The Zone Diet

Woman pair of pants way too big

Dr. Barry Sears, a research chemist and designer of the Zone Diet, admonishes us to think of food as medicine, just as Hippocrates did a couple thousand years ago.

I’ve been following the Zone Diet since 1998. I mention that in the About Me section if you are interested in why. While it is true that much of our soil is depleted of minerals and we no longer eat wild game rich in fatty acids, we still can get much of our daily requirement of nutrients from the food we eat. This is especially true if we eliminate the empty calories we consume in the form of refined carbohydrates, and replace them with more wholesome fresh produce.

The Zone Diet is designed to provide us with the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats) we need to maintain our lean body mass, manage our blood sugar levels, and balance the production of our hormones. Sears didn’t design the diet with weight loss in mind. He was looking for a way to maintain a healthy heart and body. It just turned out that the best formula for managing our hormones and blood sugar in order to keep us healthy also causes excess fat to melt away.

There are several books available to teach you “zone chemistry” but  many people had difficulty figuring out his mini-block and Zone-block formulas. I revised his instructions back in 1998 for myself, my husband and then for people in classes I taught.  Dr. Sears may have simplified his approach by now.

Dr. Sears has a Zone Calculator on his site. Fill in the blanks and what you get is your body fat percentage and a recommendation for the number of blocks of food you need to eat each day at your current activity level. His site also publishes food charts so you can print those out. Fortunately, he calls each unit a serving so that’s one thing you don’t have to get confused about. Each serving of protein will provide 7 grams of protein. Each serving of carbohydrate (this includes fruits and vegetables) will provide 9 grams of sugar/carbohydrate. Each serving of fat will provide 1.5 extra grams of extra fat.

Print the food lists and put them on your refrigerator. If it is recommended that women have the minimum 11 servings from each macronutrient category of food each day, you’ll have 3 for breakfast, 3 for lunch, 3 for dinner and 1 for each of two snacks (or any variation that adds up to 11, with no more than 5 servings of each at any one meal.

If you are going to eat a 3-block meal, all you have to do is choose three servings from each macronutrient category and eat them together at one meal within about 45 minutes for the best chemical reactions.

It’s a good idea to eat a wide variety of foods for the greatest possible array of nutrients. If you can afford it, organic is preferable, particularly in certain foods like potatoes and strawberries. Avoid waxed fruit.

It is my experience that you can lose weight or gain weight by doing nothing more than eating properly.  It’s hard to tell for sure, though, because once you start eating well, your energy levels increase and you naturally exercise more. I don’t think that you can be truly healthy, even if you are thin, unless you also exercise regularly.

Once you start eating well, getting sunshine, fresh air and regular exercise, many of your chronic complaints may simply vanish.