“I’ve decided to stick with revelation on the subject of nutrition”

Barbara CramerBy: Barbara Cramer

I am 61 years old, and from the time I married at age 20, I have always been interested in health and nutrition. My parents were ahead of their time in that they believed in cracked wheat cereal, whole wheat bread, and eating lots of fruits, vegetables and salads every day; however, there was always plenty of meat on the menu, and drinking milk at every meal was gospel.

I have enjoyed good health most of my life, and through vigilance, never had a weight problem. However, about six years ago I started having severe knee pain and was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. I visited an orthopedic doctor and was seriously considering surgery on my right knee. I had also had a couple of colonoscopies with several pre-cancerous polyps. My cholesterol levels were on the high side, although not dangerous. I was always constipated and also had rosacea, a skin condition.

My mother (now aged 92) has severe osteoporosis and arthritis, and my father (an amazing and active 94) has used statins and blood-thinners for years; both have had bouts with cancer (now seemingly in remission after surgeries and radiation). My husband’s father died at age 62 from heart disease, and his mother from stroke. With all this in the family, I became interested in finding ways to maximize our health possibilities.

About five years ago, I started making and drinking lots of green smoothies, per “Green Smoothie Girl.” This helped my digestion, but I continued to use lots of dairy every day, plus some meats and eggs. Then, three years ago, a friend recommended the book Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. The next week, we had lunch with friends who told us they were on a vegan diet and that it had cured their migraine headaches and prostate cancer. Then yet another friend recommended the book The China Study by Colin Campbell. I wondered why I was suddenly having all these encounters with whole food, plant-based (WFPB) information, but I did the reading and became convinced that the science was reliable.

I decided I would try the diet for three months and see how I felt. I had read and studied a number of diets before, so it was like a light went on when I realized that the WFPB diet was really just the Word of Wisdom stated anew! Now when people present me with information that contradicts it, I just say that I’ve decided to stick with revelation on the subject. Otherwise, one month it’s this, and the next month, it’s that. Tossed to and fro . . . whom to believe? But with divine counsel, it’s easy. Why did it take me so long to come to this understanding? It seems so obvious now. But cultural influences are powerful and had prevented me from embracing it sooner.

I’m sorry to say it was science that convinced me that the Word of Wisdom is the key to diet, but maybe that was just the way the Lord could reach me. I also loved the fact that with a WFPB diet I didn’t have to buy any special products, juices, or powders. Although the whole food, plant-based experts do sell their books and other things, you certainly CAN follow their advice completely without making them rich. Just buy grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes in bulk, fill your shopping cart with fresh produce, non-dairy milk, and tofu, and start cooking! (Thank you Sprouts, Winco, and Costco for making the shopping easier and cheaper.)

I have always enjoyed cooking, but cooking for a WFPB lifestyle has become a very fun new hobby! I love reading and trying out new recipes. As long as I am eating at home (which I am able to do most of the time) it is very easy to comply. I cook in quantity and freeze smaller portions for convenience. My husband is intellectually convinced and happily eats whatever I serve, but his business requires him to eat at restaurants frequently, which is hard. He calls himself a “Jack-vegan” and doesn’t follow 100%, but he has a great attitude. He accepts the ribbing from his friends, and reminds them that he’s trying to help save the environment, as well as his health. (On the rare occasions that we choose to eat out, we love “Sage’s Cafe” in Salt Lake City.)

Not long after I began the WFPB diet, my knees started to feel better, my skin cleared up, and the constipation completely went away. My latest colonoscopy was totally clear. I am very active physically and exercise six days a week. My joints all feel great, and I have absolutely no knee pain anymore! Many people are skeptical about this because x-rays had shown that the cartilage in my knees was practically gone, but what can I say? I used to have a lot of knee pain, and now I have none. I love doing yoga and just took a yoga teacher training class this summer. Most of my fellow students were college-aged girls, but I kept up pretty well with them.

Last February, I attended a Forks Over Knives conference one weekend in Phoenix (BTW, they have a great website, newsletter, and recipe app). Drs. Campbell, Esselstyn, Greger, Lisle, and other WFPB luminaries were there. What fun to be among like-minded people and get reinforcement and new ideas! During one of the breaks, I asked Dr. Esselstyn why my elevated cholesterol wasn’t going down in spite of 2 1/2 years on the diet. He said, “Are you drinking a lot of smoothies?” “Oh yes,” I responded, “Usually two or three a day.” “That’s your problem,” he said. “Processing all those fruits and veggies in the blender makes the glucose go immediately into your liver and convert to cholesterol. You need to chew your food rather then drink it.” I went home and quit the smoothies. Six weeks later, my cholesterol numbers were down 35 points, to an acceptable (if not low) range.

This diet has been a little challenging socially. I have learned to just smile and say, “It seems to work for me” when people challenge the idea. This is a non-confrontational statement that defuses the tension. We go to a lot of banquet-style events, and I have become fearless in telling the servers when we arrive that we need a vegan meal. Sometimes the food’s not very good, but other times, the fellow diners at our table look on enviously, because they have some big slab of meat they’d rather not eat. I’ve learned it’s also a good idea to eat something before going to a social event so I don’t starve.

I can honestly say I don’t miss meat or cow’s milk . . . thank goodness for almond/soy milks for cereal and cooking. I do miss yogurt, and I have a little occasionally (can’t somebody come up with a reasonably priced almond or coconut milk substitute?). Fruits and vegetables just taste wonderful to me now . . . I think once you stop eating over-sweetened and salted processed foods, you can better appreciate the flavors of simple foods. I used to really miss ice cream, but when I tried it recently, it was too rich. I don’t miss cheese much, but boy, is it hard to avoid in restaurants!

I’m not afraid of death and am not trying to extend my life indefinitely. I just want to enjoy the years I have left as free of pain as possible. I look at my poor mother who is SO bent over and twisted and suffering from mild dementia. But she has faithfully consumed practically a quart of skim milk a day for as long as can remember, plus lots of cottage cheese and yogurt. If anyone should have healthy bones as a result of dairy consumption, it would be her! I’m hoping to avoid that fate, and also keep my husband alive as long as possible so we can serve the Lord, the Church, and our family.

I have always had a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, knowing that neither he nor anyone else in the 19th Century could have had the knowledge of ancient cultures, language, literature, warfare, etc. that informs the Book of Mormon. Likewise, only revelation could have given him the life-saving information we have in the Word of Wisdom. And it is exactly that—divine advice to help us feel healthy and happy! It took a little mind and appetite retraining, but once having adopted this diet, I can’t imagine going back to my old ways of eating. I have loved being able to introduce several of my friends to this precious knowledge, and I hope to be able to kindly pass it on to many more people.

Barbara Welch Cramer grew up in Southern California and went to BYU, where she met her husband, Lew Cramer, and graduated with a BA in English. As a life-long musician, she is accomplished on the piano, organ, and voice. She sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir 2007-14 (until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60!). She loves reading, cooking, practicing and teaching yoga, bicycling, and hiking in the mountains. Barb and Lew enjoy their 6 children and 13 grandchildren (none of whom are vegan—yet.) They have lived in California and McLean, Virginia (1984-2006) and now live in downtown Salt Lake City.

Comments

  1. Great story. Isn’t eating WFPB wonderful? I do slip up from time to time, but I would never go back to my old way of eating.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. I love eating this way. Sometimes though I crave cinnamon rolls or some such nonsense. Once at a farmer’s market type place, my husband and I saw two large woman walking along eating very large cinnamon rolls…and the smell was amazing. I said to my husband, those look yummy. Without missing a beat, he said, eat like that; look like that. It became our mantra. Anytime one of us is weak, the other says, eat like that; look like that.

  3. Barbara, I just read all that you submitted and was impressed by how you have been making very good progress getting into the Whole-Food, Plant Based or “Word of Wisdom way of eating!”

    I took special note of the following which was included in what you submitted to my eldest daughter, Jane Birch above:

    “I decided I would try the diet for three months and see how I felt. I had read and studied a number of diets before, so it was like a light went on when I realized that the WFPB diet was really just the Word of Wisdom stated anew! Now when people present me with information that contradicts it, I just say that I’ve decided to stick with revelation on the subject. Otherwise, one month it’s this, and the next month, it’s that. Tossed to and fro . . . whom to believe? But with divine counsel, it’s easy. Why did it take me so long to come to this understanding? It seems so obvious now. But cultural influences are powerful and had prevented me from embracing it sooner.”

    I especially really appreciated the following from that: “whom to believe? But with divine counsel, it’s easy. Why did it take me so long to come to this understanding? It seems so obvious now. But cultural influences are powerful and had prevented me from embracing it sooner.”

    Your trust in Heavenly Father is going to keep taking you toward reaching the health goals you have set for yourself! Keep trusting Him! You are already looked up to by me and others who have or before long will have read what you submitted above!

    Neil Birch

  4. Okay, when I saw your name on this, Barbara, I promised myself I was going to read everything you said BEFORE I READ YOUR bio. I was excited to see you and I just knew that once again the Lord is working in marvelous and mysterious ways in my life! I haven’t seen you and Lew in so many years — since the 1980s, I think, I used to be Phyllis DeVoe when you knew me and Lew was my home teacher, your brother-in-law was my bishop, and later when I moved to La Canada, your dad was my bishop! How wonderful you, too, have found the WFPB lifestyle. You always looked so beautiful and healthy. You are still so beautiful, Barbara! I met someone at the Fresno temple one day last year who knows you and your family, also. Okay… my story will be coming out pretty soon, too. I just submitted it to Jane recently. Lew gets a thumbs up from me, too. My new husband, Stu, is also trying to be supportive of me. I love eating so many fruits and veggies. Tonight I was coming home from stake conference with friends in my ward and the husband was saying how he doesn’t like broccoli, peas, beans, corn, carrots… well the list goes on and on. I told him, “Grant, I think you would starve to death in my house!” I can’t imagine not loving so many wonderful fruits and vegetables that God has blessed us with. So sad to hear about Nita — your mom is just he best lady ever! So happy to hear your dad is still doing so well. I love the picture of you and Lew! Do you remember when we moved to La Canada and there was a dog enclosure in the backyard and Lew said we could keep our kids in it? *LOL* Well, I am so thrilled to learn the Lord has been leading you to a better understanding of the Word of Wisdom as well. God bless you and yours, Barbara and Lew. He has blessed me in great abundance while I have experienced many great health trials as well.

    “”

    • Phyllis, it was so fun to hear from you! Those Glendale years were so memorable and wonderful for us. You’ll be happy to know that my Dad is still on the high council in our stake, goes hiking and golfing whenever possible, and skied many times last winter. He’s doing a good job looking after my mom, and they both live in the same condo building where we live, so I can check in on them every day.

      Blessings to you!

  5. This is wonderful … so much of your personal journey mirrors my own, some 30 years ago when I went plant-based. I loved watching conference this past weekend and particularly the choir. I have two friends in it so watch their performances carefully hoping for a close-up. I remarked to my wife that there was no way that the mandatory retirement age was only 60 as so many members of the choir look so much older. I assume that not many of them have “discovered” the Word of Wisdom as you have. It is a shame that one of our most visible ambassadors for the gospel doesn’t reflect the youthful glow that comes from adherence to one of our most powerful and plainly articulated revelations. Your comment about the irony of science bringing you back to the Word of Wisdom hit me particularly hard. Without more plain talk from our leaders, it is up to us to set the example and reach out. My plant-based colleague and co-host of “Mormon Vegetarian” would love to have you as a guest on our weekly podcast. If you are willing, perhaps you could send me your email or reach out at byronelton@gmail.com.

  6. I keep hearing that there is vegan yogurt (soy-based, maybe?) but I have yet to find any (I live in Spokane, WA). If anyone reading this comment knows of any such product, it may benefit Barbara, the readers of her wonderful story, as well as myself!

  7. They have the Whole Soy yogurt at my Trader Joe’s in Salt Lake City. It’s OK, it just doesn’t taste like dairy yogurt. Just one of those things. Phyllis, what a blast from the past to hear from you! Those Glendale years were wonderful for us in so many ways. Blessings to you!

    • You know, in so many ways, I feel that the hastening of the work also involves the enlightenment of the Saints. I am so happy to hear you have had such great results with the WFPB diet, too. Does anyone else feel like that, too, or is it just me? I think the Lord is speaking to us to help us heal ourselves through nutrition. Maybe so we can have the strength to go through what He has planned for our future on this planet.

  8. Phyllis, I fully endorse what you just wrote, every single word of it! I’m positive the Lord is speaking to each of us through His Word of Wisdom, Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, and also through wise men and women both in this Church and outside of it too! I’m so deeply grateful for the man I’ve become since my daughter Jane became enlightened and then almost three years ago personally taught her now almost eighty three year old Dad about the great and marvelous truths of verses 10 through 21 of Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants which the Lord gave us through His First prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith! HOSANNA!! (using a marvelous scriptural word of praise!

    J.Neil Birch

  9. glad to hear it, Cristie! I will be 5 years WFPB this fall and feel better than ever. It’s really a joy cooking and eating this way! Only occasionally do i find a “convert”, but several of them have had amazing turn-arounds in their health and that is the most satisfying feeling of all, being able to help others.

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