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Rick Warren: Faith-based vegetarian diet helped my congregation lose 250,000 lbs

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Pastor Rick Warren says a faith-based, mostly-vegetarian diet helped his congregation achieve an astounding 250,000-pound weight loss during the past four years.

Warren experienced an epiphany in 2009 when he was struck by an odd thought during a church service: Man, we're all fat.

“It wasn’t a very spiritual thought,” Warren, 59, told Parade. “My second thought was, ‘I’m fat too, and I’m a terrible example.’ ”

The next week, Pastor Rick told his congregation he wanted to lose 90 pounds and asked if any of them also wanted to lose weight and get healthy.

Amazingly, 15,000 members of Warren's Saddleback Church pledged to join him on a mass weight-loss journey. Together, they have lost over 250,000 pounds so far (or about 17 pounds per person).

Warren detailed his diet in his book, The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life. The "Daniel Diet" is based on passages in the bible which described how the prophet Daniel fasted and ate only vegetables and water as a show of devotion to God.

Pastor Rick got help creating the Daniel Plan from Dr. Oz and two other renowned doctors: Daniel Amen and Mark Hyman. ­

Together, they created a diet and workout regimen based on their five F’s: Faith, Food, Fitness, ­Focus, and Friends. The program combines healthy eating, exercise, stress reduction, prayer and support from other church members in small home groups.

The Daniel Plan diet is largely plant-based, but you don't have to be vegetarian to follow it. It mainly emphasizes eating whole, natural foods and eliminating gluten, sugar and processed junk.

For exercise, Warren swims, lifts weights, hikes, and walks on the treadmill. Pastor Rick lost 65 pounds in 2011 on the Daniel Plan but recently regained 35 pounds following the April 2013 suicide of his son Matthew.

Since going on The Daniel Plan a second time, Warren has lost 30 pounds during the past few months and is determined to slim down even more. "God made my body," he said. "It is a gift. I’m supposed to take good care of it.

"If you go home every night and lie on the couch because you’re exhausted because you’re not eating right and your blood pressure is too high, how can you make a difference? I’m interested in helping my people be well so they can make a difference."

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