Archive for athletes

“I see animals differently now”

Doug and Steph HawkesBy: Doug Hawkes

When I read the Word of Wisdom, there is a phrase that really touches me. Speaking of the animals, the Lord says, “it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used” (D&C 89:13). It is pleasing to Him. What a choice emotion for the Lord to say He has. It sounds like a very good thing to me.

I haven’t ever seen an animal die in person. I’ve definitely seen them alive though. And they are so alive. They enjoy the company of their kind. They see and experience things. There is something good and innocent in all of them. I do know that at this point, if I needed to eat one of them, I’d like it to be for a special reason, not just because it tastes good, but because I need some food for my family to eat, and there is nothing else. In that case, I would gratefully use them as food. Otherwise, I don’t want to eat them because they might as well be my dog. I really see that level of being in them.

Perhaps part of God’s way of showing us His gladness is naturally rewarding us with better health when we eat closer to what He would prefer. From the many reputable scientific studies I have read, every single form of food we can create based on animal flesh, eggs, or milk seems to cause us harm, leading toward debilitating or lethal disease at worst and is an organ-burdening fuel at best. None of the supposed benefits outweigh the long-term harm. Calories from animals will definitely get most people through their younger years all right. But like a seemingly great car that you purchased with only 20,000 miles on it, the damage and wear in a poorly fueled and abused engine might not be evident until later.

So I see animals differently now, which I only let myself do once they weren’t food anymore. I like thinking about all of their big and little lives, full of their own emotions and struggles, being left alone to live in their way. I think I understand a little of what is pleasing to our Savior, who is full of understanding of all creatures, knows their enjoyment and pain as intimately as ours, and whose bowels are full of mercy for all He has suffered. That may sound silly or perhaps even sacrilegious to some people, but I think it is far from it.

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“I’m planning on dancing at my 150th birthday celebration”

Hyrum JonesBy: Hyrum Jones

I have always been healthy. I grew up with plenty of space to run around in, plenty of things to climb, and plenty of brothers to play with. And run, climb, and play, I did! My entire life I was stronger and faster than everyone else in my age group, as well as many people older than me. I felt myself to be entirely fit. I never had allergies, never any serious sicknesses, never any problem with blood sugar or fatigue, never even a broken bone. I also ate healthier food than anyone I knew. I had whole wheat mush every morning and almost never ate prepackaged food.

About three years ago, when I was 14 years old, I started Irish Step Dancing. I was still healthy, still strong, still eating good food, and getting more physical activity than ever, but I found myself needing even more. Conditioning for competitive Irish Dance was exhausting. I pushed myself hard to improve my endurance and my leg strength, but it was a long and slow process. Due to the limited time I had left to compete before leaving for college, I was very open to any new idea that might help me improve faster.

About a year after I began dancing I watched Forks Over Knives and was introduced to whole food, plant-based eating. It began simply as yet another of the many health documentaries I had seen, but this one made more sense than most, and by the time it was over, I had decided to switch to a whole food, plant-based diet. Though I had never eaten excessive amounts of meat, animal products, or processed foods, it was not until I stopped eating them that I realized how small quantities here and there really added up!

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“I just wanted to feel normal” (Long Version)

Kevin TunstallNote from Jane: I also published a much shorter version of the following story. I’ve always wanted to share the original, long version, so I’m happy to do so here. The entire story is well worth reading, but if your time is limited, you may want to read the abbreviated version instead. Either way, this is a remarkable story!

By: Kevin Tunstall

My journey to a plant-based diet began soon after my diagnosis of prostate cancer. However, to begin fully, I should probably start earlier than the diagnosis as a series of events that some could call miracles led me to review my understanding of the Word of Wisdom and renew my understanding of the gospel, a journey that is still evolving.

My grandmother passed away from cancer after being terrified of dying of the big ‘C’ from a young age—she was in her eighties when it caught up with her. My mother passed away from lung cancer on my birthday in 2002, then a few years later my wife’s only sister developed breast cancer, which was aggressive and had started to move through the lymph nodes. She ended up having a mastectomy and her ovaries removed due to her age. This was followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

I had been called as bishop of a very busy ward here in New Zealand just four months earlier and ironically one of my first challenges was dealing with a single sister in the ward with two teenage children who had breast cancer but refused to get treatment or let me tell anyone.

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“When I changed my diet, an amazing thing happened”

Lynn HenrichsenBy: Lynn Henrichsen

As a teenage boy I could eat anything and never put on a pound. However, as an adult, I found myself putting on weight until I weighed over 50 pounds more than I did in high school. My job as a BYU faculty member involved mostly sitting at a desk or standing in front of a class. That led to physical problems. At age 40, running and even walking produced pain in my knees that reduced my activity level even further. Nevertheless, I accepted this reduction and the accompanying gain in weight as part of the normal aging process. I didn’t worry much about it. I exercised moderately and consumed a diet relatively high in refined flour, sugar, dairy products, and meat, which I had been taught were “good food.”

When I was in my forties and fifties, a high school or college classmate or family member my age, who had been a healthy or even athletic youth, would occasionally appear in the obituaries—usually a victim of a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Also, among those who were still alive, I noticed a significant number growing (in their own words) “slower, fatter, and stupider” and accepting these undesirable changes as inevitable.

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“Learning to master our appetites brings us closer to God”

George FamilyBy: Rebekah George

My plant-based journey started the summer I turned 25 (2002), when my mom called and said Dad had been diagnosed with diabetes and was going to try a vegan diet for three months. She thought he would have an easier time if his kids were doing it with him. My five sisters and I joined him in his three-month trial. I gladly jumped on board to support my dad, but I remember thinking, “How am I going to give up my cheese?!” I rarely cooked meat, but I had cheese all the time. As I cut all dairy from my diet, I was surprised at how quickly my cravings and taste for cheese disappeared.

During the trial period, I had many conversations with my mom, who had been vegan for several years, and I also started doing my own research. I read some of T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study and all of Food for Life by Neal Barnard. I also studied the Word of Wisdom with a new perspective, focusing on the verse that says the Lord is pleased when we do not eat meat.

By the end of the three months, not only were my dad’s blood levels normal and the pre-diabetic condition gone, but I was also convinced a plant-based diet was the way to go.

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“I have found many hidden treasures”

Ilene ChristensenBy: Ilene Christensen

It was November 1973. I was sitting in a bus with the rest of the BYU volleyball team in Durango, Colorado for the Regional Tournament. My coach had already told me I would be starting for the first time that season. I was ready and very excited. We were waiting for our coaches to board the bus so we could go to breakfast prior to the start of the tournament. It was strange that they were taking so long. I remember sitting there as Earlene Durrant (the athletic trainer) boarded the bus and started walking down the aisle. My first thought was, “My father, it’s my father.” But then it appeared she was going to walk by, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Then she stopped and said, “Ilene, Sister Michaelis would like to see you in her hotel room.” I got off the bus, and the team drove away without me.

I went into Sister Michaelis’s hotel room, and she said the words no one wants to say, “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your father passed away last night.” He was 46 years old. He died of a heart attack. My mother was left to finish raising six children on her own.

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“I am more in tune with what my body needs”

Michael AndersonBy: Michael Anderson

Almost a year ago, I decided to stop eating meat. I have stomach issues— problems with digestion that run in the family. When I eat meat or diary, I end up in the bathroom about an hour later. My mother heard about a plant-based diet from her hairdressing clients (Debbie Christofferson and Ilene Christensen), so we decided to go the vegetarian route.

About a year before deciding to go vegetarian, I started to be very interested in health and taking care of my body, so this decision felt like a natural next step. I felt it would help me. Then as we did some research, and I learned what it really means to be vegetarian and what it really means to be vegan, I decided why not go the extra step and be a full-on vegan? So I’ve been doing that the past year, and it has helped me a lot with my stomach. I don’t have stomach issues with food any more, which is a big thing.

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“I just wanted to feel normal” (Abbreviated Version)

Kevin Tunstall at a race

Note from Jane: This is a remarkable story. The original is quite a bit longer, so I’ve published an abbreviated version here. If you prefer, you can read the long version.

By: Kevin Tunstall

My journey to a plant-based diet began soon after my diagnosis with prostate cancer. However, to begin fully, I should probably start earlier. My grandmother passed away from cancer, after being terrified of the big ‘C’ from youth. My mother passed away from lung cancer; then a few years later, my wife’s only sister developed breast cancer. She ended up having a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

I had been called as bishop of a very busy ward in New Zealand. One of my first challenges was dealing with a single sister with two teenage children who had breast cancer, but refused to get treatment or let me tell anyone. The week my sister-in-law finished her radiation treatment, our 15-year-old daughter developed what was thought to be a form of leukemia. We were devastated. It was a harrowing time but through a ward fast and miracles, her life was spared.

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“I just felt clean!”

Flying HighSmBy: Victor Johnson

While I was growing up, healthy eating was important in my family. My mother had been a vegetarian for most of her married life, so she always insisted on our eating “healthy” food. We were far from vegan (we still consumed dairy), but we hardly ever had meat in our house, except when my dad made his delicious tri-tip steaks. We also had very few processed foods.

Later, both my parents became vegan, and the few animal products still in the house gradually began disappearing. Dairy milk was replaced with soy, almond, or rice milk. Meat was no longer an option, even on special occasions. More emphasis was placed on eating fruits and vegetables. I begrudgingly went along with the plan, seeing there weren’t many other food options at home. I loved going to friends’ houses or eating out because I could eat all the junk I wanted. I had no appreciation for a healthy diet.

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