I first heard the term “plant-based diet” a year and a half ago. I was nearing the birth of my fifth baby and was anxious to lose the baby weight and get back into shape. I had successfully lost weight in the past on a high-protein, low-carb regimen, so I visited a body builder web site, ordered protein powders and selected menus and workouts to begin as soon as possible after my baby was born.
In the meantime, my sister told me about a documentary on Netflix called Hungry for Change. I watched it, and then I watched Forks Over Knives. Both films outline the dangers of eating the standard American diet (SAD) and show the benefits of eating a variety of whole, natural foods. Forks Over Knives introduced me to a wealth of information about the danger of animal protein, which was completely new to me.
I knew immediately I should not follow my high-protein, low-carb weight loss plan. I ordered books from many of the experts in the documentaries including Colin Campbell, Rip Esselstyn, John McDougall, and Joel Fuhrman. I read everything I could about a plant-based diet and was impressed with how closely it follows the Word of Wisdom. I had always had a nagging feeling that the “body-building” diet was not in line with the Word of Wisdom, but I didn’t realize modern research so closely backs up the “do’s” in the Word of Wisdom and not just the “don’ts.”
One of my favorite parts of more fully living the truths found in the Word of Wisdom is learning how following a plant-based diet can prevent most, if not all of the commonly accepted diseases related to aging. Last spring, my mom lost her fourth sibling to cancer, my beloved Aunt Wilma. I felt very helpless as I realized that cancer seems to run in my family, and I prayed to know how to eat as healthfully as possible to avoid future illnesses. After watching the documentaries, I felt empowered that I could control my own health destiny. I decided to have my cholesterol tested to get a starting point to go from, and was shocked when the results came back high! I committed to six months of not eating animal products of any kind. I was retested in February and my cholesterol was down 30 points and is now in the “safe” zone. I am striving to lower it even more, and I love how healthy and strong I feel when I follow this way of eating. My migraines, body aches, acne, mood swings and cravings are greatly diminished, if not gone altogether.
I have faced many challenges, as most people do when converting to a new way of life. It isn’t meat, dairy, or eggs that are tempting to me, it’s sugar! I have finally realized that I am truly addicted to sugar. I justify having treats because they have little or no animal products in them, but one treat turns into a LOT for me and then I gain weight and feel grumpy, discouraged and generally just not felt very good. I can see the hand of the adversary in all of it. Talk about fiery darts! He knows all he has to do is shoot a cookie or a cupcake my way and boom . . . my healthy eating aspirations are out the window. It seems so obvious but it has been a big realization for me. I am striving to establish better health habits, such relying on getting enough rest and exercise to give me strength and energy, instead of turning to a bag of chocolate chips at 3 pm!
Another hard part is the social aspect: explaining to others why I don’t eat meat or dairy. What has been most frustrating to me is the “protein myth” (which I used to believe myself) that we need a large amount of animal protein to be healthy. In fact, the opposite is true, and it has been hard for me to respectfully decline meat without having others take it personally or feel that I am judging them for their choices. I try to be a positive example of good health and, like Jane Birch says, “Spread the joy!”
As the wife of an avid hunter with a freezer full of wild game, I have had to be gentle with my family. I still cook meat for them, but not nearly as often as I used to. I try to focus on including more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans instead of just getting rid of the meat. My family hardly notices that we now have several “meat-free” days a week, and I have gradually phased out things like lunch meat, milk with every meal, and large slabs of meat as a main course. We used to go through close to a gallon of milk a day. Now my family of seven uses only two gallons a week, and they haven’t even noticed the difference.
One thing that helps me stick to a plant strong diet is having plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand, as well as cooked sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa. My favorite meal is to throw together a “bowl” of grains, veggies, beans and greens and sprinkle it with seasoning salt or a low fat dressing. The possibilities are endless! I love making healthy salad dressings by substituting a ripe avocado for the oil. It is so nice to be able to eat as much as I want and not feel guilty. When I need motivation to continue this way of eating I challenge myself to record all the healthy food I eat each day, and try to beat the number of healthy foods I ate the previous day. I find there is not much room for processed food when I am focusing on eating a large variety of healthy, whole foods.
Earlier this year I was introduced to Jane Birch’s book, Discovering the Word of Wisdom. As I read it I found myself saying, “Yes! Yes!” over and over. Here was everything I had read and studied and felt, all put together in one amazing book. I am so grateful to Jane for linking modern science with the truths found in the Word of Wisdom. Reading Discovering the Word of Wisdom and participating in the online community Jane has established have been invaluable in helping me be dedicated to this way of life.
My testimony has been strengthened as I realize how much my Heavenly Father cares for my spiritual AND physical well being, and has given me tools and instructions for living the best life possible. I consider it a tender mercy of the Lord to have discovered this information at a time when healthy, whole foods are more available and convenient than ever before.
I feel so blessed and fortunate to have received these “hidden treasures of knowledge” through the Word of Wisdom. Not only do I feel better physically and mentally, I feel closer to the spirit. I am more sensitive to promptings and to the feelings of others. I feel a reverence for nature that I haven’t experienced before. I find so much joy as I plan and prepare nutritious meals. Best of all, good food tastes even better!
Anne Marie Yates is 37 years old. She and her husband have five children and live in Lehi, Utah. She enjoys reading, playing the piano, mowing the lawn, cooking, baking, trying new recipes and learning about health and nutrition. Anne Marie and her family enjoy the outdoors and are looking forward to baby Livi getting a little bit bigger so they can all have more adventures together in Utah’s beautiful mountains. Anne Marie can frequently be found driving kids to basketball practices, gymnastics and scouts, as well as drawing dinosaurs, cleaning up play dough and setting up train tracks.