Do Religious Diets Work? Pros, Cons, and Side Effects

“AND GOD SAID, Behold, I’ve given you each herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all of the earth, and each tree, within the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

The Hallelujah Diet, impressed by the above passage from the Book of Genesis, requires its disciples to devour 85 p.c of their energy from uncooked and unprocessed plant-based meals, primarily greens, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

It is to not be confused with the Daniel Plan (impressed by the biblical prophet Daniel), a diet program cooked up by megachurch pastor Rick Warren in 2011 that includes consuming 75 p.c greens and entire grains.

And that is to not be confused with the Daniel Fast (identical prophet), which asks its practitioners to subsist solely on fruits, greens, and entire grains (and have interaction in a lot of prayer) for 21 days.

In 2019, no much less a star than Chris Pratt touted the Daniel Fast on Instagram, noting that the top of his quick would align with the start of his Lego Movie 2 press tour and joking that it simply would possibly have an effect on his interview expertise. “It’s 21 days of prayer and fasting,” he mentioned. “By the time you see me, I’ll most likely be hallucinating. Stay tuned.”

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Men’s Health

In the 12 months of our Lord 2020, essentially the most irritating 12 to 18-and-counting months that many people have ever skilled, practically half of all Americans mentioned they placed on kilos, with freshly rebranded “wellness” giants like WW (previously Weight Watchers) and Medifast posting large features in prospects (and income). The Way Down, a documentary a few pioneer in faith-based weight reduction, Gwen Shamblin Lara, who created the Weigh Down Workshop, is scheduled to premiere on HBO Max this month.

At the identical time, greater than 1 / 4 of the nation reported a stronger perception in God—in the meantime, and never unrelated, on-line searches for “prayer” rose to their highest stage ever—and for these Americans, religion within the Almighty has begun to tell their meals selections.

“When life is unpredictable, similar to in a world pandemic, we are likely to do two issues,” says Brandice Lardner, creator of Grace Filled Plates: Ditch Diets and Find Food Freedom Through God’s Grace. “One, hyper-focus on what we can management, and managing our diets suits neatly into that field. Two, we search one who can management issues. Our religion grows in these occasions. A non secular weight loss plan meets these two tendencies directly.”

do religious diets work

Eddie Guy

These aren’t your typical theological dietary tips, like Islam’s pork prohibition or Judaism’s kosher restrictions. They’re extra like crash diets, normally accompanied by books and meal plans, and so they’re discovering a brand new flock of converts: According to Google Trends, searches for the Daniel Fast, the most well-liked of the numerous faith-based plans, skyrocketed from midyear 2020 to January 2021, and the hashtag #danielfast—an indicator of engagement—elevated sixfold on Instagram.

That’s the place Gerald Law, an Orlando-based musician, and his spouse, Yohanna, rediscovered it. (They have been accustomed to it from their church.) “Social media is every part proper now, and no matter appears fashionable on social media, everybody tends to strive,” Yohanna says.

Weighed down (actually and figuratively) by the challenges of 2020, the couple launched into the Daniel Fast collectively as a option to strengthen their relationship with God—and one another—and to seek out larger readability within the chaos of the 12 months. “I wasn’t positive if I might full the quick,” says Gerald. “Not consuming meat was one thing that my thoughts satisfied me was out of the query. But denying myself issues I assumed I wanted confirmed me how highly effective God is.”

Though at present fashionable, non secular diets have been round since a minimum of the mid-’70s, simply because the nation began to get critical in regards to the huge enterprise of weight reduction. Back then, “every kind of diets have been launched,” says Susan Roberts, Ph.D., a professor of diet at Tufts University.

“Americans have been gaining weight, dropping well being, and wanted weight-loss packages to sort things,” Roberts says. “As a nation, we appear fairly inclined to wanting ‘miracle cures,’ so these big-bang diets which can be extraordinarily austere and laborious to comply with get publicity and prospects.”

do religious diets work

Eddie Guy

While they’ve been predominantly Christian, there are a number of tied to different religions, together with Buddha’s Diet, which emphasizes aware consuming and intermittent fasting, and this system on the coronary heart of Secrets of a Kosher Girl: A 21-Day Nourishing Plan to Lose Weight and Feel Great (Even If You’re Not Jewish), which mixes Jewish rules and “clear consuming.”

Many of those packages increase comparable questions for believers and skeptics alike. Some argue that bringing God into the dialog provides pointless stress to the already-arduous technique of dropping pounds, with holy-book-based virtues like purity, self-discipline, and cleanliness influencing how dieters strategy meals.

“Many of these diets are counting on a perspective that focuses extra on the meals than the guts,” says Lardner. One instance: The idea of unique sin in conventional Christianity outcomes from Adam and Eve consuming the forbidden fruit within the Garden of Eden, so it’s straightforward to persuade a spiritual dieter that partaking of “forbidden” meals is an echo of that earlier sin. (Gluttony, in spite of everything, is without doubt one of the Big Seven.)

Others, nonetheless, consider that God can act as an important motivation whereas weight-reduction plan.

shot of a young family holding hands in prayer before having a meal together outdoors


“The good thing about approaching weight reduction from this God-centered method is that our success is just not depending on our willpower,” says Mike Cleveland, founding father of Setting Captives Free, a ministry that hosts weight-loss boot camps. “Not solely did God make us … He can repair what’s flawed with us. To have the residing God working in us is much better than mere human resolve or the restriction of contrived diets.”

That’s to not say non secular diets are uniformly wholesome, even when they’re grounded in one of the best of intentions. Those that depend on extreme dietary restrictions, such because the Hallelujah Diet and the Daniel Fast, are “not educating folks the best way to eat in a sustainable method for long-term well being,” says Roberts.

But introducing any form of neighborhood, religion primarily based or in any other case, generally is a huge constructive. “We all want our personal tribe of individuals, our cultural group, and church buildings and religion communities present that,” says Roberts. “With greater than 40 p.c of Americans having weight problems as we speak, non secular organizations can fill an essential operate of supporting well being.”

Even if a spiritual weight loss plan doesn’t end in sustained weight reduction, some would say that the journey is extra essential than the vacation spot.

Take the Laws, the couple from Orlando who did the Daniel Fast collectively. Yohanna says she dropped ten kilos: “It was a bit of robust to start with, largely as a result of I’m a really choosy eater and don’t eat veggies. But ultimately, I felt higher and felt nearer to God, acquired the readability I used to be searching for.”

As for Gerald, he says he misplaced weight, however “I truthfully don’t bear in mind how a lot. The expertise was actually inspiring. We will completely be doing it once more subsequent 12 months.”

A Religious Diet Decoder

Dietitian Brian St. Pierre, M.S., R.D., director of efficiency diet at Precision Nutrition, helps us unpack 4 of the most well-liked nonsecular diets.

The Hallelujah Diet

The Hallelujah Diet consists largely of uncooked, plant-based meals. It additionally requires juicing; consuming this system’s BarleyMax complement, an natural juice powder; and taking quite a few different proprietary dietary supplements. In different phrases, it’s hyper-restrictive, which may pose issues. “The overemphasis on uncooked plant meals will make it more durable for folk to comply with and might result in GI points if people aren’t used to that a lot fiber,” says St. Pierre. “Suggesting dietary supplements you could purchase from them raises purple flags as nicely.”

The Daniel Fast

The Daniel Fast is a 21-day vegan weight loss plan consisting solely of unprocessed meals, and it could assist with short-term weight reduction and higher well being: A 2010 research discovered that the 21-day plan was “well-tolerated” by women and men, and it improved a number of threat elements for metabolic and heart problems. While it could be difficult for meat eaters, St. Pierre says, “its emphasis on consuming merely and specializing in minimally processed meals is an effective one.”

Buddha’s Diet

Rather than limiting what you eat, Buddha’s Diet limits when you eat, the purpose being that you simply ultimately arrive at a each day nine-hour consuming window. It’s mainly a variation on intermittent fasting, which, St. Pierre explains, “helps people eat much less as a result of you will have much less time to eat.” Buddha’s Diet additionally incorporates a weekly cheat day, which is sweet on your tongue, however possibly not so good on your waistline. “A full cheat day is usually an idea that goes badly,” St. Pierre says. “Most folks do higher long-term if they’ll discover methods so as to add in small indulgences frequently, guilt-free.”

The Maker’s Diet

The Maker’s Diet is much less restrictive than many different non secular diets, but additionally much less science primarily based. Its principal tenet: Maintain a weight loss plan of pure, unprocessed, natural entire meals. Plus, it asks you to keep away from water, toothpaste handled with fluoride, and overexposure to electromagnetic fields from cell telephones and microwaves. “Only permitting natural meals makes this far much less accessible—and much dearer—for most individuals,” says St. Pierre, “and decreasing so-called ‘toxins’ ignores organic complexity. The liver detoxifies the physique simply effective, and most ‘toxins’ it mentions are usually not precise toxins.”

A model of this text initially appeared within the September 2021 concern of Men’s Health.

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