Interview with Dr. Daniel Amen by Peggy Matthews Rose
The Daniel Plan, like Christianity itself, calls for radical, countercultural living. The holiday season, in particular, puts us at odds with all the food-focused celebrations around us.
But Dr. Daniel Amen wants you to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, you can lead the way to a countercultural revolution of your own by changing the way you and your family think about food. Here are a few Amen-approved strategies:
- Let the holidays be an opportunity, not an excuse! This time of year, we tend to give ourselves permission to be “bad”: It’s Christmas, we say, and I always do this. Well, stop doing that! As authors Roy Baumeister and John Tierney write in Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (The Penguin Press 2011), the most important way to decrease stress is to stop screwing up. The Daniel Plan isn’t about January 2, or only when you feel like it. If you really want to feel good and get rid of your nagging health problems, it’s a plan for ALL the time.
- Determine to be a Daniel Plan witness! There are seasonal stresses and special circumstances, to be sure. So develop strategies for dealing with them. The holidays give you a special opportunity to be a witness through The Daniel Plan—and you will feel so much better when you stick with it. Some people get the holiday blues, largely because there is less sun during the winter months. But we can still find ways to either get out in the sunshine, or get the sunshine inside us! Get your numbers checked periodically for adequate Vitamin D levels. Supplement it if you need to. It doesn’t have to be difficult.
- Learn to see all all those holiday “goodies” as poison! For years, we’ve thought of all that sugary stuff—the candy canes, the coffee cakes, the pumpkin pies—as comfort food. But it turns out to be cold comfort when you end up sick and tired. Baumeister’s research shows the pathway for mastering your cravings involves breakfast, daily goals, and adequate sleep. Implement these tools in your daily lives, You’ve got to change your mindset. It will help you so much if you do.
- Don’t give in to the food pushers! These well-intended folks will kill you—literally! “I cooked this just for you,” they’ll say, or “Have more! Let’s celebrate!” As Pastor Steve Komanapalli told me, “People think they’re loving me when they offer me caramel turtle brownies!” It might be tough to turn down your friends, but you’ve got to stand firm. Just say “no, thank you” to the food pushers.
- Start new traditions! One woman I know was so sad about giving up the traditional holiday baking she’d done with her grandmother. She literally mourned the loss of this annual family event. But once she realized what these foods were doing to the people she loved, she was ready for something new—and far more healthy. My wife, Tana, and our daughter, Chloe, cook together all the time. They cook healthy things and they talk about the nutritional value in the food. You can do that too, and make healthy living a new holiday tradition. Think of it as a way of thanking God for the gift of life he has given you by giving it back to him.
- Give the gift of health! Instead of giving “gifts” that hurt people, celebrate life instead. Choose things that enhance rather than steal your vitality. Keep in mind that giving in to those short term desires results in long term problems. Change what gives you pleasure. Instead of sitting back in front of the TV with a rich but deadly dessert, try going for a walk, or go outside and play ball. You’ll be so much happier and better connected if you do.
This year and every year from now on, thank God for the gift of new life you’ve received from living The Daniel Plan way. Learn to make food your friend, as God intended, instead of your enemy. Let food become a tool for loving your neighbor in new ways. Share your accomplishments and all your health benefits with the the food pushers, the traditionalists, and everyone else in your life—and who knows? Maybe next year they’ll discover The Daniel Plan too.