The Zone diet is an excellent tool for dialing in your nutrition. It has a very reasonable system for balancing macro nutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), and thus your hormonal response to food. But even a good system can go bad when taken too far. Melissa Byers writes about the Zone Gone Bad.
Kelly has always been a very healthy eater, with a strong self-image. She has never been one to starve herself, crash diet, or obsess about appearance. Yet after spending just a few weeks working the balanced and sensible principles of the Zone diet, Kelly found herself trapped in an unhealthy cycle—with what some might refer to as “disordered behavior” related to food. The Zone was no longer a healthy dietary lifestyle, but a set of self-imposed rules that somehow became associated with serious (if vague) consequences if not followed.
Her experience mirrored my own. When I first started with CrossFit and the Zone in December 2007, I enjoyed the precision of weighing, measuring, and tracking my intake. There was no guessing or estimating; the plan was well outlined and easy to follow. And I saw positive results quickly. My energy was better, my workouts were strong and I was continuing to build muscle. But unlike Kelly, I do have a history of unhealthy eating behaviors, and those behaviors began to rear their ugly head just a few weeks into my Zone experience. Slowly, my brain began to take the healthy activities associated with the Zone diet and twist them back into my prior disordered behaviors. I stopped eating anything unless I could measure it. I spent hours on FitDay (a free online diet and fitness journal), plugging in different food choices to arrive at the perfect balance of ratios. I began to obsess over my body composition, spending far too much time in the mirror. Food began to rule my life, and before I knew it, what had started as Zone had morphed into a Zone-inspired eating disorder.
If you find yourself in a Zone Gone Bad, cut yourself some slack. You may be trying to retrain your brain to forget about years of unhealthy behaviors in favor of new, healthy habits. It’s going to take time, and dedication, and maybe more than a few slips before you start permanently heading in the right direction.
Melissa also offers a Five-Step approach to getting back in the right zone.