Archive for pregnancy

“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 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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“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 had the sweet feeling that this new baby was a special gift”

Joy and Jane BarryBy: Joy Barry

I was blessed to be raised on a diet healthier than the standard American variety. In the 1970s when most kids were living on toaster pastries, Twinkies, and Wonder Bread, we were grinding our own wheat to make whole wheat bread and cracked wheat porridge. When we made cookies or Kool-Aid, my father insisted on using half the sugar that the recipe called for. As I grew older and moved away from home, I continued to cook most things from scratch, the way I was brought up. I wasn’t too concerned about health or a balanced diet, it was more about saving money and making homemade food that tasted better. Besides, I never had to worry about losing weight as I was always trim and thin as a child and young adult. I never even exercised.

When I hit my mid-20s, I started to put on a little bit of weight. It concerned me enough that I started exercising to try to get in shape. But all my bike-riding just left me worn out and discouraged. It never occurred to me that my diet was to blame. I thought I was doing just fine.

I married at age 29 and had my first child when I was 30. My new role as a wife and mother made me more concerned about healthy eating. It was not just about me anymore, I had a family to feed. The responsibility to not just feed my family, but to feed them well, rested heavy on my conscience. I read everything online that I could find about healthy diets and worried much about how to best feed my family a balanced diet.

Although I read many conflicting opinions from various “experts,” I felt blessed to have the Word of Wisdom as my foundation. If I read anything that said to eat lots of meat and avoid grains, I dismissed it immediately. However, I always wished that the Word of Wisdom had more specifics. I thought it was too vague and didn’t cover all the food groups. I knew it said to eat meat sparingly, and I tried to follow that advice, but what about eggs and dairy products? I also worried much about what kind of oils were the healthy ones, and other hotly debated topics.

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“Eating the way I do brings me joy”

Manda Dangerfield FamilyBy: Manda Dangerfield

Growing up and into in my late twenties, I ate what the USDA food pyramid said I needed to eat daily: grains, milk and other dairy, meat, fruits, and vegetables. I really liked ice cream, milk chocolate, and other candy and processed foods. Grains were cold cereal, bread, and pasta that wasn’t whole grain.

My journey to a whole foods plant-based diet probably began in 2007. My husband and I had been married for three years and were new parents. Our baby girl was ready, at five months, to eat “solids.” My stepmom had given me a recipe book for baby food, and I liked it. I understood that we would save money by not buying baby food if possible. I made our daughter a variety of foods by steaming foods and using a mini food processor, or just mashing if it was banana. Some of the foods were vegetables that I personally didn’t grow up eating, or didn’t remember enjoying, including spinach and some kinds of squash. I know I had tasted cooked spinach but didn’t like it. I discovered that I didn’t hate cabbage, I only hated the ingredients in coleslaw sauce! I loved the ratatouille, other simple combinations, and the plain steamed cauliflower that I made for her. I did get pre-made jars or containers sometimes for convenience. The ones with meat in them didn’t smell so good, and I knew there was a difference between the pre-made veggies and my freshly-made veggies. I remember thinking one day, “Why am I feeding her a jar of lamb? We don’t eat lamb.” (And now I wonder why anyone would want to eat a baby sheep.) But we did eat a pretty typical American diet with other meat in it.

When our daughter was almost a year old, and not quite done breastfeeding, we started having her drink whole cow’s milk, like we thought we were supposed to in order for her to be healthy. By the time I took her for her twelve-month doctor appointment she had pretty bad eczema. Eventually — I wish I would have kept a journal of all this! — I read that dairy has been shown to be connected to skin problems, and I realized that her eczema had started at the same time as her introduction to cow’s milk. However, the doctor had said nothing about diet, only to bathe our daughter in plain water and put a specific ointment on her skin. Later, when I stopped giving her cow’s milk, cheese, and yogurt, the eczema went away. A few times it seems that her arms have gotten a little eczema again, after she has chosen to eat some dairy when away from home.

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“He was not hiding it”

Katie Johnson FamilyBy: Katie Johnson

Since becoming a new mother in 2003, I began to develop a passion for nutrition and healthy cooking. I tried hard to teach and feed my family good and healthy things. Over the years, I learned to make homemade wheat bread and enjoyed taking healthy recipes and adapting them to make them even healthier. I didn’t, however, fully adopt all the things I was learning and often fell back into the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). Through much of my own personal study, as well as trial and error, I learned many good nutritional principles but with this also came “the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.” While I see that I’ve been guided line upon line, I can see more clearly that it all was meant to come together to ultimately teach me light and truth.

Health trials

During the time of having our family, I began to develop anxiety and post-partum depression. I soon found that having a family was taking its toll on my body and my emotions. Pregnancies were accompanied by weight gain and hormone changes. Weight gain called for dieting and weight loss, finances caused stress, motherhood brought time constraints, and being a support to my husband through school taxed my mind, body, and spirit. I spent many years struggling with whether I should take medication to help alleviate the stress and just put up with the accompanying side effects. I decided that I was not willing to deal with those side effects and preferred to seek more natural ways of coping, such as yoga and vitamin supplements. Throughout the years, I also rode a giant roller coaster of different fad diets, including several versions of the oh-so-loved “high-protein, low-carb” diets.

In early 2011, I was 29, had born three children, had struggled through years of schooling for my husband, and we were now embarking on opening our own law practice in the worst economy since the Great Depression. It was then that I discovered a lump on my right breast. Shortly afterwards, my OBGYN also discovered that I had an ovarian cyst. I was terrified and knew some things with my health just were not right. I received a breast exam, and I was told I needed an ultrasound to check for cancer.

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“We had a major awakening”

Chelsea PorterBy: Chelsea Porter

I grew up learning how to shoot a gun and using it to hunt animals. Each year we had pheasant, dove, and the occasional antelope meat in our freezer that my dad, brother, or I most likely killed. My parents also bought part of a cow every year. Our freezer was always stocked full of meat. I literally hated vegetables and rarely ate any. I drank a glass of milk with dinner and thought that counting carbs and calories (even in high school) was as healthy as anyone could be!

I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when I was 21. At that time I drank alcohol, massive amounts of coffee and caffeine, smoked cigarettes and never wondered about the food I ate. As soon as I had my answer that I needed to be baptized, my desire and dependence to all my addictions vanished. I still have no desire or temptation to have them in my body.

When I had my first child, a boy, I had gained over 50 pounds during his pregnancy. It took quite a while to lose most of it before I was again pregnant, with another boy. I again gained 50 pounds during his pregnancy and although I was “healthier” I was still consuming meat and dairy in substantial amounts. I ate much less sugar and because I was making meals at home, I thought that was at least better than restaurant food. My husband, Jordan, also gained a total of forty pounds during the two pregnancies. So, maybe the food I was cooking was not as healthy as I thought.

My mother-in-law gave me Herbal Home Health Care by Dr. John R. Christopher after our first son was born. It teaches a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, and we tried living that way for a while. I did not have recipes ready and could not figure out how to cook that way; the cheese and meat were too tempting to leave behind at that point.

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“Satan no longer has a hold on me through pain in my body and addiction to food”

Cynthia SumnerBy: Cynthia Sumner

During my first year of marriage I started experiencing the effects of eating a mostly processed “dead food” diet. I gained almost 50 pounds during my first pregnancy, but after losing the weight by eating better and exercising, I kept losing without trying. I began to feel sick. I was hungry no matter how much I ate, and I had no energy. Every morning I woke up with very painful hunger pains. I had to sit on the side of my bed with my head over my knees. I felt hot and had absolutely no energy. I had a horrible headache every morning as well, with congestion in my ears and sinuses. The congestion in my ears was so bad that one or both of my ears were completely plugged. I would eat and then feel hungry within an hour. I was unable to go for walks or work in the yard, something I loved to do. I had a hard time staying awake to read a book to my baby. I was very backed up and felt constantly bloated. I chose to be happy, but I felt irritable all of the time.

I had many experts look over me and many tests done, but no one could help, so I felt compelled to search things out on my own. I knew something wasn’t right, and I wanted to figure it out. As I was led to people, books, and resources about natural health, the most profound and powerful feeling moved through me from head to toe, and I knew that my body could heal. The Spirit whispered to my heart through the gift of the Holy Ghost that I was born capable to heal. It makes sense! We are creations of a loving Heavenly Father. Look at the magnificent mountains, breathtaking sunsets, beautiful fields of flowers and trees. We are the most precious creation of all. Surely we are born capable to heal!

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“It brings me joy to eat this way”

Janae Wise FamilyBy: Janae Wise

Though I didn’t grow up vegetarian, I was raised on plenty of farm fresh, local produce—apples, asparagus, cherries, grapes and corn were common local crops. My mother made sure we had plenty of nutritious plant-based meals around the dinner table. Growing up in this environment helped instill in me a love for vegetables, fruits, and all other food grown from the earth.

Fast forward to my adult years. In 2006, I was 23 and pregnant with my second child. My husband was a student, and we couldn’t afford the hefty co-pay for delivering in the hospital, so we decided to have a home birth. I had hypertension at the end of my first pregnancy, and my midwife told me that she could only deliver healthy moms at home, so if I developed hypertension (or any other trouble) I would need to deliver at the hospital. I thought that hypertension was not in my control, but she gave me a different perspective: You can choose to have or not have hypertension based on what you eat. She recommended I go vegan for better health during pregnancy. I thought she was crazy.

But, per her recommendation, I read The China Study (it had just been published) and realized, “You know, there is pretty strong evidence that a plant-based diet is the way to go.” Over the next months (about seven), I slowly weaned myself off dairy and meat. It wasn’t easy (I was pregnant after all), but a few weeks before I had my son, I was completely vegan.

I felt self-conscious about my diet, and I didn’t have a lot of courage. I had told friends and family that I was only going vegan “for the pregnancy.” But once I had my son, I realized, “Hey, I like this. I feel great, and it makes sense to me. I never want to go back to eating the way I used to.” So I told my very supportive husband of my decision, and I’ve never looked back.

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