Zone Diet Review

What Is It?

The Zone Diet is a reduced-carb weight-loss program not unlike a number of other low-carb, high-protein diets such as the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet. But unlike some diets that come and go in short order, the Zone has proved to have staying power. Back in the 1990s, the Zone’s Hollywood connections generated lots of media attention. It doesn’t hurt to have stars like Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pit and Demi Moore in your corner.

But a 2004 study by the University of Otago in New Zealand is probably more responsible for the diet’s continuing popularity. A research team led by Dr Kirsten McAuley found that overweight women lose weight more quickly on the Zone diet than if they follow conventional dietary advice. Furthermore, the study concluded that the Zone “may be the best overall approach to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.”

How it works

Developed by American doctor Barry Sears, the Zone Diet is configured to keep users’ insulin levels within a narrow range (Get it? Range is similar in meaning to zone). Theoretically, this will cause the body to burn fat more efficiently, leading to steady weight loss. To control insulin levels, you must first control blood sugar levels. In our diets, we can accomplish this by eating an ideal mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats at every meal. The Zone specifies the ideal mix as 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 30 per cent from proteins and 30 per cent from fats.

Most people, of course, would flee in terror at the thought of following such a complicated diet on their own. Sears’ genius was to create a packaged weight loss program that simplifies the science and streamlines the application of it. Dieters who subscribe to the Zone start by calculating their required daily protein intake.
The calculation is based on weight, height and waist and hip circumferences. Then, they simply prepare meals and snacks based on the Zone Food Block formula. The way the formula works is each “block” contains a standardized amount of carbs, protein or fat.

Examples of Zone Food Blocks:

*1 block of carbohydrate = three cups of cooked broccoli

*1 block of protein = an ounce of chicken breast

*1 block of fat = a third of a teaspoon of olive oil

The Zone Diet book and Zone website provide all the information needed for somebody to become proficient at preparing Zone meals. However, if calorie counting is not your thing and money is not an issue, you can always use a delivery service to receive prepared Zone meals at your home or office.

The good

The Zone Diet claims – and testimonials on the company’s website support this – that adherents can lose five pounds in the first two weeks and one to one-and-a-half pounds every subsequent week. The diet cuts out low-nutrient junk food such as potato chips and pastries, but permits eating relatively more fruits and vegetables than other low-carb weigh loss plans. Beyond encouraging weight loss, this diet could also could do good things for your heart health. Membership on the Zone website is free, and the site contains lots of information to guide and support you on your weight loss journey.

The bad

The Zone simplifies and streamlines a complex dietary approach to regulating insulin levels, which is the foundation of the Zone weight loss theory. However, the food selection process is still time consuming and requires an understanding of the Zone Food Block system. You will need weighing scales and measuring spoons. Pre-packaged meals are available, but they don’t come cheap.

The Zone works. The University of Otago’s research and a separate study by Tufts-New England Medical Centre in Boston attest to that. But the question remains: Does the weight loss occur because insulin levels are regulated in a narrow range? Or because calorie intake has been reduced? Most nutritionists remain skeptical that the weight loss results from controlling insulin levels. Research into weight loss might one day say for sure.

In the meantime, the Zone continues to grow as a business. In 2007, Dr. Spears revamped and expanded the Zone website. In addition to weight loss, the site also focuses diets to improve health and improve athletic performance.