Zoned Out: The Other Zone, The Diet

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Another ‘Zone’

Another zone – the exercise one

Remember ‘The Twilight Zone’? That scary 1959-64 American Sci-Fi series about disturbing, unexplained things that just happened. I do. It terrified me as a kid.

Maybe you’re thinking about another ‘Zone’, the exercise one of bliss and power that athletes enter and compete at their best. (I’m not an athlete. Sadly, I’ve never been anywhere near that zone.)

I’m not talking about either of these zones.

Maybe this is the one?

The Zone I mean is a diet that found me in 1998.

I was 42, working in Corporate Health Management. My brothers had recently discovered the Zone Diet and thought I should know about it. I’m sure even then, they were still calling me ‘Bottomy Boo’ behind my back,

Oddly, I was always up for another diet, even though I’d tried every fad diet since I was 11 and none had lost and kept off the weight I wanted to shed. I always thought the next one would.

I don’t know why my biochemist’s brain didn’t tell me this was insanity, nonsense or both.

The Biochemist’s Diet

The Zone by Barry Dears PhD – original cover

The Zone Diet was developed by another biochemist, American Dr. Barry Sears, so I was impressed.

Barry said it reduced the risk of heart attack by reducing inflammation which he believed was why people gained weight. I didn’t bother to dig into this at the time; to me it was just another weight loss gig and my brothers thought it was great.

(By the way, there is no history of heart attack anywhere in my family and neither brother had ever been overweight, so why I thought this was a good idea mystifies me now.)

At the time, I must have thought ‘Hey, the bros are on it, they’re always at the cutting edge of healthiness, and Barry’s a biochemist. I’ll give it a go.’

‘Protein Pucks’

The Zone is anything but intuitive; it’s brutally controlled. On it, I had to eat a strict ratio of carbs, protein and fat.

Being a systems person and a biochemist, I wanted an easy way to do this, without the mind-numbing working out of ‘food blocks’, especially for a working lunch.

So, I looked at the ratios and came up with what I called Protein Pucks – small, tasteless golf balls of protein powder, carbohydrate and fat – mixed in the perfect proportions. I made up five-days’ supply so I could slip two of them into my lunch pack, each day before work. Perfect, I thought.

(By the way, before I met Kim, my life was an endless saga of bland or foul-tasting foods that were either good for me or good for losing weight. I don’t know how I survived without the flavour and delight of real food for so long, but I did. Years later, something like Protein Pucks would become commercially available but definitely not through me or my recipes. The commercial ones were light years ahead of mine in taste, texture and lightness.)

Breakfast and dinner I could measure out, but lunch had to be quick, easy and correct. At the time, I was mighty proud of my Protein Puck handiwork.

‘Tahini Turkish’

Good ol’ MacDonalds – still  in Cremorne

Another lunch favourite was Tahini Turkish – sesame seed paste on Turkish bread – which was to be my first Zone Diet weekend treat.

Coincidentally, Kim came with me on that Saturday’s house-hunting odyssey, a routine I’d been following for months. I said I’d take care of lunch.

Kim’s an intrepid kind of guy; ‘abenteuer‘ (‘adventure’ in German) he calls it, so I felt that my Zone Tahini Turkish qualified.

I was right. He took one bite, his face drained and he started grasping feverishly for his water bottle.

When he was able, he told me that all the moisture had been sucked from his mouth. He chucked the Tahini Turkish in the bin where we were in Cremorne Plaza.

To my utter disbelief he then asked me something he’d never asked before or since: ‘Isn’t there a Macdonalds near here?‘ He meant it.

An Unwelcome ‘Food Block’

The Tahini Turkish saga should have been a warning but I didn’t see it.

I was only 3 days into the Zone Diet and I wanted to give it a decent lash.

Unfortunately, by Monday night, Day 5, I’d become a ‘food block’ myself or more correctly a ‘food blockage’. I was so constipated I felt ill and couldn’t concentrate.

That irresistible psyllium husk powder

I called brother Kit and asked him how he was dealing with it. ‘Psyllium husks’ he advised, so I went off and bought some.

They were pulverised into a powder, so I mixed this with water, and tossed it down. It was marginally less tasty than the Protein Pucks.

Enough is Enough

Next day, I mixed the psyllium with water, popped it into a thermos, packed my Protein Pucks and went off to work.

At lunchtime, I downed my two protein pucks, drank a glass of water and opened the Thermos to address the psyllium.

What emerged was a single, gelatinous lump of what looked like bloodless afterbirth. It was totally revolting; more disgusting than any diet food I’d consumed to date, which is quite something.

It was so confronting, I thought ‘Enough is enough.’ I decided right then the Zone Diet was not for me.


In hindsight, I think the Zone Diet works on similar principles to the Atkins Diet. (Of course, I’d tried that one, too, in the 70s.)

Both diets had such a binding effect that I couldn’t eat, so I did lose weight at least for a few days.

Problem was, I put it all back on again when I returned to ‘normal’ eating. Such was my experience with every diet, up until I met Kim, anyway.

The moral of the story? If a ‘diet’ is hard to follow, counter-intuitive, littered with obstacles, makes you feel awful and dying to eat real food every day, maybe it’s time to think again.

(By the way, everyone’s metabolism is different and your experience with the Zone Diet may not be the same as mine. It’s also nearly 30 years on and the diet has probably changed a lot since then, too. In its original form, it definitely wasn’t my cup of tea.)

I’ve learnt a lot since then, but only because Kim never gave up on me.

He kept bringing over scrumptious foods I’d banned for decades (like full-fat brie and avocados) and, eventually, I weakened. Boy, did they taste great! Then, to my disbelief, I started to lose weight and I’ve kept it off ever since.

Since then, based on masses of research and our own experiences, Kim has developed the MMM! Anti-diet. It’s how to lose weight without willpower or starvation, by eating scrumptious foods until you’re full. It works. See why, below.

Lose Weight


Discover The Muscles & Marbles Mediterranean Anti-diet

Kim Brebach

Tracey James

Hello, I’m Tracey James, boomer, former scientist, technical writer and Fixer of Things at M&M. In my spare time, I like to walk, swim and garden.   

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