“I find so much joy as I prepare nutritious meals”

Anne Marie Yates FamilyBy: Ann Marie Yates

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. 

Comments

  1. Ann Marie, I found I identified so much with your article in many ways. My favorite part was about “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!”

    My ward members now have gone from — Phyllis, you can’t get complete protein eating like that” to “Can you eat this?” “Can you have that?” Especially my sisters are very sensitive to my dietary changes. Since I have chronic diseases that require an even stricter application of WFPB diet rules, I am sure it drives everyone crazy. But I, like you, love my food choices now. I do not feel restricted at all. I felt led, like you, to those doctors and whole foods advocates and it has changed my life for the better. So, high five to you! It must be so great to have that extra energy with your five sweet children to run after! I only wish I had known this secret when my kids were little. I had the Word of Wisdom, but didn’t understand a very important part of it that we know now. Thank you for your story. It was inspiring. It’s great to have this forum in which we are presented with others’ efforts to follow the guidelines the Lord has set for us in the Doctrine and Covenants to the full extent! We have been truly blessed.

    • Phyllis, thank you so much for your response! It was hard for me to think of putting myself out there like this, being vulnerable in front of so many people. I am grateful you identified with my story, and like you, I find so much strength in knowing there are others out there like ourselves! The Word of Wisdom holds nothing but blessings for adhering to it more closely!! It is exciting to live in a time when this knowledge is being discovered and accepted by so many. Thank you!

      • Well, Anne Marie, I think we all in this forum or blog have good stories that need to be shared. Jane hasn’t shared my story yet, but she will soon, I believe. The more we all share our testimonies of the Word of Wisdom, the more likely we will be heard. There is strength in numbers. The saddest part for me is I have two dear friends who really need to listen to this message. Both are LDS members and both have significant health problems. One of my friends is a recent convert to the Church, but his wife and he have been married for 37 years. He came to church frequently, most every Sunday for years, but finally made the plunge a year and a half ago into membership. He was just diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I am sure you know the powerful effect a WFPB diet has on cancer just through the positive effect it has on the immune system. I am trying to share this with them; in fact, they took me down to the temple with them today. We talked at length about diet and how my health has improved drastically since using the WFPB diet — I have some serious health issues that resulted from the S.A.D. diet and the WFPB diet turned this around. Even though people choose to use traditional treatment for their cancer, I believe that WFPB can help them, also. Sometimes people feel like things are all or nothing — either going with the medical model or the alternative treatment. It’s like they feel they are somehow turning their backs on something they have believed in all their life — you know, like you need to eat animal protein to get all of your amino acids. I don’t know where they think cows get theirs from — I don’t think they ever considered that — they just believe what the establishment wants them to believe. So it makes me sad. Also, my visiting teaching companion suffers from lupus and has frequent death watches in the hospital. Every time she says she needs to change her diet and eat better, but when we talk about my changes, she says, “I could never give up dairy!’ (She;s from Wisconsin.) So I guess ice cream is more important to her than staying out of the hospital. But I just love her and keep trying. I had to get really sick before I got on my knees and humbled myself to ask God what I needed to do to make myself better. Then he showed me.

        Basically, Anne Marie, don’t be afraid of sharing your testimony. My view is that the adversary really doesn’t want us to bear testimony of the Word of Wisdom. He doesn’t want his kingdom to be disturbed — his lies blind a goodly number of our church. So that’s exactly why I like to open my mouth — I seriously like to be a disturber of his kingdom. It seems like you do, too. Thank you again for your testimony and experience and it gives me strength to continue in a world that wants to paste us as nut cases. =(

        As for Brother Birch, I think he’s the greatest, too. I just love to read his comments. He comments on most all of the posts. I don’t remember one he doesn’t comment on with lots of encouragement. His daughter is certainly a wonder! I am so glad that Jane wrote her book. I am still reading it and I love it so far. =)

  2. Anne Marie, I’m not sure which of your two names you go by so I used both of them in addressing you. I’m used to that challenge, because I’m John Neil Birch, but my parents called me Neil and that is what I was called at school and even at BYU, Provo where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in June of 1960 when President David O., McKay handed me my diploma!

    I truly appreciated the following which was in your very interesting and also very touching account of your struggle to learn to eat in the most wholesome way possible:

    “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!”

    You mentioned that you also eat grains. Of course those are always listed by the experts you have indicated you learned from, to be vital parts of wholesome and beneficial eating. No doubt you know too that the Lord tells us in Section 89:14 of the D. & C. that grains are the staff of life!

    I’d just like to end this somewhat brief endorsement of all that you wrote, by letting you and others who may be reading this, that I’ve learned over and over again by my style of eating that grains are so nutritious and even very delicious. I actually find that after having eaten lots of grains during each particular meal, along with vegetables and fruits, that I find myself making sure that there isn’t even one tiny grain I didn’t actually eat that would be washed down the drain when I wash my dishes. I love eating them! They truly are the staff of life, and they are delicious, at least to this, almost 83 year old man, anyway! I know they give me the endurance I need when I do my heavy duty exercising for 50 minutes at the local Rec. Center on a Precore Adaptive Motion Trainer six times a week. I think I’m the only person who uses one of those two machines as long as I do for six days each week while not sweating noticeably. A dial on those machines tells me that I always burn off at least 480 calories during my exercise sessions.

    I, once again, want you to know that I really appreciated all that you wrote in your wonderful presentation! Your husband and children are truly blessed by your being the mother and wife in their family. Neil Birch

  3. Neil, you are right, I go by both names! That must have been amazing to have President David O. McKay hand you your diploma! I also graduated from BYU and I will be forever grateful for the knowledge and experiences I gained there.

    I have to admit, I was hoping you would comment on my story! I love reading your responses to others’ stories, and especially hearing what you say about your daughter Jane, who has touched so many lives, including mine. You and her mother must be wonderful parents to raise such an incredible individual! Jane is truly one of my role models.

    I was very inspired by the story of your conversion to plant based eating, and I commend you for accepting it later in life! It is a testimony to me that blessings will come, no matter when we accept these truths and make them a part of our lives. How remarkable that you can exercise and live with such vigor and energy at 83. I aspire to be exactly like you!

    Yes, grains are a big part of my life. I have always loved grains in every form, so the thought of a diet that restricts them (like Atkins) was very hard for me to accept. I have felt a confirmation many times that it is good and right to eat grains. One of my favorites is quinoa (thought I have learned it is technically a seed); in fact I am known in my ward for providing a quinoa dish of some sort at almost every pot luck function! I can’t help it. There are just too many good ways to eat quinoa! I am proud to have introduced it to many people who had never dared try it before. I can agree with you wholeheartedly that it is a tragedy to wash even one tiny grain down the sink!

    Another part of eating grains that I feel strongly about is feeding my family whole-grain, homemade bread. At times I have felt overwhelmed by the enormous appetites of my growing children. I have prayed to know how in the world to keep them full! Especially without the usual standard American staples, like goldfish crackers, Doritos, potato chips, etc. The answer I have been given is bread and potatoes! I often make homemade bread or homemade french fries as after-school snacks. I love knowing that my kids are satisfying their appetites with food that nourishes them as well as fills them up.

    Thank you so much for your comments on my story! May you have many more wonderful and productive years through the blessings of living the Word of Wisdom.

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