Author Archive for Jane Birch

“For the first time in nearly 20 years I am medication free!”

Sara FosterBy: Sara Foster

I grew up in the backwoods of Tennessee in a family of eight kids with a stay-at-home dad and a mother who is a physician. Dad was raised in the country on a farm, so our plates were filled with meat, dairy and lots of fried and processed foods. That was the norm, and I knew nothing different at the time. If we ate vegetables, they were mostly fried.

Beginning when I was 12 years old, I had very painful menstrual cramps. They were so severe that I had to take pain shots and narcotics on the days of my menstrual cycle, and I would often have to be checked out of school. One day when I was a little older, I landed in the ER and had to have morphine given to me through IV. That day the Elders of the LDS Church gave me a blessing. They blessed me that I would find a way that I would never have to take medication again for this. I took that blessing to heart and did not let up in a search for the reason why I was having such intense menstrual cramps. I knew there must be a remedy other than medications.

Some years later I found out I had endometriosis. This is a condition where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside the uterus. It is often extremely painful and can result in infertility. This helped explain the problems I had.

My father also had significant health issues. I watched him struggle with weight and high blood pressure almost my entire life. His blood pressure eventually got so high it took his life. It was shortly thereafter that I discovered plant-based eating. By the grace of Our Father in Heaven, I stumbled upon a book about plant-based nutrition. As I was reading it, my mind kept drifting back to the Word of Wisdom. It sounded so similar. That led me to open the Word of Wisdom again and re-examine what I thought I knew. I started seeking out other authors of books that had similar views and decided to give plant-based eating a try.

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“I am no longer obsessed about food or how much I weigh”

Doug WeberBy: Doug Weber

I’ve been studying nutrition and fitness as a hobby for about 20 years. During this time, my weight has been all over the map. I’ve been very thin at times—when serving in the Air Force, I was on a calorie-restricted diet and doing lots of running and got down to 150 lbs. I’ve been overweight most of the time—up to 230 lbs at one point.

My diet has also been all over the map. I’ve tried the good old calorie-restricted diet many times and succeeded in losing a lot of weight each time, only to gain it all back each time. I also saw success with the Shangri-La Diet (google it) but didn’t have the will power to stay on it indefinitely. I saw success with the Atkins Diet; however, I had the same problem, an inability to stay on it long term. The same with Nutrisystem—I did that for a year and lost 55 pounds, then gained it all back.

In late 2015, I decided to try the Ketogenic Diet where 75% of calories come from fat, 20% from protein, and only 5% from carbs. It is an extreme version of the Atkins diet. During this diet, I was eating a lot of meat, a lot of extra fat (bacon grease on everything!) and was checking my ketones each morning to try to hit the magic range of 2.0 to 3.0 mmol/L. My lab numbers all got better, but in hindsight I believe it was due to my no longer eating highly processed foods.

During this time, I was corresponding with my daughter and her husband in Provo. We had an on-going discussion about nutrition and fitness for a few years. My son-in-law challenged me on my interpretation of D&C 89:12-13. I interpreted verse 13 to mean it’s okay to eat meat sparingly all the time, not just during times of winter, cold, or famine. He forwarded an article to me that included a reference to Jane Birch’s book, Discovering the Word of Wisdom. I read her book and decided I was completely wrong. I now understand those verses to mean that it is pleasing to the Lord if we never eat meat unless we must in order to survive. I was inspired by Jane’s notion that she had eaten more meat during the first half of her life than would ever be pleasing unto the Lord, so she is committed to eating no meat the second half of her life to try to make up for the first half—that has become my desire as well.

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“When I was 5 years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes”

Jennifer Wheeler and daughterBy: Jennifer Wheeler

Being healthy has been a goal of mine since I was very young. When I was 5 years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I had an experience in the hospital that made a strong and lasting impression on my young mind. I’ve always been very social, so I was visiting all the kids on my floor while I was in the hospital and trying to get to know them. I went into one young girl’s room who had just had her leg amputated. She was on sitting on top of the sheets, so it was very visible. It shocked me, and I didn’t know what to say to her. After a few moments, I left. This experience stuck with me and became significant to my story a few years later.

My parents were referred to a good endocrinologist shortly after I was diagnosed. At this doctor’s office, I saw a dietician as well. She taught us what the best diet for a diabetic is. One of the first things we were taught is to avoid sugar. The second was to eat protein with every meal because it slows down the metabolic process and helps your blood sugars not spike as easily. We were told that the best form of protein is animal products. They also taught us about the importance of fruits and vegetables, but that fruits should be eaten sparingly because of their high sugar content. (The reason I remember what they taught us is because they reviewed the same things several times a year until I was an older teenager.)

Another thing we were taught was if we didn’t learn to control my blood sugar levels, all kinds of bad things could happen, like having my foot or leg amputated. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when this conversation registered with me, but I remember being very young (maybe 8 or so). Because I had seen the young girl in the hospital without a leg, I actually knew what the doctor and dietician were talking about when they told my parents this, and I determined at a very young age that I wanted to be healthy and keep both my legs and feet.

My parents were diligent about helping me avoid sugar, and eating protein with every meal was no problem because we all LOVED meat! As a teenager, I was counseled several times in various blessings to follow the Word of Wisdom. I felt the main emphasis was to avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco, but I recognized there was great counsel as to how we should eat. I tried to limit the amount of sugar I ate. I loved whole grains and ate lots of them. I didn’t love vegetables, but I’d eat some because I knew they were good for me, and I ate fruit sparingly. Even though the Word of Wisdom tells us to eat meat sparingly, if at all, I justified not following this counsel because of my diabetes. I was very active physically and had lots of energy. I thought I was healthy, and I thought I was following the Word of Wisdom.

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“Following God is always worth it”

Brent and Penny JohnsonBy: Brent Johnson

A couple of years ago my sister-in-law introduced me to a low-carb, high fat diet. She and I both suffer from migraines, and her doctor had suggested the diet to see if it would help, which it did. I was intrigued, so I started the diet also. It did help alleviate my migraines, but I started to notice other health issues that I had not had before. As I prayed about my situation, I felt impressed by one single phrase, “What do the scriptures say about health?”

I immediately turned to Doctrine and Covenants Section 89 and re-read the Word of Wisdom. It was very clear to me that the diet I was following was opposite of what the Lord teaches us. I was particularly drawn to verse 4, which reads:

“Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—”

I had always thought of this verse in relation to alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful drugs. I had never thought of it in terms of food. That night I suddenly realized that there are “conspiring men [and women]” (so to speak) who teach false information regarding diet. Some may mean well, but they actually take us away from the Lord’s proven way. The story of Daniel in the Old Testament came to my mind regarding his (and his friends) refusal to eat food that was contrary to what the Lord expected of them under the Law of Moses.

I found myself re-evaluating food and how I was eating. Interestingly enough, my wife followed a whole food primarily vegetarian Word of Wisdom based diet when we were first married. As we added children to our family and life became a bit more hectic, we started buying processed foods and moved back towards the mainstream, American way of eating (speaking generally). After the experience of being directed towards the scriptures to address my eating habits, I asked my wife if we could return to our earlier whole foods eating habit. She agreed. So, five months ago we started our journey.

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“This diet allows my body to function at its highest capacity”

Gwyneth AllenBy: Gwyneth Allen

I have pretty much grown up being vegetarian/vegan. My mom always hated the idea of meat, so from the very beginning there was no meat in our house. When my twin sister and I were three, our mom discovered that our little sister, who she was nursing at the time, reacted badly to the milk my mom would drink. This prompted my mom to become vegan, and our household became free of dairy and cheese. We have also always eaten really healthy, with very little processed foods. Snacks in our house consist of bananas or apples.

The surprise when people find out I have been vegan for most of my life is normally followed up with, “But don’t you want bacon?” Well, Morning Star makes some dang good vegan sausages so that pretty much fills my bacon void!

Before middle school, and really up until high school, I never appreciated the way we ate. I ate a whole food, plant-based diet because it was the way I had always eaten. In high school I consistently began to work out and started swimming year round for the varsity swim team. I realized the way I ate impacted how I felt and how well I was able to compete. On the days when I had dairy, I felt sluggish in the water and not prepared to swim. I also discovered that when I ate dairy, I would feel sick and get headaches. On the other hand, when I ate healthy and had lots of fruits and vegetables, I felt strong and had more energy. For me, living a whole food, plant-based lifestyle is the best option because it allows my body to function at its highest capacity.

For my first three years of high school, I lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In some ways living in Southeast Asia was accommodating to a vegan lifestyle. Indian and Thai food were readily available when we wanted to go out to eat. However, the lack of Costco really put a damper on how much fresh fruit and vegetables we had. Malaysia has plenty of fruits and vegetables, but not always the kinds we wanted to buy, and we had to bleach the produce before eating it.

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“In order to be the best doctor I can be, I follow a plant-based diet”

Ernest SevernBy: Dr. Ernest Severn

I switched to a plant-based diet so long ago, and I have so many reasons, it is hard to know where to start so I will just jump in. I would have to say for me there are seven main reasons I follow a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, but there are really even more than that. It’s more like seven categories of reasons.

I was a missionary for the Church in the early eighties. I served in New York City among the Greek immigrants there. I walked every day, usually over 10 miles a day. When I returned from my mission, I gained 10-15 lbs. so I decided to lose it. I started running and doing some other exercises. I was exposed to Dr. John McDougall, I think on a radio program. I got his book, The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health and read it. I decided to follow it, and I lost the weight I had gained in a month pretty easily. In his book, Dr. McDougall talked about all the other benefits of this way of eating so I learned about that as well. Initially, I used the diet to control my weight so I went back and forth, sometimes being strict and sometimes not.

In 1987 my father died suddenly. He was 54 years old and had a history of high blood pressure. He died of a dissecting aortic aneurysm. I also had an uncle die while I was on my mission of a heart attack. He was only 45 years old. I decided to have my cholesterol checked and found that it was high, so I went back to following the WFPB diet strictly, and it went down. So then I had two health reasons to follow that diet. As I stayed on the diet longer, I found that other health problems improved or went away. My allergies got better, my energy improved, my stomach cramps and constipation were gone. I had less oily skin and less acne. This is when I decided to make this a long-term lifestyle choice and not just a temporary diet to lose weight. Over the years my extended family has continued to have numerous health problems, but I have not. These health problems include heart disease, Parkinson’s, ALS, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, and stroke. I’m 54 years old now and still going strong. I still run and have a normal weight and enjoy lots of activities. So my first “category” of reasons I follow this diet is for better health.

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“It was as if the Lord himself was speaking directly to me”

april-harker-husbandBy: April Harker

I’ve struggled with my weight throughout my life. I’ve tried different pills and fad diets that never worked. I’d lose weight and gain it all back. Being overweight is just a depressing way to live. I hadn’t learned how to eat nutritiously, and I struggled with binge eating and severe food addiction.

In January of 2014 I was diagnosed with Hashimotos and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Within a year of diagnosis I gain over 100 lbs. I was sick, depressed, hungry, tired, and lethargic all the time. It took everything I had in me to just get out of bed in the morning.

On July 19, 2015 I decided to start a health journey and get my life back. I started out doing swimming at our local gym and did my best to change my eating habits. I lost a significant amount of weight, but I just wasn’t feeling good. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it was as if my body was trying to tell me something. I had become brainwashed by the health and fitness industries that I needed huge amounts of protein. I was consuming two whey protein shakes a day and two meals loaded with animal protein. Although the weight slowly started to come off, my diseases hadn’t gotten any better, and my body just felt miserable.

Fast forward a year to August 2016. My father ended up passing away due to 30+ years of battling food addiction and diet-related disease. I struggled losing him knowing he could have had a much more enriched life if he just would have been willing to make some changes. Losing him sparked a fire in me. I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps, and I was determined to break an unhealthy cycle in regards to food. I dove into nutritional research at home and school, and watched just about every food documentary I could find searching for answers. I felt similar to Joseph Smith searching for which church was true, except I was searching from truth in regards to nutrition.

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“I vow to never take my beating heart for granted”

judy-morse-thurberHave you ever been inspired and motivated by reading the story of someone on a whole food, plant-based diet? If you have, please share YOUR story! Contact me —Jane

By: Judy Morse Thurber

My mother and I were alone for 3 1/2 years while my dad served in WWII. I remember rationing with stamps to limit purchases and eating pretty basic, low budget, comfort foods. We ate mac and cheese, chipped beef on toast, cream of chicken on toast, oatmeal, and toasted cheese sandwiches. Milk was always the drink with every meal. One distinct memory from my youth was when margarine was first introduced to the world. As a child, I loved adding the yellow color to make it look more like butter. After Dad returned from the war, we had roast beef on Sunday and used the leftovers to make sandwiches for Sunday dinner. I never felt deprived . . . until I got old enough to evaluate the fake butter. Then I began to rail against that and vowed that there would always be real butter on my table as an adult (little did I know!).

I was married and the mother of five children when my husband and I were involved in a business that purchased one of the first supplement companies in the nation. We had to quickly learn the importance and value of food supplements. This enlightened me to the fact that we were not getting the full value out of our food. At the time, I suffered with night blindness and complexion problems and a few other issues that were nutritionally based. The supplements helped me overcome those issues and started to direct my attention to the need for better nutrition. (I now love to help people eliminate supplements by eating whole food, plant-based!)

While raising a family, I was a music teacher, organist, choir director, and soloist. I kept very active as a mother (now seven children), business partner with my husband in the supplement business, and as a musician. In all of my busyness, and above all, I have been a “Truth Seeker,” which is what led me to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in my thirties.

The Word of Wisdom fit perfectly into my views of life. After we joined the Church, we refined our eating habits considerably, but not sufficiently. My first husband died at a young age of cancer. I cared for him for two years, trying to overcome the cancer naturally. This added to my knowledge and determination to know, understand, practice, and teach alternative, natural healthcare methods. I studied and became a Naturopath, and discovered special healing gifts.

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Share your story of adopting a whole food, plant-based diet!

Jane Birch in brownEach week, it is a miracle that I have yet another story to share on this site. This miracle depends on people like you and people you may know! Please consider sharing your story or encouraging someone you know to share their story (see below). If you are not yet eating a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, consider making that your goal (see below).

If you’d like to connect with other Mormons who are interested in a WFPB diet, please check out the WFPB Mormon Map (see below).

Share Your Story

Each plant-based conversion story is a treasure. Each one inspires me and encourages many more on their path.

If you are enjoying the benefits and blessings of a WFPB diet, you undoubtedly have been helped by the many who have gone before you. Sharing your story is a great way to give back and to encourage both those who are on this path and also those still trying to decide whether or not to make this important change.

Please consider sharing your story. Please also encourage other people you know to share their stories. I need every story!

You do not need to have a “miracle” story. Nor do you need to be “perfect” on this diet. Nor do you need to write well or have a lot of time to write. Simply write your story as you’d tell it to a friend, and send it to me. I will help with the editing and suggest additional details as needed. This is really simple, and you can do it!

For more suggestions on how to write your story, go here: Share Your Story.

Adopt a WFPB Diet

If you are not yet eating a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, why wait any longer? With the holiday season here and a new year around the corner, now is the perfect time to begin. Whether you want to take baby steps or jump in with two feet, this series of articles I wrote for Meridian Magazine can help! Read More→

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The Wisdom in the Word of Wisdom

wisdom-literatureThis article is part of an occasional series called “Word of Wisdom Reflections.” You can also read Randy Campora’s personal story about overcoming cancer.

By: Randy Campora

Recently my wife and I celebrated our-year anniversary of eating a whole food plant based diet. For me this also was the one and a half year mark of being diagnosed with esophageal cancer, having surgery, losing 80 pounds, and becoming totally cancer free. We have had so many wonderful blessings come about from these trials, and I want to share some things with you.

I want to give you a spiritual hug, something to ponder as you contemplate your life at present. I know you would not be reading this unless you are contemplating big changes in your life, or have recently undertaken them. At this point in your story you very well may have forgotten just how loved you truly are in the councils of heaven.

However, one crucial caveat: please don’t think I am presenting the following as an outlier fancy-pants hidden-silver-bullet doctrine, or that I’m a person who thinks if only our leaders would preach of such things in General Conference. No. I am giving this to you as something to ponder and lift your spirit, that perhaps it might lead you to think of the great love your heavenly parents have for you, and how much they want you to follow their holy pattern to find happiness while you grow also through trials.

Not so Dire Straits 

Ever notice that the biblical phrase “strait and narrow” is not straight, but strait? This actually means: narrow and narrow. Interesting. Narrow gate, narrow way. That’s a lot of narrow!

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