A diet, but you can still eat chocolate

There’s a new diet on the block and this one lets you eat pasta and chocolate. Jackie Wicks explains.

Woman on the scalesThe average Brit starts around 189 diets in their lifetime and fails at almost all of them according to recent research. Most of us attempt around three diets each year – but give up quickly after a setback

For women, the most common ‘weaknesses’ are chocolate and crisps with 43 percent of respondents said they couldn’t resist eating snacks out of boredom.

With the best will in the world, most of us fail to lose weight (or keep it off) through dieting. Now a new book Cheats & Eats by Jackie Wicks (with nutritionist Rob Hobson) explains how to change that ensuring no food is off limits and helping you to rethink your relationship with food.

If you have ever tried to lose weight and failed what went wrong? Lack of willpower, a cheese, crisp, chocolate habit or emotional overeating? In a nutshell, it was probably just life; people, things, relationships, socialising, stress, limited time. You might have had every intention of drinking cider vinegar before every meal, sticking with your calorie-counted menus but then you had a birthday bash or a boozy do or someone brought a homemade cake to work on Monday and sabotaged your best-laid plans and you just gave up feeling like a big fat failure.

So just how do you successfully shed weight given life tends to have an inconvenient habit of getting in the way of dieting? It is the question that has preoccupied Jackie Wicks, founder of US weight-loss network PEERtrainer and led to the creation of the Eats & Cheats lifestyle programme. As she says, ‘I’ve spent many years obsessed with one question: What diet will people actually follow through with?’ The result – which hundreds of thousands of people in the US can testify works – is her flexible Eats & Cheats plan where there are no ‘no go’ foods – you simply pick 10 ‘cheats’ daily including pasta, bread, chocolate, pastries from the list provided, each of which are 100 calories and then add unlimited ‘eats’ (the things that will help you lose weight) in the shape of nutritionally dense foods like vegetables, fruit, pulses, lean protein, healthy fats (nuts, seeds and oils) and grains like quinoa. The plan is not simply about what you eat, it is also about rethinking your attitude to food.

Here’s how you can change your relationship with food;

Friends enjoying wine

Stop making things hard for yourself

Jackie is not blithely saying losing weight is simple – she knows it isn’t which is precisely why she has created a plan that takes you back to basics – splitting food into just two groups: ‘Cheats’ and ‘Eats’ which you can see effortlessly at a glance. There is no calorie counting, weighing and measuring, point systems, meal replacements or cutting out of whole food groups. This is not a plan about denying yourself food.

Quit stressing about food

This is borne out of understanding (based on years of interviews with thousands of women and men) so many of us get into a cycle of ‘obsessing and distressing’ over food. We feel guilty, stressed if we start a diet and can’t stick to it and so food becomes a source of angst. As Jackie points out our bodies release the hormone cortisol when under stress and there are studies linking raised cortisol with weight gain and this can be one more reason potentially making it harder for you to slim down. Helping to reduce stress (say, by exercising) and stopping stressing around food choices should aid successful weight loss.

Avoid the ‘if onlys’…

We all do it. If only I had the time to prepare healthy meals; if only I had a personal trainer; if only I had the same ability to eat what I wanted as my sister/husband; if only I had the money for a personal chef I would be thin. Jackie says, ‘We believe this is the one thing holding us back from success…but the reality is that to lose weight, dealing with where you are right now is the magic bullet.’ Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time-consuming. You can work out at home and you can walk. Making achievable everyday changes is what will get you results.

Never go hungry

As Jackie points out many of us fail on diets because we are hungry. No diet is sustainable if you are dealing with a constantly rumbling stomach and you are withholding the foods you crave. As she says,’ your stomach needs food. It needs micronutrients. It wants to feel full.’ And it can – by mixing a little of what you fancy with filling and nutrient-dense foods.


The best diet pills you can buy…

…Are vegetables. Okay, so you might feel this is another diet ruse – you can eat whatever you want so long as that food is lettuce shavings or cauliflower dust. Not so. Jackie explains that filling up on substantial quantities of vegetables and other plant-based foods like beans and pulses ‘will help you drop pounds, increase your energy and improve your overall health.’

Define your need to lose weight

It might seem a blindingly obvious question but ask yourself why you want to lose weight. Jackie points out in order to succeed ‘you’ve got to create your “must”– in other words, find a specific motivation as to why. Whether it is to look good at a planned school reunion, a birthday, anniversary or to be slimmer and fitter for holiday. Define your ‘must’ and you have a more solid framework for success.

Pick your Achilles heel

There is no one size fits all approach to successfully losing weight. What your friend does to succeed may be very different to what you do. With this in mind, Jackie suggests you concentrate on one thing that is tripping you up when it comes to losing weight. Is it biscuits with your coffee or tea? Can’t say no to cheese? Is wine o’clock your downfall? Jackie says pick that one thing and avoid doing it for a day. You’ve already made one small change and it is the accumulation of these small changes that gets results.

The Eats and Cheats list

A full list of cheats and eats are included in the book along with a range of easy to follow delicious recipes and simple exercises. But at a glance:


You can have 10 of these per day, no more than 100 calories per serving

  • Refined wheat and yeast products (rice, pasta, wheat snacks, pizza, fried foods, chips, cakes, desserts)
  • Confectionery
  • Dairy products
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar and sweeteners (such as honey, agave and maple syrup)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Grains (such as barley, oats, rye, spelt and corn)
  • Fatty or processed meats
  • Hard fats (such as butter, lard and ghee)
  • Condiments (such as ketchup, brown sauce and hollandaise)


There is no limit on the amount of ‘eats’ you can have

  • All vegetables
  • Berries
  • Lemons and limes
  • Beans, lentils and pulses
  • Pseudo grains (such as quinoa, kana, amaranth, teff and buckwheat)
  • Herbs and spices
  • Herbal teas

Limited fats

One counts as an eat; any more the same day counts as a cheat

  • Animal or soy protein (including chicken and fish and eggs)
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • All fruits and juices other than berries
  • Oils, tahini and avocado

Cheats & Eats Lifestyle Programme: Eat the foods you crave and lose weight even faster by Jackie Wicks with Rob Hobson, available at Heathspan or Amazon

Last modified: June 10, 2021

Written by 4:59 pm Nutrition