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The Cheater’s Diet

The Promise

You have to cheat on this diet.You eat a Mediterranean-style diet during the week, “cheat” on your diet all weekend long, and you’ll still lose weight, according to The Cheater's Diet by weight-loss doctor Paul Rivas, MD.

Purposely blowing your diet on weekends, Rivas claims, cranks up your metabolism, reversing the metabolic slowdown that happens when you restrict calories. Your furnace stays hot, so that when you eat fewer calories Monday through Friday, your body burns fat. Rivas doesn’t cite research to back up this theory, however.

Weekend “cheating” also strengthens your resolve to eat well the rest of the week, Rivas says (though it seems some people may find it even harder to stick to healthy eating after a weekend off.) You can even cheat on exercise, working out only twice a week and doing “lifestyle” exercise, such as cleaning the house, on other days, according to the plan.

What You Can and Can't Eat

Pizza, ice cream, steak, wine, beer, cinnamon buns -- they’re all fair game from Saturday morning to Sunday night. In fact, they’re downright encouraged. Only foods that might trigger overeating are off-limits.

On weekends, you add an extra 10 calories per day for every pound you weigh, which could mean a whopping 1,500 additional calories or more on both days.

On all other days, you fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with lean protein (such as fish, chicken, beans, “and some pork loin thrown in now and then for taste”), and one-quarter with whole grains.

You have at least three servings of fruit per day (not bananas, which contain too much starch) and at least four servings of vegetables.

Low-fat yogurt, peanuts, eggs, and skim milk are specifically endorsed.

Sugar, bread, white rice, potatoes, saturated fats (like butter, cream, marbled meats, and most fried foods), and alcohol are off-limits during the week.

Level of Effort: Medium

Preparing healthy meals, avoiding potatoes and other foods, and fitting in exercise during the week will take some effort.

Limitations: Many foods are off-limits during the week, as is alcohol.

Cooking and shopping: If you’re not used to cooking from scratch, spending time shopping and cooking could be an adjustment. You may find yourself buying more herbs and spices than usual.

Packaged foods or meals: No.

In-person meetings: No.

Exercise: The plan recommends exercising 2 days a week and fitting in movement whenever you can on the other days.

Does It Allow for Restrictions or Preferences?

Vegetarians and vegans: Many of the recipes provided contain meat, fish, or eggs, and yogurt is favored. Vegetarians will have a hard time following the suggested menus, and vegans will have an even harder time -- though it is possible to follow the diet without using the menus.

Gluten-free: Most of the recipes don't include pasta or bread. But gluten is in many other foods, so check labels for those that may contain gluten.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: Just your usual grocery expenses. If you don’t currently buy fish or fresh fruits and vegetables, your costs could go up. Rivas recommends certain supplements (yerba mate, L-Tyrosine, 5-HTP, green tea extract, and velvet bean), which would add to the cost, but they are optional.

Support: This is a diet you do on your own.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on December 18, 2013

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