“A distinct thought came into my mind, ‘You can do better.’”

Arianna ReesBy: Arianna Rees

May of last year, as I was sitting at the kitchen table one morning, a distinct thought came into my mind, “You can do better.” It wasn’t in a tone of chastisement, but rather it came as one stating a simple fact. I sat startled for a moment, but quickly recognized the source of those words as being from the Spirit. I had recently felt prompted to study the effects of nutrition on mental health, a topic close to my heart. The research that I found was fascinating and led to further and further study and discovery of the very powerful effects that food choice can have, not only on our physical health, but also on our emotional and mental well-being as well.

That morning in the kitchen, I had just read several articles on the effects of antibiotics given to farm animals and their documented negative effects on long-term health on those of us consuming those animal products. The truth of those statements and facts, for whatever reason, spoke to me more clearly and more directly that day than ever before. And so I sat and pondered. It was then that the Spirit helped me to see that I could do better, especially since I was the gatekeeper of my family’s general diet and eating habits.

It is often said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. The teacher showed up in a big way from familiar sources that morning. I was immediately reminded of the Biblical account of Daniel gaining favor and strength due to his firm decision to eat grains and abstain from the king’s meats. I turned to the Bible to re-read the account and found myself reading a well-known story with fresh eyes. Daniel’s countenance shown and was filled with great knowledge and wisdom. What an amazing blessing! I felt so strongly that he was not only blessed for his courage in being obedient to a spiritual law, but he also was experiencing direct effects physically for having obeyed a physical law that had physical consequences. He was living the Word of Wisdom fully and experienced blessings of spirit, mind, and body.

I quickly turned to D&C 89, a section that I was so very familiar with. What was different this time in my reading was that I read each verse more literally than ever before. I no longer focused on the “thou shalt not’s,” but rather read from the perspective of the “thou shalt’s.” I had been keeping the portion of the Word of Wisdom well when it came to abstaining from drugs, alcohol, etc. I had been eating a healthy and well-rounded diet by most standards. But there it was stated so clearly—I could do better in eating meat sparingly, eating more whole foods, and foods in season.

My mind immediately raced to answer the question of what exactly “better” meant at that point for my family and me. Yes, there were improvements that I definitely knew could be made. We could start buying organic meat, milk, and produce items in order to avoid common yet harmful pesticide treatments and antibiotics. The processed food items in my pantry that served as quick and easy snacks and side dishes could be replaced with more whole foods. We could start eating more meatless meals. The refinements that could be made filled my mind quickly at that moment.

As with contemplating any major change, I began to consider the possible challenges. I thought of the resistance from my family, the increased cost of our monthly food bill and all sorts of other possible reasons why this sudden inspiration would be difficult to implement. Over the next few weeks, as I started to make smaller modifications towards improving our diet and our pantry choices, I was again strongly impressed by the Spirit with some direct instructions, “Fast for 40 days.”

Once again I found myself startled by the directness of the prompting. How on earth was I going to fast for 40 days? No way!! I had recently gone back to school, I had a family to take care of, and I was working part-time. There was no way that I could even consider something so totally extreme! Fortunately the clarification came quickly and it was that I should fast from animal proteins for 40 days. I literally wept as the realization came. It felt like such a huge and difficult challenge! I was already feeling so taxed by all that I had before me, that to think about a menu each day that was entirely vegetarian was just about more than I felt mentally ready to tackle. But I accepted the challenge from the Spirit knowing from experience that somehow it would work out and that it would be worth it.

Sure enough, 40 days came and went and after only a short time into that fast, I found myself feeling much more confident about how to eat a balanced whole foods diet. There are so many great resources on the internet! I had fun looking up new recipe ideas, and the immediate health benefits kept me encouraged. I had dealt for years with a very heavy and painful menstrual cycle only to find it immediately healed—something that no doctor had been able to help me with prior to this point. In addition to feeling generally better, more importantly, I found that my ability to be sensitive to the Spirit continued to improve in ways that I didn’t know were possible. My spiritual gifts increased as they did with Daniel and as promised in D&C 89. It was immediate testimony to me that our foods can heal us and are a powerful tool in our mortal experience.

It’s been almost a year now since that morning in the kitchen and my whole food, plant-based diet journey has been a beautiful one. Though my family does not eat entirely meat-free with me, they have been willing to include more whole foods, look for organic food options, and support me in my choice to live the Word of Wisdom more fully as the Spirit has led me to live at this time. I’ve been able to teach others and lead by example by sharing practical tips, so that others can see that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. I am grateful that the “mysteries of God” and truth are revealed to us in their simplicity when we’re ready to abide by them.

Arianna Rees is 39 years old and lives in Vancouver, WA. She views all of her life experiences as an adventure, including her marriage of 18 years and her three children, ages 9 to 16. Her passions in life include getting herself and others into the outdoors as much as possible as well as finding and sharing all that is good and beautiful in the world. She blogs at Whole Happy Heart.

Comments

  1. I am touched that the Lord asked you to fast for 40 days, the same number of days that He fasted. It was not an easy thing for you to do, but you did it for Him. Thanks for sharing your powerful story with all of us!

    • Thank you, Jane. I was both encouraged as well as humbled by the prompting to fast for that specific number. I taught Gospel Doctrine last year and we discussed the significance and symbolism of the number 40 quite a bit, so when that direction came, it had even more meaning for me. Thank you for letting me share my experiences with the beautiful doctrine!

  2. Wow! I thought doing the incurables for 3 months was hard, but at least I had vegetable juice and water. I can’t even imagine how hard it was, but obedience brings marvelous blessings. You are remarkable.

    • It was a fast from animal products only. I got to eat plenty of everything else!! 🙂 That was a challenge enough seeing that I had become accustomed to having meat at the center of most of my meals each day. It didn’t take long to stop craving meat and within a few months, the taste and texture actually became repulsive to me. Thanks for you kind comments and for reading my story.

  3. Arianna, I was very deeply touched by your willingness to submit to Heavenly Father’s will when you listened with faith to the guidance He was giving you. “It was then that the Spirit helped me to see that I could do better, especially since I was the gatekeeper of my family’s general diet and eating habits.”

    What a blessing it is to be a family member where a loving mother feels that way about her role in her family. May He continue blessing you and your family!

    • So very kind of you! Thank you for your support. I have seen time and time again that things that were in front of me all along didn’t really light up for me until I was ready to put those truths to work in my life. This most definitely was one of those times. I’m grateful for the Lord’s mercy in not committing us to things until we are ready! I’m especially thankful that I was given an intense challenge that produced immediate results. It definitely was a big conversion factor and gave me the encouragement to stick with these changes. Thank you for reading my story!

  4. Arianna,

    What an incredible story! Thanks for sharing such a personal witness from the spirit. Just like you, my experience was and continues to be promptings from the spirit as much as I’m willing to learn and do as instructed. He’s such a loving teacher! Thanks for your awesome example! You’ve inspired me to remember that “I can do better!”

    Katie

    • Thanks, Katie! The Spirit is definitely the very best “expert” that we can listen to in our lives. Had I listened to expert medical professionals, I would have lost my uterus years ago and been unable to have children. The Spirit intervened and three kids later…:) A few months ago I felt prompted to stop taking iron supplements that I’ve been on for years due to anemia. I had my levels tested recently and I’m in the normal range all on my own now and that’s on a totally vegetarian diet! So awesome! Thanks for your support and kind words. I love hearing how so many are having similar nudges and results. Such a blessing.

  5. Arianna, thank you for sharing your story. I, too, am very impressed with the impact of diet on mental health, and have realized that the chronic and epidemic problems of depression, anxiety, OCD, panic disorder, and related mental health concerns are completely curable with diet, no medication needed, if only people are willing. However, so many are not willing, and I am grateful for knowledge of herbs (concentrated micronutrient foods) to help those with at least a little willingness to get through the difficult initial phase more quickly, and find relief. I’m finding that these two–diet and a few herbal supports–have been able to work wonders in my clients and even in myself!

    It is sad that so many are so SAD and suffer so needlessly. Thank you so much for your story, and your example of humility and willingness.

    Winona

    • Hi Winona! I was a psychology major in college and am starting a masters in counseling program in the fall. I have been drawn to learning about natural remedies the more that I’ve seen western medicine’s inability to provide true help to those who suffer from mental health issues. I have found the research out there fascinating as well as the very clear impressions from the Spirit as to what really can help and what really causes so much of the depression, ADD, etc. in our culture. I’ve seen treating myself with such things to work in profound ways as well. I can’t wait to be able to put all of this knowledge to use in my own practice someday. Thank you for adding your thoughts and experiences in your own practice.

      • I have been plant-based for two weeks now and love it. Now I am feeling prompted to investigate the very topic you speak of, how diet affects mental health. Both my girls (12, 11) struggle with anxiety and I really want to see if they can get off meds and treat it naturally. Do you have any resources that were particularly helpful in your study of this topic?

  6. This is an amazing story , I am very touched . I am studying this year and I have been struggling to concentrate for a long time . I had an idea that what was happening had something to do with food that I eat .

    To come across this story has given me a confirmation of my suspicions.and I have felt the spirit testify that this is right for me .

    Thank you ever so much
    Bongi
    Durban
    South Africa

    • Hi Bongi! My husband served an LDS church mission in South Africa. Such a beautiful part of the world. I love that technology joins us together no matter where we are! I am so, so grateful that my experience has touched you in some way. I felt prompted to share it with Jane a few months ago and I’m humbled to hear all of the kind and encouraging words. Yes, it’s amazing how much food can help, heal, or hurt us. My son struggles with some mood issues which are inherited genetically. I discovered how much gut flora and diet could improve his mental health and stability. It has done so when he eats better! Such an easy remedy without needing medication at this time. I am so grateful. I even found that I feel much happier mentally and emotionally when I eat well–no processed foods, no sugar (desserts, etc.), and increasing my probiotics. The body is amazing and the instructions to care for it are basic. 🙂 Best wishes to you in your studies!

      • Hello Arianna

        This has been an amazing time of my life , bumping on this website was not my doing at all. A month ago I was not really observant of my meals I indulged meat everyday
        I remember one Saturday when I attempted to go to bed I felt sick and I did not wake to pray I just said these words, Heavenly Father what is it that I am not doing right in my life right now . Immediately my eyes were directed to the copy of my patriarchal blessing that was lying on my bedside table , my eyes went straight to the line where I have a clear counsel to read D&C 89 to read it understand it and live it . I was shocked because I had realized that no matter how much I read my scriptures and pray I did not feel the Spirit .

        I made a decision there and there to follow this counsel, but I did not know how .The next day when I opened my computer there was an email that came from lds living site I clicked on that email , before I could read that email I saw your topic Discovering the Word of Wisdom . I decided to read everything and when I learned what you were saying about meat It was more than I could handle and to crown it all my blood type is A+ which does not allow me to eat meat excessively . I quickly decided to stop eating meat that day , and I thought that well this is going to be a journey , the next few days I was praying to do what is right for my health then I came across your article of fasting for 40 days . I totally dismissed that in my mind and I was also happy to learn that you had the same attitude too, only to read that it meant not eating meat for 40 days that resonated with me . I called my two boys and told them about my decision they were happy for me but it was not what they wanted to embark on .

        I am happy to let you know that for the first time I feel that now I am keeping this commandment , this is the 4th day and I like the prompting that you have received that you can do better . I am so happy the body ache that were permanently present are gone, stiff joints, and the chronic sinusitis that I suffer from as well as sporadic depression is also gone . I am so grateful to my Father in Heaven and his Son Jesus Christ for guiding me to this website . In just 4 days so much has happened and more is still going to happen I can write a book about what has just happened to make this adjustment a reality and an easy one , I have won a magazine from a shop with all the vegetarian dishes that are just compatible to my blood type
        .
        I am very excited as I am learning so many things about my body, I have had so many questions but I did not know where to get answers .
        I have finally discovered the Word of Wisdom .

        Regards

        Bongi Ndlela
        Durban
        South Africa

  7. What an amazing story. It is interesting to note how the Spirit speaks to many of us, just like it did to me, to help us live better. Through Infinite Love, it encourages us to eat better and take care of our bodies — our Temples.

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