Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Life In The Zone

Have you ever had one of those days when everything goes right? You wake up feeling alert, refreshed, and full of energy. You go off to work, finding open spaces that allow you to cruise through the rushhour traffic. At your desk or out in the field, the solution to a problem that just yesterday seemed insoluble suddenly presents itself, seemingly out of thin air.

One by one, the tasks of the day surrender to your clear, efficient, yet apparently effortless approach. At your late-afternoon racquetball game (or jog, or aerobic workout) you're light on your feet and tireless. When you get home the kids are glad to see you-even your teenage son, the one with the ring in his nose-and when they get into one of their inevitable fights, you're there to adjudicate with the calm and wisdom of Solomon. After dinner, instead of collapsing in front of the TV, you have so much leftover energy that you're ready to go dancing.

You may not have put it to yourself this way, but you were probably in the Zone — that mysterious but very real state in which your body and mind work together at their ultimate best. Normally, we hear about the Zone in the context of athletics: a baseball player swears he can count the seams on a 90-mph fastball; a basketball player sees the hoop as twice its real size; a gymnast feels as if the balance beam is as wide as a city street.

In the Zone, the mind is relaxed, yet alert and exquisitely focused. Meanwhile, the body is fluid, strong, and apparently indefatigable. It's almost euphoric. There are no distractions, and time seems to slow down to a gracefulwaltz.

The legendary soccer player Pele may have described the Zone best: "I felt a strange calmness," he wrote in his book My Life and the Beautiful Game, ". . . a kind of euphoria. I felt I could run all day without tiring, that I could dribble through any of their team or all of them, that I could almost pass through them physically. I felt I could not be hurt. It was a very strange feeling and one I had not felt before. Perhaps it was merely confidence, but I have felt confident many times without that strange feeling of invincibility."

Most athletes — even those of us who are mere weekend warriors — have experienced this almost transcendent state at least once, and the experience is unforgettable. But there's nothing mystical about the Zone. The Zone is a real metabolic state that can be reached by everyone, and maintained indefinitely on a lifelong basis.

What is the Zone? Simply put, it's the metabolic state in which the body works at peak efficiency. Outside the Zone, life is its normal self — sometimes rewarding, mostly frustrating, filled with perplexing problems, missed opportunities, and illnesses great and small. But inside the Zone life becomes easier and better. In the Zone you'll enjoy optimal body function: freedom from hunger, greater energy and physical performance, as well as improved mental focus and productivity.

In the Zone, problems don't go away, but their solutions become more obvious. Fatigue and listlessness are replaced by feelings of energy and high competence. Weight loss (which should really be called fat loss) can be an ongoing and usually frustrating struggle for most people. In the Zone it is painless, almost automatic.

Life in the Zone creates significant health benefits. The little illnesses that plague us all — colds, flus, allergies-seem to happen less often. When they do hit, they're not as severe. And some of our more serious chronic diseases-heart disease and cancer, for examplebecome less likely to strike. And if these diseases do occur, in the Zone their treatment is more manageable.

In fact, being in the Zone can become the basis for a new kind of low-cost yet ultra-effective health-care reform: a reform in which the individual takes charge of his or her own body, and keeps that body in a state of exquisite good health.

Make no mistake: I'm not just talking about "wellness" — the buzzword that's come to mean so much in health-care circles. Wellness is really nothing more than the absence of disease. The Zone is beyond wellness. The Zone is about optimal health.

So how do we reach the Zone? Until now, the people who knew the most about it — the sports psychologists and trainers who work with elite athletes-have used a variety of techniques, including meditation, breathing exercises, visualization, and relaxation. Many of these tactics have been adopted not only from conventional Western psychology but from Far Eastern religious concepts and martial-arts training. But when these techniques do help the athlete reach the Zone, it's often by accident and can't be repeated with any degree of consistency.

So if psychology is at best a haphazard way to reach the Zone, what about pharmacology — that is, drugs? Among elite athletes looking for a competitive edge, the widespread use of performanceenhancing drugs, especially anabolic steroids and growth hormone, as well as practices such as blood doping, are well documented. But potentially there is a very high price to pay for a drug-enhanced performance edge-like your life.

Neither psychology nor drugs are a reliable way to get to the Zone. Sometimes they work, most often they don't.

There is only one route to reach the Zone at will. This technique will allow you not only to reach the Zone but to remain there throughout the— day~and for weeks and months on end. This technique involves using the most powerful and ubiquitous drug we have: food.

That's right: no magic potions, pills, herbs, or mantras. The truth is that every time you open your mouth to eat, you're applying for a passport to the Zone. To get that passport, though, you must treat food as if it were a drug. You must eat food in a controlled fashion and in the proper proportions — as if it were an intravenous drip. Reaching the Zone is a matter of technology. It is based on principles of drug delivery that I've developed over the course of my career as a research scientist.

The Zone
Revolutionary Life Plan to Put Your Body in Total Balance for Permanent Weight Loss. Copyright © by Barry Sears. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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