Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sunday Book Review: The Zone

Before Atkins became all the rage, there was a little book by Barry Sears called The Zone. There were even a few foods that were labeled as "Zone Approved" and there were "Zone Certified Physicians."

Actually, The Zone was, in a lot of ways, a great gateway book for Atkins. It taught that fat was not the enemy, as the nation had previously thought, and it taught about "insulin response," a subject that the nation has come to feel is the sole reason they gain weight.

Here, however, the differences end.

The Zone diet, you see, was sane.

What Dr. Sears teaches is this:

We all know that taking medicine can affect the way our body works, right? You take a pill in the hopes your body will do certain things because of that.

Actually, that's true of anything you eat. Because you ate it, your body is going to do certain things in response.

For example, if you eat carbs, it will give you energy. However, if your body processes them too quickly, it can also spike your blood sugar.

Eating fats help you to feel full. Certain fats also help keep your cholesterol low, and other fats can make it worse.

Eating protein can help offset some of the blood sugar spike carbs give, and it's a building block for muscle. Too much, though, can cause problems in your digestive system.

All the food types are necessary--to eliminate one or another would eliminate a needed aspect of your diet. However, all the food types also have problems--to focus solely on one would be equally damaging.

What Dr. Sears tried to create with "The Zone" was the optimum balance of each of these nutrients in each meal. If you're eating in the right proportions, you're eating "in the Zone."

Enough carbs to keep you going, enough protein and fiber to keep your blood sugar from spiking, and enough fat to help you feel satisfied.

You keep your energy up by eating these zone-perfect meals throughout the day.

And, like any good diet, you also limit your portions at each meal.

Many diabetics swear by this diet, and to me it seems like the most logical and sensible of any of the "gimmick" diet books I've read.

I've heard critics of the book say that Sears, "oversimplifies complex physiological responses." Sears does go so far as to predict that nutrition-based solutions to problems are the wave of the future. I adore this idea.

But the book itself isn't so pie-in-the sky. It does require a good amount of adjusting to one's current diet--a section on how to adopt fast-food meals to become more "Zone Perfect" includes buying two sandwiches and then combining some parts of them while throwing out others--but I think everything in here is as sensible and accurate as any advice you'll get.

If you've fallen for the Atkins hype, please, give this one a read.

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