Pastor Rick Warren has helped more than 15,000 members of his Saddleback Church to collectively lose about 250,000 pounds through a fitness program he launched last January.
Members of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., on Saturday celebrated their success in losing extra weight at a rally to mark the first anniversary of the Daniel Plan, which Warren launched in collaboration with cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, brain expert Dr. Daniel Amen, and metabolism expert Dr. Mark Hyman in January 2011.
At the beginning of the program, the over 15,000 participants, including Warren, promised to avoid sugar, white bread, white rice, pastas, white and wheat flour, hydrogenated fats or oils, caffeine and processed food; the results were thrilling.
Dr. Amen, of Newport Beach, who was one of the speakers at the rally, told The Orange County Register that cognitive testing of some participants before and after the launch of the Daniel Plan found high levels of improvement.
Warren, author of the bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, vowed to lose 90 pounds a year ago, which would bring him back to the same weight he was at when he started Saddleback Church 30 years ago. He has shed over 50 pounds even as the plan continues.
Warren said he became fitness conscious after he realized that physical health affects the size and functionality of the brain.
While the program is aimed at reducing weight, its objective is to have a sound mind, which has bearing on spirituality, as the tagline, “Glorifying God in the Way We Eat, Move, and Think,” suggests. It is based on the story of Daniel in the Bible who chose healthy eating instead of the king’s rich food.
Amen said he finds his involvement in the program somewhat miraculous. “While attending another church one weekend, I walked by donuts for sale, a grill filled with hot dogs and sausages, and the pastor referred to ‘last night’s ice cream social,’” he said. “It was then I realized churches are sending people to heaven...early.” Amen then prayed that God would use him to help churches in the area of health. Within two weeks, Warren called him, asking for help with the Daniel Plan.
The brain expert explained that fat stores toxins and its cells produce inflammatory chemicals causing diffuse inflammation in the body, harming the brain. Besides, bad habits such as poor eating and sedentary lifestyle that are normally associated with being overweight lead to premature aging of the brain.
Warren believes that Christians should be good stewards of their bodies “because Jesus died for your body and the Holy Spirit lives in your body.”
The Southern California megachurch pastor believes in holistic growth of the church. In addition to evangelism, he has called on churches worldwide to also focus their efforts on fighting poverty and disease, providing education for the marginalized, and caring for the environment.