I’ve just finished the June 11th issue of Time magazine (yep, I’m a bit behind on my reading). The issue’s health special was about a Californian pastor who launched a health challenge to his congregation. The result? A collective 260,000 pounds in weight loss. The article discusses, “How faith can fight obesity”.
The pastor, Rick Warren, once weighed 295 lbs (134 kg) and after baptising (by full immersion) over 800 people in four hours one Sunday in 2010 he decided that his congregation felt a bit weighty too. He decided to do something about it. Warren turned to the Old Testament. The book of Daniel tells of four boys who were led by Daniel in a health and fitness regime in order to serve the King. Combine the book of Daniel, a pastor wanting to lose a bit of weight and add in a few celebrity health professionals (Dr Oz, Daniel Amen and Mark Hyman) and you get the “Daniel Plan”. The Daniel Plan was launched in early 2011. Since then 15,000 people have signed up.
The Daniel Plan is simple. It’s about eating 70% vegetables, fruits and nuts and 30% lean protein and whole grain. It also spruiks the importance of exercise, sleep, positive thinking, reducing stress and faith in God. The plan is sound. The success speaks for itself. The article talks about the importance of Faith and how it has proven to be a source of strength in times of grief, healing and health. There is another key ingredient in this plan that is missing in many other healthy or weight loss regimes. And that is, community.
Most of us understand the benefits of community. 1 in 13 in the world are now on Facebook. We join groups that share our own interests: book clubs, fitness classes and yoga conventions . Our Mom’s group know how many times we were up n the middle of the night feeding our 10 month old and the struggles we’re having with a toddler who refuses to stay in bed. It is comforting for us to share our journeys with other people who understand them. We feel more confident in our decisions and our beliefs when there are others to confirm them for us. We learn together through groups. Our groups guide us, influence us, motivate us.
It makes perfect sense then to give thought to the groups and communities in which we belong. Are they influencing us in the right way? Are they supporting us on our journeys? Our groups can provide positive or negative peer pressure. Do we have pizza every time we meet up because that’s what everyone else is having? Or do we all make healthier choices, together?
“Norms” in one group can be very different to the norms in others. When I was in my early 20s I lived in Chile for the best part of a year. I remember talking about the New Zealand diet to a group of interested Chilean friends. They were amazed at how healthy New Zealanders were! I now realise, out of naivety, how I totally misrepresented what the average New Zealander eats because at that time all the ‘groups’ I belonged to in New Zealand were pretty much from the gym and from dancing circles. We all ate ridiculously healthily. It didn’t even occur to me that people actually ate KFC and McDonalds. How I thought those places stayed in business I don’t know!
After several moves around different cities and even countries, I’ve now ended up in the US. Knowing no one when we arrived, we joined several groups and have made lots of great new friends. It’s interesting how diverse the “normal” eating patterns are of different groups. For some groups the normal pot luck meeting fare is mac n cheese and pizza followed by cupcakes (I’m not exaggerating); for other groups the pot luck spread includes a wide range of salad and veggie dishes, beans, rice and maybe sometimes some chicken or pie! (ok, that’s only one pot luck group. Luckily the conversation is as interesting as the food. We love those guys).
I’m not suggesting to dump any friends who live on processed food, but I am suggesting we ask ourselves, “Who is going to help me become a healthier and better me?” and find like minded friends who will support our journey, or better yet, encourage friends to come on the journey with us. Find a partner in crime (my husband, my ultimate “partner in crime”, is eating more vegetables in a single sitting now than he used to eat in an entire week). Join The Leaping Zucchini on Facebook and participate in discussions, read real food blogs, regularly engage with people who eat and live healthily and it becomes much, much easier for you to too.
The article that inspired this post is: “Does God want you to be thin” by Jeffery Kluger and Elizabeth Dias in TIME June 11 2012.
Time cover from Time Magazine; photo of pastor Rick Warren from the Saddleback Church website; pot luck dinner photo from here.