Understanding the Zone
By Barry Sears
The central theme of The Zone is to understand the importance of thinking of food hormonally, rather than calorically. Once you do so, you
begin to understand why virtually every dietary recommendation of the U.S. Government, and leading nutritionists, are hormonally wrong …
maybe dead wrong. An example of caloric thinking is that “if no fat touches my lips, then no fat reaches my hips.” Hormonal thinking, by
contrast, says that insulin makes you fat and keeps you fat. This new hormonal thinking also explains the dietary paradox why Americans
are eating less dietary fat than they were 15 years ago, but are becoming more obese. The following is a summary of the key concepts and
ideas presented in The Zone.
It is impossible for dietary fat alone to make you fat. It is the hormone insulin that makes you fat and keeps you fat. How do you increase insulin levels? By eating too many fat-free carbohydrates or too many calories at any one meal. Americans do both. People forget that the best way to fatten cattle is to raise their insulin levels by feeding them lots and lots of low-fat grain. The best way to fatten humans is to raise their insulin levels by also feeding them lots and lots of low-fat grain, but now in the form of pasta and bagels.

Your stomach is politically incorrect. The stomach is basically a vat of acid that breaks all food into its basic components for absorption. From that perspective, one Snickers bar has the same amount of carbohydrate as does 2 oz. of pasta. Most people would not eat four Snickers bars at one sitting, but they would eat 8 oz. of pasta. The stomach can’t tell the difference. And the more carboydrates you eat, the more insulin you produce. And the more insulin you produce, the fatter you become.
Not everyone is genetically the same. About 25% of the U.S. population is genetically lucky because they have a low insulin response to carbohydrates. These people will never become fat, and they will always do well on any high-carbohydrate diet whether it be pasta, Snickers, or Twinkies. Unfortunately, the other 75% of the U.S. population aren’t so lucky. As they increase the amount of fat-free carbohydrates in their diet, they increase the production of insulin. Next time you look at a bagel, ask yourself do you feel lucky. You have a 25% chance that you might be.
10,000 years ago there were no grains on the face of the earth. Through much of man’s evolution, he has been exposed to only two food groups; low-fat protein and fruits and vegetables. This is what man is genetically designed to eat. When grains were first introduced into the human diet, three things immediately happened:
Mankind shrunk in size from lack of adequate protein.
Diseases of “modern civilization,” such as heart attacks and arthritis, first appeared.
Obesity became prevalent.
How do we know these things? From studies of Egyptian mummies. Not only were Egyptians much shorter than neo-paleolithic man, but they also
showed significant indications of heart disease. Furthermore, Egyptians had the same amount of obesity as found in the U.S. today. We can determine this from the excess amount of skin found around the stomachs of preserved mummies.
It takes fat to burn fat. Fat slows down the entry rate of carbohydrates into the bloodstream thereby decreasing the production of insulin. Since it’s insulin that makes you fat, having more fat in the diet is important for reducing insulin. The best type of fat is monounsaturated fat, like olive oil, guacamole, almonds, and macadamia nuts.
You can use food as a hormonal ATM card. The average American male or female carries a minimum of 100,000 calories of stored body fat. To put this in perspective, this amount of stored body fat is equivalent to eating 1,700 pancakes. That’s a pretty big breakfast. The calories you need for energy are already stored in your body. What you need is a hormonal ATM card to release them. The Zone diet is your ATM card.
The number one predictor of heart disease is not high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, but elevated levels of insulin.
How can you tell you have elevated levels of insulin? Look in the mirror. If you’re fat and shaped like an apple, you have elevated insulin levels. But
you can still be thin and have elevated insulin. How can you tell? You have high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol. This is why high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets can be extremely dangerous to cardiovascular patients if they lose weight, but see an increase in triglycerides and a decrease in HDL cholesterol.
Carbohydrates are a drug. The body needs a certain amount of carbohydrates at every meal, just like a drug, for optimal brain function. Excessive consumption of any drug, however, has toxic side effects. An overdose of carbohydrates results in the excess production of insulin, which is toxic.
The Zone should be considered a wake-up call for America that unless this tide of fat-free carbohydrate gluttony is reversed, millions of
people may be unknowingly driven to early cardiovascular events which may very well lead to the eventual bankruptcy of our health care
system. This statement should not be taken lightly. In late January 1996, the American Heart Association announced that cardiovascular
deaths in the U.S. were increasing for the first time after a steady continuous decline sine 1980.
© 1996 Barry Sears