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Faith and Well-being

Iowa HealthThe Daniel Plan?

I recently read an article in TIME magazine (June 11) about how a Bible passage is impacting a mega-church in California…but in a way one would not expect. Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, discovered his church members were a bit heavier (weight-wise) while he and other pastors were baptizing about 800 congregants during a four hour period (they estimated about 160,000 pounds of people were baptized that day). Warren, by the way, authored the immensely popular book, “The Purpose Driven Life”.

From this experience, Warren used a passage in the Book of Daniel describing a story of four Jewish boys who refused to “defile themselves” with meat and wine offered by King Nebuchadnezzar. Instead they chose vegetables and water and grew fitter (and apparently much healthier).

Armed with this biblical story, Warren launched the Daniel Plan – a health and fitness program for congregation members who wish to participate. The program begins with a diet of 70% unprocessed fruits and vegetables and 30% lean protein, whole grains and starchy veggies. In addition, this plan includes exercise groups, nutrition training, sports, recipe tips, small support-group meetings, and many other programs. The results since implementation (January, 2011) are very impressive. About 15,000 people have signed up to participate in this program, and it is estimated that the church has lost 260,000 pounds in this last year (Warren is shooting for 800,000 lbs). Warren intends to take this program internationally in the future.

So why am I writing about this?

For me, it’s encouraging to learn that people can collectively work together to accomplish a common goal to lead healthier lives. This particular situation stems from a faith-based community that provides the accountability and support measures needed to make this a successful endeavor. The TIME article does mention how important faith is to ones’ mental and physical well-being. In fact, various studies show that faith and health mix quite well with one another. For example, people who attend church service may be less apt to die in a given year when compared to those who don’t attend a faith-based service. People who help others tend to have a healthier profile. There are many other studies that link faith to good health.

Here in Iowa, the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative  provides a somewhat similar approach through personal connections (small groups, community involvement, etc). The spiritual component found in the Daniel Plan is very intriguing to me.

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