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'Daniel Plan' benefits range from 'fountain of youth' to faith-based weight loss

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Two renowned physicians and a best-selling pastor have teamed up to create a plan designed to provide you with a healthier life in 40 days. From shedding excess pounds to providing you with a real world "fountain of youth," the creators talked with USA Today on December 2 about their holistic guide.

Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman and Pastor Rick Warren believe that their book can transform every aspect of your life. Published by Zondervan, it's entitled "The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life" (click for details).

Designed to enhance your life spiritually, emotionally and physically, the Daniel Plan offers five holistic keys to health and happiness: Food, fitness, focus, faith and friends.

"The last two components — faith and friends — are what I call the special sauce that makes the Daniel Plan unique," Warren says. And focus is essential. "It's not just what you eat that makes you unhealthy, it's about what's eating you."

And although that may sound as if it's based only on philosophy, Warren's original motivation was completely physical. After baptizing 800 people one day, he realized the harsh reality.

"Wow! Everybody's fat!" mused Warren to himself. And he recognized that he suffered from obesity himself, weighing an estimated 90 pounds over his goal weight.

After persuading Amen and Hyman to join him in creating a multi-faceted guide to emotional and physical health, he began the work of determining how to make the book different from traditional diet and exercise plans.

The title originates from the first chapter of Daniel, during which Daniel and his three friends eat a healthy diet featuring vegetables.

"We just took the title from that concept. It doesn't try to follow what Daniel ate, because the Bible doesn't tell us exactly what he ate," explained Warren.

The focus of the diet is all natural. "If it grows on a plant, it's healthy. If it's made in a plant, don't eat it" sums up the rule, he added.

Hyman also emphasizes the simplicity of the diet. Author of "Ultrametabolism," he believes that part of our national epidemic of obesity is linked to our dependence on processed products and sugar-laden junk food.

"Eat whole, real, fresh foods, plant-based foods" and stop eating processed foods, junk food, fast foods, fried foods and artificial sweeteners, he says.

The third co-author, Amen, author of "Use Your Brain to Change Your Age: Secrets to Look, Feel, and Think Younger Every Day," emphasizes the role of fitness in the Daniel Plan for both physical and mental health.

"Exercise is the fountain of youth in so many ways," declares Amen.

And it doesn't have to mean running marathons. Recommended activities include brisk walking four times a week and weight-lifting twice a week.

As for Pastor Warren, he literally practices what he preaches.He works out regularly with a friend who is both a trainer and an "accountability partner." He emphasizes variety.

"I have four different workouts so I don't get bored" — a hiking workout, a swimming pool workout, a treadmill routine and weight-training exercises, said Warren proudly.

As for the spiritual element of the Daniel Plan: Prayer is the cornerstone.

"We talked about not just eating right but thinking right. We were praying for health. I tell people if you prayed as much as you worried, you would have a lot less to worry about," sums up Warren.

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