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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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“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 strength comes from the Lord”

Sarah LovegroveBy: Sarah Lovegrove

I am 17 years old and live on a small island in Australia called Kangaroo Island. It is renowned for its unique natural country and produce. Food has always been part of my family and large extended family. We often gather together and have fatty meals based on meat, cheese, eggs, you name it. As a result, I learned to love and appreciate food.

In 2015, my uncle was suffering from thyroid problems and stumbled across the film Forks over Knives and decided to try the diet. The changes helped him and so he shared it with us.

Even before my uncle shared this diet with it, I had always felt that we were not living the Word of Wisdom to its fullness, but I continued to consume animal products. After I watched Forks Over Knives I turned to the Word of Wisdom and read it again. Reading the Word of Wisdom convinced me to change.

When I announced to my family the changes I was making, they were fine with it, but they were not willing to change, so I faced changing my diet alone, except I had the help of Heavenly Father and our Savior. So that’s how it began. I did (and still and do) a lot of research, finding books and helpful websites to teach myself. Read More→

“A distinct thought came into my mind, ‘You can do better.’”

Arianna ReesBy: Arianna Rees

May of last year, as I was sitting at the kitchen table one morning, a distinct thought came into my mind, “You can do better.” It wasn’t in a tone of chastisement, but rather it came as one stating a simple fact. I sat startled for a moment, but quickly recognized the source of those words as being from the Spirit. I had recently felt prompted to study the effects of nutrition on mental health, a topic close to my heart. The research that I found was fascinating and led to further and further study and discovery of the very powerful effects that food choice can have, not only on our physical health, but also on our emotional and mental well-being as well.

That morning in the kitchen, I had just read several articles on the effects of antibiotics given to farm animals and their documented negative effects on long-term health on those of us consuming those animal products. The truth of those statements and facts, for whatever reason, spoke to me more clearly and more directly that day than ever before. And so I sat and pondered. It was then that the Spirit helped me to see that I could do better, especially since I was the gatekeeper of my family’s general diet and eating habits.

It is often said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. The teacher showed up in a big way from familiar sources that morning. I was immediately reminded of the Biblical account of Daniel gaining favor and strength due to his firm decision to eat grains and abstain from the king’s meats. I turned to the Bible to re-read the account and found myself reading a well-known story with fresh eyes. Daniel’s countenance shown and was filled with great knowledge and wisdom. What an amazing blessing! I felt so strongly that he was not only blessed for his courage in being obedient to a spiritual law, but he also was experiencing direct effects physically for having obeyed a physical law that had physical consequences. He was living the Word of Wisdom fully and experienced blessings of spirit, mind, and body.

I quickly turned to D&C 89, a section that I was so very familiar with. What was different this time in my reading was that I read each verse more literally than ever before. I no longer focused on the “thou shalt not’s,” but rather read from the perspective of the “thou shalt’s.” I had been keeping the portion of the Word of Wisdom well when it came to abstaining from drugs, alcohol, etc. I had been eating a healthy and well-rounded diet by most standards. But there it was stated so clearly—I could do better in eating meat sparingly, eating more whole foods, and foods in season.

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“The most horrible, wonderful experiences of our lives”

Randy and Olga CamporaBy: Randy Campora

Dat, dat…, da dat dat dat – dat daa dat dat dat daaaa dat.

That is the opening phrase of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet. As the bass trombonist in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for the past thirty years I have heard those violin notes hundreds of times, and in December 2014, the notes were the same as always. We were playing in the orchestra pit of the Lyric Theater in Baltimore for an entire week of Nutcrackers with the ballet corps of the Baltimore School for the Arts.

But this year, those notes did not sound the same. Or I should say, my mind as it heard those notes was not the same.

This year, I had cancer. My mind struggled to focus, though the familiar music and setting were a nice distraction for me. But as soon as the music stopped the thought came immediately back: I had esophageal cancer, stage yet to be determined.

I was fifty-three years old, at least a hundred pounds overweight, a recent inductee of the Type II Diabetes Club. I was also the possessor of more blessings from God than I knew what to do with: Olga, my wonderful yoga teaching wife; Dominik, our trumpet playing oldest son on a mission in Poland; and Raffi, our math wiz youngest son with the dry sense of humor. I was a member of the best ward in the church. I had a job I liked, with great health insurance. The complete list would assault you with its length.

That September I had choked on a piece of food at dinner. My wife had just completed a CPR course, so she successfully executed the Heimlich two-step and I could breathe. But a few minutes later I realized that something was stuck down near the stomach because I could not drink or eat anything. A trip to the ER took care of the problem: Dr. Solaiman removed the piece of chicken stuck in the valve at the top of the stomach.

He was surprised to find Barrett’s Esophagus—a pre-cancerous condition usually caused by chronic acid reflux that changes the tissue to something more resembling an intestine. He performed biopsies, which came back clear. He wanted to be sure nothing was hiding there, so another round of biopsies was done three months later. This time the cancer cells were found, along with some aggressive markers.

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“I had the sweet feeling that this new baby was a special gift”

Joy and Jane BarryBy: Joy Barry

I was blessed to be raised on a diet healthier than the standard American variety. In the 1970s when most kids were living on toaster pastries, Twinkies, and Wonder Bread, we were grinding our own wheat to make whole wheat bread and cracked wheat porridge. When we made cookies or Kool-Aid, my father insisted on using half the sugar that the recipe called for. As I grew older and moved away from home, I continued to cook most things from scratch, the way I was brought up. I wasn’t too concerned about health or a balanced diet, it was more about saving money and making homemade food that tasted better. Besides, I never had to worry about losing weight as I was always trim and thin as a child and young adult. I never even exercised.

When I hit my mid-20s, I started to put on a little bit of weight. It concerned me enough that I started exercising to try to get in shape. But all my bike-riding just left me worn out and discouraged. It never occurred to me that my diet was to blame. I thought I was doing just fine.

I married at age 29 and had my first child when I was 30. My new role as a wife and mother made me more concerned about healthy eating. It was not just about me anymore, I had a family to feed. The responsibility to not just feed my family, but to feed them well, rested heavy on my conscience. I read everything online that I could find about healthy diets and worried much about how to best feed my family a balanced diet.

Although I read many conflicting opinions from various “experts,” I felt blessed to have the Word of Wisdom as my foundation. If I read anything that said to eat lots of meat and avoid grains, I dismissed it immediately. However, I always wished that the Word of Wisdom had more specifics. I thought it was too vague and didn’t cover all the food groups. I knew it said to eat meat sparingly, and I tried to follow that advice, but what about eggs and dairy products? I also worried much about what kind of oils were the healthy ones, and other hotly debated topics.

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