What Is the Zone?
For generations, every male on my father's side of my family suffered from a similar fate: a premature heart attack that cut their life short decades too early. After my father died in 1972 at the age of 54, I realized that I had a genetic time bomb ticking away inside me. I knew I couldn't change my genes, but I was determined to find a way to lead a normal, healthy life span.
My quest to save myself has led me to a surprisingly simple conclusion. As it turns out, the key to a longer, better life is not some magic pill or potion. It is a powerful hormone produced by your diet called insulin. My research showed that if you were able to keep insulin levels within a certain zone -- not too high and not too low -- you could dramatically improve your health and prevent a wide range of diseases. What's more, you could also make your body start using fat for energy, thus allowing you to lose excess body fat without feeling hungry!
So how do you begin to regulate your insulin levels and begin the journey to better health? Again, I found that the answer was simple: by eating the right combination of foods at every meal. Essentially, you need to start treating the Zone diet as a drug. Once you start taking this drug, you will automatically achieve:
- Permanent loss of excess body fat
- Dramatic reduction in the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
- Improved mental and physical performance
- A longer life
The first person to recognize food as a wonder drug was Hippocrates, the father of medicine, who instructed us to "let food be your medicine, and let medicine be your food." Now some twenty-five hundred years later, we are just beginning to understand the importance of his words.
Make no mistake about it; food is a powerful drug. In fact, it may be the most powerful drug you will ever take. However, like any drug, food can help you or harm you depending on how you use it. Used correctly, food can make you more energized and healthier with the guarantee of a longer and more active life. Used incorrectly, food can become your worst enemy -- robbing you of a healthy body, healthy weight, and a healthy mind, as millions of Americans are quickly finding out for themselves. Most important, if food is used improperly, it can also shorten your life.
You may think you already know how to properly use food by avoiding fat, and eating plenty of carbohydrates like pasta, bagels, bread, and rice. If you've been following these dietary guidelines, however, you may be puzzled as to why you're gaining rather than losing weight. Truth is, you have it backward. If you're like most Americans, you're probably eating far too many carbohydrates. This is why more than 50 percent of Americans are overweight today compared to 33 percent twenty years ago -- even though we're now eating less fat than ever before. This is called the American paradox. If fat were the enemy, then we should have declared victory over obesity many years ago. The fact is that dietary fat was never the real enemy. The real cause of our growing epidemic of obesity is excess production of the hormone insulin. It is excess insulin that makes you fat and keeps you fat.
You are constantly reminded that a calorie is a calorie, and that weight gain is simply more calories coming in than calories going out. Since fat contains more calories per gram than does protein or carbohydrate, simple logic would dictate that removing fat from the diet should make us thinner. Such caloric thinking can be summarized as follows "if no fat touches my lips, then no fat reaches my hips." Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to walk on the streets of America and realize that statement simply isn't true. On the hormonal level, all calories are not created equal. The hormonal effect of a calorie of carbohydrate is different than the hormonal effect of a calorie of protein, and is still different from the hormonal effect of a calorie of fat. Each of these three nutrients has its own unique effects on your body's hormones. In the proper balance, these three nutrients are exactly what your body needs to remain healthy by keeping insulin within the Zone. When these nutrients are out of balance and insulin levels surge too high, they can wreak havoc on your body's hormonal equilibrium, resulting in weight gain, an increased likelihood of chronic disease, and acceleration of the aging process. On the other hand, if insulin levels are too low, your cells begin to starve because a certain amount of insulin is required to drive life-sustaining nutrients into your cells.
The Zone is like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. One bowl of porridge was too hot (too much insulin), one bowl was too cold (too little insulin), and one was just right (the Zone).
In the Zone, almost magical metabolic changes occur. Only in the Zone can you release excess fat from your fat cells to be used as fuel by your body twenty-four hours a day, allowing you to lose weight and enjoy more energy simultaneously. Only in the Zone can you reduce the likelihood of chronic disease. Only in the Zone can you live a longer life. It's as easy as eating the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat at every meal and snack.
The benefits of maintaining insulin in the Zone are almost immediate, because your blood sugar is also automatically stabilized. As a result, you feel less hungry, you are more mentally alert and more energized throughout the day. Carbohydrate cravings become a thing of the past so that you can free your body from its slavery to food ...(Continues...)