The Cheat System Diet: Review and Discussion with Author Jackie Wicks

When I was a new mom, I struggled with losing the baby weight.

I joined Weight Watchers and lost a few pounds but they didn’t stay off. I didn’t eat that well on Weight Watchers – I could literally eat anything I wanted as long as I stayed within my points, so I ate crap, and then “white knuckled” my way through the weigh in at the weekly meeting. Ultimately, eating like crap backfires because you’re not fully nourished, you develop nutrient deficiencies, and your will power disappears. Then you’re back where you started.

The Cheat System Diet: Review and Discussion with Author Jackie WicksI’m not interested in diets that allow you to eat crap – I want you to eat nutrient dense food that reprograms your body, metabolism, and DNA. If you ever tried Weight Watchers or a similarly structured diet, and it didn’t work, I’ve got good news: it’s called The Cheat System Diet. I just got my advance copy, and I think it will make you clean and lean.

I also happen to love the author, Jackie Wicks, a girlfriend who lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two kids. She and her husband have been running for nearly a decade, a wildly successful online “weight-loss lab” called PEERtrainer. They took their lessons learned to create The Cheat System Diet.

Jackie kindly agreed to do a Q&A with me about her new book – I think the interview will be very helpful if you struggle with eating healthy foods and getting lean.

Dr. Sara:

Jackie, there are so many diet books out there and yet so much struggle. What makes this book different?  

Jackie Wicks:

The answer is that the ideas and methods presented in The Cheat System Diet have been tested over many years, by tens of thousands of people. The plan and system presented in the book is built upon the bedrock of success.  The reason for the success is that this is not just a diet.

This is the most comprehensive plan ever presented, in the guise of a “diet book.” As people begin to stack and layer the elements of the plan, their personal bedrock of success begins to grow.  And a lot of the ideas really run counter to the dominant narratives out there – even some of the emerging narratives.

Dr. Sara:

Great point about the stack and layer approach—makes total sense and I really like it. From my perspective, we have a cortisol-raising lifestyle. You and I have talked about this before. It’s not just the food people eat, it is their entire conceptual approach to existence. We are very comfortable with the word “extreme.”


Exactly right. One of the most effective “needle movers” for many people is embracing the idea of exercising at a slower pace for most people. It is one of the success layers. But people are really resistant to it, at first. For many people strenuous exercise is a form of therapy. People don’t realize how much this raises cortisol, which throws their entire hormonal balance out of whack.

When you eat the right diet it helps you avoid the “hormone death spiral” which is a phrase you invented.

Dr. Sara:

Oh no! Hormone death spiral! Prevent it now! Ha ha. But seriously, Jackie, I’m going to bug you about the word “cheat.” Can you explain why you use it in the title? In my experience, “cheat” has a negative meaning for most people.


We get this question a lot. The first thing to point out is that this is NOT a diet built around “cheat days” or “cheat meals.” I mean…

Have you ever met anyone could PLAN when the wheels fall off?

The big idea here is that we would see people not stick to whatever plan they were on and feel as if they “cheated.” A negative cycle would ensue from there. From our perspective, these behaviors are totally normal. And we built The Cheat System Diet to take that into account, with some deep, often personal, understanding of how real people act in relationship to food.

It’s sort of like a relationship with your mother- is there ANY one of us who has a totally healthy relationship with our moms?

Dr. Sara:

Wait, Jackie, did you call my mom? You just busted me.


Ha! No, but join the club, right?

I will also say that there are some very prominent voices out there who are equating people who are not totally in control of their food choices to addicts and alcoholics. I saw this on Dr. Oz just a few days ago – a prominent MD who we all know – literally used the words “addict” and “alcoholic.”

We are to believe that if we can eat a 90% vegetable diet we are somehow lesser people?

No, screw that. There is plenty you can do on the health side and not drive yourself nuts. THAT’S what we mean by Cheat. There is nothing wrong with you.

Dr. Sara:

Roger that!

You have a lot of recipes in this book. How do the recipes help drive the plan? And did you put your breakfast salad in there with the bacon?


Recipes have always been our secret weapon. The reason is that we have learned how to make good food taste good. People continually say things like they are “surprised by the great taste” and “who would have thought that it was actually yummy.”

People are genuinely surprised at this. A secret of ours is that we don’t cook conventional American cuisine. Even the stuff at the top restaurants- we are not making “healthy” versions of those recipes.

We get very creative, even goofy at times, with our recipes – like the breakfast salad with bacon you love. But these are recipes we make ourselves – this is the food that you’ll be served at our own house.

Dr. Sara:

What about the 40-something year old woman (my average patient) who has “tried everything” and is frustrated by continually feeling like success is just beyond their grasp?


You have to start with ONE THING.

The #1 thing that sets people up for failure is getting so frustrated they start doing everything at once. As our mutual friend Dr. Srini Pillay says…

“The brain wants to change, but you cannot overwhelm it.” ~ Dr. Srini Pillay MD of Harvard Medical School.

This is really a key to success with The Cheat System Diet, we get a very ambitious target, but encourage you to go there at WHATEVER pace is comfortable. It is a system and plan of “gentle conditioning.”

The other thing to keep in mind that you are going to get what you expect, not what you want.

So ask yourself this question:

How much do you want to lose?

And then ask yourself:

How much do you EXPECT to lose.

The answers to those questions will likely be different. This teaches you that you get what you expect, not what you want. This helps you avoid brain chaos and overwhelm.

For example you might want to lose 50 pounds, but really expect to lose 2. For whatever reason, that has been your own personal experience. So start with those 2.

Dr. Sara:

How will someone fail on The Cheat System Diet?

As an MD, I’m always trying to assess the downside of a food plan. What are signs that someone will not succeed?


Another great question. We like to say that The Cheat System Diet is failure proof, because as long as you are headed in the right direction, that is success itself.  But to answer your question, if you keep expecting yourself to lose weight doing things you hate to do, you are going to fail. Doing things you don’t like doing is the #1 path to not succeed. At anything, really.

If there is anything in the book that you really don’t want to do- then don’t do it. And if you are asking too much for the brain to accept, your brain literally turns into a 2 year old and says “I am not going to do that.”

Another really important way to avoid failure is to focus continually on feeling full. We have been brainwashed by the commercial diet companies to think that “nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” This has set people up to think that they cannot be full on tasty foods and still lose weight. People even portion control their vegetables, which is crazy!!

Dr. Sara:

One final question, I noticed in the book that Pete Egoscue’s alignment exercises play a key role. My husband is a big fan of Pete’s but tell us: how does alignment relate to weight loss?


The short answer that when you are out of alignment you are in pain. And pain, even small amounts, kills the motivation to move. This is an example of the breadth of our system.

To change the subject slightly, motivation is the real PROMISE of The Cheat System Diet.

“I am here to manufacture motivation.” ~ Jackie Wicks, author of The Cheat System Diet.

I know what you will do and what you will not do. I know what you think you SHOULD do, but I know what you will ACTUALLY do. Because they are not the same thing.

I know this because your problems are my problems. Through the anonymous nature of PEERtrainer, I was able to see what you won’t do.

What you won’t do IS NOT IN THE BOOK.

And you don’t have to. That is the biggest secret. That is why you will succeed on this plan.

Dr. Sara:

Fantastic – thank you, Jackie, for taking the time for our Q&A.

Friends, I’m really excited about The Cheat System Diet. I love the stack and layer approach, the breadth of the content, and how it’s built on proven strategies from the PEERtrainer online “weight-loss lab.”

You can pre-order The Cheat System Diet now at a discount.


When you pre-order the book, Jackie is giving you free access to her $77 Point of No Return, a 12-week program to reset the way you eat and dump the fat (and bad habits) for good. Simply buy the book and send your receipt to, and they will get you started right away!