By Mary MacVean
Los Angeles Times
Photo Credit: Allen J. Schaben
When Jim Black leads people on a robust walk three times a week on the grounds of the 120-acre Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, he’s got powerful company: God.
The several dozen people who join him have shown up with the same hopes that anyone brings to an exercise plan: They mean to lose weight, ditch inhalers, get stronger.
But at Saddleback, there’s a lot more going on. Pastor Rick Warren is using the power of his church, one of the biggest in the country, to impress upon his followers that their bodies need the same care as their spirits.
After two months on “The Daniel Plan,” Black gave up his diabetes medication. He has given up wheat, dairy and sugar. He recently bought a bicycle. In a year, he lost 90 pounds; his wife lost 40.
“It’s that one scripture: My body is not my own, my body is on loan and someday I’ll have to account for it,” said Black, 48. “I wanted to serve God at a higher level. And I wanted to be able to fit in the seat of a roller coaster and buy one seat on the airplane instead of two.”
Despite a multibillion-dollar industry of programs and books and diet meals and meetings, the secular world has done a fairly lousy job at getting people to lose weight and get fit.
So why not turn to a higher power?
One Sunday afternoon, 3,000 people came to a rally at Saddleback to hear about the Daniel Plan from Warren and others, including two of its creators, Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist who belongs to Saddleback, and Dr. Mark Hyman, who has taken care of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“If Jesus came to dinner, what would you feed him?” Hyman asked the crowd. “Would you give him a Big Mac, fries and a Coke? Would you feed him all the junk that we feed ourselves and our guests when they come to dinner? Or would you eat real food?”