Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Zone Challenge Food Log

The book by Barry Sears, Ph.D., creator of the Zone Diet. 

I've been living in the Zone for almost two weeks now and want to update you on what I've been eating and how I've been feeling to add support to the community of Paleo-Zoners.

Here's my Zone experience!

The Dreaded Scale and Tape Measure

I hate both and avoid both as much as possible.  But, I must oblige in figuring out my blockage, so here's my starting numbers, taken on 1/15/11:
weight: 147.2
hips: 40
waist: 34 1/8
height: 5'6"

Body Fat by the numbers, using the Zone book tables: 31.39%

Lean Body Mass: 101.43 (31% of wt. gives lean percentage, which I multiplied by my wt.)

Using a Zone Diet multiplier of .7 for moderately active (I bike 5X a week for over a half an hour and CrossFit generally 3 days on 1 day off) and multiplying that by my Lean Body Mass gives me my block count:
10 Blocks


So far, the weight loss is slow, but that wasn't really my goal. I was at 144.6lbs after one week (about 3 lbs. lost).  I'm performing pretty well at the gym and feeling pretty good.

Some lessons I've learned:

  • As always, the more vegetables, the more satisfying and satiating the meal.  
  • Fruits alone, or high starch meals, only whet the appetite and hunger soon returns.  
I always wish I could eat more protein and fat--they are my dear friends--but at the same time I feel like I am stuffing my face with carbs.  I NEVER have eaten so much fruit as I do now, and my servings of vegetables could feed a family of five.  I am still limiting my fruit to lower glycemic choices (mostly berries, apples, and the occasional grapefruit), but it still feels like sugar to me. 

I can remember being a hunger-crazed Zone zombie (also known by Robb Wolf as the Always Hungry Carb Crash Zombie) the last time I tried the Zone Diet, before I found the Paleo Diet.  I was filling my carb blocks with the easiest of sources: grains and fruits, which burn more like lighter fluid than a Duraflame log in your belly.  That and my obsession with fats definitely did it in for me last time.

This time, it is going better.  

  • Wait it out: the first week is rough and if you are coming from a state of even more nutritional derangement, it can take even longer to adjust. 

The first week was hard on my hormonal state (such as tears over nothing), and I still get stressed out at the drop of a hat, but I feel energized and awake most days.  I HATE not being able to eat the portions I want, but for the most part, I am never starving unless I let the hours get too long between meals.  I'm rarely even hungry.

  • Having readily prepared foods helps immensely because it is just as easy to eat on the Zone as it is to cheat, so it's easier to be responsible and stick with it.  
  • Cooking can be tough, so use alternatives to high fat cooking such as grilling, Silpat or parchment lined baking/roasting, and minimally greased skillets. 

The lack of fat makes cooking even with a nonstick skillet pretty tough.  Lately I've increased my fat a little when cooking to avoid losing a quarter of my protein to the pan.

  • Don't beat yourself up over transgressions, just climb back on the plan again. 

I started my Zoning out on the wrong day: a taco social at San Francisco CrossFit after Brian MacKenzie's Running Seminar.  I tried to be good and eyeball-portioned out six blocks of corn tortilla and meat, but I didn't let the inaccuracy or deviation into enemy territory with the grains defeat me.  It was an anticipated cheat and I did my best to eat responsibly.  I was back on the wagon again the next day! I also had a hankering for cheese lately and took this opportunity to add it back in for this challenge.  I don't make cheese a part of my daily life, but I enjoy it on occasion.  This makes me a Lacto-Paleo-Zoner :)

  • Making your diet observable, measurable, and repeatable allows you to improve your performance. 

All in all, it's a great experience of solidarity at my CrossFit gym where most of us are Zoning together.  It's also a good learning experience to see just how much my protein and fat have oozed outside their respective proportions while I've been lax on the weighing and measuring.  I can definitely see how making your diet observable, measurable, and repeatable makes sense if you want to take your performance to the next level.  You can see how the baseline makes you feel and how it allows you to perform so you can make any tweaks necessary for improvement.


In addition to the foods I eat, I drink water and decaf teas throughout the day and take a few supplements: multivitamin, vitamin D, B vitamins, fish oil, and vitamin C (before bed).

NOTE: for those of you not familiar with the Zone and it's lingo, Nutritionize is a great resource for Zone Diet resources and Zoleo, their Paleo-Zone approach.  For terminology I use here, P = Protein, C = Carbohydrate, and F = Fat.

I think it works best to show how my meals look, grouped by meal, not day (those get so boring, don't they?).  I try to maintain variety, but I also stick with some standard meals I really enjoy.  I initially broke my day into a 2-block breakfast, 2-block lunch, 2-block snack, and a 4-block dinner to dessert.  This "hoarding" behavior is quite common on the Zone when someone is scared to have few blocks left at the end of the day when hunger festers and no one wants to fall asleep to the purr of their growling stomach.  But by mid-week, I realized my dinner was quite filling at only 3 blocks, so I could eat a larger, and more satisfying lunch.  

Here are my meals:

Kale and Eggs with Cinnamon Apples

Breakfast (2 blocks)
(with or without the cinnamon or smoked salmon)
  • 2 blocks = 2 eggs 
  • 1 block = 1 egg
  • 1 block = 2oz smoked salmon
  • 2+ blocks = pasture butter  NOTE: I started off with just a teaspoon, but when cooking kale, then emptying the skillet to cook eggs, I found I couldn't avoid stickage unless I used 1t for each. I am now a happier camper :)
Artichoke Chicken-Apple Salad
Lunch (2-3 blocks)
  • 2-3 blocks = 2-3oz rotisserie chicken, canned wild-caught salmon, or homemade, roasted turkey breast  NOTE: I used a dry rub on the turkey and tried it slow-cooker style with garlic and ginger and cabbage.  
  • 1 block = as many salad greens as you can jam into your container/bowl tossed with 1/6c lemon juice
  • 1-2 blocks = apple sliced thinly and mixed in the salad or grapefruit (1 whole grapefruit per block) sliced into the salad so the juices add to the lemon dressing or artichoke hearts (1.5c per block) mixed in (or some combination)
  • 2-3 blocks = 2-3t crushed walnuts or 1t olive oil
Roasted Turkey-Apple Sandwiches 
Snack (2 blocks)
  • 2 blocks = 2oz rotisserie chicken, canned wild-caught salmon, or roasted turkey breast 
  • 2 blocks = Organic, young coconut water (2 blocks even!) or 170g baby carrots, or just a whole apple 
  • 2 blocks = chicken or turkey skin or 2t crushed walnuts or 6 cashews or 2T avocado/guacamole

Dinner (3-4 blocks)
  • 2-3 blocks = Hearty Paleo-Zone Chili
  • 1 block = 1oz raw, organic cheese  [NOTE: I would have preferred to find raw, grass-fed cheese, but couldn't this time] or 1/2oz raw, organic cheese and 1/2oz of organic salami
Mushroom Burger Salad with Avocado

Burger Night

  • 2-3 blocks = 3-4.5oz grass-fed beef burger, grilled
  • 1 block = 1oz raw, organic cheese  [NOTE: I would have preferred to find raw, grass-fed cheese, but couldn't this time] if using only 2 blocks of burger
  • 3+ blocks = bacon fat for broccolini if having that 
  • 2 blocks = 2T avocado
  • 1 block = 1T coconut milk for the Berry Bowl if having that (if not, add more avocado)

Sausage and Egg Skillet

Breakfast for Dinner
  • 2 blocks = sausage (something organic and grain-free, sugar-free)
  • 1 block = egg
  • 1-2 blocks = kale, spinach, or other dark, leafy greens perhaps with some mushrooms (1 block per package of sliced mushrooms)--you could definitely add more veggie variety here
  • 1-2 blocks =  Berry Bowl or Ceylon Cinnamon Dusted Apple Slices
  • 2+ blocks = pastured butter
  • 1 block = 1T coconut milk for the Berry Bowl if having that (if not, allow more butter)

So there you have it: some meals on the Zone.  I am sure many more of my recipes are Zone-friendly, so check out the ingredient list Labels and Important Information areas on my sidebar to find them.  Hopefully I've given you some ideas to fuel your own Zone challenge or just some interesting pairing or meal ideas you can use whether you weigh and measure or not.  Let me know how you like them!

1 comment:

  1. I've been trying to eat strict paleo for the last 2 weeks and minus 3 cheats in the first week or so I've done pretty well. The first week I didn't notice so much but I'm starting to feel better...I'm never bloated anymore and I just FEEL better. Thanks for sharing your own experiece!