Popular Diets Reviewed: The Cheaters Diet
I have a lot of friends who have a cheat day built into their eating plan. They watch what they eat six days of the week and then one day, usually a weekend day, they allow themselves to have whatever they want - within reason. Well, there’s actually a popular diet built around this principle, but with this plan you don’t get just one cheat day you get two
The Cheaters Diet by Dr. Paul Rivas says that the cheat diet helps dieters do the two things needed to help them lose weight: remain interested in the diet and keep their metabolism up.
The idea behind this diet is that by building two cheat days into the plan, the body doesn’t go into starvation mode and weight loss continues even after people on other diets hit plateaus. It’s not uncommon for weight loss to slow after you’ve been on a diet, this is because the body has been consistently getting fewer calories than it’s used to and so your metabolism slows down to compensate.
During the Week
When you’re "on the diet" Dr. Rivas recommends an eating plan based on the Mediterranean diet. He encourages foods that are low in calories and rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, lean meats and whole grains. Food on his plan includes, seafood, vegetables, lean cuts of meat, olive oil, salads and berries. He does not allow sugar, bread, saturated fats or alcohol during the week.
The key is to follow a structured eating plan Monday through Friday and then on Saturday and Sunday you can eat whatever you want. During the week it’s not only important to watch what you eat, but it’s also imperative to monitor how much you eat. Dr. Rivas recommends using the plate method and filling half your plate with fruits or vegetables, ¼ with lean protein and the remaining ¼ with whole grains. To help you do this he provides recipes and visual cues for portion size.
This diet encourages followers to cheat on the weekends. By eating more on these two days you consume more calories and rev up your metabolism. When you resume your diet on Monday you’re going to burn more calories than you would have if you stayed on the diet over the weekend.
However, Saturday and Sunday are not free-for-alls. Dr. Rivas outlines recommended cheat foods that include pizza, chocolate, beer, wine, cinnamon buns, ice cream, strawberry shortcake and other comfort foods like cheese, bread, meat and nuts.
He advises against eating any foods that are triggers for you. If you haven’t been able to eat a food item without finishing the entire package in the past, you should still avoid it on your cheat days. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you can’t get back on your structured plan Monday morning.
Dr. Rivas also recommends specific brands of cheat foods that he says are healthy for you and will increase your metabolism. These foods include Cinnabon’s Cinnamon buns, Smuckers Peanut butter and Dove Dark Chocolate.
Dr. Rivas encourages followers to be as physically active as possible during the week. He suggests being active through everyday activities like washing the car, playing touch football and gardening rather than going to the gym.
He also provides a list of medications that help support or hinder weight loss efforts as well as supplements that help weight loss.
While I don’t believe there is research to support cheat days, I do believe that long-term weight control is about balancing your caloric intake over several days rather than every single day. However, I question his recommendations for supplements to support weight loss, because research does not support their efficacy.
During the week, the plan is generally healthy, though I would like to see it include whole grains Monday through Friday. I don’t understand the reasoning behind the cheat foods he specifies, particularly the cinnamon bun. It also leads me to wonder if that just happens to be one of his favorite foods and so he included it. It doesn’t seem to fit in with the other foods, which provide more nutrients and are not pure sugar.
I also think he should let people choose their own cheat foods, otherwise it doesn’t really fit his reason for including cheat days. If they are indeed meant to keep people interested in the diet, than shouldn’t you let people pick their own foods.
*** Grade: B+.** This diet does recommend an overall healthy diet during the week and encourages moderation. It also recommends being physically active on a daily basis.
*** Popular Diet Rating Syste:** This diet meets accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It recommends food from all food groups with an emphasis on healthy choices within each food group.
B: This diet meets most accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It emphasizes healthy foods but does not include food from all food groups.
C: This diet only meets some accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It does not differentiate between food choices in each food group and therefore does not emphasize healthy foods.
D: This diet does only meets one or two accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet.
F: This diet does not meet any accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It does not differentiate between healthy foods and unhealthy foods and/or does not meet caloric needs.
Heather wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.