Saddleback Sheds Pounds, Prepares to Offer Weight Loss Program to the Masses

Pastor Rick Warren is now just 40 pounds shy of his weight loss goal. To date, he has lost 50 pounds with Saddleback Church’s 52-week weight loss program, and is now looking to start letting other churches in on the plan.

In a recent video from Saddleback, Warren said starting in 2012 the megachurch will make The Daniel Plan available to other churches looking to implement weight loss programs in their congregations.

Saddleback, inspired by the biblical story of Daniel’s rejection of the king’s food and wine, began The Daniel Plan in January. With the partnership of Saddleback member and brain health expert Dr. Daniel Amen, heart surgeon and TV doctor Dr. Mehmet Oz, and medicine specialist Dr. Mark Hyman, Warren got his congregation moving.

Dr. Oz told Saddleback members at a recent gathering their church was “a petri dish,” helping to gauge how well the program works so they can eventually get the plan out to other churches.

So far, nearly 15,000 people have signed up for the plan and together they have lost more than 250,000 pounds. Dee Eastman, director of The Daniel Plan, told The Christian Post that recent statistics about the program show 72 percent of participants have lost weight. The three “biggest losers” of the program have lost a combined total of 278 pounds.

The project has also produced compelling evidence that small groups make a big difference. And even in Saddleback’s multi-campus megachurch setting they have purposely let The Daniel Plan grow at a small group level.

The small groups, Eastman said, are key to their weight loss plan. She said they provide “encouragement and accountability.”

We all know how we’re supposed to eat, but sometimes we need others to help motivate us. People in the groups share tips with each other, such as where the best organic food is sold. Or they plan times to work out with each other. “We’re better together,” Eastman pointed out.

Dr. Hyman saw the small group structure as an asset from the beginning. He was on the lookout for group settings that would provide accountability and support to those struggling with disease or their weight. After Warren met with him with his idea for The Daniel Plan, Hyman realized the structure he was looking for existed in a church setting.

The actual plan focuses on six core principles that small groups at Saddleback can implement, and people can complete at their own pace. The first two principles help members get prepared for the program, and the last three are focused on development and implementation so that it has a lasting impact.

In the first video for The Daniel Plan series on its website, Warren gives a challenge to participating groups. He says every time they meet together they should do a group check-up “to see how they are making progress.”

Eastman said even after the initial 52 weeks are up, the church will continue with the plan. She says they will “keep providing new content” on the website, from recipes to weight loss tips, plus new curriculum in 2012.

The big thing about this program, Eastman highlighted, is that it’s not just about losing weight for health benefits, but also so members have “the energy and vitality” to be a part of God’s plan, take care of their bodies and give back.

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