By Gabrielle Zastrocky

Jeanine Feld knew she wanted to change something. She had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2002, and as time passed, the long list of unpleasant symptoms was amplifying – migraines, insomnia, fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, “mind fog,” and relentless chronic pain. “I started getting pain from head to toe, morning to night,” Feld said. “I couldn’t walk sometimes.”

Her doctor recommended drugs for the pain, but Feld said she’s never reacted well to medication. When she did give the meds a shot, she took a single pill and a 72-hour migraine ensued. She told her doctor she wanted to look at natural remedies and maybe changing her diet. So she started cooking more foods at home and trying to learn about what she was eating.

It turns out that the help she needed was right in front of her eyes.

Feld works at Saddleback Church, the massive Lake Forest, CA, congregation led by Pastor Rick Warren, nationally known for his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. One of Feld’s coworkers told her about a health and nutrition class the church was sponsoring for its members and convinced her to sign up. The program was called The Daniel Plan.

The Daniel Plan, Saddleback’s latest large-scale project, is a holistic health initiative co-developed with functional medicine pioneer, Dr. Mark Hyman. It focused on healthy food and the transformative power of good nutrition. It was exactly what Jeanine Feld—and tens of thousands of other people—was looking for.

A Heavy Burden

We’ve all heard the statistics, but they bear repeating: more than 35%of all American adults and 17% of children and adolescents are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those numbers hit Pastor Rick Warren in quite a personal way.

Warren’s church is decidedly “mega,” and several years ago he had more than 800 new members to baptize in a single day. As the pastor immersed each of them into water and lifted them back out, it dawned on him: this wasn’t easy!

“Lifting all these people in and out of the water … it’s like, ‘I’m overweight and they’re overweight, and you know, how on Earth are we going to get done what God has planned for us if we’re not healthy?'” said April O’Neil, a communications liaison for the plan, describing Warren’s revelation.

Warren decided a wellness initiative would have to become a priority not just for his congregation, but for himself.

He sought help from some of the leaders of the functional and holistic medicine movement: Dr. Mark Hyman, psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen and cardiothoracic surgeon and television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz.

In January 2011, fired up with a newfound appreciation for the power of the plate, Warren launched the collaboratively designed Daniel Plan.

Keep Reading