Rick Warren has already shed several pounds in January by following a health plan that celebrity doctors helped launched at Saddleback Church on Saturday.
The megachurch pastor dropped 8 pounds since starting the Daniel Plan this year, said Dr. Mark Hyman, one of three developers of the 52-week, church-wide plan for the Saddleback family in southern California.
The Daniel Plan, based on the prophet Daniel who chose healthy eating instead of the king's rich foods, is part of the church's aim this year to get its parishioners physically healthier.
It is the first of several community programs that Saddleback will launch as part of its Decade of Destiny campaign over the next 10 years. The plan will address 7 key areas of life: spiritual, physical, financial, relational, vocational, emotional, and mental.
Around 6,000 people participated in the kick-off event of the Daniel Plan at the church's Lake Forest campus, while thousands more listened from satellite campuses and online.
The event featured lectures from Hyman, a metabolism expert, and Dr. Daniel Amen, a bestselling author and psychiatrist. Cardiologist Dr. Mehmet Oz wasn't able to join in person but recorded a video clip that was played for the audience.
"They have agreed not only to teach today but to work together to put together this Daniel Plan and monitor your progress all year," said Warren.
During his motivational speech, Amen, a Christian, said he was disappointed with the unhealthy eating habits that have become so pervasive in churches. On one Sunday before service, he noticed his church selling donuts, serving sausages, and grilling hot dogs.
"They have no idea they are sending people to heaven early."
"That's not that plan!" he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "So many churches in America are killing people with the food they give."
Amen, who interspersed medical findings with biblical verses, said they shouldn't trash the body, which is the temple of God. He asked the audience to find a deeper motivation to join the program, noting that one of his motivations for staying healthy is his newborn grandson.
"He is more likely to go to heaven if he sees his grandfather is a man of God who can touch his life for a long period of time," said Amen.
"If you get healthy, you'll be able to serve your family, your loved ones, the body of Christ in a more effective way. [It is] not just for 10 pounds, but to get healthy for the rest of your life."
Hyman spoke about a "whole-systems approach" to health, a combination of nutritional eating, exercise and stress management used to bring the body back into balance.
An advocate of functional medicine, Hyman argued that the secret to health is as simple as eliminating the "bad stuff" and getting more of the "good stuff."
He said things that fall in the bad category include toxins, allergens, microbes, poor diet/lifestyle and stress.
Good things for the health of a person are: proper foods, nutrients, light, water, air, movement, sleep, rhythm, relaxation, love, community, meaning and connection.
By controlling these factors, Hyman said one can create health by controlling gene expression and the body's responses.
"The genes you can't change - they're fixed - but the way your genes turn on and off [you can]," he said.
Amen spoke about brain health as the key to a healthy life.
He asked those making a "covenant" to follow the Daniel Plan to incorporate social connections, new learning, great diet, omega-3 fats, multi-vitamin, green tea, deep breathing, gratitude, prayer, and 6 hours of sleep into their lifestyle.
Both Hyman and Amen also said their techniques would help with depression.
Dr. Oz spoke in a video message that was filmed from the studio of his talk show, The Dr. Oz Show. He said there are 5 big adjustments that the audience needs to make, which includes controlling blood pressure, stopping smoking, exercising for 30 minutes a day, eating healthy, and managing stress.
Participants of the Daniel Plan received a chance to get their health measurements in stations around the church campus.
Warren and the doctors encouraged them to create a profile on the plan's website and track their weekly progress. They also said they could opt to lend their results to a medical study that will be conducted along with the plan.
The Saddleback pastor has pledged to lose 90 pounds through the program. He said he has gained 3 pounds each year since he started the church nearly 30 years ago.
After the event, Warren responded to criticism that people might have about the doctors not being part of his church or not being Christian altogether. Hyman is Jewish and Oz is Muslim.
"My statement on that is: if I have a brain tumor, I find the best brain surgeon I can find. I'm not asking what his background is or what his belief is," he told online viewers. "If you are dying, you might even let an atheist save your life."
Participants of the Daniel Plan can follow a six-week small group curriculum at the church or online.
Every month, the website will feature new materials from the doctors including a live webcast. The next webcast will take place on Jan. 25.
On the Web: The Daniel Plan