The Daniel Plan: 40 Days To A Healthier Life
Christians who want to shed pounds now have hope in the Daniel Plan, a weight loss program designed around the centuries-old wisdom of the Bible.
Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life and leader of the Saddleback Church, developed the Daniel Plan in 2011 and outlined it in his book, “The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life”.
The inspiration came to Warren after a day of baptisms – Warren had to physically lower the people he baptized into water and bring them up again, and after doing this for more than 800 individuals, Warren realized just how heavy America’s weight problem really is.
The heart of Warren’s plan comes from the book of Daniel, which tells how the prophet Daniel politely requested food and drinks other than the delicacies and wines the king offered, hoping to remain clean in the eyes of God. After eating mainly vegetables for 10 days, Daniel and his men were said to look healthier than the men who had eaten the king’s food.
Seated on this concept of faithfulness, Warren says his approach is more than just another diet and is instead an entire way of living – this is clear in the 52-week duration of the full program, which requires a sincere commitment.
Instead of relying only on willpower to stick to the right foods and exercise, those on the Daniel Plan look to God for the strength they need to keep going, taking additional support from others.
Faith and friends, therefore, are the largest pillars of the plan, rounded out by food, fitness and focus.
By developing the Daniel Plan, Warren builds on the now widely accepted idea that the soul, mind and body are all inextricably interconnected.
To Warren, food can be a powerful tool, keeping you mentally healthy enough to ward off harmful thoughts and keeping the body strong enough to physically labor for God. The plan is as much about lifting people up spiritually as it is getting them into a smaller dress or pant size.
The plan itself emphasizes fresh, unprocessed foods that don’t have artificial sweeteners, centering around fruits and vegetables. It also leans on fish such as salmon, which are lean sources of protein and brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. Turkey, chicken and lean beef cuts are also approved foods.
Water, tea and non-dairy milks provide drink choices, with decaffeinated coffee also allowed. Legumes, whole grains and seeds, healthy nuts and oils such as almonds or extra virgin olive oil are on the plan, as well. You may use spices such as turmeric, garlic and cumin, and lest you start feeling deprived, you can enjoy healthy treats such as dark chocolate.
Understanding that it’s better to lose weight through a combination of dietary changes and exercise rather than just switching up what you eat, the Daniel Plan also stresses getting active.
Instead of treating physical moves as a workout (notice the “work” part of that), Warren says that it’s better to treat exercise as play. He advocates participating in sports, programs or games you truly enjoy, as well as bringing in a buddy to keep things fun and encourage better accountability.
Not having nutrition or medical training, Warren recruited three well-respected, high-profile doctors to ensure that the recommendations were physically as well as spiritually sound.
Dr. Mehmet Oz (famous for his association with Oprah Winfrey and the Dr. Oz show), Mark Hyman and Daniel Amen all contributed.
Warren believes that maintaining physical health is a natural response to accepting the body as the temple of God. To this end, he envisions spreading the diet as real movement within the Christian church. He has created small group study materials for the plan and encouraged church leaders across the country to introduce it to their members.
If you’re interested in getting started, you can learn more from the Daniel Plan website.
**Note: The Daniel Plan as designed by Rick Warren should not be confused with the Daniel Diet, also known as the Daniel Fast. This is a stricter diet lasting just 10 to 21 days in which you consume only fruits and vegetables, no meats, wines or breads.