By: 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.