One of the largest churches in the United States was going on a diet. The senior pastor mandated that his congregation give up the donuts and hand over the desserts. This body of Christ was going to shape up! Literally.
Perhaps mandate is too strong of a word, but after Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church embraced the message of psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist Dr. Daniel Amen, it was game on. Warren was determined to eat differently and encouraged his brothers and sisters in Christ to do so as well.
In 2011, Warren invited Amen to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California to speak about Amen’s research on the way different foods impact cognition and the adverse effects of obesity on general health. Warren cared deeply about the way his brain functioned and his unwelcome weight gain, so eating for both heart and mind would be his sermon to heed. After a year, Saddleback reported a loss of 250,000 pounds within 15,000 participants.
But even Warren’s highly praised homiletical style did not win the day for affecting change. When all was said and done, Amen declared: “The secret sauce of Saddleback is we do this as a community. It’s very different than most health plans where you do it with yourself or your wife. You get to do this with a whole community.”
That’s it. Nothing magical, or complicated. Neither willpower nor guilt were compelling factors in the change process. What rang true was the nothing-new-under-the-sun same old story played out over and over. Gather with a small group of people with a common goal for encouragement and accountability and you are more likely to meet your goals.
According to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I am surprised to find that proposition to be true as I apply it to food prep and choices. (Although due to long distance relationships, my experience is not always face to face.) Regardless, It’s interesting to me that my most valued relationships implement healthy steps in their meal planning and cooking styles. My daughter is an excellent scratch cook. Wende is an avid researcher of how food impacts health and integrates principles into her menus. Ruth grows a large percentage of her own food, allowing for a steady flow of fresh fruits and vegetables at her table. Sheila’s food choices are chemical free. My son eats a large volume of leafy greens, even at breakfast. “My people,” my community, influence my eating habits. Which speaks loudly to Amen’s point.
We need community. We are designed for community. Our biblical theology tells us so. And so does the lonely lay person sitting in the pew, the reticent neighbor down the street, and the disheartened colleagues at your work place.
We need each other for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.