Between preparing healthy lunches, carefully measuring portions and tracking every calorie, standing on a diet can simply appear to be an excessive amount of work. Does it have to be so hard? Turns out the answer is no! Breakthrough research proves that dieting just for 5 days – and forgetting about it throughout the month – is a surefire method to melt stuck-on fat and keep it falling off your frame.

In fact, the body's fat-burning system actually requires a break from time to time. That is because 90 percent of women over 40 have overworked mitochondria – the mini power plants within our cells that turn incoming calories and body fat into energy that the body can burn for fuel. “We've beaten our mitochondria to death with asking to complete an excessive amount of work,” says cardiologist and longevity expert Steven Gundry, M.D., NYT bestselling author of The Energy Paradox (Buy on Amazon, $25.49). Research has shown that mitochondria need time for you to rest and repair between meals to be able to function optimally. “But the typical American now spends 16 hours each day eating and digesting, and that produces the cellular equivalent of rush-hour traffic,” explains Dr. Gundry. “Our energy – much like the roads during rush hour – literally grinds to a halt.” When this happens, the body can't convert incoming calories or body fat into fuel. Metabolism slows down, you've got no energy – and that leads to a pileup of excess weight.

Remarkably, groundbreaking studies have shown that it takes just 5 days to reboot the body's slimming system. The important thing to doing that, says Dr. Gundry, is eating a low-calorie, plant-based diet for five consecutive days every month. This limits the quantity of work required from the mitochondria, giving them time to relax and heal. “You're literally providing them with a five-day spa vacation,” he states. “It's unbelievable the capability of mitochondria to repair themselves to boost their energy-making ability if you give them just a little break. They can regenerate – dust themselves off and pick themselves up – in an exceedingly short period of time.” Which means the little cellular energy engines are able to burn incoming calories more proficiently.

Dieting just for 5 days also prods cells to burn body fat – especially from the belly. “When you don't have much energy arriving, where does the system go to get fuel? It goes for the belly fat,” explains longevity expert Valter Longo, Ph.D., in the University of Los angeles (who has no affiliation with Dr. Gundry or his plan). In studies conducted by Dr. Longo and his team, adults who followed a low-calorie, plant-based diet for 5 days consecutively each month had 86 percent less stomach fat and 66 percent less overall body fat after three months compared to those following a standard diet 24/7. Women FIRST spoke to lost as much as two belly inches per week.

The benefits go beyond slimming. The dieters in Dr. Longo's studies also experienced a host of additional benefits, including improvements in blood pressure level, blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and cholesterol. “It's such as the diet is triggering ways to rejuvenate the whole body,” Dr. Longo says. “Things go back to where these were when you were 18 years old. Your body goes back to being youthful and functioning optimally.”

The changes happen fast, Dr. Gundry says: Nearly all women report feeling less sluggish within the first week of the plan. “The word 'diet' has never been in my vocabulary, but I have reclaimed myself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually,” cheers Tamara Quarles, 58, who lost 261 pounds by following a plant-based detox 5 days each month. “I'm so proud!”

Ready to begin with your transformation? Continue reading for that five-day plan.

Delicious and Effective

Following a plant-based diet for five consecutive days each month gives the mitochondria – the “power plants” from the body – a much-needed break to recharge and heal, speeding metabolic process and fat burning. This mini holiday for our cells offers a rest from the conventional American diet, which is full of animal fats and sugar, leaving us “over-nourished and underpowered,” asserts longevity expert and NYT bestselling author Steven Gundry, M.D. “But if you try this five-day plan just once a month and if you do it consistently every month, the evidence implies that you'll get the same benefits just like you were eating 30 % fewer calories every day for the rest of your life!”

Best of all, adds Dr. Gundry, you will get the benefits without actually giving anything up. Indeed, because you can eat whatever you want another 25 days of the month, this plan is easier to stick to than other diets. “You get all of the advantages of fasting with no downsides,” like being hangry or feeling fatigued.

On Dr. Gundry's mitochondria-boosting diet, you'll eat small, plant-based meals, totaling about 800 calories for the day. He recommends following the plan from Monday to Friday, so you'll have the weekend to look forward to. But you can select any five consecutive days you'd like, so the monthly diet needn't interfere with any special events or celebrations.

On the five “diet days,” you'll fill your plate with vegetables, beans and nuts, ensuring to consume plenty of leafy greens, that are rich in antioxidants that offer the mitochondria. “I have done this plan of action just eating salads for 5 days,” Dr. Gundry says, and ladies report they made a huge pot of vegetable soup for meals. “It's so easy, and I never experience hunger.”

A note about beans: Dr. Gundry recommends pressure-cooking them, which breaks down the lectins, natural compounds that damage the gut, cause gas and stall weight reduction. Without having a pressure cooker or time for you to pre-cook beans, reach for Eden brand canned beans – they're pressure cooked before canning.

The only things off the menu are animal-based foods, like meat and dairy, as well as grains (which contain lectins) and fruit (its sugar can slow results). But for the remaining month, follow these tips to further heal your mitochondria and lose much more:

Enjoy plenty of healthy fats.

Short-chain fatty acids-like those who work in fish and essential olive oil – have shown to nourish mitochondria. Plus, these fats activate the genes that fire up the cellular energy engines, spurring cells to burn body fat fast. The payoff: Inside a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, overweight postmenopausal women who upped their consumption of healthy fats lost five times more excess fat in two months than women who didn't consume the fats.

Limit sugar.

Sugar may damage mitochondria, maintains Dr. Gundry. He advises cutting back on sugar from junk foods and considering limiting high-sugar fruits as well. He suggests opting for blackberries and raspberries, instead-they tend to have less sugar than other fruits.

Add a supplement.

An antioxidant called pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) has been shown to activate the genes which make new mitochondria, boosting fat burn and revving energy by up to 38 percent. “I'm a big fan of PQQ,” Dr. Gundry says. He recommends taking 10-20 mg. of PQQ each day. Someone to try: Life Extension Super Ubiquinol CoQ10 with PQQ.

Will limiting calories lower immunity?

While it may seem that restricting your calorie intake would tax your body minimizing immunity, Dr. Gundry says the opposite is true! “This plan actually improves your defense mechanisms,” he maintains.

“Calorie restriction puts your defense mechanisms into high gear.” Studies have shown that in a fast, the defense mechanisms attempts to save energy through the elimination of tired cells. This triggers your body to replace old cells with new immune cells after the five-day diet. “There is really a rejuvenation from the defense mechanisms,” Dr. Longo says. The more damaged the immune system is, the more of it gets replaced. “For some, this plan of action can generate a new immune system.”