Cheater's Diet: Take Weekends Off, Lose Weight (cont.)

By allowing controlled cheating (as in eat a piece of cake, not the whole cake), dieters can look forward to enjoying their favorite decadent food or drinks without guilt. Rivas' theory suggests that being allowed any food during the controlled cheating time strengthens the dieter's commitment to eating healthfully throughout the week

Rivas recommends a list of unusual dietary supplements (Yerba Mate, L-tyrosine 5 HTP, green tea extract, and Mucana Pruriens) to augment the weight loss process, but adds that "you can also successfully lose weight on the Cheater's Diet without supplements."

What the Experts Say

The Cheater's Diet's overall approach to nutrition is healthful, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, enjoying pleasurable foods, and physical activity.

"The plan is likely between 1,600 and 1,800 calories, which of course, may be too many calories for a very petite female, or far too few for a muscular male (especially at the level of activity recommended)," says American Dietetic Association spokesman Cynthia Sass, who would like the nutrition information for the recipes and menus included, along with suggestions on how to individualize the plan from its one-size-fits all approach.

"My biggest concern with the Cheater's Diet is that there are no references or research provided to back up the author's claims, even though he frequently refers to research in the book," Sass says.

Sass' apprehension is that no studies have been carried out to test Rivas' weight loss theory that cheating on weekends boosts metabolic rates. "Studies on people who have successfully lost and kept weight off in the National Weight Control Registry find these individuals do not cheat on weekends, but rather indulge in treats in moderation throughout the week," reports Sass.

Sass also dislikes the supplement recommendations because, once again, there are no references to document the effectiveness of the supplements in weight loss. "Some of the recommendations are potentially unsafe, with adverse effects for certain individuals, according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD), and they defy up-to-date science-based references," adds Sass.

Sass also found it to be a stretch that the cinnamon in a high fat, high sugar food like cinnamon buns would help improve blood sugar and lower LDL cholesterol.

Food for Thought

Sass suggests saving your money on the Cheater's Diet, and instead log onto for a much more logical approach to successful weight loss. Her tip: Follow the 2005 Dietary Guideline's recommendations for small daily splurges (called discretionary calories).

"The general public likes the idea that a diet must include sacrifice, and they mistakenly believe that is what it takes to be successful," Rivas says. He maintains that the Cheater's Diet proves that cheater's win, and the plan will result in weight loss.

If you like this plan's recommendation of regular exercise, splurging a bit on the weekends, and enjoying a Mediterranean-style diet (minus those unnecessary supplements), you may have found a diet you can stick with for life.

Published February 2007.

SOURCES: Paul Rivas, MD, author, Cheater's Diet: Lose Weight by Taking Weekends Off , HCI Books, 2005. Cynthia Sass, MA, RD, spokesman, American Dietetic Association; co-author, Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy, Marlowe & Co., 2005.

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Last Editorial Review: 2/9/2007