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Could a Clock-Based Diet Be For You?

Some choose a 16/8 pattern others an 18/6 or a 20/4 pattern; for some a schedule of five days on, two days off works better than four days on and three days off. No matter the eating/not eating pattern or schedule they follow, intermittent fasting works for some people. However, many nutritionists frown upon it as a method of weight loss.

Noelle Martin, instructor in the school of foods and nutritional sciences at Brescia University College, is a registered dietitian at Nourished Beginnings, a clinic specializing in nutrition for women and children.

She describes intermittent fasting (IF) as a “pattern of eating where there are lengthened portions of time when people go without eating at all or eating with very reduced calories.” She adds that the most common eating pattern is 16/8: 16 hours of fasting and eight hours of eating.

This is the one that Shawna Kwan most often follows. She’s used intermittent fasting to help control her weight off and on for five years. Kwan owns Elan Dance Arts, has two young daughters and prefers an active lifestyle that includes running, walking and biking. Because of her dance history, she’s had four knee surgeries and needs to “keep weight off my knees.”

Along with weight control, Kwan finds that she enjoys better mental clarity, less inflammation and budgetary benefits. “It has benefited my grocery budget by eating one less meal a day.” She also likes the flexibility of IF; on days when her schedule is off, she is able to shift her eating window to accommodate and still eat dinner with her daughters.

When she’s too busy, Kwan doesn’t follow an IF eating pattern and she doesn’t feel as well. But when she does, “I have less inflammation, sleep better because I don’t feel full at night and am able to rest easier. I wake up more excited to get up and be active in the morning.”

These types of ancillary benefits are perks to many who follow an IF lifestyle. This was the case for Ann Wheatley, 61. Several years ago, she was experiencing an autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

After taking prescribed steroids for two months – that weren’t helping and were causing her to be “hungry and grouchy” – for this degenerative muscle disease that gave her an inflamed red rash on her head and hands, as well as trouble swallowing, Wheatley tried IF. She fasted one day per week. On that day, “I drank green tea and green smoothies, containing algae and chlorophyll, that just tasted awful,” she says.

It was worth it though. “The fasting really made a huge difference; this disease went away in 10 months,” according to Wheatley. How does she explain it? “Fasting lets your gut settle down and your system settle down over time by fasting one day each week.” A nice side benefit was the 20 pounds that she lost.

Carol Jane Clemens, 62, has been following an IF lifestyle for two and a half years and coaches “mature women” through her business, Carol Jane Wellness. Sometimes she follows an 18/6 pattern, others a 22/2. She often changes daily fasting patterns to weekly ones, with a five days on/two days off pattern.

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Being mindful of when and how much we eat can have weight loss, energy and budgetary benefits. But nutrition experts are leery, as severely restrictive diets can have an adverse effects. Pros and cons of intermittent fasting.

“Do it at different intervals,” say says, “because our bodies don’t just want one protocol.” She cautions, however, that general health, age and activity lev-el have to be considered before trying a longer fast.

“One of the reasons that IF works well for mature women is that it fits their lifestyle. If I want to go for lunch with friends, I can adjust my schedule,” explains Clemens. She says that IF can result in weight loss because the “body is burning sugar when you’re eating and fat when you’re fasting.” And changing the eating/fasting pattern is “training the body to deplete energy and use it from where our fat lives.”

Martin disagrees, explaining that there are several aspects of IF that can be harmful. One of those is that “the brain and nervous system need glucose and can’t run on fat.”

She adds, “Fasting can affect me-tabolism and the body reduces trust in you,” causing it to hold on to stores to hedge against when it is ‘starved’ again. “When we don’t have food for a period of time there will potentially by more cravings when we do eat. Also, when we do eat again the survival instinct is ‘you starved me, so I should accumulate more because you might starve me again.’”

Tracy Rieger, who is the program coordinator for the nutrition and food service program at Fanshawe College, agrees that the IF diet can be harmful. “If your body doesn’t have access to glucose as a fuel source, it can start to break down muscle to use as fuel. Long term, this can cause damage to the kidneys, brain and heart tissue.”On the positive side, Martin says that like many diets following IF makes “you conscious of eating fewer calories and being more conscious of the foods that go into the body.” Being more mindful of how much and when we eat can be beneficial to weight loss and general health.

According to Martin, “If this is what makes you feel best and you understand the bigger picture, then you should do it.”