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Ted Haggard

Author of The Jerusalem Diet

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt  |  Interview

Christian Book Previews' editor, Debra Murphy, interviewed Ted Haggard about his book, The Jerusalem Diet:


CBP:  You're the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and youíre writing is highly recognized by the mainstream media and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, correct? How did you come to Christ?

Ted: I was born-again at F2-72 in Dallas, Texas on Tuesday night when Bill Bright spoke and so I was raised a Presbyterian but never heard the gospel.  A Southern Baptist Group took me to F2 72 and thatís the first time I heard it with clarity.

CBP:  Why a diet book?

Ted: Because the church is too fat.  And all of us; itís part of our lifestyle.  I mean, we love eating, we love social events and at social events we always eat, and church events we always eat.  So I have a burden and a concern for people to be able to fulfill Godís perfect plan for their life, and you just canít do it when you donít feel good.  

So the way it started it was, I developed it as a plan for senior pastors because senior pastors travel a lot and theyíre under pressure, theyíre in peopleís homes, they canít choose their own diet largely.  To have a regularly scheduled exercise program is out of the question.  You just canít do it.  And the larger and larger your church gets the more unpredictable your schedule becomes.  And so my first time to teach it publicly Ė we did it with our own team and our church leadership team just looks fabulous, but weíre not pretty-boy types, weíre not TV, excessive makeup, hairspray types.  Weíre not body builder types.  

CBP:  Real people got healthier.

Ted: Real people, just common people just look good, felt good that kind of thing.  So then I was invited to speak at a banquet for one of our denominations in the NAE; the National Pastorís Banquet.  They had not given me a subject, and so I got there and I was sitting beside the president of the denomination and I said, ďWhat do you want me to speak about?Ē  And he said, ďWell, look around the room.Ē  And I did and I thought everybody looked fine.  But he said, ďLook again.Ē  And I realized that every single person Ė and this is a Pentecostal denomination, I mean, these guys really love life.  Every single person in the room was fat.  So I taught it on the condition that he would let me come back the next year.  So taught this system and I came back the next year and they talked about how easy it was, how simple it was, how theyíre down in suit sizes, how some of them didnít have diabetes any more, some were feeling so much better than they felt in decades.  So thatís what it is.  Itís a very simple, easy system.  And whatís unique about it is mainstream medical doctors love it.  The people recommending that book more than any other single group are physicians.

CBP:  You do pretty much start with a disclaimer that says, ďIím not an MD, Iím a pastor, but this is real life.Ē

Ted:  Well, Iím a pastor, Iím not claiming to be a nutritionist or anything, but Iím saying what all the nutritionists say and what the doctors say; however, Iím giving a plan for it.

And no products to sell.  So you donít have to go to GNC or a website and get stuff unless you want to.  We have made an arrangement with a website now to offer products to people, but itís not required for the diet.

CBP:  When I carry this book around a lot of people leaned over and wanted to see what Iím reading and whatís different about that book.  So tell us whatís so different about it.

Ted: Oh, whatís different about it is you donít have to focus your entire life on your nutritional plan and your exercise plan in order to be healthy and pretty fit.  

CBP:  Without any guilt or starvation.

Ted:  Well, thereís guilt associated with anything but the standard, and so Iím a pastor so I live in perpetual guilt about everything Ė just kidding.  So thereís success with it and itís not hard.  You donít have to give up food you love.  You can have Big Macs and you can go to Wendyís and Burger King and you can have Ė the first chapter, I think, is called ďI Love Hot Fudge Sundaes.Ē  And so thatís whatís great about this.  This is a very slow adjustment of life style.  Itís not a radical adjustment of life style, and it only recommends that people lose one pound a week.  The difference between that and other crash diets is that people actually keep it off.  

CBP:  How did you come up with the name Jerusalem diet?  

Ted: I thought of it in Jerusalem.  I was in Jerusalem when Ė

CBP:  I thought maybe they had some answers that we didnít, and when I read your book I realized that wasnít it.

Ted: No, I just thought of it in Jerusalem.  I was there with a church tour group we were having loads of fun,  and my pants were too tight.  And thatís always the sign when you canít get into your clothes that you could get into a few months ago and a few more notches on your belt, and then you stop tucking your shirt in and you start wearing Ė you know, thereís all kinds of processes that people go through.  Anyway, I thought, all my life everybody said eat fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds and drink more water.  So I did it one day and exercised just an hour of exercise.  So we went on a walk and the next day I saw immediate results.  Now all this system is, is when youíre having what we call a ďfat dayĒ, then you eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and drink water that day and exercise for an hour.  So yesterday was a fat day for me.

CBP:  What feelings come over people when theyíve gone on the extreme diet and then they fall off or they gain back the weight?

Ted: They typically end up fatter.  They feel guilt, shame, theyíre embarrassed.  On the Jerusalem diet I tell people not to tell anybody theyíre on a diet.  And you can be on the Jerusalem diet and eat with everybody else and no one will ever notice.  Because fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds with water you can do that at a normal meal and people donít even know.

CBP:  I think the way you explain to people that when you go on other diets, itís as if youíve made a huge announcement ďIím on a diet!Ē

Ted: Thereís so much judgment when youíre setting a table and ďOh, you eat that?Ē or ďOhh, I canít eat this.Ē  Itís just miserable.  Itís miserable for the waiter or waitress, itís miserable for the cook, itís miserable for the people who are trying to enjoy a meal with you.  Itís pathetic.  

CBP:  And thank you for speaking to all of that.

Ted: On Sunday I was with a man who lost 30 pounds on the Jerusalem diet.

CBP:  I was going to ask you to share some stories with us.

Ted: Everywhere.  Theyíre everywhere, and the people that try it love it because itís very simple, itís very easy.  Just like I said, I had a fat day yesterday and the way it works is you weigh yourself in the morning with a digital scale and if youíre over then that day eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and seed and water and exercise for an hour.  So yesterday Ė Iím 50 years old Ė and so yesterday I had a wonderful birthday party.  

Two days ago I went running with my buddies and we got back in the house, and we went swimming for a little bit after the run, then we put strawberries and bananas and pineapples and apples and all kinds of stuff and we loaded it into the juicer, and then we sat out in the back in the sunshine, and we drank that and ate watermelon.

CBP:  And you were probably going to get together and have something anyway, maybe break out the huge muffins or something like that, so instead it was just a choice and you had just as much fun.

Ted: The Jerusalem diet is just a slow development of a different lifestyle.  So that evening you can go to Olive Garden and have pasta.

CBP:  Do you discuss in your book about why people weigh what they do weigh?

Ted: Well, people weigh what they weigh because they eat more food than the energy that they expend.  And so you can use genetics as an excuse but itís a shallow excuse.  It really doesnít work.  You have to work with what your parents gave you, but you donít have to be fat.  And the same way with environment, like if youíre from the South and thereís lots of bad foods around, the Jerusalem diet still works with all that.  

Thereís a very little small number of people, way less than 1% that have the types of disorders that cause them to be huge when they eat just a little bit, but most of the people that say that donít actually have that.  Hereís the way it works:  If youíre fit, you can eat all kinds of things and not get fat, but if youíre fat, you can eat cottage cheese and get fatter.  So in here I explain how you can walk into a restaurant and see an athlete sitting there eating pizza and pasta and drinking Coke, and heís going to look fantastic day after tomorrow.  And then youíll see a fat person sitting there eating a leaf of lettuce with a little pile of cottage cheese on it and thatís going to make him fatter.  So I explain all of that in the book and it gets easier and easier for people as they go along with this system.  This is the busy personís system that doesnít want to spend the rest of their life in a gym.

CBP:  Why does gradual change work?

Ted: Gradual change works in our weight loss because Ė most people in their weight gain mode Ė most people if they take the weight they were in college and then wherever they are now as an adult, they on average gain a pound a year; sometimes as much as two, but typically a pound a year.  Now think of that slow weight gain.  When theyíre doing that their body frame adjusts to carrying that weight, their intestines adjust; everything about them adjusts.  If you go on a crash diet and lose fast, your body will fight you and you will end up losing.  

Actually, it should be one pound every two weeks for real permanent weight loss, but people get frustrated with that.  So at a pound a week, it gives your body time to adjust and reposition things.  For instance, if you want to lose 52 pounds that means a year from today you can be there.  Because youíre only losing one pound a week, so you can lose that one pound pretty easy and then go and have a Big Mac if you want it or a pizza if you want it.  If you go on a crash diet and just switch everything, youíre not going to stick with it and secondly Ė Atkins and some of them say no pasta, no bread and things like that Ė if youíre going to live life without pasta, go ahead and diet.  They say youíll live longer if you do these kinds of things, but why would you want to?  If you canít have apple pie or some of the great things Taco Bell produces Ė so my whole thing is, get your weight in line and love life!

If youíre going to take your kids to Water World, youíre going to have to have a funnel cake, but if youíre on a diet and youíre all self conscious and all that kind of stuff and you canít have a funnel cake or an ice cream cone, thatís no fun.  So this book is the only diet book I know of that makes it so you can have a great life and a healthy body and be in shape and not go either side.  Either have to be a muscle man or a woman with huge biceps or just somebody that is really tired or craving nothing but carbs and is overweight and embarrassed about their clothes.

CBP:  This really should be downloaded on an M3P because I love your drama and youíre so motivating.  Biblically, what does the bible say about staying healthy?

Ted: The Bible says our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so everything that God has commissioned us to do can only happen if our bodies work.  So if you canít stay awake you canít have a prayer life or a Bible reading life.  If you are so out of shape you canít move, you canít go on mission trips, you canít go to dangerous parts of the world and spread the gospel.  You canít go on prayer journeys; you canít even stay alert in church unless Ė Any pastor knows Ė I stand hours and hours and hours at a time.  Sometimes youíll see a pastor sitting during the worship service and he reads his Bible or something and itís offensive to the worship leader and he thinks, ďThis guy doesnít worship.Ē  Itís not that, heís too fat.  Very often they canít stand.  They have to stand while theyíre speaking.

CBP:  If youíre back muscles arenít strong or stomach muscles arenít strong itís hard to stand.

Ted: So if you want to love life at all, and, of course, enjoying nature, Godís creation.  If you want to get out and see nature and experience it and enjoy it, youíve got to be in reasonable shape.

CBP:  You do quote some from Dr. Russellís book about food that God created for you and not altering Godís plan.  Thatís a good point to really come back to taking care of what God gave you.

Ted: Dr. Russellís book essentially says eat real food and thatís what my book says too.  So real food is just food the way it is naturally.  Weíre talking nuts, seeds; weíre talking about things like that.  The more itís processed then the fewer benefits youíre going to get from it.  

Iíll give you a good example:  Oatmeal.  You can buy 1-minute oatmeal, 5-minute oatmeal or 30-minute oatmeal, but which is best for you?  The 30-minute oatmeal is the best the 5-minute oatmeal is better than the 1-minute oatmeal.  However, some people say, ďOh, well, you should only have organic fruits and vegetables, not the ones that are in the store.Ē  That is not true.  Itís a continuum.  A Twinkie is worse for you than an apple from a regular grocery store.  An apple from a regular grocery store is not quite as good for you as an organic apple.  So itís a continuum.  So I say, go to the grocery store hungry and start in the produce department and buy all the produce you want and eat it and the more you eat it, the more natural it is, the better itís going to be for you.  However, I know that sometimes the temptation for a Hostess cupcake with the creamy center is just overwhelming.  It is perfectly alright for you if youíve started in the produce section.

This book tells you how to shop, and it Ė the bottom line is, you can be busy.  You can raise your kids, you can balance your budget, you can work hard and you can do it.

CBP:  I would say youíre giving away your book, but there is so much in your book that itís incredible.  But let me talk about fasting.  That was in the Bible too.  If I were to walk by in a bookstore and see Jerusalem Diet, I might be thinking fasting.  So is this book about fasting?

Ted: There are a few paragraphs about fasting in there but the issue with fasting is that it doesnít help people lose weight unless you just keep going.  Because when you fast, you communicate to your body that itís starving.  And then as soon as you start eating, itís going to hoard.  So if you want to lose weight Ė on a severely restricted diet, if a person needs a crash diet, they can go on a moderate fast, but they need to eat a little something throughout the day.  For instance, if in the morning theyíll take a little V-8 Juice and then in the afternoon eat a little something, and in the evening eat a little something.  If they really need to lose a pound a day real fast for a wedding or something like that, you can do it.  If youíll exercise, but you need to eat a little bit, maybe four or five times a day and youíll drop weight like crazy.  Actually, Iíve thought about writing an additional book called the crash diet because some people Ė

CBP:  Well, you may need to write an additional book.  I know Iím not going to have time for all of my questions.  So maybe you do. Do we need to change what we keep in our home?

Ted: Sure, some people do, other people donít, but most Americans need to have a slow transition of the types of things that are around the house.  So rather than have so many highly processed sweets, they might increase the number of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds around the house.  

In our house, our kids donít think a thing of reaching over and grabbing a handful of nuts and seeds and munching on them while theyíre running out to jump on the trampoline.

CBP:  Then at the end of your book you have some Q & Aís, whatís that all about?

Ted: Well, I think dialogue is the best way to teach, so sometimes when Iíve taught this, weíve done Q & Aís and some of those are in there.

CBP:  Your closing in the book:  Be nice, be loving, be sensitive, lighten up Ė I liked that.

Ted: I donít think people can lose weight if theyíre too serious about it.  Some of them will temporarily achieve it, but theyíre not pleasant.  So this whole idea is people laugh through this book.  Most people write back saying that they laughed through the whole book, and for the first time they got enough hope to lose the pounds they need to lose.

The book is a strong advocate for Mountain Dew because I think Mountain Dew is a health drink, you know.  The number one ingredient is water, the number two ingredient is corn, and the number three ingredient is orange juice.

CBP:  Thatís like when my husband goes to the movies he has to have popcorn because itís his vegetable.

Ted: See, that kind of stuff.  It is nonsense, but it is fun.

CBP:  Truly liberation to enjoy food.

Ted: When youíre doing your fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, see you can have corn tortillas with salsa, or you can get corn tortillas then do your vegetables.  So itís fabulous.  When you do this you find all kinds of things, but you only have to do them on fat days.  On normal days you can eat whatever you want.

CBP:  Well, thank you for passing on this plan all packaged up in this book.