For Jimmy Peña and the followers of the PrayFit diet, losing weight is about much more than the reflection staring back at you.
“It’s not about the mirror,” Peña says. “It’s about the one we’re trying to mirror.”
In his new book, The PrayFit Diet, veteran fitness writer Jimmy Peña explains his faith-based approach to weight loss. Harnessing the power of faith, Peña believes, allows for the nourishment of the soul and the pursuit of a life that is both spiritually and physically healthy. The book is a mix of advice, recipes, meal plans and journal exercises. For Peña, fitness is a way of serving and living his faith. The new diet plan sees health as a means of praise.
A former editor for Muscle and Fitness, Peña explains that striving for better health is deeply linked to faith. It starts with the understanding that health deserves better attention and upkeep. Peña calls the realization that faith and the body are connected a real paradigm shift.
“You say, ‘I’m going to put my faith to work, because I believe I’ve been called to live abundantly.’” Peña says.
One of the key elements to the PrayFit diet is balance. It maintains a 33 percent balance between protein, carbohydrates and fat, which, according to research, can lead to increased energy, decreased inflammation, improved cholesterol and healthier blood sugar levels.
“I believe that we should embrace food,” Peña says. “It’s about bringing those things into balance so we have a steady stream throughout the day. It’s an inclusive, embrace food, type of plan.”
Though the book uses biblical inspiration to motivate readers, the diet, he says, can work across all faiths.
“PrayFit is basically a belief that our health is a means of praise,” Peña explains. “It’s a way to serve God, serve others.”
And that means in a way that goes beyond dieting.
“This is not a weight loss book,” Peña says. “This is a lifetime teaching tool. This will be and can be the way anyone eats in balance for the rest of their life.”
So is the diet legit? We asked registered dietician Erin Palinski for her thoughts.
"One of the major factors that holds many people back from being successful with a weight loss plan is lack of motivation," Palinski says. "If you feel that losing weight and improving health is your way of showing praise to God (or any higher being you believe in), this extra motivation can be a great way to help you stay focused and on track."
However, Palinski worries the balance the PrayFit diet emphasizes may not work for everyone.
"The diet focuses on 33 percent protein/carbs/fat, which may be too restrictive for some people to maintain long-term," Palinski says. "With only 33 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates, this low carbohydrate diet may cause some individuals to suffer from a lack of energy which can make staying on track challenging and fitting in exercise (a vital component to long-term success) difficult."
But those who remain skeptical do not bother Peña. He says his faith is what keeps him going.
“I have faith in the Lord,” Pena says. “I don’t have faith in fitness. I don’t have faith in food. I know that we were never meant to be at the mercy of food. We have to take control and believe that we can do this.”