The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet is the brainchild of biochemist Barry Sears, the author of such diet books as The Zone: A Dietary Road Map (1995) and The Anti-Aging Zone (1999). Even during the age of the Atkins Diet, the Blood Type Diet, the Glycaemic Index Diet Plan and others the Zone Diet has continued to grow in popularity, especially amongst the Hollywood A listers looking to lose weight or diet for a major film role. Stars including Sarah Jessica Parker, Posh Spice, Demi Moore, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston have all raved about the benefits of the Zone Diet on weight loss and weight control in the past.
How does the Zone Diet work?
The Zone Diet works on the principle that excess insulin, a hormone that helps control our blood sugar levels, makes us fat and keeps us fat. By closely regulating our blood sugar levels and therefore keeping our levels of insulin in a tight ‘zone’, the body is able to recruit and burn fat more efficiently so that we lose weight whilst maintaining lean muscle tissue.
Like the GI Diet Plan and the Atkins Diet the Zone Diet relies on a diet that centres around the idea that eating the right carbs at the right times can control insulin levels and consequently can control and manipulate the use of excess body fat stores as the primary source of fuel.
The Zone Diet takes these ideas one step further by suggesting that if each meal contains the perfect balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats that blood sugar levels can be controlled and insulin production can be regulated at low levels.
In practice the Zone Diet means a high protein low carb diet plan, with some fats to regulate hormone levels. Sound familiar? If not, check out the Atkins Diet report here.
The Zone Diet eating plan
The idea is that to reach ‘The Zone’, every meal and snack should provide 40 percent of calories from carbohydrate, 30 per cent from protein and 30 per cent from fat. This is what some Zone fans call the 40:30:30 ratio. Sounds simple, but this will require counting calories and understanding that no foods are back foods, as long as the whole meal adheres to this ratio and that it is part of a calorie controlled diet that still creates a calorie deficit - you eat less calories than you expend during a typical day.
Is there a simple way to follow the Zone Diet? Well yes. In simple terms, the Zone Diet involves cutting out most simple and complex carbohydrates such as breakfast cereals, white rice, baked and new potatoes, pasta, noodles, bread, bagels, croissants, muffins, crisps, pastries, pies, chocolate, sweets, sugar and preserves, as these have the greatest effect on blood sugar levels and therefore insulin levels - see the Glycaemic Index values of these foods
Most fruit and vegetables, however, are allowed. Low-fat protein-rich foods such as skinless chicken, turkey and fish should be eaten with every meal. Meanwhile, eating fewer foods that contain saturates and choosing foods that are rich in monounsaturates, such as olive oil, avocado and nuts, is recommended.
The Zone Diet and the rule of thirds
To make the Zone Diet even easier to follow, its creator Barry Sears recommends dividing your plate into thirds and filling one section with low-fat protein such as chicken and the remaining two sections with vegetables and fruit.
Advantages of the Zone Diet
The Zone Diet allows the dieter to control their dietary intake by thinking about meals and portions rather than foods they can and can't eat. This frees up the dieter to eat a variety of foods that perhaps other more restrictive diets wouldn't allow.
The Zone Diet eating plan also suggests cutting out foods that are traditionally deemed bad for you. Foods such as cakes, pastries, pies, muffins and crisps etc are high in calories and raise blood sugar levels quickly so cutting these foods from a diet will dramatically reduce the number of calories eaten in any given day.
Disadvantages of the Zone Diet
Working in 'the zone' during the Zone Diet does mean having an understanding of the 40:30:30 principle. This means counting calories or learning to read food labels successfully to understand which foods contain the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats or being able to balance these ratios successfully on one plate at meal times.
There is also the danger that the dieter will start off well and then merely stick to what they know in terms of meal time options - perhaps creating vitamin and mineral deficits by neglecting certain foods over others.
The Zone Diet - Conclusion
The Zone Diet can be a very successful diet programme. But more often than not meal times become so complecated that the dieter is forced to constantly revise whether to eat a 'zone' meal or not. This can make the dieter feel like they are continuely cheating on their diet when in actual fact by cutting out traditional junk foods and high sugar high fat foods the dieter is doing very well.
By following a rule of thumb whereby your meal time plate should be cut into thirds - high quality lean protein with some vegetables, fruits and salads does free up the dieter to concentrate less on counting calories and more on enjoying their food.
My suggestion would be to give this diet a go but don't beat yourself up over getting every meal completely right. Enjoy your food but be mindful that excess calories are excess calories. In any diet, regardless of its name or origin, too many calories will lead to weight gain. A diet programme like the Zone Diet suggests cutting out high fat foods straight away allowing positive weight loss to be seen quickly (weight loss should be visible within 2 to 3 weeks).
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