By: Jane Birch
Congratulations on your interest in learning more about a “whole food, plant-based” (WFPB) approach to the Word of Wisdom! I hope you find something useful on this site that will help you in your own study and interpretation of D&C 89. If you’d like to give this diet a try, I’m happy to help. It is easier than you think because it is so wonderful to adopt new practices that dramatically change your life for the better.
The 3 Dietary Principles in the Word of Wisdom
From my perspective, a WFPB diet sheds light on the three dietary principles found in the Word of Wisdom:
1. All “wholesome herbs [plants] . . . in the season thereof” should be used with “prudence and thanksgiving.” (D&C 89:10–11).
The first principle focuses on the prudent use of wholesome (think “whole”) plant foods. From a WFPB perspective, wholesome plant foods include whole vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes (beans, etc.). Animal foods are not plant foods. Highly processed foods (including refined carbs, oils, and junk foods) are neither wholesome nor prudent. They are nutritionally poor, highly concentrated foods designed to get us to over-consume. Whole plant foods contain all the amazing nutrients God packaged them with, along with fiber and water which create bulk and satiety. (See also: Wholesome Herbs and Every Fruit)
2. Animal flesh is ordained for human use, but it should be eaten sparingly, and it is pleasing to the Lord if it is not used, except in times of need (“times of winter . . . cold, or famine” and “excess of hunger”) (D&C 89:12–13, 15).
Study after study show a correlation between animal food consumption, obesity, and chronic disease. From a WFPB perspective, since animal foods are not needed for nutritional purposes and unavoidably contain harmful substances, these foods should be kept to a minimum, if eaten at all, for optimal health. Better to save them for times of need. (See also: The Flesh of Beasts, Part I and Part II)
3. “All grain is good” and is ordained to be the “staff of life.” (D&C 89:14, 16).
Fruits and vegetables are great at providing nutrients, but not at providing calories. Whole grains, beans, and other starchy plant foods provide sufficient energy with none of the extreme negative features of other calorie dense foods, like animal foods and processed foods. They are delicious, satisfying, and (despite the current rhetoric) key to weight loss. From a WFPB perspective, the bulk of our calories should come from whole starchy plants, which are primarily the whole grains, such as wheat, barley, oats, rice, corn, and millet. (See also: All Grain is Good)
Step 1: Study the Word of Wisdom and a Whole Food, Plant-based Diet
You are, of course, encouraged to do your own research and seek the Lord’s guidance for your own understanding of the Word of Wisdom. This site shares insights from a WFPB approach. Here are some good places to start:
- Doctrine & Covenants 89 (the Word of Wisdom)
- “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film” (12-minute video)
- Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Discovering Joy! (this is the first in a series of articles in Meridian Magazine which discuss the relationship between the Word of Wisdom and a WFPB diet; see also a complete list of this on-going series)
- Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (book by Jane Birch)
- Whole Food, Plant-Based (WFPB) Resources (includes many free resources and also recommended books, DVDs, and programs to help you get started)
Step 2: Prepare to Eat the Word of Wisdom Way
1. If you find this approach useful, continue to prayerfully study both D&C 89 and the literature on a WFPB diet. (See resources in the section above.)
2. Study the whole food, plant-based guidelines so you thoroughly understand what is considered ideal, even if you are not ready or planning to commit to all of them.
3. Find recipes that look appealing and try a few. You only need a good 6–7 to keep you going!
- Figuring Out What to Eat
- WFPB Recipes
- Meal Planning
- If you don’t like recipes, check out WFPB Made Easy
4. Decide how you want to get started changing your diet. Below are five different approaches. (You could also combine some of them or come up with your own!) No matter what method you choose, be patient with yourself! Don’t get discouraged if you don’t do as well as you’d like. It is NOT about perfection; it is about progress.
5. Don’t be surprised if you encounter challenges along the way! Satan does NOT want you to succeed, and he will try to make it difficult for you. But with God’s help, you are more powerful than Satan, and you can succeed! Here are some suggestions for helping overcome the two biggest challenges:
Step 3: Choose an Approach to Changing Your Diet (5 Options Below)
Option 1: Go Cold Turkey
This strategy involves deciding to make a 100% switch to a whole food, plant-based. It has several advantages:
- For many people, totally avoiding addicting foods is easier than trying to moderate their use. Each time you taste food engineered to be highly pleasurable with excess fat-sugar-salt, you are dosing the dopamine-based pleasure receptors in your brain, which makes them crave more fat-sugar-salt laden food. Avoiding that altogether can be easier for many than having “just a little bit.”
- Your sensitivity to certain tastes can change radically in just a few weeks. For example, it takes 90 days for your “fat receptors” to down regulate. (See: “Reducing Fat and Cooking Without Oil”)
- You’ll experience the benefits quicker, and this can be highly motivating!
- See more about the advantages here: Why Start Now? and Why Go 100%
How to do it: Pick a day that will be the first day 100% whole food, plant-based. Before that day, you may want to clean out your refrigerator and pantry, stock up on the new foods, and find some recipes that you like.
- If you can’t completely clean out the refrigerator and pantry because other family members eat them, at least confine them all to one place/cupboard/shelf, etc.
- Just like avoiding alcohol and tobacco are part of your Mormon identity, you can make being “whole food, plant-based” part of your identify. This makes it much easier to resist temptation. Those foods are simply no longer the types of food you eat.
- If it helps, commit to going cold turkey for a shorter timeframe than “forever.” Twenty-one days is probably the shortest time that will still make a significant difference. Three months should kill off the worst cravings. Tell yourself, “It is just for three months, and then I’ll re-evaluate.” You can do anything for three months, right?
Option 2: Take Baby Steps
This strategy involves transitioning more slowly to a whole food, plant-based, though the goal is still to get to 100%. This strategy has several advantages:
- It is easier for some people/families to tackle one aspect of the WFPB diet at a time, or to gradually reduce certain beloved foods.
- You may feel less deprived.
- There is a learning curve to this diet and way of cooking, and this gives you more time to learn and experiment before going 100%
How to do it: Choose one food (or food category) at a time to stop eating; then move on to your next goal. Examples foods to eliminate: meat, dairy, eggs, candy and sweets, sugar, soda pop, oils, refined flours, and processed foods. However you choose to approach it, make a concrete written plan. Using deadlines can be helpful.
- An example from one family: We first eliminated meat, but not chicken broth. Then we eliminated fresh milk, then yogurt, then cheese, then ice cream. THEN we eliminated chicken broth. Then we began decreasing the amount of salt we used, and stopped using sugar and oil. We’re now transitioning away from other sweeteners.
- A man who lost 300 lbs. on a WFPB diet suggests you make a list of everything you currently eat and then divide it into three categories: things you are going to completely eliminate this week/month (pick a time period); things you are going to reduce during this time period; and things you are not going to worry about during this time period. When you’ve got that list mastered or that time period ends, re-do the list.
- For more ideas of ways to take baby steps, see: Word of Wisdom Health Challenge.
I highly recommend The Forks Over Knives Plan, which includes a great baby step program. They recommend first just transitioning your breakfasts to WFPB, then adding lunches, and last adding dinners. It includes lots of practical advice and recipes.
From more on this approach, see Baby Steps to WFPB Diet.
Option 3: Find a Buddy
This strategy involves finding a friend/family member who is willing to try the WFPB diet with you (or at least support you in doing the diet). This strategy has several advantages:
- We are inherently social creatures and having the help and support of others can be critical.
- Completing a goal with someone else can make it much more enjoyable.
- We are more likely to complete a goal when we feel responsible for being an example to someone else and trying to help them accomplish their goals.
How to do it: Find a friend or family members who is willing to try the WFPB diet with you. Keep in touch on a regular basis. Work together on your goals. Encourage each other to stay strong. Eat together and also find enjoyable non-food activities to do together.
If you can’t find someone who is willing to change his or her diet with you:
- Find someone who is willing to be your “buddy” in supporting you. Commit to reporting to that person each and every day (in person, over the phone, email, or text). Just knowing you will have to report every day will help you to stay on track. If that person can encourage you and provide nonfood rewards, all the better!
- Use the McDougall Discussion Board. Write a post describing your situation and asking for advice and help. You’ll find others who can answer your questions, provide support, and inspire you with their own stories. You may want to report your progress every day or every few days until this new diet becomes your lifestyle.
- Do the diet in conjunction with others in the 21-Day Kickstart program.
- Contact Jane Birch. She is willing to be your buddy. You should plan to report to her at least once a week (but for the first week or month, once a day can be helpful!).
- I sponsor two support groups on Facebook which you can join. One is an open group: Word of Wisdom Health Challenge. I also sponsor a “private” support group which allows you to post comments without anyone outside of the group seeing your comments: Discovering the Word of Wisdom Support Group.
Option 4: Experiment on the Word
In the Book of Mormon, Alma suggests we “experiment on the word” by planting the seed and observing the fruits (Alma 32). This is an excellent metaphor for trying a new diet. This strategy involves planting the seed of the Word of Wisdom diet and giving it every chance to grow and then becoming mindful of how your diet is affecting your physical and spiritual well-being. This strategy has several advantages:
- An “experiment” is a sound scientific and spiritual principle. It is a way of testing truth for yourself.
- The great thing about a whole food, plant-based diet is that there are NO negative side effects, only good ones. So it is a safe experiment to do.
- Most of us are very disconnected from our food and our bodies. Becoming mindful of what we eat and how it affects us is a great spiritual discipline that can bless us in many ways.
How to do it: Prayerfully study the Word of Wisdom and decide on the experiment you wish to conduct. Learn to listen to your body. Keep a record of how you are feeling and the changes you experience. If the seed “swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good” (Alma 32:33). Keep a record of the blessings you experience as you “experiment on the word.”
I testify that as I have experimented on the word, I have found the Word of Wisdom seed to be very good. I love Alma’s description of this experience, “O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good” (Alma 32:35).
Option 5: Trust in the Lord
This strategy involves prayerfully studying the Word of Wisdom and seeking the Lord’s counsel on what you should do. This strategy has several advantages:
- The Lord knows you and your situation. He is in the best position to guide you.
- Knowing you are following the Lord’s counsel can give you great peace and confidence that the path you are taking will be for your blessing.
How to do it: Prayerfully study D&C 89, the Word of Wisdom. Let the Lord know you are serious about following His counsel. Ask for His guidance and then be completely open to the inspiration you receive. Do what you feel prompted to do. If you make mistakes, don’t chastise yourself, just do better the next day. After you have mastered the first set of instructions you receive, repeat the process to seek the Lord’s guidance on the next set. Remember to PRAY ALWAYS and rely WHOLLY on the Savior!
As you act on divine inspiration, it will open the floodgates of knowledge and skills and you will discover how and what to eat in your journey toward better health.
Good Books for Helping You Get Started
The Forks Over Knives Plan: How to Transition to the Life-Saving, Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet by Alona Pulde & Matthew Lederman (2014)
The Happy Herbivore Guide to Plant-based Living by Lindsay S. Nixon (2014)
Notes about Making the Transition
It may take time for your body to adjust to more fiber. If your diet does not currently contain a lot of whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes, your body has long since adjusted to a low fiber diet. Suddenly switching to a high fiber diet can cause abdominal bloating, stomach pain and/or intestinal gas in some people. If you are worried, just increase the fiber more slowly. Your body will definitely adjust over time and thank you for it!
For some people, certain plant foods tend to produce gas even if they are used to a WFPB diet. These foods include: legumes (beans, split peas, and lentils) and some cruciferous vegetables (like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts). These strategies will help to reduce the amount of gas produced by these foods:
- cook these foods thoroughly
- chew these foods thoroughly
- soak legumes overnight before cooking
For a more details see: Adjusting to Increased Fiber
It may take time for your taste buds to realize how delicious this food is. While many people love the foods on this diet from the start, we are so used to food with lots of fat, sugar, and salt that this diet can taste bland and uninteresting at first. It may take some time for your taste buds to wake up and for you to find what you like. You may need to experiment with seasonings. Be patient. Your taste buds WILL change, and you WILL figure out what to eat. You’ll soon be enjoying every meal! Expect anywhere from 2–12 weeks.
More WFPB Food Resources
- Figuring Out What to Eat
- WFPB Guidelines
- WFPB Recipes
- WFPB Meal Planning
- WFPB Made Easy
- WFPB Resources
Last updated: May 20, 2015