Archive for Stories

“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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“It was like a huge light bulb going off in my head”

cheri-and-david-meinersBy: Cheri J. Meiners

When I was about six years old, it was determined that I had an allergy to wheat, chocolate, strawberries and several other foods. I broke out in hives when I ate them. It was hard to cheat since my mother was careful about eliminating those foods, and all the lunch ladies at school knew what I couldn’t have on my tray!

As a teenager, I tested positive for several environmental allergies, which required weekly shots. On my mission in Italy, I gave myself the weekly injections. After my mission, I saw an alternative doctor who recommended a diet that was very close to the Word of Wisdom. I eliminated processed foods and sugar, and I ate meat and cheese only as condiments. I also took various food supplements. With these changes, I felt that my health greatly improved.

I tried to live this lifestyle when I married and had my family of six children, although we had much more “junk food” in the house than I used to eat. My greatest health challenge was during a period of great stress in my life. People asked if I had been under a heat lamp because the skin on my face and upper body spontaneously burned and peeled. My eyes, especially, were often painfully swollen and burning, and during flare-ups it was difficult to maintain my rigorous schedule with six young children. During this time I was extremely diligent about following the eating regimen I had followed earlier. After several months, the condition eventually cleared up. I also lost 45 pounds and was at my goal weight.

As time passed and I felt better, I didn’t feel the urgency to be so strict with my diet. I gained back weight, and I started to have various joint and other aches that seemed to be a part of aging. At age 49, I began going to the gym 3-5 times a week to improve my health. I never lost weight over this seven-year period, but the exercise did stabilize my weight during this time.

In November 2014, I read an article by Jane Birch in Meridian Magazine. The first article I read was a bit shocking to me. Even though I had previously tried to avoid meat and dairy (and was allergic to eggs), I had never really considered it feasible or healthy to totally eliminate animal products, much less oil. The next time I read one of her articles, however, I was convinced by the logic, and it felt right. I decided to try it.

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“I walked out of the doctor’s office completely crushed”

olga-maletina-and-dan-almeidaBy: Olga Maletina

I’m from Russia; my husband is from Brazil. We were attending BYU-Provo when our health reached its lowest point. I had started getting alarmed a few years prior to that when we were getting our first life insurance and my husband was placed in the “smoker” category due to his high cholesterol even though he had never smoked in his life. We knew he had a history of heart disease in his family, but at that time we didn’t know what to do about it and just continued our lives as usual, hoping for the best. We didn’t know that it was the food we were eating that was making us sick.

Since our arrival to the United States, we had gradually moved away from the simpler, mostly homemade foods we had in our home countries (mainly rice and beans for my husband, and buckwheat, potatoes and vegetables for me). Years went by and our blood test results were coming out worse and worse. Our weight, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar were gradually going up, while our energy levels and the quality of life was slowly going down. Finally, my husband’s cholesterol reached an alarming 263 points when he was only 26!

My cholesterol was not as high as my husband’s, but I started having other health issues that were even scarier. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was put on thyroid medication. Aside from my hypothyroidism symptoms (terrible night sweats, lack of energy, loss of hair), I also had ovarian cysts and an overactive bladder. I was overweight and started wearing prescription glasses. Time was passing by, and my health was not getting much better. The thyroid medication helped with the night sweats and constant chills, but my energy and the other symptoms still remained.

I cut out the soda and decided I’d try to watch what I eat: count calories, switch to low-fat dairy foods, and try to eat less carbs. In order to lose weight, I tried the low calorie diet, the hCG diet, exercise, the Paleo diet and the Jorge Cruise diet. I even met with a dietitian, but nothing helped my symptoms and the weight kept going up. I remember feeling so powerless. Why couldn’t I get any results? I was trying so hard!

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“I am getting younger instead of older”

lily-sparksDo you have a story to tell? Inspire others by sharing it. Please contact me. Thanks! Jane

By: Lily Sparks

In the late summer of 2010, I went onto the web to look up something to help me. I was overweight and obese, with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high cholesterol. My glucose blood test had inched out of the average range and into the prediabetes range. Everything hurt . . . my joints, my muscles. Getting out of bed in the morning hurt so bad if I did not take lots of grape seed. My knees were helped by glucosamine and chondroitin. I spent quite a bit of money every month buying the supplements so I would not hurt or at least reduce the aches and pain. I just accepted it as part of growing older even though it started in my late forties. I received enough relief with the supplements that my life just went on, and I accepted it.

Being overweight was the biggest fight. I had lost weight using Atkins, hCG, and counting calories. I would successfully lose weight, but those diets are not sustainable so when I went back to my regular eating, which always happened, I would gain the weight back and more. I tried to watch what I would eat, but I liked food and even after I ate a full meal I would be hungry in an hour and a half. I could not understand how I could be hungry again after a full meal. I think that happened because of the lack of good nutrition in the meal. I think my body was saying, “You gave me bulk but no nutrition.” Sometimes I just ate what I wanted because I was tired of fighting it.

I got so I would not weigh myself because I was afraid to know how much I weighed. I think I got to 220 lbs and wore a size 20 or 22.

I was not happy. Read More→

“My wife and I felt a yearning to know God better”

josh-wagner-familyBy: Josh Wagner

A little over a year-and-a-half ago, my wife Jamie and I felt a yearning to know God better. We began praying for help to make significant changes to be closer to Him and experience more of the gifts of the Spirit. We had no idea the Lord would answer those prayers by telling us to change how we eat.

This is how it happened: a little after Jamie and I started praying for this, we were reading scriptures with the kids while we ate dinner (we’ve learned that combining meal and scripture time reduces the chance that the kids will run off while we read). As was typical in our house (and most American houses), we were eating a protein-centric dish named for the meat it was built around.

On that particular day, I chose to read this section of holy writ which says the Lord wants us to joyfully use the things of the earth—plants and animals—to sustain and enrich our lives. But then comes this stern warning: “For unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion” (v. 20). A clear message from heaven pierced my mind to the core, “The way you eat meat is excess and extortion.”

This freaked me out. Read More→

“I hoped it would help with the IBS”

joseph-peterson-familyBy: Joseph Peterson

I always thought I ate a fairly healthy diet. Coming from a larger family, my mom always cooked homemade meals, and I just assumed that if it was homemade, it was healthy. After going off to college, I had to begin cooking for myself, which was usually just whatever was easiest, which was anything from spaghetti to frozen dinners. Then on my mission in Monterrey, Mexico, we would either eat at the homes of Church members or buy tacos on the street. The food where I served in Mexico always contained lots of meat and lots of grease. At one point in my mission, my health got so bad because of the food there that I had to be hospitalized. At the time, however, I thought it was just one bad meal with lots of bacteria. I didn’t stop to think that how I ate everyday affected my life so much.

When I got married, my wife and I were just never motivated to cook for ourselves very often since it was just the two of us, so we would usually go out to eat or cook some kind of frozen meal. After a while of that, my wife got better at cooking homemade meals just about every night, but we would still eat meat and lots of cheese and things like that.

Then just last year, I heard my parents talking about a diet they were starting that they were very impressed with. It was the whole food, plant-based diet. At first, I didn’t really think I needed anything like that, since I have always been a pretty skinny, healthy guy. At most I weighed 165, and I’m 5’9’’, so about average. However, my whole life I’ve also suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I have been to many doctors who would just tell me to experiment with different pills, but none of them really worked.

After several months on their new diet, my parents were saying they lost around 40 pounds each and were feeling much better! I was shocked! I have always followed my parents example my whole life and seeing how much this new diet had changed their lives, I wanted to partake of the blessings too. While I didn’t need to lose weight, I hoped it would help with the IBS.

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