Cheryl Baker, wife of Pastor John Baker of Celebrate Recovery, wrote The Daniel Plan the following letter below, about her trials, triumphs and tips for adopting new healthy lifestyles. She agreed to allow us to share it as a source of encouragement.

Hi Dee and Dr. Amen:

First of all, I am very grateful that Saddleback Church created “The Daniel Plan.” I think I needed a way to re-focus taking better care of myself since I am now in my early 60’s.

As a young mother, I became very interested in nutrition and tried to cook healthy foods for my family. However, when I went to work full-time and the kids were teen-agers, we certainly spent plenty of time at fast-food restaurants. Even with that “detour,” I’m happy to say that both my daughter and my son are very interested in healthy foods for themselves and their families.

However, it was very difficult to get John on board. After dealing with his alcoholism, John felt he was in the best time of his life, and food was a way to celebrate. Although the kids and I tried every way possible to get him to look at his food choices, he simply wasn’t interested. When he was diagnosed with Menieure’s Disease (the inner ear affects balance), we started eliminating salt from his die. But in the beginning, we were too strict, the food was bland, and John was discouraged. We started learning how to substitute low salt items in our favorite recipes, and John learned to look up menus before eating out. He began to feel that the low-salt diet was easier than he thought. He dropped 20 pounds, felt better, and I think, for the first time in his life, recognized the power of food.

Along came The Daniel Plan, and when you, Dr. Amen, and Dr. Hyman explained in detail what too much fat can do to the body and brain, that was just the push John needed to continue making better choices. He has lost an additional 30 pounds. He plans his food each day, puts his choices on his iPad on the MyNet Diary application to make sure he does not exceed his number of calories, has given up Diet Coke and substituted it with tea and water.

However, something else certainly impacted John’s enthusiasm to stay true to the Plan. He began to look at his relationship to food in the same way that he confronted his alcoholism years ago. He realized he was powerless over food, and worked the principles of Celebrate Recovery.

We have a new team that travels with us for our conferences every other week. Every single one of the eight people in his support group is interested in their health and good food choices, so John has an accountability group with us when we are out of town. That accountability group has made the Plan fun, are very encouraging, and they are extremely happy to see John take interest in his health. John recently introduced himself at Celebrate Recovery as a “believer who struggles with alcoholism and food.”

It is my opinion that if the diet starts out too strict and regimented, that men, in particular, will not stay on the plan. Gradually, reducing unhealthy choices was the key for us. John had already eliminated salt, and with that, fast foods and frequent eating out. He was ready for the next level. Eliminating other unhealthy foods did not seem to be such a sacrifice while doing it slowly (except for the Diet Coke–that was a gradual and painful reduction!).

Finally, eating healthy requires much more time in the kitchen, so a woman who is working, raising kids and trying to provide balanced meals may find it difficult to provide the best choices. Therefore, men may not feel they have the support at home they need to stay on the plan. If men can help shop and cook the meals, I think families can be more successful. Shopping at farmers’ markets and different kinds of stores makes the shopping more fun and can even become a family activity.

By the way, I have lost 15 pounds during the Plan. It has been so much fun to participate in this together. Please don’t be discouraged if men have not signed up on the website, they may still be participating in the program in their own unique ways.

Thanks again,

Cheryl Baker