The 3-1-2-1 Diet: Switch Between Clean Eating And Cheat Days For Sustained Weight Loss


One of the most difficult aspects of dieting is the serious restrictions that most eating plans put in place. “Eat a lot of this, but run for the hills from that” is a pretty common theme. Problem is, usually your favorite food(s) end up on the blacklist so to speak – Sugar, chocolate, starch, etc.

It’s not that either of those are healthy, but you’re likely to end up restricting yourself until you can’t contain your cravings anymore, and then you suddenly relapse to eating an entire tub of mint chip ice cream and pairing it with an entire bag of Doritos. This obviously leads to feelings of guilt and you hating yourself, because after all of that hard work you feel like a complete and utter failure.

Enter the 3-1-2-1 diet. Anyone who’s ever had the aforementioned scenario happen to them is really going to appreciate this one – It combines clean eating days (yay!) with cheat days that allow you to eat all of your favourite foods to your heart’s content (moderately, of course).

This short article will review the diet – Let you know what it is, how it works, the pros and cons, and I’ll even show you what a normal day on this eating plan looks like. If you’re someone that struggles with dieting because you just can’t seem to give up your favourite types of foods, this might just be the plan for you because it allows you to shed those extra pounds without feeling like you’re abandoning yourself (after all, you want to become a better, healthier you, not a completely different person). Bonus – The holiday season is officially in full swing, meaning those cheat days could actually come in real handy.

The 3-1-2-1 Diet

What Is It?

3121If you’re a fan of The Biggest Loser, you’ve probably heard of the name Dolvett Quince. He’s the one who created the diet and wrote the book on it. The theory behind the whole plan is that it will trick your metabolism which will in turn produce rapid weight loss.

Because of the way this diet is structured, Quince claims that when you’re on it you won’t feel deprived, you won’t have to give up your favorite foods, and if you follow the advice contained within the book to a tee, you could lose up to ten pounds in 21 days.

How It Works

Because of the way it’s structured (clean and cheat days), this diet has you eating a varied amount of calories every day. You know how after a while on most plans you hit the dreaded plateau? That’s usually a side effect of your body becoming used to eating the same (although fewer) calories on a daily basis.

Because of the cheat days (where you get to eat all of your favorite foods), your metabolism won’t get the opportunity to even out, meaning that it will continue working just as it should and you should continue losing weight regardless of whether you’re on day one or day twenty of the plan (provided that you follow the guidelines of course, but we’ll get to that in just a minute).

Although it’s fairly self-explanatory and everything you need to know is right in the name, here’s a breakdown of the method:

You eat clean for three days in a row.

– A wonderful (and probably needed in the beginning) cheat day happens.

– Two more days of clean eating.

– You get to enjoy a reward meal of your choice on the seventh day.

Cheat days and reward meals make it a whole lot easier to stay on the diet, and the great thing here is that absolutely no foods are off limits to you. You love chocolate cake? Great! Have some to satisfy that sweet tooth of yours, just make sure that you have the willpower to not eat the entire thing.

Clean Eating

31211You might be wondering what exactly clean eating is. If you ask me, it revolves around grassfed, free range proteins and organic produce.

This book doesn’t go that far though (which is understandable, those things aren’t readily available to everyone and they’re not exactly inexpensive either. I get it, even grocery store spinach is better than no spinach at all).

Here’s a list of various things you’ll be able to plate up on those clean eating days:

– Chicken breast

– Turkey bacon

– Lean beef

– Salmon (remember that wild caught fish is always leaps and bounds better than farmed, and usually contains a whole lot more of the good stuff)

– Egg whites

– Brown rice (although you might want to check out this post before you make an abundance of it)

– Oatmeal

– Whole-grain bread

– Almonds

– String cheese

– Spinach

– Green beans

– Asparagus

– Broccoli

– Zucchini

– Mushrooms

– Sweet potato

– Avocado

– Berries

– Oranges

– Kale chips

Etc. I’m sure you get the picture. Steer clear of sugars and aim for high quality proteins, fats, and produce and you’re good to go!

You’ll need to monitor your portion sizes (regardless of whether you’re on a clean or cheat day) if you want this plan to be super effective though – Calories add up quickly, and three platefuls of dinner isn’t going to do you any good. The good news is that if you’re eating high quality fats (and steering clear of that awful low-fat crap), you’ll likely get full fairly quickly. Listen to your body – It knows you better than anyone else.

A Day On The Plan

Here’s a quick rundown of what a clean eating day looks like while you’re on the 3-1-2-1 plan:


– Scrambled egg whites with spinach and mushrooms
– Turkey bacon
– English muffin


Morning Snack

– Cranberries

– Unsalted almonds



– Spinach salad with chicken and avocado


Afternoon Snack

– Hummus with baby carrots



– Grilled salmon

– Steamed broccoli


As you can see, it’s quite a bit of food. There’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t feel satiated even if you’re a little crabby because you didn’t get to eat your daily chocolate bar.

Working Out

31212As with any good weight loss plan, the 3-1-2-1 diet comes along with some fitness recommendations.

The book suggests a combination of high intensity cardio and strength training four to six days a week (remember, you should always give your body at least one day a week to recover from all that you’re putting it through – A good rule of thumb on this plan would be to rest up on day seven and just revel in your glorious reward meal). The combination of cardio and weight training helps create a strong, lean, and muscular body.

Pros And Cons


– Doesn’t require you to give up all the foods you love (perfect for when you’re having an exceptionally stressful day).

– Helps your body stay away from the dreaded ‘plateau’ stage by keeping your body and metabolism guessing.

– Gives you cheat days which makes the plan easier to stick to on a long term basis.

– Has the ability to encourage rapid weight loss when you remember to monitor your portion sizes and actually stick to the workouts provided.

– Provides you with time efficient workouts that can help tone your body.

– Comes equipped with meal plans and recipes so that you’re not left guessing what you can and can’t eat on any given day.


– Requires you to monitor your portions, even on the clean eating days.

31213– Allows you to eat absolutely anything you want on cheat days, which could be super dangerous for some people.

– The workouts provided might be a little much for someone who isn’t usually physically active.

– You’re not accountable to anyone (like a personal trainer), which could make it easy to skip workouts and eat more than you should.

Is It Safe?

Since you’ll be eating a variety of different foods on any given day, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be. Yes, you’ll have to monitor your portion sizes (more so on the cheat days), but as long as you’re not starving yourself the 3-1-2-1 diet should be fairly safe.

That said, if you’re someone that hasn’t worked out in ten years, you’re going to want to be careful when it comes to that part – Start slow, and work your way up. You might not see incredible results right away, but it beats hurting yourself and not being able to even bend over for six months. Again, listen to your body here because it definitely knows best. Tenderness is usually a good thing. Pain is not.

Does It Work?

Provided you remember to monitor your portion sizes, work out when you’re supposed to, and don’t eat too much on your cheat days I see no reason why this diet wouldn’t help you lose weight. That said, nothing will ever compare to a diet rich in whole, organic foods (vitamin and nutrient density matter too, don’t forget).

I’d consider this to be a good leeway diet, meaning that it’s a great first step to a better lifestyle and helping you understand what clean eating is. And when you consider that we’re right in the swing of the holiday season, it might actually be the perfect diet for allowing you to not feel deprived at all those parties you find yourself at.

The Usual Statement

Here’s your friendly reminder that I’m not a doctor. You should always book a checkup with your medical and/or holistic professional before taking the plunge into this or any of the other diet and eating plans we’ve reviewed, just to make sure that everything’s in good working order. There’s nothing more frustrating than starting a new lifestyle plan and then finding out that you have to stop because you have some sort of underlying medical condition.

In case you missed it the first time around, you can purchase the book from the link below:

The 3-1-2-1 Diet – Eat and Cheat Your Way to Weight Loss (up to 10 Pounds in 21 Days)

Have you ever tried out the 3-1-2-1 or a similar diet? How do you feel about the idea of cheat days? We always love hearing what our readers have to say, so let us know what you think in the comments section below!

The 3-1-2-1 Diet - Switch Between Clean Eating And Cheat Days For Sustained Weight Loss

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