Diet and Fitness Tip: Allow Yourself a Weekly Cheat Meal


In recent articles this year, The Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated referred to Idan Ravin as the “Hoops Whisperer” because of his unique ability to engage, inspire and challenge the many NBA players he trains. Idan has worked with many of the NBA’s elite, including Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets), Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), Gilbert Arenas (Washington Wizards), Lebron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Elton Brand (Philadelphia 76ers), Jason Richardson (Phoenix Suns) and Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies).

My absolutely adorable niece Aliza turned 10 a couple weeks ago. While I already knew the answer, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. “Idaaann, anything AG.” AG is Idanics for “American Girl”, which is Idanics for 1) a new doll, 2) matching outfits for the dolls and myself to wear to school, and 3) a day at the AG store in Manhattan so we can have our hair done.

I’d like to encourage Aliza to make positive associations with exercise and healthy living, so we have an understanding. As long as she skips rope every day, then she doesn’t have to contribute one penny of her allowance toward the AG. I will take care of all the AG requests. She extended her left pinky and I extended my right pinky. We pinky shakes on the deal.

To date, she has been great. Every day before she goes to bed she skips rope for 15 minutes and, in exchange, her bedroom is filled with AG requests. A few weeks ago, after she finished exercising I saw her reach into the fridge to grab a grape soda. She popped the top and took a big sip. I asked her if she liked the taste and she smiled, “Of couuursssee Idaaan, it’s delicious.”

We talked about exercise and calories you burn while exercising. She didn’t realize how long she would have to skip rope in order to burn all the calories from the grape soda. I suggested she save the grape soda for Sunday when she was celebrating her birthday. She replied “Deal” and we pinky shook again.

Amongst my NBA players, we call this “the Cheat Meal.” In Idanics, the Cheat Meal represents the reward you have earned from commitment and discipline over the course of the week. It is the one meal where you eat whatever you want. I am talking the “colon buster sandwich” or the “stuff your face with a double bacon cheese burger, onion rings and a milk shake” combo meal. The Cheat Meal is premised on an earning principal. There are always going to be times when you really want to eat some junk. It’s OK to give in to the craving, just be mindful of when and where.

One of my clients, Elton Brand, was recovering from an Achilles tear a couple seasons ago. Understandably, he gained weight because he was inactive after surgery. Once he was cleared to resume activity on the court, he embraced the Cheat Meal philosophy. He was meticulous with his workouts and diet: early morning rehab with the physical therapist; lifting and stretching; on the court basketball drills and conditioning with Idan; stretch again; rest. Most importantly, his diet was perfect. He must have dropped 40 pounds over the course of a few months. On a Friday or Saturday night he enjoyed the Cheat Meal with his wife. (Side note: As you eat well throughout the week, over the course of an extended period of time, I found that the desire for the “Cheat Meal” slowly diminishes. Everything you thought you wanted will not taste like how you remembered).

Turning our attention back to Aliza, she enjoyed her grape soda on her birthday with her friends and family while opening up all her gifts, including the AG. 10 year old Aliza and 30 year old NBA All Star Elton Brand are wonderful examples of how to create positive associations between a healthy lifestyle and exercise. Not to mention, how to balance good common sense with our natural desire to feed our sweet tooth.

Uncle Idan