Eating Healthy Most of the Time Is Good Enough

by Andie Mitchell on February 20, 2014

brunchphoto by kris krug

During my many years of ups and downs [and ups and ups and downs and ups and...you get it], one of the most common patterns I created was starting a diet on a Monday and then falling off the wagon on Saturday. Once I “cheated” on the plan, I’d feel like it was pointless to continue and would quickly find myself returning to my old friends: doughnuts and drive-throughs. Breaking that cycle felt like something I’d never conquer. But one of the most important things I’ve learned about sustained, lasting weight loss is that it’s impossible to stick to any weight loss plan 100% of the time.  Who can do that? Who wants to avoid cake at every birthday party? The people who see success are able to let go of minor setbacks and keep moving forward. The people who see “dieting” as all or nothing, perfection or failure — they’re the ones who find themselves trapped in a terribly frustrating pattern of two steps forward, two steps back. “Those people” used to include me.  Actually, sometimes I still belong in that group.

cocktailphoto by kris krug

Now, I eat really well during the week, and it’s by and large easy for me to do; it feels good to do that. But when I go out for cocktails on Friday and Saturday nights? That’s the more challenging part. That’s when it’s harder to walk the line. Because then there are things that everyone leaving the bar wants: like a seat at the late night diner, or a big slice of pizza, or strange street meat. And what about brunch the next morning? Or New York bagels with schmear? It’s a balancing act. And the key, I find is that one word: balance. It’s knowing that I can have it all (in time); I just can’t have it all right now.

A recent study from Cornell University has validated the opinion that weight loss is achievable even if you allow for weekend indulgences. In fact, most people tend to gain weight during weekends, and their overall weight is determined mostly by how they’re eating Monday through Friday. The study, published in Obesity Facts, reported, “The big difference between those who gain weight over time and those who lose or maintain weight is directly related to the way they eat from Monday to Friday. Some indulging during weekends makes no harm, but for successful weight loss it is important to notice these rhythms and take steps to reverse the upward trends after the weekend.”

cappuccinophoto by kris krug

I don’t need to tell you this. You know it: it’s super duper difficult to stick to an eating regimen seven days a week — too difficult for most people. But just because you went out and had dessert on Saturday? It doesn’t mean what you eat on Monday doesn’t matter. In fact, it matters quite a bit more. This is obvious when you think about it from a balance perspective, but for most people who want to lose weight, it can be difficult to practice.

breakfast tacosphoto by kris krug

I think a lot of the trouble with this concept comes from how we contextualize dieting. Many people (especially those who are overweight) either view things they eat as “on their diet” or “off their diet.” This has proven to be detrimental to maintaining a healthy weight and can cause an unhealthy relationship with food. Foods aren’t intrinsically good or bad, clean or dirty, healthy or unhealthy. There is a place for many different kinds of food with different nutritional values in a healthy diet. The occasional indulgence in foods that are considered “unhealthy” is perfectly acceptable to help with mental well being, or to participate in social events, or just because they’re crazy delicious. A healthy weight is achieved by making healthy choices most of the time, doing so all of the time isn’t just burdensome it is unnecessary.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan G. February 20, 2014 at 1:30 am

This post came to me via email in just the right moment. I discovered your blog on Monday and made your Buffalo Turkey Burgers on Tuesday. And I’m hooked. :) Anyway, back to this post. 2 weeks ago I told my Weight Watchers Leader and the rest of the meeting that as long as I’m a perfect little Weight Watcher Monday through Friday, I still lose on Saturday at my weigh-in. But they didn’t believe me and just told me it wouldn’t last. But it has lasted. It’s been like that for about a year. It’s been great for having a life. My friends joke that I’m one of the few women in the world who have actually managed to LOSE weight in the beginning of a new relationship. Haha. Anyway, I agree with your whole post and it was so satisfying to be validated. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m down almost 60 pounds and your blog is my newest inspiration…from your stories to your recipes…thank you!! :)

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Anne February 20, 2014 at 2:32 am

Hey Andie! So glad to see your article tonight. Love the new heading on your blog. Creative and fun. Your article was spot on and boils down to the 80/20 rule. Know you are loving NY. Have a good week. af

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Nadine February 20, 2014 at 6:08 am

I really don’t see why would anyone think they need to stick to a weight loss plan 100% of the time. And all that guilt tripping about cheating on a goddamn diet, it’s just awful. I’m glad you realized that striving for absolute perfection leaves you always wanting more and often disappointed. And yes, the concept of diet got a little smudged over time, see Wikipedia’s definition of diet: “diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism.”
Thank you for writing this, it was about time that someone said it.

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Kim Farris February 20, 2014 at 7:46 am

That’s just what I needed to hear…..Thank You!

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Valerie February 20, 2014 at 8:15 am

I make the clear distinction between an eating plan and a diet. An eating plan is forever and is based on good eating habits. A diet addresses short-term goals like weight loss.

If you reach your goal weight and go off your diet, you return to old eating habits. There are many solid eating plans (see the recent “best diets” edition of US News & World Report). Pick one you can live with!

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Julia @metalandmettle February 20, 2014 at 8:54 am

This is definitely my philosophy–no diet; lifestyle. I stay the straight and narrow Sunday afternoon-Friday morning and then allow myself to enjoy my favorite foods beginning Friday at lunch. I’ve found that I crave the at-home healthy meals by Sunday afternoon. I will admit that sometimes the weekend “junk” food doesn’t sit well with me after I’ve been eating lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains during the week. I find this a good thing and helps me to not go too crazy. Just keep moving and if I know that I’m going to have extra dessert, I might extend my workout another 15 minutes just to keep the scales tipped my way. : )
I talk about this on my blog–it all evens out.

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Rebecca February 23, 2014 at 6:33 pm

This is me to a T! I’m only trying to lose about 15 pounds, down about 4 so far, and I just know that I love food too much to never enjoy my favorite treats. I try to keep sweets and alcohol to a bare minimum during the week (I’m a teacher, and some days you just NEED a bite of chocolate to get through the day), and indulge a bit more on the weekends. I totally agree with you, though–if I’ve been eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle all week, I feel less inclined to totally binge on Saturday night! I also have actually come to genuinely enjoy going to the gym in the mornings, it gives me way more energy throughout the day.

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Anne Weber-Falk February 20, 2014 at 11:35 am

Here here! When I treat my daily diet as such this is when I feel my best and have the most health success. I wish I’d realized this years ago. Thanks for the reminder. Peace…AnneWF

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christine davis February 20, 2014 at 11:40 am

I do really well during the week and for most of the weekend. For me, at least, if I don’t work out even if I’m eating well, I don’t lose weight. I go to the gym 6 or 7 days a week and walk on the treadmill at a 9 incline at 3 mph. I burn on average around 600 calories a day. Because of this, I can let things slide a bit on a Friday night…a couple glasses of wine, a cheesesteak wrap, wings, etc. But you better believe I’m heading to the gym on Saturday morning. You can’t have one without the other. I’ve lost 67 lbs since last February so I must be doing something right!

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Marina February 21, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I agree with you Christine. In my case I lost 60 pounds thansi to the gym where i go 5 times a week, for 2 hard working hours. For me there is no other way to lose weight, because the alternative is stop eating… And i just can not do it!

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Holly February 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Andie thank you so much for this. I needed this today, right at this moment. Your words grounded me. I appreciate your words of wisdom and encouragement!

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Sara @ Running Around The Charles February 20, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Andie, great way of thinking!! I love this… My Routine is pretty much the same. I eat healthy from Sunday Evening- Thursday Evening and then Friday treat day is full on. Seriously, Fridays are the best day of the week. Starbucks Coffee and Happy Hour! :) Can you really get better then that? Weekends are a time to enjoy yourself!

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*Andrea* February 20, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Beautiful. This is why I love your blog!

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Kim February 20, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Thank you for this Andie :)

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Sharon D. February 20, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Beautifully written, and Oh so true! Thanks for the reminder, Andie! :)

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Amy February 20, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Andie, you always manage to write something right when I am thinking about it or need to hear it :)
After losing about 35 pounds a few years ago, through some healthy and some not-so-healthy ways, and even with my qualifications as a dietitian and exercise physiologist, the maintaining didn’t come easily. The learning how to eat “normally” and not “diet” was a struggle that I am still learning how to negotiate.
On the flip side, my little sister is naturally very thin and she is excellent at regulating her eating during the week and indulging only on the weekends. I learn most of my lessons on balance (and life in general actually) from her.
I think the biggest lessons for me are about not feeling guilty or instantly fat when I have allowed myself to eat something extremely delicious, but not on the completely healthy side of the spectrum. It’s about enjoying the moment. Being present for the deliciousness and then moving on without punishing yourself for the indulgence.
Thank you Andie, for the reminder.

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Nance February 23, 2014 at 1:39 am

I find that if we don’t on occasion indulge in some pleasurable eating(by that, choosing food choices we normally wouldn’t pick when we are trying to be “good”), we will eventually get so consumed in food thought and frustration that you resort to binging like the “devil” on all poor choices and then feel horrible about our actions. Deprivation never is an answer to a problem. Balance and working to decide how to resolve the matter at hand(no matter what it may be(social weekend dining, celebrating with an elegant dessert and not wanting to stand out and make a statement etc) is always the best solution.

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Kristin February 20, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Beautiful moving truthful words. Thank you for that, I needed to hear that.

- Kristina

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Debbie M. February 21, 2014 at 4:29 am

I ran across your blog last month and love it! You are making me crave making the big salads I used to make many moons ago, (and 15 plus pounds later..mmmm!!!…) I love your salad ideas. Thanks for the motivation to get me back in LARGE salad mode!!

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Grazing Dani February 21, 2014 at 10:22 am

As my gramps used to say, “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” And I think this certainly applies to food. Food serves so many purposes in our lives (fuel, medicine, a way to give and express love, a way to celebrate and experience culture, etc.). You have to really think about your overall quality of life and health when making food choices.

I love eating healthy food during the week and indulging on the weekend. A weekend of pizza, beer and ice cream will leave me really ready and looking forward to the “good” stuff on Monday. :) If anyone wants extra inspiration for some of the healthy stuff, I’ve just posted a great recipe for a mushroom & red pepper fritatta and roasted beet & carrot winter salad: http://grazingdani.blogspot.de/

Also, Andi, I LOVE the new logo :)

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Marina February 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Ohh. I couldnt agree more!
I am in my 40′s and I spend since 15 with “the all or nothing diet philosophie”. Omg if i could go back in time…. In the last year i lost almost 60 pounds ( 26 kg) and I never enjoyed more of the food in my life. I like to eat, I drink a small beer every day, and there are days when I just want to eat more. And I do it.
Before if one day i ate 3000kcal, I used to think ” i never never will be able to lost weight” ” i am worthless”.. Now I tried to think, well… Better stop here ( because i can eat 1000 calories more) and tomorrow I will do it better ( in my case the best scenario 1500kcal).
I think is the only way to lose weight, and (I hope!) to maintaining.

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Carrie May February 21, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I love how you break things down into parts. For me that really helped when I lost 70 pounds in a year http://www.carriemaylucas.com/home/2014/2/16/losing-it
But after I was sexuality assaulted by my boyfriend the anxiety took over and all the habits I spent time building were destroyed. How do you stick with it even when the big stresses of life get in the way?
Thanks for all the great advice,
Carrie

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Hope M. February 23, 2014 at 11:13 pm

preach!!

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Abby February 24, 2014 at 11:52 am

Sort of off topic, but what is in that first photo, and where can I get it? The picture looks so delicious I’m practically drooling, and my stomach is making the rumbles!

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Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health February 24, 2014 at 5:47 pm

I love this post. I think for people who have been on the weight-loss journey for some time, we tend to get paranoid about what we are eating. I’ve learned that once you lose the weight, you have to continue to make healthy choices most of the time (live you said) and it’s okay to enjoy yourself sometimes, too. A brownie won’t bring back 50 pounds lol It’s so important that we allow ourselves to enjoy in the MOMENT (rather than enjoying the brownie, and then 10 more lol). Love your positive thoughts :)

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Brooke February 25, 2014 at 9:21 am

Hi Andie,

I just found your site and I love it so far!!

By the way, if you serve that espresso, I’d love to stay for dinner ;-)

<3 – Brooke

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Jenna February 25, 2014 at 12:11 pm

I adored this post! Such a positive way to see eating!

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Guy February 26, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I enjoy your site and the information you provide is top notch. I’ve been here several times and have read most of your articles. However, the section I enjoy the most is the recipes. I’m single and try to watch what I eat but I DO LIKE TO EAT GOOD FOOD. The recipes are delicious and relatively simple. Thanks for your time to post these ideas. I’ll be back.

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Sarah February 27, 2014 at 6:09 pm

These thoughts are what I have always thought as well. There are things that I am not willing to give up and don’t feel that I should.

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Wally February 27, 2014 at 11:23 pm

I totally agree. I think having a day where you don’t care (or dont’ care as much) about what you eat is really important. I know what foods are not good for me, but sometimes I want to eat them anyway! And if I am 99.8% of the time eating healthy things, who cares if I have something different on a Friday night!

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Nichole @ Casa de Crews February 28, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I just completed my first Whole 30 a few weeks ago, and the fact that I didn’t cheat once is incredible to me! It was almost like a reset for me…I have a TON more weight to lose, but not going off plan for thirty whole days allowed me to really think about what I was eating, and more importantly WHY I would eat the way I did. Now that I’m off the first round of the W30, I mostly eat great during the week! And on the weekend, if I want a real meal of indulgence, it’s the real deal, full fat, no diet-y sugar free version. I have learned to do this because then I get my craving satisfied and don’t have the constant obsession with food like before. My husband and I also tend to split an app and then a meal so we’re not so injured and lethargic, later. I wanted to be someone who could eat paleo my whole life, but even the authors don’t recommend that! I’m just amazed that while thirty days seemed like FOREVER at the time, in *just* thirty days, I have been able to rest my brain. So basically, I agree with this post . Okay, so end rant. P.S. I love the new header on your site! Cheers Andi!

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Elizabeth March 2, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Why is this site updated so rarely anymore? And recipes seem to be a thing of the past. Used to be a “must visit” place. Now it’s just not worth the time.

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Sheila March 2, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Hate to say it, but I completely agree with you :( Andie, what’s up?? Still waiting to hear who won the giveaway from Halloween…

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Choy Shaw March 3, 2014 at 12:31 am

Hey Andie, Thanks for sharing :-) I’m also a big believer in the 80/20 rule. I’ve stopped dieting all together and know focus on eating healthier foods and exercise as well. I don’t believe it’s necessary to restrict yourself from to many calories. If you eat the right kind of foods then your body will naturally rid excess weight.

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Alex March 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

Two words to describe that first picture “mouth watering”. I totally agree with your point about the two steps forward & two steps back. The same thing use to happen to me (and still do from time to time) I’d start fresh on a Monday and then the weekend would get me. Now when I get caught out on the weekends (which are my most vulnerable days) I just say to myself “that was a cheat meal” and continue on with my diet. Works like a charm for me :)

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April March 4, 2014 at 11:51 am

thank you so much for this post. i “subscribe” to this philosophy as well and it has taken me many years to fully adapt and accept it and change my “old” ways of thinking how a “diet” is supposed to be. but this philosophy is much better and I wished more people who struggled with weightloss would understand this it will save them YEARS of suffering. Im still working on it but knowing ive adopted a new mindset and philosophy in my approach to losing weight and having a healthy lifestyle has lifted a great pain. our weight is an average of ALL the things we do not one meal or even one day…for me this is one of my many mantras.

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Jen @ Thingineering March 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I agree! In order to sustain a lifestyle of eating well, you need to be able to have the occasional meal that is a treat, then get right back to the habits you’ve established for weight loss and maintenance. Looking at all those yummy foods made me hungry. I guess it’s time for lunch!

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Cinnamon Vogue March 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm

I am coming to the conclusion that Candida yeast in our body is another major cause of this weight gain issue. Apparently Candida if you don’t get it under control will signal your body to get more and more sweet stuff.

Andie I like the way you go into the psychology of it. Even thin people who have this issue because although we may not be overweight, the proportional distribution of weight like a slight stomach hump can be an issue.

So while I indulge in a nice dessert occasionally I am trying to eat less and less of the sweet stuff and believe me I have a mega sweet tooth. So I think the key is not to train your body to expect a treat in the weekend but to give sporadic surprises with an occasional indulgence and not to repeat patterns. Worth a try I think.

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Samantha March 7, 2014 at 9:27 am

Hi Andie,
Stumbled across your blog via a pinterest link and have to say I am blown away at your honesty about your experience and opinions regarding food, weight loss and life. I have to say you are the only blog I’ve found that I’ve wanted to keep reading because you made me feel BETTER about myself and food. You encourage a fantastically positive relationship with food and your body and you are just what I need right now! I have definitely had a strong “good” & “bad” and “all or nothing” mentality in the past but the more I read your posts and learn that food is not the enemy the more confidence I have in confronting my own demons regarding it.
You undoubtedly hear this a lot and I feel as though I’m simply adding to the pile however regardless of this I must express my great appreciation for the informative, supportive and inspirational blog and person that you are!
Sam

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Jacqueline Jones March 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Love the article, i know it is kind of common sense but at the same time, this has kind of been one of my biggest problems.
I have a cheat day on a weekend, the next day is still weekend and then next thing you know, well i have done two days of bad eating, three wont hurt.
In fact i am reading this after a cheat day today (a weekend) – so it was kind of inspiring to read about just eating healthy most of the time. The one thing i can do well is the weekdays, thanks for an awesome blog post!

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Danielle Hughes March 20, 2014 at 4:33 am

Its interesting that I found this post now, because I just started seeing a dietician as a last resort to help with weight loss, and she said that we shouldn’t put so much pressure on ourselves when we “diet”. we must enjoy wheat we eat without guilt and just be smart about our cheat choices and portion sizes is all. I agree. Nobody can live forever on a diet, so now I live on an eating plan that includes eating well balanced meals at least 5 days a week and leave the rest to “whatever”. So I don’t feel guilty about having pizza every Friday night (choose wisely) or having that huge almost greasy farm style brunch every Sunday because I eat very well and am very good the rest of the week.

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Dave March 25, 2014 at 9:58 am

Insightful and well written. I think once we classify certain foods as “bad”, that makes us “bad” for eating them and if you are already being bad, why not go whole hog? When we are cognizant of the fact that we eat for different reasons, one of which is pleasure, we’ll make better choices and that choice sometimes does include a big slice of pizza (I’m not so sure about the strange, street meat!).

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Robert Skinner April 17, 2014 at 10:22 am

I love the article, thank you for sharing. I try to eat healthy most of the times and exercise daily so I don’t need to worry and feel guilty about eating badly on a weekend or when I occasionally go out with friends. Besides I love my ice cream too much to give it up completely ;-)

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