By James Z.:
How many times have you heard someone say that reading a particular book changed his or her life?
I’ve always been skeptical of such claims. Let’s face it, life-changing events are pretty daunting. But then it happened to me. The Mediterranean Zone by Barry Sears, Ph.D., has changed my life, my health, my appearance and my outlook toward the future. I look and feel great, and I no longer dread getting old since I now have the vehicle to maintain great health into what I hope—and plan—to be advanced old age. I want to share the details as they are unfolding.
Truth is I was afraid.
At age 61, I was unable to lose weight despite doing those things that had always helped me get in shape when I was younger.
My health has always been pretty good and longevity runs in my family. I’m active. I don’t drink or smoke, and my wife and I enjoy fresh food in well-balanced meals. But I’m a volume addict when it comes to eating, so no matter how healthy the fare, I’ve been one who ‘lived to eat’ rather than ‘eating to live,’ with the result being that my weight has been a health and well-being issue all my life.
As a child, ‘husky’ was a compliment. Later it was ‘stocky,’ then ‘athletic’ as I got older. I’m 5 feet 11 inches tall, and I’ve always been a big guy, but that ballooned to 278 pounds in my 40s; I weighed 258 when I decided last fall that it was time to do something about my big gut. Ouch.
So I recalculated my basic metabolic rate and went back to the gym. But 2,000 calories a day combined with cardio and weight lifting four times a week didn’t move the scale ONE POUND for two months.
Yeah, I was scared. What always worked no longer did.
I researched “stubborn belly fat” online. There are a ton of websites on the subject. Then one day, I saw a blurb about The Mediterranean Zone and the work of Dr. Sears that showed how the inability to lose weight comes from something called insulin resistance and cellular inflammation. I had no idea but was intrigued, especially since Barry Sears has the gravitas of great credentials and renowned education; he wasn’t just some flash-in-the-pan writer looking to cash in.
The book came in December. I read and re-read every word and continue following its suggestions. I weigh myself once a month. On March 1st, I was at 237, down 21 pounds. Yeah, baby. Still 38 pounds to go (Sure, vanity’s involved; I want to weigh what I did when I graduated from high school in 1971)! But along the way, I feel great and love it when people tell me I don’t look 61 years old.
Let me stress that this is not a diet although that word is how we’ve come to describe food plans and life around eating. The Mediterranean Zone is teaching me how to reduce causes of obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Turns out the science of nutrition is complicated. Bottom line, Dr. Sears’ message (at least as I hear it) is, ‘If you do this, you will get that.’
‘This’ is changing the way I eat everyday; ‘that’ is weight loss, good health and longevity. Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.
So my first move was to decrease the size of my meals and increase the numbers of times a day that I eat. The trick here is to reduce the spike of fat-storing insulin produced by my body. Some insulin, good and necessary; too much insulin bad and fat packing.
Next, I focused on eating only low-glycemic foods. The book lists dozens of them. Low glycemic resists insulin’s urge to turn food into fat, converting it instead to the energy my body needs every day. So, right from the top, as Dr. Sears suggests, I’ve eliminated foods that are white—rice, pasta, white bread and white potatoes. But I don’t go without. I now eat brown (basmati) rice, sprouted grain bread and sweet potatoes—which taste better, by the way.
Another key to reaching the Zone is cutting back on omega-6 fatty acids. No more thickly marbled steaks (more chicken, fish and lean pork instead). Olive oil instead of all the others. Very little fried foods; I avoid processed food (i.e., meals in a box) and so forth. Plus, just to be sure, I take good fish oil at breakfast.
I’m careful about eating too much fruit (insulin again) but brightly colored foods are high in anti-oxidants called polyphenols. Dr. Sears recommends “more than a cup of blueberries every day.” I eat two cups, mixed with a container of low-fat yogurt and 3 teaspoons of slivered almonds—delicious!
Trust me; this whole thing is easy if you’re willing and dedicated. Who wouldn’t be, I mean, who wouldn’t want to do the things scientifically shown to be the road to great health? And while we’re at it, being in the Zone protects your DNA, which is a key to avoiding chronic illness and the fight against aging. Fantastic!
Beyond my ongoing weight loss, how can I tell if I’m successful, or, as Dr. Sears puts it “in the Zone”? Well, there’s blood work that measures anti-inflammation, the ratio AA to EPA. Ideal is 1.5; good is 3; I’m at 5.3 after three months of following the recommendations. More work to do but not bad! And the weight keeps falling away.
I don’t know when I’ll ever get the chance to thank Dr. Sears personally, but even if I don’t, I have another fantasy: If I win the lottery, I’m going to buy a truckload of The Mediterranean Zone and give a copy to everyone I know. Because after all, this book changed my life.
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