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“Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film”

DWW_Movie PosterI’m happy and excited to announce that the new Word of Wisdom video is now here! I hope you really enjoy it. I also hope you will share it with many other people. Let’s get this precious message out to everyone who may be interested! Watch it here: “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film”

On this blog, I feature stories of Mormons eating a Word of Wisdom diet. Please consider sharing your story!

I also write a weekly column on the Word of Wisdom for Meridian Magazine. You can find the complete set here: Meridian Magazine series by Jane Birch

“My first impression was this diet was ridiculous”

3 StrawberriesBy: Paula Wright

I first heard about the Word of Wisdom diet in Meridian Magazine while my husband and I were serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My first impression was this diet was ridiculous and was not sustainable. However, as the articles continued, the diet started to make sense. However, since we ate at the homes of members and nonmembers and did not want to offend, I did not embrace the diet.

I grew up on a farm. We had a large garden that provided lots of fresh and canned vegetables. We also had plenty of milk, eggs, chickens, beef and pork, and they were the staples of our diet. When the Dr. Atkins diet came out, my friends and I embraced it, even though I was not over weight. I stayed with it for years, as I loved being able to eat as much as I wanted. Oddly enough, my cholesterol was always good. As with most diets, I eventually tired of it and went back to the SAD way of eating. Our table at mealtime had plenty of vegetables and grains, but we indulged heavily in dairy, fats, and sweets. One cookie led to eating a dozen.

Last Christmas, I made a determination to give up one thing I could do without. I gave up candy. It was easier than I thought. Only once or twice did I have a craving and cave in. Most people did not offer candy to us so it was easy to go without. As my desire for sugar subsided I found I could also go without most sugared desserts, and when offered by our guests I could say, “No thank you.”

We returned from our mission in April 2016, and I am working toward a full whole food, plant-based diet. I have always cooked with grains and beans and made my own whole wheat bread so that was a plus for this diet. I love cooking new dishes and have found it fun to try meatless meals.

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“The weight literally melted off”

Marla Radeke Before and AfterBy: Marla Radeke

I didn’t learn a lot about nutrition growing up. In my family, our weekly menu was pretty routine: meatloaf, spaghetti, pot roast, and usually some canned veggies on the side. And always chocolate cake.

After I moved away from home, I became much more body conscious. Many years of fad diets, exercise binges, and yo-yo dieting began. I now know that I was a normal girl who decided she was fat.

Eventually I married and had a daughter. After the marriage failed, some of the bad habits I had developed became extreme, and I developed an eating disorder, which I battled for the next eight years. During this time, because of my interest in the aging process and health studies, I worked as a nursing home administrator. I watched people age every day. I knew I was doing it all wrong, but I was young, time was on my side, and I considered myself healthy because, in my mind, healthy equaled skinny. As long as I didn’t go above a certain number on the scale, I thought I was “healthy.”

When I remarried, my husband wanted me to be healthy (instead of just thin) and encouraged me to make some real changes to break free of my eating disorder. I was no longer able to fall back on my old tricks, and my weight soon ballooned. My favorite breakfast food was chocolate doughnuts, which meant that I’d then skip lunch. I drank soda all day long. Dinner was usually a microwaved low-calorie meal. And, of course, there was always room for dessert!

My husband and I both steadily gained weight. We really had no of idea the power of food, for good or bad. My mother had been a diabetic and died at an early age from complications of the disease. I knew my risk of developing diabetes was higher than average, but I felt like I had no ability to control that outcome. One day, I took my daughter to an appointment with her pediatrician. She told me afterward that the doctor had asked if her mom had always been fat. That was motivation enough to get me to join a gym.

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“Here is the key to the ignition: STARCH!”

Val and Gayla JohnsonBy: Val Johnson

I was converted to the gospel as an inactive member in 1971 when I was 17. I served a mission in Ontario Canada where my mission president was M. Russell Ballard. The Word of Wisdom was one of the concepts that you end up talking about a lot. Even though we read it and referenced D&C 89 almost daily, health problems associated with poor diet were fairly common among the missionaries. I gained nearly 50 lbs of uncomfortable weight while on my mission.

When I got home and was physically active, my weight normalized. Being 6 feet tall, I felt strong at 190 lbs, though this put me in the pudgy range. Marriage started me into a life of working with my mental and not my physical faculties. I tend to be a workaholic and could easily work 85 hours a week as an average my whole life, until just a few years ago. My only activity for the most part was golfing as often as time would allow. I seemed to gradually put on weight and kind of plateaued around 245 for several years. By the mid 90’s I was even more wrapped up in work and even golfing became a thing of the past. My weight climbed to nearly 300 lbs and stayed at that level on and off until 6 months ago.

Throughout the 45 years of being around the Word of Wisdom I have periodically ventured into the realm of trying to understand what it teaches about nutrition. I read Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss in 1979 and tried to abide by what he taught. It worked for a while but left me always feeling like I was on a diet. I tried the Atkins diet several times with varied success and justified eating meat because “in the season thereof” had to allow meat, or at least I thought that must be OK. In 1988 or so I read Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond and was somewhat successful but again it felt like a diet, and it leaned on high water content foods which eventually became untenable for me.

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“I felt inspired to give my class ‘The Daniel Challenge'”

Christina McIntyreBy: Christina McIntyre

I thought I was living the Word of Wisdom well enough, however I knew I ate too much sugar, almost daily, and for years I have thought about the part of eating meat sparingly. More specifically I have pondered often why the Lord said it would be pleasing to Him if we didn’t eat meat except in times of famine. I was teaching Daniel in the Old Testament at seminary 10 days ago. I felt inspired to give my class “The Daniel Challenge,” not knowing there was a true Daniel challenge that already existed in its fullness.

On my 5th day of eating only what was prescribed in Section 89 of Doctrine & Covenants, my friend Kristin Myres sent me the link to a modern “Daniel’s Challenge.” I had never seen such support for the Lord’s law of health. I was so excited I started the fasting portion to lose weight, eating only between the hours of 12 noon and 6 pm and drinking 8 glasses of water from morning until 8 pm. I have lost 6 pounds in 10 days and I am full and more than satisfied. I have had blessings, miracles, daily. The promise in the Word of Wisdom is real, health in the naval, marrow to the bones, and I have found wisdom and great treasures of knowledge which are truly hidden from the world. For one must follow exactly for all of these promises to be fulfilled. And the Lord says in D&C 82:10, “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but if ye do not what I say you have no promise.”

I wish to share a couple blessings from the past 10 days. The first day I started I had the worst migraine headache I have ever had in my life and I had committed to take no medication. By the end of that day I was so nauseous I threw up twice. I haven’t thrown up in 20 years. It was almost like Joseph Smith in the grove when he was seized upon by some being from the unseen world. I felt in utter despair, and I see now the adversary was very much a part of it, for he knew what blessings awaited me if I could change my eating.

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“Our health is in our hands”

Annalise Jones before and afterBy: Annalise Jones

I grew up in a health conscious family. We used natural health care as much as possible. We never had soda or sugary cereal; desserts were rare. For a family home evening treat we would have almonds or apple juice. Almonds were a treat because they’re too expensive to eat regularly (with a family of ten!), but that same economic factor also meant that we relied more on cheap processed dinner foods such as Ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, and hot dogs.

Things changed when I was a teenager. My parents became better informed and decided to give up animal products. Our dinners switched to couscous, whole wheat veggie pizza, and potatoes. I don’t remember anyone complaining much, but there was always the back up option of PB&J.

I was familiar with my parents’ reasons for making this change; I even did a presentation on the dangers of dairy products for my speech class. However I did not have personal conversion to the Word of Wisdom at this time. Pretty soon I was sneaking foods away from home and, once I got my drivers license, stopping at fast food places as much as possible. I have always been a big food addict, you see, and freedom just opened up a big world of possibilities!

A word on my health at this point in my life: I had depression, chronic yeast infections, hypoglycemia, parasites, acne, and serious fatigue. I also had an impulsive problem picking my skin, and I was covered in open sores. I played on the tennis team but had trouble doing the drills, and would always come in last when we jogged for warm-up. I was also insecure about my weight. I was heavier than all the other girls. My best friends were super skinny, and my cousin teased me about having extra jiggle.

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I believe the Lord intended us to have joy and to be healthy!

Chris DrysdaleBy: Chris Drysdale

Even though I felt I knew quite a bit about nutrition, I was always looking for new information. It wasn’t that I had to lose a lot of weight; I just wanted to be healthier. I was also worried about getting cancer. I had a tumor on my thyroid removed when I was 31 years old. And then at 44 years old I had a tumor removed from a lymph node in my neck. Plus I was hearing of other people passing away too early in their lives from either heart disease or cancer. Last, I was concerned about osteoporosis, which runs in my family.

In studying nutrition, I learned there is a lot of conflicting information out there: carbs are bad, meats are good, etc. But I felt at least semi-educated on nutrition and thought I was a fairly healthy eater. After all, I rarely had fried foods or red meats. But I was eating a lot of lean meats like chicken and fish. The buzz word in nutrition was “protein,” so I would make sure I ate lots of dairy, chicken, and fish.

Just over two years ago, my mom told me about the documentary Forks Over Knives. My husband and I watched it together. After viewing the program I knew I was done eating animal protein. But though I wanted to cut the animal protein out of my diet, I didn’t really know what to eat. A few weeks later I learned about the book Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. That book really educated me and helped me know what I should be eating. Shortly after that, I was given Jane Birch’s book Discovering the Word of Wisdom.

My eyes were opened after watching Forks Over Knives and reading to Eat to Live, but after reading Jane’s book I realized how this whole foods plant based (WFPB) diet goes right with Heavenly Father’s guidelines and recommendations.

After watching Forks Over Knives, and without having a full understanding of a WFPB diet, we first eliminated meats, dairy, and all animal proteins—cold turkey (pun intended). But, I still didn’t know exactly what to do. We were still eating some processed foods like chips and crackers, and wondering where all my protein was going to come from.

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“I love eating this way. It makes life so simple.”

Perpetue RobertBy: Perpetue Robert Pardieu

All my life my legs and feet have felt really heavy, sometimes swollen, but I never knew why. I remember ten years ago I was praying and asking the Lord for help and He sent me to D&C 89. At that time I learned that meat was to be eaten sparingly, during winter and famine. It was summer, and it was difficult, so I did not follow it. So, I remained with my swollen feet.

In January 2012, I was hit by a car and my kneecap, tibia and femur broke. I had three surgeries and still was having inflammation even though I was taking anti-inflammatory medication. I hit my head during the accident, and I was having panic attacks and anxiety. I felt depressed and overwhelmed often. So, I started doing research because I did not want to be taking pills and become dependent. This is how I heard about alkaline and acid food. I started researching and changed my diet by eating more alkaline, non-hybrid foods. But I got so anxious about everything I was eating that I could not sleep. So, I went to the Lord with that and felt that that kind of anxious spirit doesn’t come from him.

By researching on the Internet, I discovered Jane Birch and the Word of Wisdom diet she writes about. When I read this, I remembered that ten years earlier the Lord had sent me to D&C 89. I automatically knew that what she was saying was a confirmation of what the Lord had told me ten years ago. I stopped eating meat, dairy, eggs, sugar, and most processed food. I now eat extremely little fish and use only a tiny bit of olive or coconut oil once in awhile. Now, the spirit I feel is one of peace instead of being anxious or stressed about food.

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“It makes me so happy to only eat plants!”

Laurie Hoer Hiking in PatagoniaBy: Laurie Hoer

As I write this, I have just completed hiking 156 miles (carrying a 25 lb backpack) through and around Patagonia in less than two weeks. Last year I climbed Kilimanjaro, and each day I hike 2.5 miles up a mountain outside our Utah home with 1700 feet in elevation gain. Not bad for a 56-year-old! Proof that eating a whole food, plant-based diet not only provides enough protein but enough fantastic energy to fuel my whole life!

My journey to a plant-based lifestyle began with a natural interest in nutrition and a desire to find out the healthiest way to eat. I grew up in a weight-conscious family where being thin was the goal, but how to achieve this in a healthy way eluded me. I remember following my parents as they tried the Atkins diet, the grapefruit diet, Weight Watchers, and other low calorie plans. Each new eating program usually only lasted a short time and were followed by bouts of overeating (usually junk food) when I got too hungry and fed up to continue. During the last 2 years of high school and first year of college, I really struggled with disordered eating and my weight fluctuated 20 pounds a couple of times a year during this time. Not feeling in control over this aspect of my life really made it difficult for me to feel the Spirit or to feel good about myself. There truly is a connection between feeling good physically and feeling good spiritually and having good self-esteem.

After I got married, my husband and I moved to Xian, China in 1982. It was the first time I encountered really thin, healthy, active people. They ate primarily a whole foods, plant-based diet (with relatively small amounts of animal products). I was so surprised to see tiny women literally inhale huge bowls of rice! With absolutely no processed foods available, people snacked on whole sweet potatoes, ears of corn and sunflower seeds in the shell. Could it be that what I’d been told my whole life—that eating lots of carbs would lead to weight gain—was wrong? This started me on a quest to find out how we are meant to eat. I studied nutrition books and tried to discover “the best” eating plan, but my search was frustrating because there seemed to be no consensus on how humans should eat. There truly could not be a more confusing topic than nutrition! Read More→

“Not being ruled by sugar is greatly freeing!”

Jane GolsonBy: Jane Golson

Because I was having babies and nursing for the bulk of 10 years, my body was in constant change. I was always feeling tired. I had minor abdominal pain, low-grade back pain (kidney), headaches, insatiable sugar/carb cravings, sore joints, nighttime urge to urinate frequently, occasional mucous-looking discharge, and a myriad of other low-grade symptoms. Because those were the years of bearing children, I put aside my symptoms as part of my “baby body.”

To keep up, I fed myself lots of quick bowls of sugar cereal and milk, or grabbed a cookie, granola bar, or king-size candy bar at the gas station. I didn’t give a lot of thought to what I was eating. I didn’t give a lot of thought to the signals my body was sending me either. I just knew I NEEDED that cookie or candy bar!

Occasionally, the soreness in my lower abdomen would flare up, and I was CONVINCED I had a UTI (urinary tract infection) so I would go to the InstaCare and insisted on an antibiotic. My urine sample was always clear, but my symptoms matched the UTI symptoms so exactly they always prescribed me the antibiotic. I also had seasonal allergies that usually turn into a sinus infection about once a year, so my doctor would prescribe strong antibiotics (augmentin) for that. This cycle went on for 10+ years!

I had a vague idea that antibiotics can disrupt the body’s flora, creating yeast infections, and that eating yogurt helped that, so I also was eating lots of sugary yogurt and taking probiotics thinking that was taking care of the effects of antibiotic use. (What I didn’t realize is that our body’s microbiome is so much more complex and plays a role in so many other health factors.)

After having five kids, moving multiple times, and never really thinking much about my health, my health MADE me start paying attention. I finally went to see my OB/GYN. After reading the lab results, he said something that made a dim light bulb go on in my mind, “Jane, you have NO good bacteria in your system.” It dawned on me that all the antibiotics I had been treated with earlier had killed off all my bacteria. Basically, I had a very sick microbiome!

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