It's a dieter's dream: You don't have to restrict calories or carbs every day to see results! Slash 'em just a few days a week and you'll lose weight and keep it off. Fantasy? No, it's reality. Part-time weight-loss plans deliver real-world results. The latest, headline-grabbing news even says this easy-breezy pounds-off strategy could lower risk for breast cancer.
Wowie! But does it really work? Is it safe? We took a look. Here's what you need to know:
Part-time diets take time. Don't expect to lose five pounds in a week, but that's a good thing. Slow, steady weight loss is more likely to be permanent. A healthy diet-two-days-a-week plan that cuts out extra carbs (like the added sugars, syrups and refined grains that don't do your body any favors) could help you lose a little more weight over four to six months (about a pound a week) than following a low-calorie diet for the same length of time.
Part-time diets work if you're trustworthy. One of the best-studied of the part-time diets cuts carbohydrates to 40 grams a day, two days a week, and lets dieters choose the healthy foods they love best the other five days a week. That's not a license to order the triple cheeseburger and biggie fries. It's an opportunity to practice lifelong healthy eating habits during your diet.
Part-time diets keep hunger in check. Reining in carbohydrates helps keep your blood sugar on a more even keel, getting past the rollercoaster spikes and dips that lead to between-meal cravings.
Part-time diets pack a health bonus. Done right, this way of eating may reduce your odds for diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. How? Slashing carbohydrates two days a week makes your muscle cells become more sensitive to insulin, the "traffic cop" that tells cells to open up and let in the sugar from your bloodstream.
So how do you get started with this diet plan you actually can live with?
» Choose healthy edibles full-time -- we mean seven days a week. On diet days, don't overload on fatty meats and full-fat cheese. If you're thinking cutting carbs is all that matters, that's not true! There's more to weight loss than losing pounds. Making body-pampering food choices and skipping added sugars, saturated fat and trans fats, fried foods, and processed foods will help you sidestep hunger pangs and cravings, and lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease, too.
» On eat-what-you-want days, don't overdo it. One challenge with two-day or alternate-day diets is that the off-day eating could keep your stomach stretched and ready for the next big meal. It takes about six weeks of consistently small, diet-size meals until your stomach and brain feel full with less food. And that's a great place to be, because it means smaller meals will keep you feeling happy when the diet's done and you're maintaining your new physique. One solution: Eat four to six times day; frequent, small servings will keep you satisfied and help reduce your appetite.
» Try an even simpler approach: Eat only between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (or any 8-hour period). Limiting the hours when your kitchen's open could automatically help you eat 28 percent less food, an easy way to lose pounds without counting every little calorie. Making healthy choices still matters (plenty of produce, some low-fat dairy and whole grains, and lean, healthy protein like beans, fish and skinless chicken and turkey). And no grazing the rest of the time! The key to losing weight is eating smart, not dieting hard. So avoiding the five food felons (saturated and trans fats, added sugars, added syrups and any grain but 100 percent whole grain), going to smaller portions or limited eating times two to four days a week will transform your life and your body.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information, go to realage.com.