January 10, 2014 at 8:00 am , by Maggie Niemiec
We were skeptical at first when we heard that Rick Warren, D.Min., founder of the Saddleback Church in California and author of The Purpose Driven Life, was writing a diet book. Really? A weight-loss program based on religion? But when we got a copy of The Daniel Plan, he hooked us on page 1 with his candor and humor. In fact, the first three words of the book are: “Wow! Everybody’s FAT!”
You see, a few years ago, Warren had a eureka moment when he was baptizing members of his church and noticed that the majority of them were, well, obese—and so was he. That baptism was a wake-up call to the health issues in his own life and to those of his parishioners. So he teamed up with Daniel Amen, M.D., and Mark Hyman, M.D., two of the top doctors in the country, to create The Daniel Plan.
Warren got 12,000 of his church members involved, and in their first year of following the program, they lost more than 250,000 pounds! But when his son Matthew committed suicide last year, Warren stopped making healthy choices and gained back half of the 65 pounds he initially lost.
Yet relapse is part of recovery, he says. After grieving for Matthew, Warren got back on the plan—and re-lost 30 pounds. He knows what it’s like to be overweight and discouraged, so he made sure his plan is realistic, relatable and doable.
Our health director Julie and I met with Warren (second from right in the photo) and his co-authors to talk about The Daniel Plan. As the three told us (sometimes all talking at once, they were so excited), it’s not a diet but rather a prescription for living a healthy, happy life. The plan incorporates five factors: faith, food, fitness, focus and friends. Here, a few of the basics:
There’s nothing preachy here! For many people, faith is about religion. But it doesn’t have to be. The faith factor refers to your motivation for getting healthy, says Warren, and it’s essential for everyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Faith can simply mean wanting a better quality of life. Identify what motivates you—and use it to get healthy.
Eat real, whole foods as much as you can. “It’s all about learning to love foods that love you back,” says Warren. The Daniel Plan plate is half non-starchy vegetables, 25 percent lean proteins and 25 percent whole grains or starchy vegetables. Add a side of low-glycemic fruit and drink water or herbal tea. Eat this way most of the time—but remember it’s a learning process and be gentle on yourself when you slip up.
Make exercise fun! Don’t worry about what other people are doing—choose activities that you enjoy. Try to fit in 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, three to five days a week.
Change the way you think about food and about yourself. Dr. Amen suggests writing down your automatic negative thoughts, such as “I’m weak” or “I’m fat.” The more you repeat these thoughts to yourself, the more you believe them. “Writing them down gets them out of your head and forces you to question your erroneous beliefs,” he says.
Find a buddy or start a group—with your family, friends, coworkers, church. “The secret to living healthy is people loving each other in a community, and helping and encouraging each other,” says Dr. Hyman.