After 30 years as the pastor of Saddleback Church, Rick Warren, author of the bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life, discovered a new calling, shedding the 90 pounds he had gained over the years. He invited members of his congregation to join him on his quest toward better health. The response surprised him — 12,000 people put their names in the offering plate and wrote down how many pounds they wanted to lose.
Joel Guerra was one of those people. At 288 pounds, he had seen his weight increase steadily since getting married and knew he was on the fast track to the health consequences of being overweight. “I wrote down ‘25 pounds’ hopeful that this would finally be the time it worked,” he says. Since that day six years ago, he has lost over 70 pounds and now leads an active lifestyle. “The greatest truth I have discovered is that life is so much better fit than fat,” he says. “I could not and would not have done any of this on my own.”
Friendship for Weight Loss
Community is one of the fundamental tenets of The Daniel Plan, which includes workbooks for groups to go through together. “Diets usually include fitness and food,” says Warren. “The Daniel Plan also offers focus and friendships and faith.” Contributing author Dr. Mark Hyman concurs, “There is nothing more powerful than community in helping people change.”
Daniel Plan Diet
The diet is very loosely based on the biblical account of Daniel, who refused to eat the royal fare offered by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and insisted on eating only vegetables and water. While his motivations were likely due to Jewish dietary laws and not a desire to lose weight, the diet left him and his comrades looking healthier and better nourished than those who had continued enjoying the king’s rich fare.
Fortunately, Warren’s version of the Daniel plan offers a little more variety, dividing the plate as follows:
• 50 percent non-starchy vegetables
• 25 percent lean animal or vegetable proteins
• 25 percent healthy starch or whole grains
• Side of low-glycemic fruit
• Water or herbal iced teas
Although The Daniel Plan takes a stab at offering fitness advice, it mirrors generic, conventional wisdom — find a workout buddy, plan ahead, increase training volume slowly, and track your progress. However, many people may find the spiritual spin encouraging. Daniel Plan fitness coach Sean Hoy says, “Forget about yesterday — no matter what your previous experiences or attempts to change your fitness habits in the past have been… today is a new day and with God’s help and strength you can do it — one day at a time!”
Critique of The Daniel Plan
The Daniel Plan has a few unique features that may appeal to people who want to lose weight within the context of church and community, but it offers nothing completely new in the way of diet or fitness advice. Furthermore, while it is admirable that Warren wants to lead the charge within the church toward healthy nutrition and active lifestyles, his own inability to maintain a healthy weight calls into question his authority to do so.