Archive for Stories

“You no longer need to be on insulin!”

By: Helen Bileen

All of my adult life my health has had its ups and downs. I’m sure many factors contributed to the lack of consistency with my health. During my annual visits to the doctors, they wrote in their reports that I was managing my pre-diabetes with diet and exercise. I’m a full-blooded Native American of the Navajo Nation. Type 2 diabetes is running rampant among my people. I know too many people who were diagnosed with this disease and eventually died. I used a low carb diet and walking to control blood sugar level and weight. It worked for a short period of time, and my numbers (i.e., blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) would always plateau. Then with a busy lifestyle, I reverted back to eating comfort foods.

After I retired from my career, I served a full-time mission for the LDS Church. One day I was complaining to a missionary friend about my lack of sleep, feeling tired, and my craving for more food. She invited me to her whole food plant-based support group which included missionaries and local people. My first impression was that it was too restrictive. I knew I was addicted to food, and I just couldn’t imagine limiting my diet to whole food plant-based. I needed a brownie or chocolate chip cookie at least once a week. Where I served there was always food everywhere: in the Zone office, the cafeteria, potluck dinners, and dining out. I strived to limit myself to eating comfort foods in smaller portions. Even though I had good intentions, I was not always successful!

After serving two and a half years, I temporarily moved in with my son and his family. Naturally, I ate what my family ate. Also, people in the community drove to their destinations. Therefore, I naturally walked less. It was different from serving a mission in downtown metropolitan city where I walked everywhere.

After five months, I began feeling symptoms of type 2 diabetes that previous doctors had taught me through the years. Finally, in March I made an appointment to see a health care provider at a Public Health Service. Since I was new to their clinic they took my blood and urine samples for tests. My new health care provider was astonished to see my numbers. At the time, my weight was about 147 pounds. He was surprised that my A1c was 14 (normal is below 5.7)! The other numbers were also not within normal range. He didn’t tell me I was pre-diabetic which is what I was expecting to hear. No, this time I was full-blown diabetic! He gave me a choice of taking insulin or Metformin to control my diabetes. Years ago I had my gallbladder removed and the doctor prescribed Metformin for me to begin taking on a regular basis. It had side effects that made me feel sick. Therefore, I told him I would try the insulin, and he assured me that there would be no side effects. At the time, I was totally naïve. I trusted my health care provider.

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“I felt prompted to really read the Word of Wisdom”

By: Julie Haws

About four years ago I started experiencing some chest pain. Being a dietitian, I search for nutrition-related answers to health problems. I read The China Study and also Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and followed this diet very strictly for about a year. Following this diet was an adjustment at first, but I was motivated because my symptoms went away, and I felt wonderful. People told me I glowed. Then I got pregnant with my third child. I experienced nausea and also extreme fatigue for much of my pregnancy. I normally rarely eat fast food or eat at restaurants, but I did during this pregnancy because of my symptoms.

A few months after having my daughter Amy I found I could not stand for more than a few minutes at a time without experiencing dizziness, sweating, and chest pain. After a year we discovered I had a condition called POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), which is basically a fainting disorder. I never fainted, but I would get close to it. I had days and weeks where I had to spend most of my days sitting or lying down. Anyone who has had 3 children under 5 years old knows what a challenge it was. It was truly debilitating. I couldn’t cook, clean, or shop much for about a year. My husband and family helped out a lot. When I started having these symptoms I did start to follow Dr. Esselstyn’s diet again, but I was not quite as strict with my diet, and I ate meat still a few times a week. My symptoms were about 60% better.

During this time I read my scriptures a lot and prayed and fasted that my body could heal completely. I had to fast with water or my symptoms would get very severe. I still was not able to stand for long periods of time and still had unpredictable spells. Around the time of my 40th birthday, I felt prompted to really read the Word of Wisdom. While reading it the following phrase stuck out to me.

Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. (D&C 89:12–13)

This surprised me, and I wondered why before I had only read up to the word “sparingly” and stopped there? What is the definition of sparingly? The Word of Wisdom specifies what sparingly means, “only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” And then it repeats this counsel again in verse 15, “And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.”

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“Wisdom comes in the righteous use of our agency”

By: Bruce Roberts

Beginning in October of 2015 I had one of those trying years that make you sit back and ask, “Why me?” After the challenge has passed and you have time to analyze what has happened to you, you start to realize that there is a learning process in this life that causes us to be humble enough to receive light and knowledge from Heavenly Father and Jesus. It is kind of, as the old saying goes, “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” In this case, I am the student, and the Holy Ghost is the teacher.

My family and I were out camping at East Canyon Resort. My brother Jeff and I decided to go fishing down at the Lake. The fish were jumping like crazy and in my excitement, I forgot to be extra careful. The way down to the lake from the road was quite treacherous, especially for a guy 73 years old. I slipped and fell, shattering my ankle. It took nine men to carry me out strapped to a board. Then the ambulance hauled me to Ogden Regional Hospital, and they performed surgery. The funny part of all this was that while lying on the banks of the reservoir, the thing that I was afraid of most was that the TV Channel 2 helicopter might be coming, and I might end up on the nightly news. While in the ER, my son Monte told me that didn’t matter because I was already all over Facebook. The family in Denmark had even seen me lying on the banks of the Lake and had responded with sympathy. Well so much for privacy.

The next few months were stressful. I wasn’t allowed to drive for three months so I did a lot of reading and not a lot of moving around except for the physical therapy sessions. Whenever we are inactive in anything we seem to go backwards. In a lot of situations in life we become careless. The inactivity and my lack of paying attention to what I was eating, and the amounts I was eating, apparently took its toll. I really bulked up. I look at it now as an experience that set me up for something to come that was life changing in a big way. After coming back from the Pac 12 basketball tournament in Las Vegas in March 2016, I wasn’t feeling well. Yes, I pigged-out at the buffets (to get my $ worth). It does not take long to send caution to the wind, and your life changes.

I had been considering writing a book on the Word of Wisdom for several years and had done a lot of studying and gathering of information, when in April, I came across a book on the internet I hadn’t seen before. It was called, Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective by Jane Birch. My interest was immediately peeked! I ordered two copies, one for each of us, because my wife Helen fills hers with sticky notes. We read the book and were astonished. We both had a spiritual witness. It was many of my very thoughts, and I am sure, written and put together better than I would ever have done. I also believe Heavenly Father got tired of waiting for me to get it done, and the message is critical for our happiness and for our time here in the Last Days.

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“We gained strength from each other’s commitment”

By: Erica Rivera

As newlyweds in the summer of 2014, Heber and I were determined to not die young, fat, or sick. More importantly, we were aware that we had stepped into a potential “fat trap” with marriage: it seemed like so many of the people that we knew put on noticeable amounts of weight in the first year (and subsequent years) of being married. So we got serious. We signed up for a gym membership together, consulted various dietitians, and read numerous articles and websites about all of the best practices to stay fit and healthy. We set goals. We watched carbs. We ate grass-fed beef. We used “healthy” oils. We had so much to learn.

Happy for objectives and goals, I stopped really worrying about whether there was a better way for me to be fueling my body. But of course, the ever-inquisitive Heber was uneasy about some of the conflicting information we were receiving about what to eat. More importantly, previous to our marriage he had been doing research to help his mother’s heart condition and had stumbled upon Dr. Esselstyn’s work Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. This led him to watch Forks Over Knives and read some of the accompanying literature. He was hungry for change, for truth. I was hungry for the pork that we had just purchased.

Though I was convinced that we had to ingest animal protein (and massive amounts of it) to properly build muscle and stay fit, I was not happy about the part of my brain that was constantly fixated on food and worried about calories and gaining weight. To me it was clear that my body was a machine and relied on exactly calculated proportions to function properly. For years I had been obsessed with labels and eating just enough to have all of the bodily functions in order. I went through phases of exercising obsessively in order to make sure all of those extra calories were put to good use in my body. One of the petty reasons that I had been reluctant to serve a mission (though I eventually did and was so happy to have served) was because I could not control my diet, or my companion’s desire to exercise, with the same precision.

Heber himself had gone through some issues with weight and nutrition. He is a chef, and besides the need to try the fine-dining dishes he made, for many years he worked long hours. There was no time to worry about “healthy” eating, let alone exercise. After some challenges with weight, he committed to himself that he would not let himself go down that same path. Moreover, he knew better than I did that food not only is a joy to eat, but is the life source of our bodies. He was aware of the different kinds of fuel available and the effects, including how his mother felt differently when she cut out animal foods for a time. Because of his conviction, I was more open to learning alternatives to my own carnivorous lifestyle.

One evening, Heber and I watched Forks Over Knives. I felt really moved by the film, almost as if my eyes had been opened to what seemed obvious all along: our diet and lifestyle were killing us! Both of us felt overwhelmingly like this was something good and promising for us and our future family. That same night, we committed to give up all animal products and start eating whole-food plant-based (WFPB).

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“I had begun getting whisperings from the spirit”

By: Alethea Galke

I first heard of whole food, plant-based (WFPB) eating from a friend who recommended the book How Not to Die. I bought it but didn’t read it. A few months later she encouraged us again, and I took the book with us on our three-day drive to take our son to the MTC. I read it to my husband as he drove. He is a Family Practice physician, and he was impressed with all of the studies the book contains to back up the claims. After reading 1 1/2 chapters on how to cure diseases, we didn’t need to read any more; we believed!

We believed so much that we began on that trip to eat WFPB the very best we could. We arrived home June 5, 2016, and the next day I went out and put together a whole new WFPB menu, and having faith, I went shopping. One year later we are still faithfully eating WFPB; we love it!

I had been working my way up to WFPB over the years; I just didn’t know it. I found that the older I got the less I wanted to eat meat. With four boys, Five Guys was a special treat for the family. I was tired of hamburgers. I didn’t like them. Once or twice I ordered a hot dog, but I didn’t like that meat either. I found I could pile a small burger with jalapeños, mushrooms, lettuce, onions (both grilled and raw), and lots of sauce to hide the taste of the meat. I never added cheese because I wasn’t really a fan. I would eat it, but if I had a choice I would decline. I would serve soups without meat, but my husband complained he was still hungry. I found a compromise by opening a bottle of shredded chicken, warming it up and setting it on the table for “anyone that wants meat” to add to their soup. When we switched to WFPB eating my husband’s palate changed so quickly. He loved the flavors and looked forward to what I would prepare. He didn’t even miss the meat.

We have always been fairly healthy. Even now, in our 50s, we have no aches or pains, no diseases, no pills. We are healthy. I have always had very low blood pressure, but it has been slowly creeping up. I had gone to the doctor shortly before starting WFPB eating and was concerned that it was higher than usual, now up in the slightly high range. Nine months after starting WFPB eating I went to the doctor for a regular check up, and my blood pressure was completely normal. I know it was because of our new eating lifestyle. I am so grateful.

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“I kept questioning why I was led to this way of eating”

By: Brittney Fairbourn

Ever since college, I have steadily pursued information about healthy eating (all while eating pretty terribly). I started with a small goal to drink more water during the day. Almost anything was better than what I was doing. I got pretty good at drinking water, and it became my primary source of hydration. I slowly changed my diet over time to include whole grains and more fruits and vegetables as I read about the benefits they provide.

While nursing my third baby, who had terrible reflux, I tried quitting dairy to lessen her misery. Letting go of some foods (milk) were easier than others (cheese, chocolate, and ice cream). I wasn’t perfect at it, but this ban on dairy gave me a small success that helped my journey; I proved to myself that it was possible to change my diet in a way that seemed absolutely impossible at the outset.

Around the same time, I started to study the Word of Wisdom. I was struck by all the counsel I had missed. Most of all, my eyes were opened when I learned that God is pleased when we do not use animals for food.

The sanctity of animal life had never crossed my mind before, but now I realized every creature’s life has value. I realized that if I do eat animals, I need to be much more grateful for the life that was given so I could have that meal. I also realized that if I were required to butcher my own animals, you can bet I would hardly ever have meat.

I started to eat less meat and bought less for my family. I didn’t really have a desire to eat it anymore, but I wasn’t sure how to cook without it either. So I started cooking dairy-rich meals to fill the meat void.

About a year ago, I chose to read The China Study for a book club. This book changed me. The strong correlation between consumption of animal products and incidence of chronic illness, especially cancer, really stood out to me. Eating plants to prevent all types of illness made a lot of sense. All those “Milk does a body good” ads came to my mind, and I felt sad that Americans have been lied to for so many years. Everything I read in the book made me think about the Word of Wisdom.

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“God answers our prayers in his time and not ours”

Alicia JackmanBy: Alicia Jackman

I have always thought of myself as being a healthy person. I enjoy exercising a little each day and eating healthy foods. In 2007, after having my second child, I was having weird bowel issues and was surprised when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Doctors told me that it happens to some people and might not be a big deal throughout my life. I was prescribed four gigantic pills daily, which the doctor intended for me to take the rest of my life, and I came to terms that this was a disease I had. I took these pills daily and the disease didn’t seem to be bother me after that for years.

Six months after having my third child and being called as the ward organist, my fingers and hands started to swell and be hot. My fingers gradually got so swollen and stiff that it was too hard to keep playing the organ. Eventually I had to ask to be released from this calling, which really saddened me. I couldn’t open jars or button buttons. My knees and hips hurt so bad I couldn’t get on the floor to play with my kids, and I would cry in pain and frustration daily. I also started falling asleep for hours at a time. This scared me as I was home with three little children. When I was awake, I felt like an 80-year-old lady, when I was only in my early 30’s.

Alicia Jackman-Husband's Ring Doesn't Fit

Husband’s wedding ring doesn’t fit, and I can’t wear my wedding ring for over 9 months

I finally saw my family doctor, then specialists, and it took months for them to figure out what was wrong. In 2010 I was diagnosed with a type of rheumatoid arthritis that the doctors determined must be related to my ulcerative colitis. Doctors told me that I had an autoimmune disease and that my body would continue to attack itself in my joints, then could move to other organs, which would eventually kill me. My doctors prescribed medication to suppress my immune system which they said was the only way to lessen these attacks.

Alicia Jackman-Feet

Weird hives/rash on feet

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“I have learned that our bodies are remarkable!”

Yessenia OrnelasBy: Yessenia Ornelas

My journey started when my husband and I were living in Provo, Utah. I was getting ready to finally bring my little premature baby home from the hospital four months after he was born. I remember wanting to take so many pictures of him, but I despised the idea of taking any pictures of myself with him because of how I felt about myself. I was very overweight, and I somehow felt that my being overweight and not healthy had played a hand in my preterm labor.

Like most people, I love eating out and trying new places. Growing up, I was told to eat all the food on my plate and not to be picky or wasteful. As a result, I ate as much as possible, and, as you can guess, the weight piled on quickly. I knew it was wrong for me to have such negative feelings about myself and that I needed to make changes if I wanted to see myself more positively. I became determined to do better. I wanted to only do this for health so I was not going to worry how fast or slow I got results.

I didn’t know much about eating healthy, just what you mostly hear, which is eating more vegetables. So I started there and then figured that perhaps I was eating too much meat and started to cut down my intake to only twice a week and just fish and chicken. My Pinterest board became filled with some vegetarian meals and lots of chicken and fish meals that I looked forward to each week. I was consistent with exercising and managed to lose 45 lbs with my own efforts.

During this time of learning about health, I talked with a good friend of mine, Olga Maletina, who was also living in student housing at BYU. I had heard she was a vegan and thought it was interesting so I was intrigued to learn why she had made a switch to that way of eating. She told me about her health benefits and how good she felt. At the time I felt that perhaps it would be too extreme for me and that I would continue to do what I was doing.

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“I am free!”

Cristie CarterBy: Cristie Carter

While I was a child growing up my father was in the produce business so fruits and vegetables were in abundance at our home. My dad would say, “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead,” and mean it. But, we consumed all of the whole milk anyone could want. I remember always reaching for a glass of milk when I was thirsty, preferring milk to drinking water. I grew up healthy and active. It was when I went to college and then got married that I ate more convenience foods.

To be honest I have not been a moderation kind of girl and that has been my eating downfall. When it comes to sweets in the house, no matter what room I’m in they beckon me to come and enjoy. If I were bored or wanted some variety to my day the list of sweet indulgences is long and quite varied with all of the delicious concoctions I would come up with and consume. Epictetus wrote, “No man is free who is not master of himself.” This out of control compulsion was bondage to me.

If you were to visit my library you would soon see that I have been eagerly learning all that I can throughout the years about food and nutrition from the Diamond’s Fit for Life to The China Study by Campbell and numerous books in between. I knew much of this information was important, and in my quest for better eating and health I have experimented being raw vegan off and on for the past sixteen years. I felt great and the physical results were impressive, but because that regimen of eating was so restrictive I found it impossible to adhere to permanently.

This time last year I met up with a friend for lunch. As we were eating I mentioned how wonderful she looked. She told me about a new eating plan she had been following, and when I asked her about it I soon learned that it was very heavy in meat consumption. I asked her if she had any qualms about eating that much meat since the Word of Wisdom states quite specifically that little to no meat is better. That afternoon I went home and did a web search for “MOST HEALTHY FOOD DIET” which resulted in a plethora of varied information. It was then that I found Jane Birch’s blog, Discovering the Word of Wisdom, and began reading all of the inspiring testimonials found there.

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“Heavenly Father was gently guiding me in this direction”

Scott

By: Scott

Middle school seems to ravage people in a variety of ways: physically, socially, mentally, even spiritually. For me it was probably every single one of them, and, looking back, I can see that nearly all my unhappy experiences were related to my physical health. I wasn’t obese. I wasn’t that kid. But I was within that realm; I was one of those kids. I was chubby. I like to use a term that I stole from a friend: chub scout.

I was a chub scout. I “earned” that rank somewhere between eleven and twelve years of age, and I miserably maintained it until I was about fifteen-and-a-half years old, which is when I was the heaviest—215 pounds and about 5′11″ tall. I wasn’t even “fit fat.” You know, when you’re fat but there’s some muscle underneath? I was just fat. None of those 215 pounds was muscle (at least not much if it). Just bones, organs, macaroni and cheese, and fat.

Halfway through my sophomore year of high school I just was fed up. Fed up! With myself. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I hated feeling weak and unattractive. That was probably the worst of it: I didn’t like thinking about what girls thought of me. I don’t know why, but I just decided that I wasn’t going to take it anymore. I was going to do something about it.

I knew next to nothing about health and wellness, but I had enough common sense to know that I was eating way too much food. It was a simple yet critical conclusion. And I came up with an equally simple solution: don’t eat after dinner, aka put the fork down. I was prone to having snacks, especially in the evening. My family usually ate dinner between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., so I simply stopped eating food after about that time. After a week of doing this, something amazing happened: I stepped onto the scale and found that I had lost five pounds!

I was astounded. Utterly astounded. Dumbfounded. At a loss. Flabbergasted. The light bulb above my head flickered on—nay, it blazed like the fires of heaven from whence the epiphany came, a stark contrast to the fires of hell I had been feeling for the last four years. I couldn’t believe how easily five pounds vanished. All I did was stop eating as much. “Just put the fork down.” It was just so crazy it actually worked.

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