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).