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The Daniel Diet — What’s the Deal?

The “Daniel Diet” has gained momentum among Christians looking to increase in their discipleship and decrease their waistline.

In recent years, “The Daniel Plan” has been making its way around in Christian subcultures as the answer to weight loss woes. Various Protestant churches and pastors, particularly from the United States, have been getting involved in this new (yet very old) concept of eating.

But what is it?

In simple terms, the idea encourages healthy food choices based on the account of Daniel from the bible. The story sits at the beginning of the book of Daniel when he and many other young men who are captives in Babylon are put into training by the king. Daniel didn’t want to eat the rich foods and wine given by the king because he didn’t think it was honoring to God. Instead, together with his three friends, Daniel was allowed to eat only vegetables and water for ten days as a test.

The test worked. At the end of ten days, Daniel and his buddies looked more well-nourished and healthier than the other young men who ate the king’s rich food. They grew to be not only physically healthy, but also God gave them wisdom and understanding.

“At the end of the ten days, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” Daniel 1:15

Daniel was convicted that he shouldn’t eat rich foods, so he didn’t. There’s nothing here to suggest that it was a weight loss plan for Daniel. It was a matter of conscience.

But apparently, because this worked for Daniel and his friends, some modern Christians have taken this to mean that people should adopt this principle. In fact, a book and a whole bunch of other curriculum was written by Rick Warren and friends. Along with the book, Warren issued a challenge to his massive church of 20,000 people to participate.

On one hand, this idea of speaking into health issues in the church might not be a bad idea. Some studies have shown that Evangelical Christians are up to 50% more likely than irreligious people to develop problems with obesity. 

So a call for Christians to create healthier eating habits may be a good choice. Particularly in light of all of those pesky bible verses that talk about gluttony. (Of all of the sins of the flesh, gluttony must certainly be the least talked-about in western churches today.)

On the other hand, John the Baptist ate locusts and I don’t see people developing new diet plans following in his footsteps.

Although I am completely certain that the Bible has all of the answers for everything in our lives, I’m not quite convinced that God meant for us to build an entire diet sub-culture around the concept of Daniel’s diet.

I’m not anti-vegetable. Really I’m not. I’m even pro-water! If it could just be a matter of following a healthier diet, then that would be great.

But, sadly, The Daniel Plan people don’t stop there.

As is often the case, the marketing opportunities were too tempting for the American church culture gurus to pass up.  They had to make it into a “thing”. Now you can spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to buy the book, the study guide, the cookbook, the devotional, the journal, CDs, DVDs, sermons, propaganda materials and SO much more. (Also available in Spanish.)

Not only that — you can literally get the t-shirt. And the water bottle, the sports bag, the training jacket. Oh, and don’t forget the rubber wristband! Then, everyone can know that you are eating your veggies and drinking your water.

Personally, I could do with eating more vegetables and fewer processed foods. Although, i’m proud that I had an avocado for lunch. (Oh, wait, is that a fruit?!)

But maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t spend $18.99 on another t-shirt that I absolutely don’t need (because, honestly, who needs another t-shirt?). Maybe, instead, I could send $10 of that money to Heifer International to buy a share in a goat to keep a family from going hungry—while my western church culture is on the campaign trail to fight against gluttony and obesity.

Written by Julie Workman

Julie Workman enjoys knitting, whitewater rafting, and drinking coffee—usually not all at the same time. She, her husband and their four teenagers are part of a movement of God’s people who are reaching Europe to impact the world.

11 Comments

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  1. As someone who has successfully followed the diet plan, I have to tell you that it works. I went to the doctor in January 2012 and received an A1C reading of 10.5. I was on my way to insulin injections and a lifetime of misery. However; I asked to see the nutritionist, pharmacist and try a diet change. I couldn’t do it on my own. A gal from my church checked the book out of the library and together, we started the program. My A1C recheck 4 months later was 5.6. I was not only healthier, I was feeling better, too. It isn’t a “diet”, it’s a lifestyle change that incorporates healthy eating, fellowship, exercise, and a great support system that didn’t cost us a dime. It is about not eating things that are bad for you. It’s greatly researched program that had me cutting out things like High Fructose Corn syrup (which has been proven to obesity and organ damage) and MSG. I can only assume that you haven’t read the book or tried the change. I’ve gotten many recipes online FREE, read the book from the library and am still not insulin dependent or on diabetes medicine. IMO, your review is biased and not based on anything but your opinion. This program saved my life.

    • Dear Veronica,
      Thanks for your honest comments. I’m so glad the plan worked for you! Kudos to you and praise to God for saving your life by giving you the resources you needed to become healthier.

      In response to your comment that this “review is biased” and based on my opinion, you are correct! I totally agree. You see, this is an opinion piece—not a book review. I haven’t followed the diet, nor am I an authority on the subject. My article was simply based on my own personal observations and experiences. I aimed to make that clear by using words and phrases such as, “personally”, “maybe”, and “I’m not quite convinced”.

      This is the beauty of conversation here, Veronica. We can both think differently, share our thoughts and experiences (as I have in my article and you have in your comments), and end the day having opened our minds to thinking about something differently and learning from someone else’s perspective. Honestly, when practiced well, I think it can be a glorious design.

      I’m happy that you shared your story here and wish you many blessings!

  2. I so appreciate this article. We are often not willing to breach tough subjects, but you did. God has exactly the right plan needed for every individual who struggles in the area of over-eating. He is our personal trainer, and what works for one isn’t necessarily how God would lead the other. Thank you. I especially like the idea of giving the money to buy a goat for a needy family in an impoverished country. We did this for several families over Christmas, and I guarantee you, I was blessed as much, just in the act of giving, as the family receiving the gift. Samaritan’s Purse was who we donated to for this.

  3. Obviously, Rick Warren is not following his own advice. LOL.

    If you want to lose weight take a trip to a poor nations where an obese person is rarely seen.

    It might put you under conviction and lead you to reduce you consumption.

    And with the money you would save, you could then support a feeding program.

    It’s a Jesus thing.

  4. From a diet point of view, this is clearly questionable. What is more dangerous is ministries (ministers) who are driven by greed. Peter warned us “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

    Thanks for speaking the truth!

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