Athletes sometimes speak of being in a zone following an outstanding performance, referring to their peak physical and mental abilities coming together on a particular day. Barry Sears, Ph.D., shares his Nobel-Prize-winning research in the best-selling book “The Zone,” showing us how we too can achieve this. I read the book from cover to cover when it was first published, enjoying it so much I presented the topic to a group of colleagues. The book is somewhat technical in nature given the depth of research shared. Here are some of the core takeaways we may benefit from as a Highly Sensitive Person:
The 40/30/30 eating plan is a key takeaway, permitting the body to access and burn stored body fat as the main source of fuel in lieu of stored carbohydrates (carbs). Dr. Sears explains that eating fat does not make us fat, and in fact fats are very important to proper brain function. The eating plan is fairly straightforward: get 40% of calories at each meal from carbs, 30% from protein, and 30% from fats. A little math must go into this, as a gram of protein or carbs contains 4 calories, and a gram of fat contains 9 calories. This 40/30/30 concept is referred to as macro-nutrition, different from micro-nutrition which looks at the actual nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and both are of course important.
Dr. Sears goes on to define Zone-favorable and unfavorable carbs, proteins, and fats. Similarly to the South Beach Diet and the Mediterranean diet, monounsaturated fats such as avocados, olives, olive oil, almonds and macadamia nuts are favored for their ability to slow the absorption rate of carbs into the bloodstream. One way to benefit from mono-fats would be to add them to meals high in carbs and/or unfavorable carbs. For example, add olive oil or pesto sauce on pasta, black olives on pizza or canola margarine on pancakes
Dr. Sears does remind us that exceeding one’s normal caloric intake (even via a Zone-favorable diet) may result in weight gain. There are Zone-favorable meal replacements and snack bars available at most stores for on the go, or when there is no time to prepare a meal…..be sure to check labels for macro and micro-nutritional content. For example, a 200 calorie meal replacement bar should have roughly 10 grams of fat, and 14 grams of both protein and carbs to be considered Zone-favorable. And as always, be sure to check that the sugar content isn’t too high! Nuts are also a great snack, and happen to be naturally Zone-favorable without having to add other food groups.
As HSP’s we tend to be more sensitive to hunger than others, and may be more susceptible to the effects of a poor diet, to include lack of energy, mental clarity, quality of sleep, and increased immune suppression. We benefit from nourishing meals that combat hunger. For those of us who cherish our comfort foods, the key is supplementing the carbs with proteins and fats, while not consistently exceeding our targeted daily caloric intake. For more information, check out Dr. Sears’ website www.zonediet.com, where a Highly Sensitive Person can live in “The Zone”.
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All the Best!
“Coaching to Thrive through Sensitivity”