Everyone is buzzing about a breakthrough way to slim down that also helps folks feel happier, slows aging, boosts immunity and heals countless diseases. The best part: The low-calorie, plant-based regimen requires dieting a mere five days per month. “Fat continues to burn after people return to their normal diet,” confirms University of Southern California’s Valter Longo, PhD, who created the approach based on 20 years of research. Strong word-of-mouth is now driving the plan’s popularity.
CBS This Morning’s Gayle King reportedly used it to speed her way back into a too-tight dress. Bloggers marvel that they’ve lost up to 16 pounds in five days. And a New York grandmother used the approach periodically to shed an astonishing 261 pounds. The results and the science are so impressive, Dr. Oz dubbed it “the next big thing in weight loss!”
Longo says his strategy is an upgrade on the “intermittent fasting” trend. What sets it apart? While many fasting plans restrict food intake every single day, Longo’s doesn’t. Instead, you allow yourself about 900 plant-based calories a day for any five consecutive days a month. That’s it. His studies reveal that doing so triggers far greater health benefits than those you get from daily fasting and yet is safe and more sustainable for most.
Longo adds that other diets “almost unanimously lead to muscle loss,” a factor that slows metabolism and sets us up to regain weight; tests show his approach protects muscle. “Most of what you lose is fat,” he confirms. So you end up slimmer, firmer and primed to stay that way.
Also exciting: if your blood pressure or blood sugar is high when you start, Longo’s technique is proven to bring them down. But if you happen to have low sugar or blood pressure, his diet will keep numbers steady or even bring them up. On top of that, those with the most weight to lose will shed spare pounds two times faster than everyone else. Basically, the diet helps your body go in whatever direction it needs to go in, Longo says. Here’s how…
How does the Longevity Diet work?
Turns out, eating just enough plant-based, fat-rich fare to feel full shifts us into a special metabolic state that has long helped humans thrive during times when food is scarce.
To understand how it works, Longo suggests thinking of your body as an old-fashioned train. Old trains were made of wood and were powered by wood fires, so if necessary, “the engineer could take wood pieces from the train—starting with damaged parts—and use them as fuel, which would make the train lighter in the process,” says The Longevity Diet author. “When the train got to the next station, any parts used for fuel could be rebuilt with new materials.”
Use Longo’s five-day mini fast, and that happens inside your body. You start off in “a high fat-burning mode” that allows you to fuel yourself with as much stored fat as possible. And you also begin to burn off damaged old cells and tissues.
After five days, a lot of the junk is gone. Then when you eat again, “the body works to rebuild what was lost.” You end up with ultra-powerful, brand-new cells that allow your body to do everything better, from eliminating belly fat to fighting off diseases and even thinking more clearly. Adds Longo: “No other diet that we know of has this effect!”
How can you fit the Longevity Diet into your life?
After years of yo-yo dieting, Traci Kirchner Rannefeld began tending to her husband and mom as both battled cancer. “I took care of them, but not myself,” recalls the Texas grandmother, 61. Pounds piled on, and her health bottomed out. “I was exhausted and my blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure were all high.” Her doctor recommended a ProLon kit, which included five days of prepackaged food that fit Longo’s guidelines exactly; the $250 cost is covered by some insurance and health savings accounts. “I liked what I read about it, so I tried it.”
Traci was soon digging into boxes of soup, nut bars, olives and more as part of the Longevity Diet. “I learned to save as much of the food as possible for supper. Then I’d have a good-sized meal and go to bed a little early. I was more tired than usual, but I figured my body was resetting.” The results were definitely worth it — so much so that she’s repeated the five-day regimen once a month, simply aiming to make healthier choices during the weeks in between.
“I’m on a Facebook page called Fastinations, where buddies do their five days together. I’ve lost up to 8.2 pounds in five days, and then I keep losing weight for three weeks after. I’ve noticed my appetite is smaller now. And I crave healthy food instead of junk!” Traci has steadily lost 48 pounds. “My blood work is perfect, and I can even shop in the junior department if I want to. This way of eating makes you feel amazing!”
After Tamara Quarles got a hectic job, “I was eating out a lot — soul food, pizza, wings, ice cream. I was gaining, gaining, gaining,” recalls the New York reader, 58. At 458 pounds and struggling to walk, her health food–loving family inspired her to try mini fasts built around fresh juice, veggie soup, avocado, and coconut oil; the rest of the time, she simply ate healthy, home-cooked meals.
As pounds poured off — 100 pounds in mere months! — she joined a TOPS support group, “but I still made my own rules.” She continued using mini fasts. After indulging, “It was the only way I could reverse the gain and start losing again.” Today, Tamara is 261 pounds lighter and feels fantastic. “It’s never too late to get healthy!”
What do meals on this diet look like?
For the Longevity Diet, simply aim for 900 calories of plant foods daily for five consecutive days, getting about half your calories from fat sources like nuts and olive oil.
You can repeat this five-day approach once a month. As always, get your doctor’s okay to try any new diet; folks with health conditions may need to be monitored.
BREAKFAST: Three-quarters cup cooked oatmeal with one tablespoon low-sugar jam and one serving plant-based fat, such as one tablespoon of coconut oil or 20 almonds.
LUNCH: Toss one sliced tomato, one-quarter of a diced avocado, three tablespoons of beans or chickpeas, and two teaspoons of olive oil, plus vinegar, onion, and herbs to taste.
DINNER: One half of an avocado on whole-grain toast (up to 150 calories) with a few sliced tomatoes and seasoning to taste.
The article originally appeared in our print magazine.