Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life (Book Review)

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 here are my own.  More details at the end of this post.

From the book jacket:
Revolutionizing the concept of a healthy lifestyle

God designed our bodies to be healthy, providing everything we need to thrive and live abundantly.  And with assistance from medical and fitness experts, Pastor Rick Warren and thousands of people from his congregation at Saddleback Church started a journey to transform their lives.  The result:  15,000 people lost over 260,000 pounds in the first year.  But the changes in people's lives went far beyond the pounds they lost.

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:
  1. 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."
  2. 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."
  3. 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."
  4. 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."
  5. 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.

Links for more information:

* If you click through my Amazon.com affiliate link and complete a purchase, I will receive a small commission.  Thank you!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

1 comment :

  1. I really appreciate your comments, both negative and positive, about this book. I've been intrigued by it but couldn't decide whether to read it or not. I think now I will. Thanks.

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