Reverend Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, developed the diet and fitness plan dubbed The Daniel Plan two years ago after consulting with medical experts Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Daniel Amen.
“It’s based on the idea of my body is part of my stewardship,” Warren said. “In other words, it’s a gift that God has given to me and we say God created it. Jesus died for it. The spirit lives in it, then I better take care of it.”
At least 15,000 people have participated in the plan at Warren’s church and online. The collective weight loss so far is a staggering 269,000 pounds. Warren, himself, has lost 50 pounds so far and is aiming for another 40 pounds.
Fitness plan rooted in biblical story of Daniel
“The spiritual component of The Daniel Plan is obviously God wants me to be healthy,” Warren said. “Christians for centuries have always prayed about get well help, but how about praying for preventative health, okay? How about not just praying for the people who are sick, how about praying for the people who are well, that we use our bodies well?”
The plan is based on the biblical story of Daniel. In the Bible’s Book of Daniel, the Babylonian king offered Daniel and three other Jewish boys a place at his table, but Daniel turned down the rich, royal foods.
Daniel and his friends were more fit.
Track Your Five
In addition to prayer and the biblical tale of Daniel, the plan relies on science from some of the nation’s premiere medical experts- heart surgeon Dr. Oz, metabolic expert Dr. Hyman and brain surgeon Dr. Amen.
The Daniel Plan encourages followers to eat a diet of 70 percent fresh fruits and vegetables and 30 percent lean protein, grains and starches. In addition to the diet, it stresses exercise.
When someone decides to join The Daniel Plan, they are supposed to track their five: height, weight, waist measurement, blood pressure and cholesterol. The plan also encourages followers to keep a food journal.
Warren launched a website, DanielPlan.com, that allows those participating to track their progress. It provides fitness tips, has videos from medical experts and recipes.
Chef Jenny Ross of 118 Degrees Restaurant in Costa Mesa, Calif., has helped develop recipes for Daniel Plan followers. She says one way to stay on the plan is to prepare food ahead of time. She also encourages followers to cut down on the price of fresh produce by growing gardens in their backyard.
“I think one of the most important things that families can understand is that you can grow some of this stuff in your own backyard, you know, in pots and planters and things like that. But also, finding what works flavor wise and what's local to you. The more local it is the cheaper it is in terms of produce,” Ross said.
Six Core Principles
Warren said individual willpower will only take someone so far so the plan also relies on faith and community. Online tools include helping people join or host small groups of Daniel Plan followers.
The church’s campus has also added fitness classes like kickboxing and Zumba and rituals like “Walk and Worship” and “Pump and Praise” that combine exercise and prayer.
“We get better together. We don’t get better on our own. We tend to, when people do it on their own, they tend to go on willpower and willpower works for a while, but you eventually get tired of doing what seems unnatural to you,” Warren said.
Connecting with Others
Warren has used the 6,000 small groups of congregants that meet weekly on their own to help Daniel Plan adherents stick to their plan. Each group has a “health champion.” No one is forced to follow the diet, but for those who do, they can gain strength by turning to their health champion, Warren said.
Online, followers who aren’t already in a group can find small groups to join or host their own group.
Of his turn to focusing on the physical health of his congregants, Warren said, “Well, you would think that in a church, you’d start with the spiritual, but actually, I said, we got to start with the physical because the reason why we don’t change often is we don’t have the energy to change.”
Editor's Note: For more on The Daniel Plan, click here.