5 Lessons I Learned Bringing The Daniel Plan To My Synagogue
Maybe you haven’t heard the story before. After baptizing 827 adults one spring day at the 35,000 member Saddleback Church in Southern California, Pastor Rick Warren pondered on the state of his congregation and America as a whole: overweight. In fact, he calculated that he had lowered and then lifted over 145,000 pounds of congregants that day in the baptismal. And he knew he was overweight too. Deciding to take action, he invited Drs. Daniel Amen, Mark Hyman and Mehmet Oz into the church to develop a unique program of lifestyle change based on the principles of functional medicine. The church had thousands of small Bible study groups and they decided to use those meetings to present cutting edge information on “faith, food, fitness, focus and friends.” The curriculum was posted on a website (http://www.danielplan.com/). Over 12,000 members signed up to participate on the first day the plan was offered and ultimately over 16,000 joined in. At the end of a year, the remarkable result of a collective loss of over 250,000 pounds was achieved. In a book and video courses that will be published in a few weeks by Zondervan, the full details of the Daniel Plan will be available for the first time.
I heard of the Daniel Plan early in its formation and knew I wanted to be part of this life changing program. I thought that I could adapt it and try it at my hospital or synagogue. On the same day I heard from Dr. Daniel Amen and the Plan Director Dee Eastman that I had permission to use the website, I got a call from my Rabbis at my synagogue asking me if I had ever heard of the Daniel Plan! They were asking me if I could help lead such a program at the synagogue. Talk about fate! After some interesting discussion about how to adapt the Christian scriptural references to Jewish health sources (fortunately Prophet Daniel and Rabbi Maimonides pretty much had functional medicine figured out long ago), we have run the program successfully two times, the first synagogue to accomplish this. Here are some of the things I learned from this experience:
1) There is a hunger for information: A part of my career is scanning dozens of health reports daily, but most people are too busy or may not know where to look for information. The health section of bookstores can be confusing. The Daniel Plan offered a wealth of information from a large and successful health experiment, and people were grateful to have the website as a reference.
2) There is a need to spread health information: The MindBodyGreen community is well informed on many health topics but the general public is often not. Even among my medical colleagues, knowledge of GMO risks, food as medicine, detoxification programs, juicing, and supplements is often not widespread. People were surprised, shocked and very interested in learning about these newer wellness concepts.
3) There is confusion about health messages: High fat or low, gluten free or not, and many more topics. The Daniel Plan offered a consistent program based on removing things that hurt you and replacing them in abundance with healing substitutes. The credibility of the plan and its developers gave confidence to the participants.
4) There is strength in numbers: One of the keys to the success of the Daniel Plan was the social connections made in the small Bible groups. We also copied that and lively discussions about favorite spices, best milk substitutes, and the freshest kale were heard.
5) It takes time to change habits: We ran our version of the Daniel Plan over 6 weeks highlighted by a major health lecture in the middle. There was time to use up “old school” items in the kitchen and storeroom and replace them with new choices. Many took the time to buy a NutriBullet and experiment with green smoothies. The program ended encouraging participants to visit the Daniel Plan website for updates and, of course, to read MindBodyGreen every day!
I just finished reading an advanced copy of the The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life and I found all 10 chapters packed with useful information for transformation of mind, body and spirit. I am confident that it will be used in many faith-based communities to successfully transform the old habits of celebrating with ice cream, hot dogs and donuts to healthier bowls of organic fruit and vegetable snacks. On a broader perspective, the health information can be adapted to schools, workplaces and families. It is humbling to think that over 2,000 years ago Prophet Daniel chose water and vegetables over the king’s rich food and we are still learning the importance of that sage advice!