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The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life Hardcover – December 3, 2013
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About the Author
As founding pastor of Saddleback Church with his wife, Kay, Dr. Rick Warren leads a 30,000-member congregation in California with campuses in major cities around the world. As an author, his book The Purpose Driven Life has sold more than 34 million copies. As a theologian, he has lectured at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, University of Judaism, and dozens of universities and seminaries. As a global strategist he advises world leaders and has spoken to the United Nations, US Congress, Davos Economic Forum, TED, Aspen Institute, and numerous parliaments. Rick has also founded the Global PEACE Plan, which Plants churches of reconciliation, Equips leaders, Assists the poor, Cares for the sick, and Educates the next generation in 196 countries. You can listen to Pastor Rick’s Daily Hope, his daily 25-minute audio teaching, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at PastorRick.com.
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The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life by Rick Warren, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mark Hyman is far more than a diet plan. It is an appetizing approach to achieving a healthy lifestyle where people are encouraged to get healthier together by optimizing the key five essentials of faith, food, fitness, focus, and friends.
The Daniel Plan does, indeed, center around those five essentials:
Faith - "If you don't trust God to help you get healthy, all you are left with is willpower--and you know from experience that willpower doesn't usually last very long. You get tired of doing what's right and you give up."
Food - "Food has the power to heal us. It is the most potent tool we have to help prevent and treat many of our chronic diseases--including diabetes and obesity. Truly, what you put on your fork dictates whether you are sick or well, slim or fat, depleted or energized."
Fitness - "[H]e walked her through these steps that make fitness doable in The Daniel Plan: dreaming big, discovering what moves you, setting and recording goals, mixing it up, and finding a buddy."
Focus - "[I]t is the loss of focus that causes may people to cycle through hopeful starts and many failed stops as other things vie for their attention. We will help you optimize your brain health, renew your mind, increase your focus, and live with a purpose-driven mind-set. All of the information in this book is designed to help you win the war between the thoughtful part of your brain that knows what you should do and your pleasure centers that always want gratification now."
Friends - "When you have friends to go with you on the journey toward better health, you are more likely to succeed. Life change happens in small groups."
I had heard much about The Daniel Plan, but this is the first time I've looked into it in any depth. In fact, a friend had mentioned it just a day or two before I saw it on the list of books available for review. That's why I decided to go for it.
I was a bit disappointed to see that the first endorsement on the back cover is from Dr. Mehmet Oz. I'll say that I'm not a fan and leave it at that.
Still, I was hopeful as I started reading. This is what I wrote to a friend about two weeks ago, when I'd read about a third of the book:
I've been reading The Daniel Plan, and I think I like the plan better than the book itself. I keep getting annoyed at the writers for a condescending tone, a reliance on the same handful of familiar Bible verses over and over, an emphasis on saving the environment through what we eat, and the assumption that we can get locally sourced foods all year. (Sure, Rick Warren lives in California. Most of us don't.) Other than that, I'm loving the book. :)
Those annoyances seemed to fade as the book progressed. By the end of the book I had mixed opinions about it.
I completely agree with the Faith essential. I've tried to diet and have had no long-term success. I believe that by trusting God instead of my own willpower, I would do much better.
I like the concepts mentioned in the above quote about Food. Some aspects of the plan make sense--things like filling your plate with 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% whole grains or starchy vegetables, and 25% lean proteins. Keeping healthy snacks on hand so we don't reach for junk food makes sense. Don't drink liquid sugar calories: that's logical. Giving up artificial sweeteners, which confuse our brains and make us crave sweets, sounds like a good strategy.
However, I thought that the black-and-white rules about what to avoid, especially, were extreme. "Cut out sugar and white flour. Go cold turkey." No oils except extra-virgin olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, grape seed oil, avocado oil, and sesame oil (for flavoring). In my opinion, these absolute rules and lists of "bad foods" and "good foods" tend to make us feel guilty when we fail.
The diet plan is very specific, particularly in the Detox phase. Menu plans for three meals and two snacks per day are spelled out, and they include foods that my family would never touch: chia coconut brown rice breakfast bowl, quinoa breakfast bake, shrimp curry with snap peas and water chestnuts. The Core meal plan is a little better and it offers options to swap out meals and snacks. Still, it's pretty specific, and I seriously, seriously doubt that my family would be on board with this.
The Fitness essential, on the other hand, I like. The plan offers options for fun exercises, like dancing, hula hooping, pogo stick, table tennis, tag, unicycling ... you get the idea. It also meets you where you are: someone new to exercise isn't expected to start with a 20-minute run. It combines aerobic, stretching, and strength exercises. I would adopt this part of the plan even if I didn't use the rest.
The chapters on Focus address three strategies--brain envy (you have to passionately care about your brain), avoiding anything that hurts it, and engaging in habits that boost its health. Specifics include getting enough sleep, reducing stress, praying, and laughing more. The section also talks about failure and how to turn it into a learning experience. I liked this quote: "Failure can also be motivational. A lot of times we change, not when we see the light, but when we feel the heat."
I can't argue with the Friends essential. Have an exercise buddy and a friend (or friends) to keep you accountable. I can see myself in a support group to talk about progress and strategies, but I don't think I could say, "I weigh xxx pounds."
So ... I know this is long, but I hope I've given you enough information to make your own decision about The Daniel Plan.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book, at no cost to me, for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions I've shared are my own.
First of all, The Daniel Plan was in complete agreement with my personal experience and what I studied about health and fitness. Which, BTW, is so rare. Many health "gurus" toot only their own horn that their system/diet/workout regimen is wonderful, and everything else is for people too dumb to see the truth.
The Daniel Plan preaches its own system, but this system is holistic and it excludes very little. But most importantly, it's darn effective in the lives of everyday people.
The plan is based on five F-essentials. While some of them are pretty obvious - like Food and Fitness, others are not so - like Faith and Focus. And only all five put together create a powerful mixture that can skyrocket your health. I think this is the biggest strength of this book - it combines all the elements and doesn't leave them hanging in a void.
Diets and fitness have been discussed in the context of weight loss and health zillions of times. The Daniel Plan discusses them as well and I found the most flaws in those parts, but it also put them in the context of faith, focus and friends, which makes the whole plan more down to earth, practical, and most importantly - effective.
For example, let’s take "friends" essential. I met with a serious study done for "American Journal of Preventive Medicine" that concluded simple tactics like 'move more, eat less' are more effective than professional weight loss group programs. But a group program is not a pack of friends. While accountability considered in a void may be less important than simple tactics, accountability PLUS the right tactics make all the difference.
OK, as usual in my reviews, let's go to cons first. They are few and far between, but The Daniel Plan is not all rainbows and unicorns.
Unfortunately, The Daniel Plan falls, in a few areas, into the typical 'healthy books' narration: "You'd better listen to this advice to the T or anguish, hell and damnation awaits you!" Well, not in those words, but you can clearly read it between the lines. The detailed fitness and diet advice provided with the tone of an oracle doesn't work for me and doesn't work for many critical-thinking people.
I agreed with at least 90% of what the authors had to say about fitness and diet, but the remaining 10% spoiled a bit the pleasure of reading.
I consider regular cardio completely useless and you cannot convince me otherwise, because it's against my experience. For the last 10 years, I avoided it like a plague, and I am usually the fittest specimen in any group that does not include fitness professionals.
The same goes with other advice given in magisterial tones. One example that struck me the most was: "Sleep 8 hours a night." Period. No discussion.
And it's terrible advice. Yes, probably 60% of the population will thrive sleeping 8 hours a night. But what about the rest?
Sleep needs are individual. Matthew McConaughey sleeps 8.5 hours a night. I took a lot of effort to assess the optimal amount of sleep for me, and it's 7 to 7.5 hours a night. If I sleep 8 hours, I wake up with a headache every single time. It's too much for me.
There are more of such unconditional tips within the book, hidden like raisins in a cake. Unfortunately, they give a foul taste to an otherwise very good book.
One of my friends remarked that the book wasn't content-rich enough for him, and I get what he meant. There are plenty of readers' and plan participants' stories smuggled into the book.
I totally get the intention of the authors. These stories prove that the plan is not tailored to a few very special individuals, but a lot of everyday folks can benefit from it.
I wasn't disgusted by the number or content of those stories. Whenever I felt like they were standing in my way to further parts of the book, I simply skipped them. But for some readers, interested in "how-to" content, it may be a bit too much. Be warned.
And this is as far as cons go. There are many more pros in "The Daniel Plan."
This is a silver bullet of motivation, if you are a believer. If you put your physical transformation into the context of your Christian faith, it disarms you from each and every excuse.
I didn't find it in any other 'health book,' and I read quite a lot of them.
I was struggling with my weight for years. Well, I didn't even struggle; I neglected my weight and my health. Only when I admitted that God wants more from me than just to get by did I find the motivation to become a fitness machine, lose 15% of my body weight and become healthy for good.
For a believer, there is no better motivator than faith.
Yeah, I complained above about food advice... but only about 10%. The rest was ideally congruent with my experience and studies that I trusted. One important point - eat unprocessed foods - and it deals with 80% of dietary problems.
Move more is the name of the game. I liked a lot the variety of activities that "The Daniel Plan" prescribes. The fitness industry conditioned us to think that if you don't go to a gym or spend hours on the road (running, cycling, etc.) you don't exercise. Bollocks! Playing with your kids is an exercise and better than most at that.
I also liked the emphasis on bodyweight exercises. You can do them anywhere, anytime -- and even a few minutes, if done intensively, can break a sweat and provide all benefits connoted with long trainings.
I consider it a very strong point of the book. This area is rarely mentioned in other books and usually treated as an afterthought or an ornament.
Not so in "The Daniel Plan." There is so much more in health than eating right and moving your butt. Jim Rohn called it "a healthy attitude." I found all the tactics mentioned in the book - more laughter, stress-reducing habits, prayer and better sleep - exactly in accordance with my personal experience.
The book is worth its price just for this section.
Accountability is an important factor in achieving one's goals, but "The Daniel Plan" takes it to another level. The true potential of the plan was generated in those small groups of friends who worked together on common goals.
The book doesn't tell about simple accountability. What is understood by "friends" here, means the mastermind. A few or several people who brainstorm and work together to reach the specific outcome. People who simultaneously care about you and are detached enough from your daily drama to provide unbiased external insight.
I was blown away by multiple examples of how a small group of friends decided to implement The Daniel Plan. That's how masterminds work. They produce their own solution to their own situations. They generate ideas and implement them without external supervision.
This book includes everything which is good or great about getting healthy and keeping it that way. Yes, there are some questionable tips here and there, especially when applied to an individual. But every pinch of good advice is here as well. In the last few years, I improved my health immensely, and I found all the tactics I used, some even subconsciously, in this book.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly. The less you know about getting healthy, the more profitable it will be for you. The more your health is in shambles, despite your knowledge, the more you will benefit from reading and APPLYING it.
I identify with the book's message so much, that I could've become a certified Daniel Plan's coach tomorrow if they have a relevant program. ;)
The best thing you can do with "The Daniel Plan" is to read it and tailor it to your individual situation. Not all recipes will fit your lifestyle. Not all exercises will be doable or wise in your circumstances. Don't worry, this book is like a buffet meal: you don't have to eat everything. In fact, it will do you most good if you pick only something here and there.
Only one thing is obligatory in applying the book's advice: don't neglect any of the five essentials. The plan is based on them. Miss one and the whole plan will crumble.
Faith, focus, foods, fitness and friends; everything is necessary to maintain your wellbeing for good.