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.

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