Rick Warren Invites Churches to Join Weight Loss Program

Pastor Rick Warren lost 60 pounds and helped his congregation to collectively lose about 250,000 pounds last year with Saddleback Church's weight loss program. And as he plans to shed 30 more pounds this year, he is encouraging other churches to use the Daniel Plan's website.

Churches can now download a six-week study guide and DVDs from the website of the Daniel Plan, which Warren launched in January 2011.

The website offers guidance and educational resources with numerous suggested foods, a sample two-week plan, recipes and menus, besides supporting subscribers with professional doctors, small-group studies, tools, resources, and an online community.

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The pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., is making headlines in the mainstream media for successfully leading more than 15,000 members of his church to collectively lose about 250,000 pounds through the fitness program he began in collaboration with cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, brain expert Dr. Daniel Amen, and metabolism expert Dr. Mark Hyman.

"I've always been a big guy," Warren said, according to USA Today. "I played football in college. I don't plan to be a skinny guy, but I certainly needed to lose a lot of weight." The 58-year-old pastor is 6-foot-3 and weighs 235 pounds – after shedding 60 pounds since last January – but his target is to reach about 200 pounds this year.

Chiquita Seals, a member of Saddleback, lost 125 pounds on the plan. She described her experience as "miraculous. I have more energy."

About a fortnight ago, CNN featured Warren's story behind the launch of the Daniel Plan, which carries the tagline, "Glorifying God in the Way We Eat, Move, and Think." The title comes from the first chapter of Daniel where the prophet demonstrates how one can look healthier just by eating vegetables as opposed to those who eat rich food.

Warren said he realized he needed to lose weight in November 2010 when he baptized more than 800 people. As he immersed thousands of pounds of weight into the water, "I had a thought – it wasn't spiritual – that we are all overweight. Then I thought, 'I am overweight. I am a terrible example to our people.'"

The author of the bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, then vowed to lose weight. "I stood up before 20,000 people and told them I had gained three pounds a year, but I've been your pastor for 30 years, so I needed to lose about 90 pounds."

Warren believes Christians should grow holistically. "God cares about everything in your life. He cares about the body, soul and spirit. Jesus went into every village – preaching, teaching and healing. Preaching involves our soul. Teaching involves our mind, and healing involves our body. If our body is the temple of God's spirit, then we had better give him a healthy temple."

His rule is "no snacks, no sweets, no seconds." And a majority of his congregation followed him in shaping up. At the beginning of the program, the over 15,000 participants, including Pastor Warren, promised to avoid sugar, white bread, white rice, pastas, white and wheat flour, hydrogenated fats or oils, caffeine and processed food.

For Super Bowl Sunday, participants were given this advice: "Enjoy the Super Bowl today if you watch with healthy snacks. Don't give into the temptation of, 'well just this once' or 'it's a special occasion!'"

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