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“I had the good fortune to get food poisoning”

claron-twitchellI don’t make up these stories! I have to rely on people like you who are willing to share. I’d be delighted to help you share your story. Please contact me. Thanks! Jane

By: Claron Jon Twitchell, Sr.

I grew up with a standard American diet typical of the 1950s and 60s—certainly better than what most people eat today. It was home cooking, not fast food. There was not a focus though on how to apply the Word of Wisdom to our diet.

I remember when I first read Doctrine and Covenants Section 89, probably when I was a twelve-year-old deacon, I thought, “We have bacon for breakfast, sandwiches with lunch meat for lunch, and chicken or beef for supper. That doesn’t seem like eating meat sparingly to me. Where is the famine?” That was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t do anything about it until I was in my forties.

When I was in my mid-forties, my main fitness activity was riding my bicycle. I commuted to work two or three times a week when the weather was okay, which gave me a baseline of four to six hours of vigorous activity each week. I threw in some recreational basketball, yard work and a little hiking and such. I still had a standard American diet: meat, a little fast food, dairy, eggs, and so forth.

I felt fairly healthy, however, I was still gaining a few pounds each year after age 37. I started thinking, “I need to do something different or I am going to soon pass 200 pounds.” I drew a line in the sand to stay under 200 pounds and started thinking, “What should I do?” With a job, a family, and church responsibilities, I just didn’t want to spend more time exercising.

I started thinking that I might need to change my diet some way. My diet tended toward a “see food diet.” I pretty much ate whatever was in front of me until I was full. It occurred to me that there were a fair amount of calories in the meat that I ate. Then there was that thought in the back of my mind since my youth, that we weren’t really following the Word of Wisdom with eating meat. Now the stage was set.

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“Max told me to go home and read the Word of Wisdom 20 times”

ryan-egbertBy: Ryan Egbert

My health journey started when I was 13. My best friend and I challenged each other to go one month without carbonation. After succeeding I realized there was no point in starting again when everyone knows it is healthier to not drink carbonation. It was a small challenge for me but before long I had fully adapted, and I had no desire to drink carbonated drinks.

Around the same time a school teacher showed us a video of the ironman triathlon held in Hawaii. I remember seeing people in their 80’s accomplishing this amazing physical challenge. For weeks after I thought to myself, “I want to be that healthy when I am a grandpa.” I wondered how someone became that healthy. I thought mostly about the exercise program and hadn’t considered that diet might be the primary issue.

At the age of 16, a friend’s father mentioned meeting someone who competes in the Ironman. I jumped all over the opportunity and arranged a meeting.

Max Burdick (known as IronMax) was a 76-year-old man who didn’t just shake your hand; it became a tug of war to pull you over. Max started our conversation by telling me his story. He was dying of cancer around the age of 40. An acquaintance from his high school came to visit him in the hospital. He told Max that his father had been diagnosed with cancer. His father prayed and fasted and went to the temple. He believed that God knew how to cure his cancer. Finally he had a spiritual experience in reading that “the destroying angel will pass them by” (D&C 89:21) and knew that the Word of Wisdom was God’s answer to how he could overcome his cancer. Max’s friend had used the same diet to overcome his cancer and now he was telling it to Max. He told me he realized what an “outrageous” claim he was making, but that he was living proof that it is true.

He told Max to read D&C 89 twenty or so times before he came back to visit him. Max read and upon meeting again Max learned the diet. After a few months on this diet, Max said the doctors claimed it was a miracle because he was cancer free.

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“Some days I feel so good, I can’t believe how good I feel”

pattsy-dayleyBy: Pattsy Dayley

I am originally from Oklahoma and am now 77 years old. I grew up eating lots of fried food. We had biscuits made from white flour and gravy. The gravy was made using bacon fat, lard or sausage or hamburger. Whatever we had, mom would fix. We ate plenty of beans and cornbread, but she added lots of bacon fat, ham, or fatback. Whatever little meat we had, she added it. Mom grew a garden and cooked with lots of vegetables, but they were heavy laden with fat. We used canned milk to make gravy. As we had babies, we used it for baby formula.

As a child I had lots of croup and tonsillitis, and my legs hurt all the time. My mom would rub them to give me some relief. She gave me cod liver oil to help my bones and then when we had sore throat, she would swab our throats with Merthiolate. For croup, she gave us a spoonful of sugar with two drops of kerosene added to it. It worked so I was able to breathe.

I had low energy levels even as a child. In my early 20s, I had some lumps removed from both breasts and under each arm. Thankfully, they were benign. At 25 I had a tonsillectomy, at 32 a hysterectomy. In my 40’s, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. My asthma came back about the same time. In my 50’s, I had my gallbladder removed. All this time I was still suffering with leg pain and then I was diagnosed with nerve problems; the doctor called it Morton’s neuroma. He wanted to remove the nerve. I refused. By this age I was tired of being cut on.

I tried being a vegetarian, and it helped. I felt better. With my family not doing the same diet, I went back to SAD (Standard American Diet). I also went back to lots of pain. The past two years I spent a lot of time in bed. I wasn’t able to walk far and had horrible stomach pains. The doctor prescribed Omeprazole generic stomach medicine. It didn’t help at all. I changed doctors. He thought I was gluten intolerant. I tried the gluten-free diet, and it helped the swelling in my stomach, but I still had horrible pain.

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“I haven’t had a single migraine headache in years”

Stacey PetersonBy: Stacey Peterson

My journey to a whole food, plant based diet was a gradual process that began in 2010 and took six years to fully implement. Nights home alone plus a Netflix subscription led me to watch several food and diet-related documentaries over the years such as Hungry For Change, Fed Up, Food, Inc., and one of my favorites, Forks Over Knives. For the first time in my life I started to actually think about what I was putting into my body and how it was affecting me. I’d never struggled with my weight, but I knew that weight wasn’t the only indicator of health, and I did suffer with frequent and debilitating sinus infections and migraine headaches. I didn’t feel right about the powerful medications and their frightening side effects that doctors were prescribing for me. I really felt strongly that my body wasn’t designed to be sick and that my ailments would benefit more from prevention than from questionable medications to mask the symptoms.

As I read and researched for my own health, I couldn’t help but think about my babies—the loves of my life who I would do anything and everything to protect. When I set plates of food in front of them, I wondered if what I was putting into their bodies was helping or hurting them. What was I teaching them that “food” is? How was I training their taste buds? Since I was choosing their food, did that mean I was also choosing health consequences for their little bodies that could possibly last a lifetime, without their say in the matter?

I continued reading books on nutrition, studying, learning, and gradually replacing harmful ingredients with better choices one at a time as my knowledge increased. I think high fructose corn syrup was the first thing to go. Hey, we all have to start somewhere! One change led to another, and by the time 2016 rolled around, I couldn’t remember the last time the inside of our fridge had seen a gallon of cow’s milk, a carton of eggs, a block of cheese, or a piece of meat. They had been replaced by a wide variety of whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, and we were enjoying our meals more than ever before. We sure had come a long way since the high fructose corn syrup ban!

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Taking Life

Beautiful Animals Looking at CameraThis article is part of an occasional series on “Word of Wisdom Reflections.” You can also read Steve Reed’s plant-based conversion story.

By: Steve Reed

I wrote most of this back in 2014 but haven’t published it until now. In fact there was a lot more history before and after this, but I feel like this one experience was a big turning point for me. Few people know about this experience, and even fewer know the details which I’m going to attempt to convey. This event happened about 15 years ago while I was a full-time missionary.

After I share this story, I want to wrap up by exploring what doctrine, principles, and applications relate to this subject.

Winter of 2000

My companion and I were trying to reach out to a less active young man on a small Idaho farm. We got on the conversation of animals and he mentioned that they would be cooking some goat soon for Christmas dinner. My companion, who was Fijian, mentioned that he was an expert at killing pigs and could kill the goat in seconds. The young man and I were impressed with the claim and decided to put my companion to the test.

The day came and we met out at the farm, I was anxious to witness this spectacle of my companion slaying a goat with the skill and finesse that he claimed. I came from Texas where hunting is a big deal and I wanted to see how they did things island-style. We walked out to the goat pen and a large goat was selected. I volunteered to take the rope and lasso the goat, and nailed him perfectly right around the horns. My companion had a habit of calling me “Texas Ranger” and my apparent skill with the lasso caused him to excitedly exclaim, “You ARE the Texas Ranger!”

We pulled the goat out of the pen as it struggled against us. I yanked him around like the dumb animal he was while his fellow-goats cowered away.

We pulled the goat down to the ground and my companion straddled it while I held its head to the ground. A medium-sized knife was handed to my companion. I watched as he took a deep breath, while aiming the instrument and sincerely whispering the words, “Sorry, goat.” With a swift jerk, he thrust the knife into the chest of the animal and it let out a disturbing cry of pain while fiercely fighting against us. The cry was jarring, and although this was just an animal in my mind, I couldn’t help but imagine the exact same sound and physical reaction from a person being stabbed in the same way. I held the goat’s head down firmly and looked into its eyes.

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“I love food and it loves me back!”

Kurt DeGrawBy: Kurt DeGraw

I have never really enjoyed meat too much. I grew up on a small family farm. We raised chickens, pigs, ducks, geese and the occasional sheep or cow, and I was the main person to feed most of these animals. Without many other youth my age living near us, the animals became my friends. I had funny names for them based on how they looked or the quirks they had.

Two experiences really sealed my dislike for meat at an early age. The first experience was when we killed the chickens. We hung them upside down on the swing set using twine around their legs. There they were hanging and flapping occasionally when a knife to the throat let the blood run out. After a LOT of flapping and squawking, in about 5 minutes they were all still. I still remember not wanting to play on the swing set for a while after that, but more importantly to me, these were animals I had fed and spent time with. That night, we had chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy and corn. I just could not eat the chicken.

My second experience a few years later was when our pig was butchered. A mobile butcher drove to our house and took our pig from the pen—where I had fed, watered and named him—and took him into the back of his truck and an hour later out popped all these white butcher-paper packages with labels. For dinner that night we had pork chops and rice. Again, I just could not eat the pork chops.

We were a large family living on a public school teacher’s salary and whatever came from the small farm and the animals we raised was definitely needed to feed our family, but after those two experiences my desire for meat decreased dramatically.

My healthy journey started when I was in my mid 30’s. I had started to gain weight from a sedentary office work life style. I did (and continue to) mountain bike and walk multiple times a week and even lifted weights on occasion. But unlike when I was younger, the weight just kept sticking around and more of it started to stick around. I started to do my own research and started to use less white flour and white sugar in my cooking. This worked for a decade or so, but by my early 40’s, I was considered obese by national standards.

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There is No Way I Can Do This! and Other Lies

Apple with a HeartThis article is part of an occasional series on “Word of Wisdom Reflections.” You can also read Randy Campora’s personal story about overcoming cancer.

By: Randy Campora

If you have found your way to this page, you are probably looking for inspiration as to how to make the dietary and health changes that you really need in your life right now. I would like to address you personally and give you an idea of why you should make changes, why you should listen to the promptings you are receiving from the Lord, and what you might expect to happen when you do.

I have seen you in my mind as I have contemplated writing this. I have seen you in myself, and in the friends, work colleagues, and ward members that I have talked to about these physical and spiritual changes in relation to the Word of Wisdom. I know that you have great burdens of many types. I did not think mine could be lifted, but they have been, by the grace of a loving Father and a Savior, through the gifts of the Spirit.

Here are a few observations from the least likely person on the planet to adopt a Whole Food Plant Based diet, after doing it for one year.

This Will Be Easier Than You Think

On paper, the Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) way of living looks like the most severe regimen a human could dream up. My wife, Olga, and I have been consistently surprised that once we committed to it, it has been much less challenging that we predicted. There are challenges, many of which will be common to everyone who makes the change, but there will be some that are individual to you. The biggest difference we’ve found is simply planning: you need to have the right foods in the house at the right times. And, make sure you don’t have the wrong foods in the house at any time.

You can’t wing it nearly as much, though we have found a few go-to places that work well in our neck of the woods when we need to eat on the move. Please let this sentence sink in to your mind: This will be easier than I think.

Your Personal Cravings Will Be Exposed

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“I got a very clear answer”

Carolynn SpencerBy: Carolynn Spencer

Healthy eating has always been one of my favorite topics and a lifelong passion. I went on my first diet at age 7 by deciding to forego desserts; by the time I was a teenager, I already had plenty of experience in trying all sorts of will-power tactics and diets in order to achieve my “best” body.  It was easy to see that everyone had a different, and sometimes very intense, opinion on the latest and greatest way to stay healthy and fit. I now feel that it makes sense to add eating plans to the list of topics to avoid (along with politics and religion) in social settings because people feel so strongly committed to their own ideas. I am reminded of a scripture that I feel is as applicable to our diets as it is to our religion:

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Ephesians 4:14)

Switching our diets based upon the latest and greatest fad, not to mention the “cunning craftiness” of diet companies and others trying to make a profit on our desire to have a perfect body, is literally to be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.

In 2010, my brother-in-law shared with me a book he had just read, Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. He and my sister both said, “Don’t read it unless you’re ready to change your life.” My brother-in-law even testified it was the most life-changing book he’d ever read, other than the Book of Mormon. Intrigued, I read the book and was instantly convinced of the truth and wisdom found in eating only plant-based whole foods. This book, and many others like it that I also read, meshed completely with my study of the Word of Wisdom. I became vegan overnight and was committed . . . for a year or two.

However, as much as the information resonated with me and felt right, and as much as I could see the positive impact on my body, I still struggled. I was discouraged that I didn’t notice much weight-loss. I was the only vegan in my immediate family, and it was hard to have to make two different meals every night. Most often, I’d make what I had always been used to making (and my family was used to eating), and I’d only eat the plant-based half of the meal (such as the salad and steamed veggies, without replacing the meat with anything else). This left me feeling deprived and hungry.

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“The fact that I don’t itch constantly is a miracle”

Julia and Austin DoutreBy: Julia Doutre

Nine months after our marriage, my husband and I moved for the third time and I started a new job managing apartment complexes. I had to quit another job to keep up with the demand of managing. Our lives were a little chaotic, and I was extremely stressed. Some days it was so stressful that I would get awful stomach pains that lasted all day.

A few months after starting my job, I noticed these terrible rashes on my skin that started to spread all over my body. My skin would itch all day, every day. Parts of my body were so inflamed and raw that it would “weep” and bleed. Because of that, I needed to wear gauze pads every day for about 7 months to keep it from leaking on to my clothes. It was really embarrassing to say the least! I’ve had issues with eczema growing up but never had it this bad before.

Over this period of time, I tried many skin creams and lotions, and I spent hundreds of dollars at the dermatologist with rounds of antibiotics and strong medications, which cleared up my skin until the moment I got off of them. It just wasn’t sustainable, and I felt out of whack. My wise mother suggested I get off dairy as she’d heard stories of people having success with skin problems when they went off dairy, but I told her I couldn’t live without my cheese and milk. I even ignored the prompting one night, when the itching on my skin was extremely painful, that the reason why it itched so badly is because of all the sugar. This was after having my daily dose of chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. Yet I still caved in almost every night and brushed off the thought that all these foods were probably the reason why I wasn’t able to get over this issue.

Because I had graduated just before we got married, I had a little more time on my hands to make meals, and I learned to love to cook. Looking back on it now, I realized I always went with food lathered with oil, chicken, cheese, and a milk cream base. Those seem to be my everyday staples. What also was my staple every night was feeling bloated and sick to my stomach. Sadly, I thought this was normal for my body. My weight went up significantly, and I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. In some photos, I didn’t even look like myself.

About a year after I started developing this skin problem, I was talking to my sister, Alice-Anne, who was telling me that she wanted to get a hold of her health and start eating a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet without any meat or dairy products. I told her what I told my Mom, that I simply could not live without cheese or milk. And wasn’t chicken healthy for you? Deep down inside I felt like she was right, but I just thought that was too hard to do. I didn’t even know where to start.

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“The doctor told him straight out that he was too young to die”

Kaylene and Ted HardyBy: Kaylene Hardy

There is an old saying, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” Several years ago I started looking for a way to lose some weight. My husband Ted also needed to lose weight and just didn’t feel good most of the time. We briefly tried eating a low-carb diet, but that just didn’t feel right to me. Even though I did lose a few pounds, physically, I did not feel healthy, and I kept thinking about the Word of Wisdom which tells us that grains are ordained for our use to be the staff of life. I wanted to find something that would help our family, something that would be sustainable for a lifetime, and something that was in line with gospel teachings. I happened to watch the movie Forks Over Knives, then I read the book Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. The information made an impression on me, and I wanted to give it a try. Compared to other popular weight loss plans, it was the only one that seemed to be in line with the Word of Wisdom.

It was the beginning of an adventure that has a happy ending, but the road there was a little rocky. This story is not about me and just wanting to lose some weight. This is really my husband’s story and how we have been blessed with hope and a brighter future.

My husband Ted grew up in a family where food was an expression of love. He and his six siblings loved to eat. They ate plenty of salad and vegetables, but it was pretty much standard American fare. Three of his siblings later had bariatric surgery as adults and although they lost a lot of weight at first, they have all experienced various health problems as time passed.

Some years after we were married, when Ted was in his mid-thirties, we had a little scare which sent him to the emergency room with a concern for his heart. It turned out that his heart was fine, but it was enough to convince him that he needed to lose weight and take better care of himself. He was very successful and interestingly, he ate a very low-fat diet and this was years before we even heard of Dr. Esselstyn and whole food, plant-based (WFPB) eating. Ultimately, Ted lost a lot of weight and kept it off for quite a few years, but it was all about will power. He was very strict about the times he ate, what he ate, and how much he ate. Over the next twenty years, he gained a lot of the weight back.

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