Debunking The Zone Diet

Have you ever attended a “diet” seminar? FormulaZone recently attended one presented by a dietician with respectable credentials. We were drawn to the seminar by the flyer that was sent to us, suggesting that this seminar would answer all of our questions about The Zone, Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, and other popular diets. Over the course of the two hour seminar, we were dazzled with overhead illustrations of the rampant growth of obesity in the United States over the past few decades, and the discussion of macronutrients. When the discussion turned to the specific diets, there were two things that stood out to us….

The Zone is misunderstood and misrepresented by so many “experts”. This seminar (as well as many other “Debunking the Zone” articles we have read) completely missed the point of The Zone. And….

Most experts actually agree with The Zone, even at the same time that they are telling you that it is not a good or healthy diet.

Misrepresentation may be a strong word, and it is also absolutely true. When a person, particularly an expert, represents The Zone in the way that is inaccurate, then that is misrepresentation. It makes no difference if the reason is that they favor a different nutritional program, or if they simply do not have the information about The Zone, it is still misrepresentation.

Let’s start with the first most common misrepresentation: “It recommends reducing carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.” To be fair, we will grant them a small amount of accuracy: The Zone Diet does recommend reducing carbohydrates. But that’s not all there is to it. That statement, taken out of context, is how these experts argue their cases. The correct, and complete context of The Zone, is that it recommends reducing carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index. What does that mean, really? Put simply, it means reducing or eliminating carbohydrates that are low in fiber and high in sugar. Now, if you continue listening to the experts, they will tell you that you should eat a diet high in “high fiber, low sugar carbohydrates” (aka, Low Glycemic). A Zone diet recipe would have you eat carbohydrates that are “high in fiber and low in sugar” (aka Low Glycemic). Ask the expert if you should sit down to a large bowl of pasta (as your primary carbohydrate source), and you will get the same answer every Zoner already knows: No!

The second most common point is that the diet is too high in fat. 30% calories from fat? Some people consider this a travesty! (while other consider it a dream come true) They will tell you that fat leads to high cholesterol, heart disease, and even high blood pressure. Again, there is a seed of truth around which this lie has been built- the intake of large amounts Saturated fat (animal fat) does contribute to these health issues. What they don’t seem to understand (or at least they don’t admit to) is that The Zone addresses this, and recommends that you get your fat from sources with little to no saturated fat, such as vegetables, nuts, and lean cuts of chicken and fish. While beef and pork are a part of the Zone Diet, it is specifically recommended to limit these fat sources. Further, the experts disregard a phenomenon that has been documented time and again: people with high cholesterol who go on a low or no fat diet to reduce cholesterol actually end up with increased levels of cholesterol. An even more glaring omission is that many people with high cholesterol who follow a Zone Diet see their cholesterol levels decrease. This is a fact, and is a direct contradiction to what some of these experts will tell you. Oh- and by the way, considered that 30% calories from fat is less than the average non-dieting American eats today.

They claim that most of the weight loss that people experience is due to water weight (losing water, as in dehydration). Really? What about the folks that over the course of months (2, 3, 8, 12 or more months) lose 30, 50, 100, 120 pounds or more? Would the experts have you believe that these folks really lost only 120 pounds of water weight due to dehydration? And again, these experts fail to represent the truth of The Zone, which is that it specifically tells you to drink lots of water- more than the vast majority of the population does now.

They would have you believe that the Zone is low calorie. This one you can check for yourself. Look at the various diets out there- we guarantee that you will find that most diets are much lower in calories than the calories recommended by this website (FormulaZone), as well as most Zone information sources. While the Zone diet does reduce the average American’s calorie intake, remember that Americans (on average) are getting more and more obese every day (so doesn’t it stand to reason that their calories should be reduced?). Do the math and you will find that the Zone nutrition program allows you 20-30% more calories than many other programs (with a comparable activity level).

The science behind the Zone, according to these experts, is “at best an unproven gimmick”. Yikes! Ask anyone who has actually and honestly followed a Zone diet for just one week (or longer), and you will definitely hear otherwise! Or may we suggest that you tell Dr. Sears, who is currently beating his genetic-predetermination to have a heart attack by many years (carefully, though- he may take offense since he is a PhD with several patents in areas closely tied to his work in developing The Zone).

And there are more random or minor claims by these experts, such as suggesting that the Zone claims that a vegetarian diet is not health (not true- there are many vegetarian recipes that are Zone friendly, and a book by Dr. Sears specifically geared towards vegetarians in The Zone).

Back to one of our original points: Many of these experts will tell you that The Zone is not healthy, when in reality they agree with The Zone. How? While were at the seminar, we did not make any represenations about being Zone advocates. When we asked the seminar expert about some of the facts of the Zone (without stating that they were Zone facts), they agreed. For example, they agreed that you should get a majority of your carbs from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (just as the Zone suggests). They agreed that you should get your protein from sources such as chicken, fish, tofu, and lean cuts of beef and pork (in moderation), just as the Zone states. They agree that fat is ok, so long as you watch the saturated fats (beef and pork), and get it from more favorable sources (fruits, vegetables, nuts)- again, just as the Zone states. And there are other points. Look at it collectively, and they typically agree with The Zone, even though they will not say it.

The bottom line is, don’t take some expert’s word for it. Do the research, and learn for yourself what the facts are.

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