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Rick Warren's congregation lost 250,000 pounds with plant-based 'Daniel Plan'

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Pastor Rick Warren has a message for those who struggle with their weight: Recognize the connection between your health and your spirituality to succeed. But he does more than preach about his philosophy: Warren's awareness of this link comes from his own battle of the bulge. He's proud about having won that war while helping his own congregation lose 250,000 pounds, which he discussed in a November 30 interview with Parade magazine.

The diet and fitness plan that formed the foundation of their plan is documented in a new book to which Warren contributed. Other contributors included brain specialist Dr. Daniel Amen and metabolic expert Dr. Mark Hyman. ­The result is called "The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life" (click for details).

Warren emphasizes that a healthy lifestyle involves many components. He calls them the five F's: Faith, food, fitness, focus and friends. It's a plan for a long, healthy life, as evidenced by the fact that one additional contributor, Dr. Mehmet Oz, specializes in heart disease. But it's also a plan based on spirituality.

“The plan has led to a complete renewal of my spirit and my mind,” said congregant Lynne Rayburn, 62. “I’m living a different life.”

And that's the point Warren wants to make. It's precisely why he views the "Daniel Plan" as much more than just another diet and fitness book.

"Most people know what to do to get healthy. It’s not rocket science," declares Warren.

"The problem is that most people have the wrong motivation and therefore don’t stick with it. Why you do something always determines how long you do it. So we give people spiritual motivation," he explained.

"There’s nothing wrong with saying, 'I want to live longer.' But why do you want to live longer? We say, 'Change your life and change the world.'"

The book provides details on every aspect of what it takes to shed pounds. It's almost like a series of mini guides, such as section on the "Daniel Diet," a section on "Daniel Fitness," and so forth. For example, the diet section emphasizes that "all calories are not the same. It is a matter of quality."

Therefore, to be what the plan calls a "qualitarian," the diet calls for low-glycemic vegetables, moderate amounts of starchy vegetables and grains, certain fruits, nuts and seeds. The focus is on keeping it simple, from directives to avoid processed foods to instructions to focus on whole, fresh foods. And although a plant-based diet is emphasized, the authors emphasize how to achieve the goals rather than what to avoid.

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