Feb. 7, 2014 at 11:28 AM ET
For a quick self-esteem fix, step on your scale on Friday morning: It's the skinniest you'll be all week.
Most of us tend to gain a little weight on the weekends, but we also lose a little during the week, a new report shows.
This pattern was strongest among people who generally had their weight under control — those who were maintaining or losing weight. People who were gaining weight overall had more subtle fluctuations in their weight during the week.
Researchers examined 80 days of self-reported weight measurements from 178 people, most of whom were overweight (their average body mass index, or BMI, was 27.3). They found that people started to put on a little weight on Saturday, but by Tuesday, they started to shed it.
The people they studied tended to be at their heaviest on Sunday and Monday, and their lightest on Friday. But this was especially true in people who maintained their weight or lost weight over the 80 days they kept track; people who gained weight over that 80-day period were less likely to see dramatic ups and downs in their weight throughout the week.
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That's probably because a little food freedom goes a long way. Allowing some flexibility in our diets on the weekend might be a more realistic approach to overall healthy eating behaviors, because it helps us avoid "dietary boredom," as the authors, led by Brian Wansink, a professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University and the author of the forthcoming book, "Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life," phrased it.
"Don't beat yourself up if you gain weight over the weekend," Wansink says. "What matters is what happens starting Monday morning."