My story starts back when I was in high school. I had gotten really interested in alternative medicine and read a lot of books and studied it a lot. I also searched the scriptures and found that herbs and mild food could be used to help heal those who were sick. As I studied and thought about all of these things, I came to my own conclusion that it was best to avoid needing medicine in any form and the way to achieve that was through eating good food. Through this conclusion and through prayer, I decided to study nutrition when I went to college.
I loved my college courses and was very eager to learn. I even got jobs with the university dietitian and at the dorm food service. I did well in all my classes and graduated with honors. During my college learning, there was one class in particular that I had really looked forward to. It was “Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease.” THIS was the exact reason I wanted to study nutrition in the first place! I was really excited and devoured the book. As the semester wore on though, and as I read the book more, there was very little, if any, talk of preventing disease through diet. It only talked about treating disease . . . by calorie counting and protein counting. I was so disappointed in this class.
My studies in general never really took a firm stance on what NOT to eat. The underlying message was that everything could be eaten in moderation, and when you eat meat and dairy, choose low-fat. However, at the time of graduation I was pretty satisfied with what I had learned and the best information that I took away from it all was to use whole, unprocessed grains and food.
Soon after graduating my family started to grow, and I took the information I had learned and did the best I could to feed my family. I mostly used whole wheat, whole rice, whole oats, and I cooked almost everything from scratch. My motto for sugar was, “whole wheat covereth a multitude of sins.” Anything was game so long as it was made with whole wheat! I prepared meat that was low fat and grass fed when I could. I fed my kids whole milk and cheese with fruits and a few vegetables. According to all my knowledge, I was feeding my kids a fairly healthy diet.
By the time I had baby number three I got kind of relaxed with our nutrition. It wasn’t unusual to eat ice cream for breakfast because “Hey, there’s calcium in it.” I still mostly cooked from scratch and whole grains but that darn sugar kept finding its way into our lives.
Around this time, I started searching the scriptures again about food. After much study I determined that I should not be eating as much meat as I was. I declared to my husband that I was no longer eating meat. At this time my husband was dead set on eating as much protein as possible. He is a weight lifter and protein is as holy as the Bible in the sports world. He and a friend of his came down pretty hard on me and mocked me for being vegetarian, especially because I chose to do so based on scripture. They quoted the scripture that said we should not command to abstain from meat and argued with me about that point, along with eating meat sparingly.
I was not confident in my scriptural knowledge of these topics compared to the vehement arguments I got from my husband and his friend. I also had the voice of my nutrition professors in the back of my head saying, “If a diet takes out any of the food groups, it’s not a good diet.” I couldn’t stand up against all of this opposition, and my vegetarian lifestyle lasted two weeks. Interestingly enough, about six months later I came across The China Study and read it to my husband on a road trip. We decided that we needed to eat more vegetables but that we should still eat meat. He was still very much into protein, and I still hadn’t come to a strong enough conclusion to not eat meat. So that was that.
I didn’t really think deeply about food and nutrition for a while because we moved to a new state and got pregnant with twins. I was overjoyed about the twins but also scared to death that they wouldn’t make it full term. I read everything I could, and once again, diet seemed to be the answer. Only this time it was along the lines of “eat a lot of protein so the babies can grow,” which I did. They were full-term and weighed 6.3 and 6.7 pounds. We were very happy with the outcome but by the time they made it here I was sick of meat and dairy. It didn’t feel good to eat that much. When the boys were about 8 months old we discovered that one of them was allergic to dairy and eggs. I gladly stopped eating dairy and eggs because I was nursing them and didn’t want to cause allergic reactions in him.
It was during this time that I started thinking about meat consumption again. I did more research and did a lot of nutrition comparison with meat and beans. I was hooked up on this protein business because of my college training and also my husband’s incessant drive to eat protein. But the interesting thing was that I found that beans have a comparative amount of protein to meat but SO many more nutrients! I was thrilled by this knowledge.
With that as a backdrop, I was on Facebook and came across a post from a friend of mine who was eating a plant-based diet. She was really excited to read a book called Discovering the Word of Wisdom by Jane Birch. I clicked the link and my life changed. I read Jane’s website and all the stories from other Mormons eating plant-based diets. I watched Forks Over Knives. I scoured the Internet finding more information about being whole food plant based. My mind was on fire! I felt the Spirit so strongly. I KNEW this was right. THIS was what I had been looking for all those many years ago. THIS was what was missing in my nutrition education!
I was so excited and knew that this was right. I knew this is what Heavenly Father wanted for me. I knew so strongly that it was right that I fasted that I would be able to make the change and stick with it. He answered my prayers, and I was able to make the change without much difficulty although there was a learning curve in the cooking department. I haven’t had cravings for dairy or meat, although I do have cravings for sugar that I give into sometimes. I have found, though, that the more I stay away from sugar the less strong the cravings are.
I LOVE eating plant-based. I LOVE using whole foods. I know that our bodies were designed to eat this way and that by doing so we can prevent and even reverse disease! Although I don’t have tests to say what changes have happened inside my body, I can say that I have lost weight, my digestion is better, my husband says I look healthier, and mostly I feel so much happier eating this way.
Speaking of my husband, he is now experimenting with a plant-based lifestyle! My hard-core-meat-eating-weight-lifting husband is plant based for most of the week and is really supportive of me doing it! My five kids are eating plant-based, mostly by default (a mother has a lot of influence in what is cooked in the home 😉 ) They can choose to eat meat and dairy if they either buy it themselves or it’s given to them by others, but they know why we eat this way, and they aren’t afraid to tell others. My mother and father-in-law just recently became plant based through my example and my sister is mostly plant-based and is working on transitioning her family also! I’m so happy to be eating in a way that is pleasing to the Lord, that is good for our bodies, and prevents disease!
Amy Bjorkman, 39 years old, lives in Meridian, Idaho. She is a wife and mother to 5 children ages 12 to 2. Her passion is food and she loves cooking. She is currently working on offering cooking classes for high school students to help them learn cooking skills and nutrition. She believes a mother can change generations, and she wants to inspire future mothers to be prepared to choose and make healthy meals as they enter adulthood, live on their own, and start having their own families.No tags for this post.