Nutrition

The Time Of Week | Starting Your Diet

Written by Sam Whitaker

Philosophy Of The Diet

I hear it from people all the time, ‘Ah screw it, I’ll start my diet on Monday’, usually said while eating their 5th biscuit in 2 minutes. Now, it’s fine to wait till Monday to start a diet, in theory. I mean, Monday is the start of the working week for most people and acts as a clear starting point. The problem is, a lot of people then use the weekend as, ‘eat as much junk as I can because my diet starts on Monday!’ philosophy. But by doing this, you’re just setting yourself up for a tougher or longer diet to get where to want to be.

Weight loss myths

Another common problem with this approach is people then go too far the other way from Monday and hardly eat anything.  The ‘salad & fresh air’ diet, as I like to call it. Then, finding it too difficult to stick to, people fall off the wagon, eat a couple of biscuits and the ‘ah screw it, I’ll start my diet on Monday’ food binge follows. And the cycle starts again. Sound familiar?

Typically, your calorie intake determines whether you will lose weight or not. Then again, that also depends on how much energy you burn. Energy balance, (calories in vs calories out), is the primary factor in gaining or losing weight. So, if you’re ‘off’ your diet on Saturday & Sunday, eat like you’ve not been fed for a week and end up consuming 4000 kcal each day, your body doesn’t just ‘forget’ all those calories. It doesn’t reset on Monday if you decide to ‘be good’. Those calories contribute to your weekly total, or daily average calorie intake, depending on how you look at it.

Black & White

Most people think in black & white, they’re either off they’re diet or they’re on it. They’re of the opinion that if they’re on their diet, they must be losing fat. And if they’re off their diet, they’re not losing fat. In their mind, only 2 things can happen, they’re losing fat or not. Like a light switch, it’s either on or off.

Whereas, in reality, you should think of fat loss more like a dimmer switch, not an on/off switch. Also, you need to take a longer-term view of fat loss and not view days, (or even individual workouts as some do), as ‘fat burning’. It’s what you do on average that matters. It’s your average calorie intake, over the course of a week or month, that determines whether you’ll lose or gain weight.

Diet Plan

Seeing as though I’m a bit of a nerd and like numbers, I’ll put some numbers down to help explain what the hell I’m on about… So it’s the weekend and you go with the ‘ah screw it, I’ll start on Monday’ approach and you eat everything in sight…

You end up consuming 4000 kcal on each Saturday & Sunday.

(Oh bugger, I’ve eaten loads this weekend, best start my diet)

So Monday – Friday, you’re really ‘good’ and eat 1500 kcal each day.

That gives a grand total of 15,500 kcal for the 7 days, averaging out at ~ 2215 kcal/day.

If you’re maintenance calories, (the caloric intake you maintain your weight on), is 2500, you’ve only been in a daily deficit* of 285 kcal.

However, if you didn’t go crazy on Saturday & Sunday and only consumed 2500 kcal on each of those days, you’re weekly total would be 12,500. Giving you a daily average of ~ 1785 kcals and 715 kcal/day deficit.

Which is a sizable difference to the paltry 285 kcal/day in the first example.

Still with me? Or did all those numbers just confuse you even more?

Here’s a table you hopefully show a little more clearly.

Example 1 Example 2
Day Calorie Intake Calorie Intake
Saturday 4000 2500
Sunday 4000 2500
Monday 1500 1500
Tuesday 1500 1500
Wednesday 1500 1500
Thursday 1500 1500
Friday 1500 1500
Total 15,500 12,500
Daily Average 2214 1786
Average Daily Deficit
(assuming maintenance calories of 2500)
286 714
Total Calorie Deficit 2000 5000

Example 1 creates a 2000 kcal deficit over the 7 days.

Assuming 3500 kcal per lb of fat, you’ll have lost just over 0.5 lbs in a week.

Whereas in the second example, you’ve put yourself into a 5000 kcal deficit over the 7 days.
Which works out as close to 1.5 lbs.

Now that’s a bit more like it!

Granted, it’s not a massive amount, but it’s a damn sight better than the 0.5 lbs/week.

So hopefully now you can see why eating loads on the days before you start your diet is pretty silly. And it will make it harder, or make it take longer, to lose the amount of fat you want.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye has a MSc in Sport Physiology and Nutrition, and puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. She enjoys a pun, and in her spare time loves dog walking and eating out.


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