Feast on delicious holiday fare and watch spare pounds melt away? We thought it was an impossible wish-until Jason Fung, M.D., shared his weight-loss tricks with us. “People debate endlessly about which foods we ought to or shouldn't eat, however i put more focus on when we eat,” he says. “If we set a restriction on the amount of time we spend eating, we free ourselves to enjoy treats and even celebration meals while still losing steadily.”

Lots of science backs him up. Better yet, he's a legion of devotees using his strategies in the real world who say they enjoy all of their Christmas favorites while still losing up to 15 pounds a week!

Dr. Fung is among the world's leading experts on time-restricted eating (also known as intermittent fasting), the most popular variation of which works such as this: You set up a daily “eating window” – 11 am to 7 pm, for instance – and consume all your food in that time.

Your window can range from 12 hours to one hour, but Dr. Fung recommends 8 hours for novices. “Get a feel for the technique, then adjust your window until it feels comfortable and you're getting results,” he advises. Exactly what do you consume on your window? To rev energy and weight loss, go mostly for natural, minimally processed options. But you needn't be strict. “A key advantage of intermittent fasting is its flexibility,” says Dr. Fung. “During the holidays, just fast between your feasting.” You will still get great results.

Timing is Everything

You might think that after 16 hours of not eating, you'd overload during your eating window. Not so, say University of Illinois scientists. Their new study found that a time-restricted approach prompts us to consume hundreds fewer total calories.

One reason: Short fasts activate a turbo-boost mode that helped our ancestors thrive during periods of scarcity. Called autophagy, “it triggers the body to get rid of itself of accumulated waste and replace damaged cells with brand new ones,” says Dr. Fung. It's a primary reason the Toronto-based kidney specialist first became interested in fasting. Every cell, organ and the body system is rejuvenated. Benefits include better hunger control, metabolism, skin, mood and immunity, plus reduced pain. “You get healthier as you get lean.”

Dr. Fung adds that going longer stretches without food helps reduce manufacture of insulin, a hormone that stores excess sugar as fat and stalls fat burning. When you may also lower insulin with diet, “even when you are not making the healthiest choices, changing by consuming is a powerful method of getting insulin down. And when that happens, weight falls automatically.”

Salt Makes it Easy

Dr. Fung includes a holiday-perfect hack to share. Get yourself a mineral-rich salt like every pink Himalayan variety, then “add a pinch to water and drink it whenever hunger or a craving hits,” he suggests. A UC-Irvine study found the strategy prevents hunger-inducing lack of sodium along with other electrolyte minerals as levels of insulin fall. Stephanie McGarrigle says regular doses of salt made it easy to lose 150 pounds: “I'd just put a little on my tongue and drink water. It worked wonderfully, I'd often forget to consume!”