"The PrayFit Diet" (Book Review)
One of the most important components of success in anything is uncovering what motivates you or your client. The PrayFit Diet, by Jimmy Peña, is an invaluable resource for people who have a successful prayer life and want to apply that fervor to their diet and physical wellbeing.
The PrayFit Diet promises to “Harness your faith to transform your life.” Teaching people how to integrate their faith with their fitness sounded like a daunting task. I wondered how author Jimmy Peña, founder of the PrayFit movement, planned to do it without either being overly spiritual or getting carried away with diet recommendations and losing the Biblical aspect.
I was highly impressed at the way Peña accomplished his goal. As a Christian, I thought he did a wonderful job of integrating Scripture and faith inspiration almost seamlessly, without coming off as cheesy or overly salesy. Part of the reason for his success is the careful structure. The book was thoughtfully put together to maintain a faith perspective while also providing dietary recommendations.
Part One: Health as a Means of Praise
In Part One of the book, Peña outlines his philosophy of faith and fitness. In his words:
At the end of the day, we’re loved not because we’ve been successful at honoring Him with our bodies , nor because we plead forgiveness if we have failed at it – He loves us regardless – but shouldn’t we be doing one or the other? The crux of my message is this: your health is a means of praise. It’s a simple truth, but it bears repeating: Life is not about the body, but our health is a means of praise.
Peña points out this common incongruency between body and spirit that can rear its head in religious circles. Throughout the section, Peña uses references from Scripture to support his idea of fitness as an instrument of praise. A healthy body is a testimony to the glory of God and the beauty of creation, not merely a testament of a person’s hard work. As Peña notes:
Anyone can choose to eat well for a time, but only by making faith the main ingredient in your commitment to healthier living will you be able to redefine your relationship with food and discover the true breadth of what your body can do when fueled properly.
Part Two: Slow Foods, Fast Metabolism
Peña recommends a simple 33/33/33 ratio of carbs, protein, and fat, and explains the reasoning behind this advice in part two of his book. The advice Peña gives is a good starting point for people who are just beginning to restore their relationship with food, which is this book’s intended audience. No food groups are completely eliminated, but Peña does provide recommendations for healthier choices, such as Ezekiel bread and sweet potatoes for good carb choices.
Throughout this part of the book, Peña weaves in stories from Scripture to help illustrate some of his points. He ends the chapter with a reference to the story of the prodigal son that will ring true with many readers:
Plainly said, many of us have treated our bodies – our inherited health – much like the prodigal son treated the inheritance that his father gave him yearly. We’ve overspent and wasted it. But something tells me the prodigal son took better care of the things he was given after he got home. And so can we…Indeed, you know the story. You’re writing it right now. It’s your life.
Part Three: The PrayFit Plan
In the third part, which accounts for half of the book, all the factors Peña has discussed up to this point are brought together and made concrete. Peña starts with a detailed account of how to get started – cleaning out the pantry, planning meals, and choosing healthy snacks. Then he delves into a detailed plan for each week of the PrayFit plan, with grocery lists, day-by-day menus (with nutritional information), and a short inspirational paragraph to go along with each week.
I love the journal feature Peña includes in this section. At the end of the week, Pena provides at least ten questions for readers to answer about their success and feelings about their progress. The journal entries also include a commitment, which helps provide guidance and motivation for the following week. Finally, the journal entry ends with a prayer Peña wrote for each specific week.
The book ends with recipes and a concluding chapter to bring us back to the beginning. I like the theology lesson provided at the beginning of the conclusion, especially in light of what Jesus did at the wedding at Cana:
Jesus ate perfectly. Do you find that amazing? Whether during a hearty celebration meal with friends or while eating sparingly on the road as He traveled, He never sinned. In fact, nobody ever ate better. Now that’s food for thought.
For Christians, the whole point of life is to imitate Christ and glorify God. The PrayFit Diet excels in bringing together these two arenas of human life – spirit and body, which are commonly thought to be at odds with each other – in a book that is perfect for Christian believers who want to be well both in body and spirit. After all, as Peña’s book rightly shows, the two aren’t unrelated.
The PrayFit Diet is available for $18.88 at Amazon.com.