Four years ago it was getting progressively hard for me to get around. Something as simple as getting in and out of the tub became a safety issue. I had my bathroom remodeled and the tub removed. Safety bars were installed in the shower.
When shopping, I had to decide which side of the grocery store to shop as I couldn’t cover the entire store in one visit. I gave up my Sam’s Club membership and stopped shopping at Wal-Mart. I obtained a handicapped parking permit and started using a cane.
I had very low energy and stamina. Just the act of showering and getting dressed wore me out for the day. I never got a second wind. I learned to shower the night before for an activity the following day.
I told myself that I was feeling the effect of polio from when I was a child. There is such a thing as post-polio syndrome. Both my sister and my cousin have it, so it wasn’t a long stretch for me to think I had it too.
The one thing that set me apart from them was my weight. I decided it was time to eliminate weight from the equation. Then if I still had the symptoms I would go from there. My problem was the “how to.” I had already tried weight loss programs, yo-yo’ing through different diets, as well as starving. I fit the definition of insanity: repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. I knew it had to be a lifestyle change.
I picked up my scriptures. I turned to Section 89 of the Doctrine of Covenants and whispered softly, “Help me to understand what this is really telling me.” With those words things were about to change.
In the second and third verse I read:
To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days— Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints. (D&C 89:2–3)
I certainly fit the criteria of being the weakest.
To a devout member of the church, the Word of Wisdom is a revelation from God. Just think: a revelation from God! I soon realized that I’d been pretty lax with my belief. I lived the basic principles, but I hadn’t absorbed the overall message. I knew it was a health code, but I hadn’t internalized it. Until this moment.
Over time each verse, each word, took on new meaning. It’s so sacred that it’s a question on the temple recommend interview. That should tell us something about its importance.
The revelation given through a prophet became a “personal revelation” for me as I felt knowledge and light flowing into my being. Beginning with verse 10, I started taking notes. This is where He starts listing the “dos.” The “can haves.”
And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving. (D&C 89:10–11)
Verse 16 states:
All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground.
Mindset and lifestyle change became my top priority. I set a realistic goal of losing 50 pounds in 50 weeks. I quit eating fast food. I figured out how many calories I could eat each day in order to lose. I kept track of my calories and nutrients. I researched the health benefits of everything I ate.
At that time my neighbors were sharing their evening meal with me. It was delivered to my door hot and ready to eat. In exchange I contributed to their food budget. It was a sweet deal. When they learned I was trying to lose weight, they worked with me. They controlled my portions. They served rice, beans, and vegetables without a lot of fat and oils. Their salads were fresh, crisp and filled with beautiful color. They used lean meat, sparingly; it wasn’t an every night occurrence, and the portion size was small. They gave me a weekly menu so I knew how to plan each day. They became my cheerleaders. At 50 weeks they celebrated when I lost 75 pounds. (I will admit though that on occasion I made an exception for Sarah’s carrot cake.)
When they moved I promised them I wouldn’t return to fast food. Since I don’t cook much, I turned to large smoothies as a way to get my daily calories and nutrients. I added oatmeal, tofu, honey, and a different variety of seeds each day. I quickly learned I simply got more bang for my buck by eating fruits and vegetables than by eating higher calorie foods. There are so many varieties. They are filling. They satisfy. Fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, herbs, and whole grains are simply loaded with all the good things a body needs to be healthy.
I was blessed with thoughts and ideas coming into my mind. My body seemed to know what it needed. I felt satisfied. I had no cravings. Food I used to eat and enjoy lost its appeal. By the next year I had lost over half my body weight, 150 pounds, 10 dress sizes; an average of 6.5 pounds per month. I reached my goal in just over 23 months.
Now I pick and choose from vegetarian, vegan, raw, plant-based, and juicing. The Word of Wisdom is my standard. If the lifestyle isn’t supported by it then I don’t embrace it. In verse 12 we learn,
Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
And in Verse 13 we read:
And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
As I tweak and change my eating habits I notice that I gear my foods around eating to live not living to eat. I basically eat only fruits and vegetables, including beans, whole grain, nuts and seeds, herbs and berries. I try to eat the colors of the rainbow every day. I have no cravings.
Have I given up foods I like? Absolutely. Has it been hard? Yes and no. Giving up the habit has been harder than giving up the food. I want to treat my body as the temple that it is.
I feel healthy. My metabolism is stabilized. I no longer have blood sugar spikes when I’m hungry. I take no prescriptions or over-the-counter products, vitamins or ibuprofen. I am rarely sick, and I can’t remember the last time I had a headache. My eye doctor told me that my eyes are very healthy. My hairdresser makes the same comment about my hair. I can walk and stand for longer periods. I still have slowness and stiffness in my joints, but I’m better than I was. I need a railing for climbing steps, but I can now walk across the parking lot and the whole store.
I never really liked to cook, but I’m excited about the whole food, plant-based diet way of eating and find it fairly easy and fun to prepare beautiful and healthy foods. I have now lost 163 pounds total and have maintained this weight loss for 20 months.
I am most grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who heard my simple plea and gave me understanding and insight of the Word of Wisdom beyond my own. I testify that I know the Word of Wisdom is a revelation. It is a guide for the general population and a personal guide, adapted to the weak and the weakest; to all saints, not just some. I know that the Word of Wisdom can change lives.
Carol Wolf will be 70 years old in November. In addition to reading, she enjoys attending theatrical performances. She’s an avid Utah Jazz fan, a board member with the Springville Senior Center, and the secretary/treasurer of her local DUP (Daughter of Utah Pioneers). Many of the activities she does now were impossible for her to do just 3 1/2 years ago.
Note: A version of Carol’s story was also published in the Ensign (August 2016), “Physical Health: Weight Loss and the Word of Wisdom.”