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Slimdown Success: How One Woman Lost 261 lbs With an Easy Twist on Intermittent Fasting

Plus, studies link it to lower risks for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more

What if dieting for only five days each month could help you feel happier, slow aging and boost immunity? It can! Just ask University of Southern California’s Valter Longo, PhD, author of The Longevity Diet, who created the approach based on 20 years of research. Strong word-of-mouth is now driving the plans popularity. 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. If that’s not enough to convince you, keep reading to discover how you can feel your best and power off pounds with the longevity diet.

What is the longevity diet?

Longo says the longevity diet 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. Aim to eat more high-fat favorites like avocado, nuts and olive oil while enjoying a moderate carbohydrate intake from unrefined sources like whole-grain bread. 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.

For the rest of the month, simply stick to healthy plant-based staples and up to three servings of fish weekly. (Click through to learn about the plant-based plate hack that’s helping women slim down.) Longo also recommends sticking to a 12-hour intermittent fasting schedule, eating all of your meals for the day between 7 a.m, and 7 p.m., for instance. For those over 65, he also suggests upping protein intake to about 1 gram of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight. In one of Longo’s studies, doing so significantly lowered mortality and cancer risk, plus is known to help preserve muscle mass in older adults.

Related: CDC Calls It the “World’s Healthiest Food” — Here’s How You Can Benefit From Watercress

How the longevity diet boosts fat burning

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 Longo. “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!”

Other benefits of the longevity diet

Longo adds that other diets “almost unanimously lead to muscle loss,” a factor that slows metabolism and sets us up to regain weight. But 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. Basically, the diet helps your body go in whatever direction it needs to go in, Longo says.

Plus, since you’re naturally eating more nutrient-rich plant foods while on the plan, the list of benefits goes on and on. Increased intake of fruits and veggies and reducing red and processed meat is linked to lower risks for heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Related: To Boost the ‘Youth Hormones’ (HGH) That Build Muscle and Burn Fat, Do These 3 Things

Longevity diet before and after: Tamara Quarles, 58

Before and after photos of Tamara Quarles who lost 261 lbs with the help of the longevity diet
Matt Wittmeyer

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 Yorker, 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 Club 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!” (The strategy also helped her effortlessly reduce her intake of emulsifiers in food. Click through to learn how emulsifiers trigger weight gain.)

Longevity diet success story: Traci Kirchner Rannefeld

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. Some insurance and health savings accounts cover the cost. “I liked what I read about it, so I tried it.”

Traci was soon digging into boxes of soup, nut bars, olives and more. “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 repeats 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!”

What to eat on 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. Our fat-rich sample meals, below, have roughly 300 calories each. You can repeat this five-day approach once a month. Or consider a ProLon kit that includes all the pre-made foods you’ll need for your 5-day fast. As always, get your doctor’s okay to try any new diet. Folks with health conditions may need to be monitored.

BREAKFAST: Combine ¾ cup cooked oatmeal with 1 Tbs. low-sugar jam and 1 serving plant-based fat, such as 1 Tbs. coconut oil or 20 almonds.

LUNCH: Toss 1 sliced tomato, ¼ diced avocado, 3 Tbs. beans or chickpeas and 2 tsp. olive oil, plus vinegar, onion and herbs to taste.

DINNER: Spread ½ avocado on whole-grain toast (up to 150 calories) with a few sliced tomatoes and seasoning to taste.

Bonus recipe: Easy Veggie Soup

Bowl of veggie soup as part of Longevity Diet

This make-ahead meal is delicious, filling and ultra-nutritious. Makes 4 servings.


  • 1 onion, sliced
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 tsp. minced garlic
  • 6 cups low-sodium veggie broth
  • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen peas or carrots
  • 1 cup sliced cabbage
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning


  1. In soup pot, sauté onion in ¼ cup olive oil. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute.
  2. Add broth, tomatoes, peas/carrots, cabbage and seasoning.
  3. Bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes; stir in ¼ cup olive oil.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

For more on longevity and healthy aging, check out these stories:

6 Free + Easy Healthy Aging Tips That’ll Help You Feel Better Than Ever

The 7 Best Ways To Reverse Brain Aging & Strengthen Memory, According to Scientists

Your Connections Predict Your Longevity Better Than Your Cholesterol Levels, Says Study — Here’s Why

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