Fad diets come and go, but The Zone diet is a notable exception. If you are looking for a tried-and-true diet plan that helps you lose weight without feeling ravenously hungry all of the time, The Zone may be the answer. Developed in the 1990s by Barry Sears, a biochemist and MIT researcher, The Zone quickly skyrocketed in popularity. Much of this was due to its popularity among celebrities, which cast it into the spotlight for a considerable period of time. Learn more about this well-regarded diet plan below in order to make an informed decision.
During the 1970s, Sears, the creator of The Zone, suffered a major loss. At only 53 years of age, his father died from a heart attack. At the time, Sears was doing postdoctoral research about the molecular structure of fat. In response to his dad’s untimely death, he switched to focus on the relationship between fat and cardiovascular disease.
Over the next 20 years, Sears extensively researched the prevalence of heart disease in America and what triggers it. Ultimately, he concluded that out-of-whack eicosanoids, which are hormone-like substances that include insulin, are largely to blame. By regaining control of eicosanoids through the right food, which he likens to drugs, Sears believes that anyone can get “in the zone,” lose fat and lose weight.
Sears’ diet plan debuted in 1995 with the publication of “Enter the Zone: A Dietary Road Map.” The book was a smash hit, and it remained on the national bestseller list for more than three years. Word quickly caught on, and The Zone diet craze was born.
The Zone diet is based on the idea that insulin and other hormones trigger inflammation in the body. This inflammation is believed to cause weight gain by prompting the body to store more fat. The Zone diet seeks to create and maintain an equilibrium that is known, not surprisingly, as “the zone.” While in the zone, proponents say, the metabolism works more effectively, allowing you to burn fat and lose weight more easily.
To get into and stay in the zone, the diet prescribes that a specific ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates be consumed at every meal. This ratio is as follows: 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 40 percent carbs. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course. This is also a calorie-restricted diet, so you must take care to stay within your allowed daily allotment of calories per day too. For women, it is 1,200 calories; for men, it is 1,500 calories.
Celebrities That Swear By The Zone Diet
Needless to say, The Zone diet didn’t become a major phenomenon strictly thanks to the book. It didn’t happen just because the diet actually works, either. What really cemented this diet’s place in the world of health and fitness was the many celebrities who adopted it. Many of them became outspoken advocates for The Zone, so it wasn’t unusual to see the diet mentioned in magazines like US Weekly and People.
While many celebrities became adherents to The Zone, a few were particularly famous for their commitment to the diet. They include Sarah Jessica Parker during the height of her Sex and the City fame; Demi Moore; Sandra Bullock; Kevin Coster; and Madonna. If one celebrity is forever linked to The Zone, though, it has to be Jennifer Aniston.
Unlike most of her celebrity counterparts, who jumped on The Zone bandwagon during the height of its popularity before quickly dropping the plan in favor of other fad diets, Aniston seems to have stuck with the program fairly consistently over the last few decades. Even as she approaches 50, most would agree that she looks better than ever.
Aniston has never officially endorsed The Zone, but she has discussed it in interviews through the years. One especially memorable exchange was with Movie Insider:
Movie Insider: Were you involved with The Zone diet?
Aniston: I was before, and now it is a way of life for me.
Movie Insider: No dietary restrictions?
Aniston: No. I eat anything I want within reason.
If Aniston can look that great while eating pretty much whatever she wants, The Zone diet must be truly amazing!
Getting Started With The Zone Diet
Getting started with The Zone is actually pretty easy. Unlike many diet plans, you don’t have to spend a small fortune on supplies to get the ball rolling. Instead, you must devote a decent amount of time to researching the diet so that you can effectively implement it into your lifestyle.
First, understand the basics of what The Zone entails. Namely, every meal that you consume must adhere to the ratio of 30 percent low-fat protein, 30 percent “good” fat and 40 percent low glycemic index carbs. You must eat three meals and two snacks per day, and you should never go more than five hours without eating.
A great way to remember the basics of The Zone is by looking at your hand. Five fingers reflect that you should be eating five times per day–and that you should never go more than five hours without eating. Your hand can also be used to measure out ideal ratios at mealtimes. The palm is roughly the size and thickness of the amount of protein that you need. Make two big fists for a ballpark estimate on how many “favorable” carbs you should be eating and one regular fist for how many “unfavorable” carbs you should be eating.
Once you have the hang of cooking and eating Zone friendly meals and are used to consuming two snacks and three meals per day, you are well on your way to understanding and embracing The Zone diet. There’s a bit more to it, though, so here are some tips to keep in mind:
“Favorable” carbs are carbohydrates that have a lower glycemic index, or GI. The glycemic index measures food’s effects on blood glucose levels. The highest rating, 100, denotes pure glucose. To stay in The Zone, stick with carbs that have a GI of 55 or less, which include beans, small seeds, many nuts, mushrooms and sweet fruits like mangoes and peaches.
Carbs that should be avoided include bread, pasta, cereal, potatoes and bagels.
Optimal protein is low in fat. Popular choices include skinless turkey, chicken and fish; low-fat dairy products; egg whites; soy meat substitutes and tofu.
Proteins to avoid include egg yolks, processed foods, fatty red meats and liver and other organ meats. Good fats include avocados, almonds, butter, olive oil, mayonnaise and cream cheese.
Eat within one hour of waking each day. Have your second snack immediately before going to bed. Get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and five to 10 minutes of strength training on a consistent basis.
Advantages of The Zone Diet
There’s a lot to love about The Zone. Above everything else, it is a sensible diet plan in that it does not encourage excessively rapid weight loss. Sears himself states that you can expect to lose 1 to 1.5 pounds per week on the diet, which closely aligns with what dieticians and other experts recommend for safe weight loss.
The Zone is also great because it is pretty simple. Yes, there’s a bit of a learning curve while adjusting to portioning your meals so specifically. Before too long, though, you’ll have an arsenal of go-to meals that meet the plan’s diet standards, and sticking with it will be a breeze from there.
Finally, The Zone is extensively documented. A wealth of resources is available, so you can always get support and information when you need it.
Drawbacks of The Zone Diet
With its effectiveness and research-based design, The Zone is pretty foolproof. However, some people dislike having to be so meticulous about maintaining the right ratio of fat, protein and carbs. Others become discouraged because they don’t feel like they are losing weight quickly enough. Again, however, slow, steady weight loss is much better than rapid weight loss. When you lose weight more slowly, you are much more likely to keep it off.
Books and Products About The Zone
You are much more likely to achieve success with The Zone–and to stick with it–when you have the right resources at your disposal. This is particularly true during the early stages, when you are just learning how to follow the plan.
We’ve rounded up some resources that are sure to make a big difference for you. Arm yourself with these books and products to lay the foundation for success while following The Zone diet.
Enter the Zone: A Dietary Road Map
Written by Dr. Barry Sears and published in 1995, Enter the Zone is widely regarded as “the bible” for Zone adherents. Without question, it is the best primer out there on the subject, and it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to lose fat and weight through the plan. In the book, Sears outlines the science that went into developing the diet. He also extensively lists good and bad carbs and other crucial facts, and he shares easy food blocks and recipe for hitting the ground running with this diet.
Zone Food Blocks: The Quick and Easy, Mix-and-Match Counter for Staying in the Zone
One of the top concerns that Zone newbies have is coming up with Zone-approved meals. This handy book, which was written by Sears and published in 1998, is a reference guide that teaches you how to optimize the Zone to suit your needs. It includes food blocks for prepackaged foods and fast food, and it provides guidance for modifying prepared foods so that they are “Zone Perfect.”
A Week in the Zone: A Quick Course in the Healthiest Diet for You
If you want to kick-start your Zone diet plan, this book is an absolute must. It teaches you how to get with the program in a single week. Step-by-step instructions provide clear guidance for how to proceed. The book also includes many tips and tricks for getting the most out of this diet.
Zone Meals in Seconds: 150 Fast and Delicious Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Whether you’ll just be preparing meals for yourself or for a spouse and children too, this handy recipe book–which was written by Dr. Sears and his wife, Lynn–is absolutely indispensable. As the title suggests, all of the recipes in this book, which was published in 2004, can be prepared quickly and easily. The authors also took care to include a variety of cuisines and to make the offerings as family friendly as possible.
Official Zone Products
The best way to get going with the Zone is by learning how to prepare and cook meals that adhere to the plan. That way, you aren’t relying on expensive products too much, which is nice. Still, a little extra help may be in order, and you can’t go wrong with official products that are endorsed by Dr. Sears himself. These include everything from dietary supplements to an inflammation test kit that lets you see whether you’re truly in the Zone or not. Some prepared foods are available too, including pastas, protein bars and protein shakes.
The Bottom Line on The Zone Diet
When stacked up against the vast majority of fad diets, The Zone is a true standout. Given that it has maintained its popularity for more than 20 years, it is safe to say that it’s not a fad diet at all anymore but a way of life. Versatile and effective, it is easy to implement into just about any lifestyle. Make like a celebrity and get started with The Zone diet today!