The Cheater's Diet

The Sneaky Secrets to Losing Up to 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks Eating (and Drinking) Everything You Love

Marissa Lippert - Author

Paperback | $17.00 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9780452296817 | 400 pages | 28 Dec 2010 | Plume | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 - AND UP
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"This is the bible of healthy eating that American women want and need now." -Jeanie Pym, former editor of Organic Style

Lose twenty pounds in eight weeks while eating chocolate and drinking red wine? Sought after New York nutritionist, Marissa Lippert, says, "Yes, you can!" A self-professed foodie, Lippert shows readers how to cheat the right way- by balancing workouts with nights out, anticipating stress eating and special occasions, and boozing with brains-and be happier, slimmer, and healthier than ever before. With practical tips on how to shop, cook, and find the best of everything- including local and organic foods-on a budget, The Cheater's Diet is the perfect program for the millions of women who want to lose weight, but don't want to change their lifestyle to do it.


Ever gone an entire day running on nothing but coffee and Diet Coke? You’re jittery, exhausted but wide awake, and feel sort of like you’ve been run over. Water to the rescue. Water makes up about 60 to 70 percent of the human body and helps flush out toxins, keeps our organs and digestive system functioning at full speed, and keeps our skin looking dewy and drop-dead gorgeous. You’ve heard the general guideline of eight 8-ounce glasses a day. You personally might need a little more or a little less. Aim for between 1 and 3 liters a day and you should be golden. If you’re an avid exerciser, make sure you hydrate before, during, and after your workout. Water’s like the oil that runs a fine-tuned machine (your body!). The research confirming water’s impact on weight loss is still unclear. But what water does do is keep your body going as it should—increasing your energy levels (dehydration can make us tired and cranky), unclogging your digestive system (kiss bloating and constipation good-bye), and filling you up on less (it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger). So all of this combined can help the whole weight game. A Penn State research study found that consuming water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables promotes more weight loss—21 percent more—than not eating them, even if you eat up to 25 percent more food. (Water-rich foods are typically low-calorie.)

Visualization and volume are still key when you’re getting your water. Keep in mind that water can be found in fruits and veggies, broth-based soups, seltzer and sparkling water, unsweetened tea, and yes, even coffee (just watch the coffee intake—caffeine can be a slight diuretic for some, so stick to 1 to 2 cups of coffee a day). If you can’t stand the sight of plain water, toss in a slice or two of lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, or fresh berries for some flavor action, and drink up.

The Gift of the Written Word

At the risk of sounding like a boring nutritionist, I must take another moment to praise writing. Recording what you eat and when you eat it can open your eyes like nothing else, which is why I strongly encourage it. Keeping a food diary, a journal, or a food log on your computer can help you get portions down pat, reveal particular patterns throughout the day (like if you’re dipping into the office candy bowl unconsciously every time you get up from your desk), and ensure that you’re reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself. Use the food journal to your full advantage. Start writing and keep writing each week—at least for the entirety it takes you to finish this book. We’ll do a quick check in on how the food journaling is going and what your week is telling you in each and every chapter. As you strive to meet your weight loss goals, you’ll love the accountability.

Set to Scale

A very brief mention about the piece of cold metal or plastic lying on your bathroom floor—the scale. You might shudder at the thought of it. Some days you want to kiss it, others you want to throw it out the window. Should you definitely own a scale? Not necessarily. For some, a scale provides that extra push and a sense of accountability— it’s a tool that can be motivating and encouraging . . . or not. It’s easy to forget that we gain and lose up to three or four pounds in a single given day. The scale simply gives you a number, and if you’re the type of person who’s going to agonize about it day in and day out, I’d suggest not stepping anywhere near that thing but two or three times a month (not two or three times a day, and definitely not during the three days before your period!). It takes time for your body to shed poundage. Some of us are quick losers initially, and some of us take our sweet time. Either way, you’re taking weight off, and it’s going to stay off. The most important measurement is really how you feel in your clothes and in your own skin. If you are an avid scale user, aim to weigh yourself max once a week and step on it around the same time of day for consistency. Most of us are at our lightest first thing in the morning in the buff.

Okay, we’ve got the fundamentals down—meal timing, portions, and water. Now glance one last time at your week. Focus on those dinners, brunches, and nights out and count them up. If it’s too many to count, not all is lost; you’ll be able to make any situation work for you with strategic cheating. Again, you’re choosing two meals out during the week as your cheat and eat special occasion meals. Order what looks incredible on the menu, try to keep portions in mind, and share dessert if you’re in the mood. I won’t use the word “blowout,” but if it had to happen, this would be where to do it. When you’re eating out at other times during the week, stay on top of your game when it comes to your order and your portions. By eating out five or six times a week, the whole special occasion idea goes out the window. We’ll work through restaurant eating further down the road, but let’s get you set with solid basics first. A quick note on the booze, also to be discussed in detail in Chapter 5: Apply the same strategy to alcohol that you use with dinners. You’re curbing your drinking by at least 25 percent, but figure out what method works for you to achieve that—whether it’s setting a target number of drinks to work with in a given week, or choosing specific nights to have a few. If you’re a nightly boozer—and I personally like my wine—aim for three nights drip-dry, or between about six to eight drinks maximum over the course of the week.

Calories Shmalories

How many are you supposed to be consuming on a given day? Honestly, there’s no one straight answer. We’re all different, have faster or slower metabolisms, and have varying calorie needs depending on how much or how little physical activity we’re getting. And at the end of the day, what does a blanket number like 1500 or 1800 really mean to you? My guess is not too much. It can, however, be unbelievably helpful to be cognizant of how many calories are in particular ingredients or meals and to have a general idea of what you’re looking at over the course of a day. Overall, don’t drive yourself nuts with the numbers. Plant your focus on what’s on your plate and how much of it you’re eating. This makes eating much less scientific and calculated and a lot more enjoyable. If you’re a diehard numbers girl, though, here’s an easy breakdown.

  • If you’re petite, shoot for an average of 1200 to 1500 calories per day.
  • If you fall in the middle ground, like me, at five foot three to five foot seven, work with about 1300 to 1600 calories per day.
  • If you’re five foot eight and up, aim for an average of 1500 to 1800 calories per day.
  • If you exercise sixty or more minutes four to six times a week, work with the upper range of calories noted, and if you need to tack on another 100 to 200 calories per day, do so. For visual guidance, you’ll notice set target calorie ranges at each meal and snack in the sample calendar at the start of each chapter.

Cheater’s Secret: Calories in, equal calories out. One single pound is equivalent to 3500 calories. So if your goal is to lose one pound per week, you’ll want to shave off 500 calories per day. Sounds like a lot, but 500 calories adds up fast. Get a sandwich for lunch and take off one extra slice of cheese, swap the mayo for mustard, and lose the extra bag of pretzels, and bingo, you’re down almost 500 already. A huge shocker—consuming just 100 extra calories per day pans out to ten extra pounds gained per year! What’s 100 calories? One extra piece of cheese, one extra handful of cocktail nuts, three Twizzlers, that little mini bagel left over from a morning business meeting, that extra late-night beer on the weekend. Damn those sneaky calories. Thankfully, they’re just as easy to swap up and shave off as they are to sneak on. Knowledge is everything, so keep reading.

Skinny Genes

Some people are just born naturally slender—regardless of how many calorie-laden cheeseburgers, frozen margaritas, and pieces of chocolate cake they consume. By comparison, you may feel like you wound up in the deep end of the gene pool. But this is life, and we’re all pretty amazing in our own right. I’m a big fan of giving thanks for what your mama gave you—acknowledging it and owning it. I inherited some nice curves on my hips and my backside, and it took me a while, but I love it. The point of this chapter and the chapters ahead is to help you improve the health and natural beauty of your body—to give you the tools and tricks of the trade to boost your well-being, maximize your love of delicious and nutritious food, have you rocking out in the kitchen, and losing a few in the process. Now let’s get cooking.

Back to Basics: Getting to Know Your Kitchen / Simple Meals in Twenty Minutes or Less

“Use my oven—to cook? My apartment’s so small, I’ve converted my oven to storage space for shoes.”

Now for the good stuff—a girl’s got to eat, after all. It’s time to get acquainted with your stovetop and oven. If you’re a virgin in the kitchen, don’t worry—there’s a first time for everything. And if you’re already a seasoned gastronome but have trouble streamlining healthful, quick meals, the remainder of this chapter has you covered and will help you pull together the dinner recipes laid out in Week 1’s sample week of meals.

But before we get cooking, it’s worth mentioning that recipes are adaptable. Yes, there are lots of recipes throughout this book, but if you don’t have every single ingredient on hand or forget to add something, don’t stress and take liberty in experimenting (and cheating!). Cooking isn’t about following a recipe to the tee, it’s about mastering techniques and methods and really allowing yourself to test out flavors, cooking times, and ingredients. It’s about swapping garlic for a shallot and eventually getting comfortable enough to eyeball a tablespoon of olive oil or a dash of salt or a sprinkle of sugar (yes, real sugar!). Remember that every stove is calibrated a bit differently, so if you need to turn the temperature up or down depending on the status of your dish (under- or overcooking), definitely do so. And if you botch one of the recipes in this book, or any recipe for that matter, who cares? You’re learning, creating, and connecting that much more with your food, and that’s absolutely invaluable. So, with that introduction, let’s start with a refresher course of the basics and build from the ground up. The uncomplicated recipes that follow will take you through the bare-bone basics of simple weeknight cooking—for those nights when you get home from work late, are exhausted, ravenous, and just want to sit down to a quick, tasty meal. Instead of calling the Chinese takeout place, preparing a speedy meal in under twenty minutes will save you money (more for your next shoe purchase), save you time (banging it out yourself is quicker than the delivery dude), and save you a good number of calories (research shows that women who eat out or order out five or more times a week typically consume 290 calories more per day than women who eat out less frequently). If you do the math, that could potentially turn into twenty-nine extra pounds per year.

Cheater’s Secret: Keep things balanced when it’s a basic weeknight and you’re at home. Work in your two fun cheat and eat meals for the week on other nights out where you can ease up on the calorie consciousness and enjoy the ride.

First things first—one of the best things you can possibly do for yourself and your kitchen is to invest in a single good chef’s knife. Yes, they can get a little pricey, around $100 to $120, but a solid 8-inch knife makes a world of difference and makes cutting, chopping, and cooking your own meals so much easier. Head to your local kitchenware store and test-drive a few different brands to see what feels most comfortable when you grasp the knife handle and how heavy or light you like it. Henckels, Wusthof, Shun, and Global are higher-end cutlery brands; Chicago Cutlery is a more economical option but also a solid brand. Apron on, knife in hand—you’re on your way to becoming master of your domain in the kitchen . . . baby step by baby step. The recipes and ideas that follow will help you get through a hectic week when cooking a full meal seems virtually impossible. Nothing is impossible, though, when you’re cheating—planning ahead and playing smarter.


No, I’m not kidding. We’re starting with the real basics. The recipe below allows you to start with something as simple as boiling water and work your way upward. From eggs to pasta, vegetables to potatoes, soups to rice, chicken to lobster, boiling is a plain and simple cooking method—water and ingredients, and that’s about it.

CHEAT SHEET: Measuring Up

  • Tsp = teaspoon
  • Tbsp = tablespoon
  • lb = pound
  • 4 ounces = ½ cup
  • 8 ounces = 1 cup
  • 16 ounces = 1 pound
  • 32 ounces = 1 liter (liquid)

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs take literally 10 minutes, will stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week, and they’re great as a filling snack or part of a light meal at 70 calories and 6 grams of protein a pop. Wondering what the down-low on eggs is? Poor eggs have gotten a bad rap for years. Despite what you’ve heard, they don’t affect our cholesterol, and the yolks actually pack in tons of nutrients you don’t want to pass up, like vitamins B12 and D and disease-fighting antioxidants.

the goods

1 or more large or extra-large eggs (brown or white, both are great—the color just depends on the breed of the hen)
Salt (optional)

the breakdown

  1. Place the egg(s) in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water, about 1 inch above the eggs.
  2. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. You can add a dash of salt to the water to make the eggs easier to peel.

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