Faith-Based Community Becomes Catalyst for Cure
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, a family physician and author of the five-time New York Times best-selling non-fiction book The Blood Sugar Solution (Little Brown and Company, February 2012), over 70 percent of Americans today are clinically obese.
The majority of those toppling the scale have no idea they may also be diabetic or pre-diabetic. Hyman call this health risk diabesity, a condition of metabolic imbalance and disease that ranges from a mild blood sugar imbalance to full blown diabetes. Diabesity is the 21st century’s leading cause of chronic illness, including heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer. It is not only making us sicker. It is killing us.
Upon realizing that he and his congregation were at risk, Warren decided to get religious about getting healthy. He had already successfully encouraged his congregation to form 5,000 small groups to meet weekly in their community to study. When he contacted Hyman to get advice on tackling the weight issue and described the small-community concept, the doctor got excited.
“The cure for obesity and diabetes is not a mystery,” Hyman explained. “The secret is in helping each other, not in looking for outside solutions from large institutions. The power of community is far greater than any physician, clinic or hospital. So if you want to get healthy, you just might not want to go to a doctor. You might, instead, go to church.”
According to Hyman, one in three children born today is at risk of developing diabetes, which could mean we are now raising the first generation of Americans who will be sicker and die younger than their parents. Changes must be made if we are to prevent this growing crisis, Hyman says one of his biggest insights was realizing that it is community that is the cure and the group that is the medicine and not just the delivery system for health education. “We did this at Saddleback by changing the culture. We changed what was served at breakfast Bible studies, the menus in the church kitchens and even what people were serving in their homes at small group meetings. People learned to create health together. They learned that not only could they pray together, they could shop, cook, exercise and play together.
“We launched ‘The Daniel Plan’ at Saddleback Church in January, 2011 hoping a few hundred might join. In the first month, 15,000 people signed up,” Hyman recalled. “Over the last year they have lost an estimated 250,000 pounds—or the equivalent of ten tractor-trailer trucks loaded with soda.”
Not only was there staggering weight loss, there were also equally staggering reductions in medication use, hospitalizations and doctor visits.
“The experiment that continues today may catalyze decentralized, community-based systems approaches to health for corporations, cities, states and nations throughout the world,” Hyman added. “I wrote The Blood Sugar Solution as a personal plan for individuals to get healthy, to get healthy together in our communities and take back our health as a society. Obesity and diabetes is a social disease and we need a social cure.