that’s a heavy meal) and if you add another drink or two you’re looking at an extra 300 calories.
Sunday brings you in at 1700 but that’s only if you don’t add anything extra to the breakfast, lunch, and drinks named above, which let’s be honest is pretty unlikely.
Snacks, coffees, light bites to eat and maybe another dessert are all possible and it’s much more likely you will end up at 2350 minimum for the day, probably more.
You entered Saturday with 4100 calories to play with and you’re leaving Sunday having consumed a minimum of 6010 calories.
That’s if you’ve tracked accurately.
That’s if you opted for the lower calorie or zero-calorie options.
That’s if you didn’t have any sauces, condiments or oils in any of your meals.
That’s if you didn’t snack between meals.
That’s if you poured the standard alcohol serving size and only had 4.
Are you getting the picture here?
With a rather moderate estimation, you can see from the picture above that if your weekend looks like that you’re ending the week at approximately 15,110 calories, a hell of a lot more than your goal.
What Does it All Mean?
Whether it’s alcohol and pizza, cocktails and brunch or simply snacking all through the day because you don’t have to go to work and your normal routine has disappeared, the weekends can play havoc with your weight loss goals.
You need to create a deficit of 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat and if you followed the picture above, you would have only created a deficit of about 1000 calories, meaning it would take you 3 and a half weeks to finally lose 1lb of fat.
Yet for the majority of people out there, that is exactly what they’re doing, each and every weekend, as they struggle to understand where they’re going wrong.
When you should be doing
When you’re trying to lose weight you need to look 7 days ahead and plan as best you can.
I encourage people to track every single day, including the weekend and do a few things to help them lose weight consistently.
- 1Try to build up a calorie ‘buffer’ in the week. In the scenario above you would have entered the weekend with calories saved up, however, if you could create a slightly bigger buffer, and you didn’t go over your calories on Friday, you would have had a much greater chance of being successful.
- 2If you’re having drinks or going out for food at the weekend, plan for it and look for the lower-calorie options, once you know what you’re having you can make sure you don’t go over your calories (and you may have more to play with due to the buffer).
- 3Be sensible and keep your goal close to your thoughts. It is very easy to consume high amounts of calories in a matter of minutes and unfortunately, it’s where most people go wrong. It doesn’t matter how big the food is or how much you have, if it’s a high-calorie food, such as peanut butter, it can only take a small amount to pack on the calories.
If you’re able to do these things you greatly increase your chance of staying under your weekly calorie goal.
One of the most common causes for failing to lose weight is overindulging at the weekends.
It may not be a full-on binge, but a few drinks here and a few nibbles there can very easily put you over your calories. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a drink or enjoy anything tasty but it does mean you have to be careful with what you’re putting in your mouth.
Limiting alcohol intake to maybe one night a week and opting for lower-calorie drinks where possible is a great way of letting you enjoy a drink or two but without it affecting your goals.
By factoring in any food options and again, going for the lower calories option you can further increase your chances of success.
When it comes to dieting and losing weight you don’t have to abstain from anything and everything but if you’re going to reward yourself for every small thing you’re not going to make the progress you want.
When I get asked about this I often remind people that it isn’t forever, only for the short term until you reach your goal and ultimately if you really want to lose weight and it’s something you actually want to achieve, you’re going to have to sacrifice a little and be a little smarter if you’re going to see results.