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“I love food and it loves me back!”

Kurt DeGrawNote: As you enjoy this story, please consider sharing your own. I’m in need of new stories. Thanks so much! Jane  (Click Here)

By: 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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“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

Duffy’s WFPB Journey — July 2016

Pineapple[Note from Jane: This is the latest in a series by Duffy, who went whole food, plant-based late in 2013 with the goal of losing over 200+ pounds. To see previous posts, click Duffy Chronicles.]

Dear Duffy Readers,

As we have just surpassed the midpoint of 2016, I am reminded that its time for an update on my Word of Wisdom journey. Here are a few things of note:

  • I graduated! I earned by Ed.D. in Leading and Learning with an emphasis in Neuroeducation in May 2016 from the University of Portland so I’m now “Dr. Duffy.”
  • I have continued to participate in the Lifestyle Transformation food addiction recovery program and found that there is great benefit in addressing how I have learned to protect myself and how I mismanage my emotions by turning to food.
  • I reached about 94 pounds lost before I took a page from my friend Jessica’s blog and “threw away the scale.” Actually, I recognized that the number on the scale was partially driving an unhealthy relationship with food so I asked a friend to keep it at her home for 3 months this summer while I attend to how my body feels when I eat certain foods.
  • I’ve recently found that processed foods and fast food do not satisfy—emotionally or physically—and frequently contain a chemical-laden, oily and unpleasant taste. I consider this to be a blessing of the Word of Wisdom as my tastes are changing toward a preference for whole, natural foods.

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“Changing my eating habits has saved me”

Warren TownsendBy: Warren Townsend

I was diagnosed some years ago with pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a dangerous buildup of plaque in my arteries. If one of these maladies didn’t incapacitate, cripple or kill me another one would.

The doctor prescribed warfarin or Coumadin, which is the main ingredient in rat poison. It thins the blood to the extent veins and arteries can no longer contain the blood and the animal bleeds to death. I was given information on a diet for diabetics and was told it would help stabilize my condition.

Diabetes, heart failure, cancer and obesity have plagued my mother, father, sisters, brother and their mates for many years. Dad died at age 59 of oat cell carcinoma, a type of lung cancer. At the age of 86, Mother died of congestive heart failure, also called myocardial infarction or heart attack. Her life was not easy during my lifetime. When Mother was 37 years old we nearly lost her to uterine cancer, ulcerated colitis, and improper combinations of conflicting medications prescribed by her doctors. She was prescribed Coumadin, refused it, and turned to the natural help of gingko biloba and cayenne pepper capsules, which did indeed thin her blood. As she got older, continually testing her blood sugar she was able to somewhat control her type 2 diabetes through a prescribed diet for diabetics that still allowed meat and dairy products. Mother developed neuropathy in her feet and so got little exercise and was middling obese for many years.

I have put all this down to tell you of my experience.

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“I would never trade this peace for anything”

Brittney MooreBy: Brittney Moore

As long as I can remember, I have been interested in health and fitness. I remember doing aerobic videos in my living room when I was 12 years old. I got my degree at BYU in Health Promotion so I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater and regular exerciser. Health is a topic that I am fascinated with, and I continue to spend many hours reading the latest research, especially as it applies to the Word of Wisdom.

Most of the stories on the Discovering the Word of Wisdom site so far are about the physical changes that happen from following the Word of Wisdom. My story is more about the mental and emotional changes that have happened to me.

I started dieting after my first child was born in 1998. I’ve never been particularly heavy, but I always wanted to lose the last ten pounds, so I would follow whatever diet I found. Low carb, low fat, low calorie, I did them all. They all gave quick results, but then I’d start putting the pounds on again when I stopped following the diet perfectly. I felt like I was always trying to walk up a slippery slope, and I could never get to the top. The bathroom scale started ruling my life, and if I gained a pound or two, I would feel like a failure and start looking for a new diet that I could stick with. I felt like I couldn’t trust myself around food. I felt like my happiness each day depended on the number on the scale in the morning. I felt out of control and hopeless.

During this time I was an avid Crossfitter and was pressured to follow the Paleo diet, which is eating lots of meat, but no grains or potatoes or beans. I knew many LDS people who were eating this way, and I questioned them about following the Word of Wisdom. Most people just shrugged off my question or said they felt they were following the Word of Wisdom since they didn’t smoke or drink. I decided to try it for a month. I felt awful. I had no energy and wanted to lay down all day. I also had huge cravings for cookies, cakes, donuts and anything sweet because I wasn’t getting enough carbohydrates. By this time I had six children and didn’t have the energy to get through the day. This was a huge testimony to me that the Word of Wisdom is true. I would not give up my grains, potatoes and beans, because obviously they helped me “run and not be weary, and walk and not faint.”

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“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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