I always thought we ate fairly healthy. Baking our own bread from grains I milled, eating only a little meat, and then basically no red meat, no drinking of soft drinks, etc. Of course, I did have a sweet tooth and liked cheese very much (you know, I’m Swiss, and those of you who have tasted our cheese and chocolate will understand!). Then, our family experienced an extended period of existential stress which brought me health-wise to a point where I hardly could eat anything anymore. I had suffered from severe rheumatism before, with chronic pain mainly in my shoulders, but with all the other joints suffering also (which meant never being without pain day and night). But now with this added stress, my skin had turned so yellowish that even strangers would address me about it. Around my eyes were deep, dark circles. I kept losing weight. I had random itches all over my body all the time. I started feeling as if my body could stop working at any given moment. My thighs had white marble lines on them and going to the toilet smelled like walking into some of those old folks’ rest rooms. I had to leave early for everything because hurrying was too much and got me out of breath. All the while I had no strength to deal with any kind of extra stress. I felt depressed constantly instead of being happy and easygoing, as would reflect my personality. I was always worried and feeling bad. It was miserable!
Realizing things could not go on like that much longer, I adjusted my diet. I had already let go of all refined sugar products. When I realized that cheese caused feelings of anxiety, I stopped eating that, too. Finally, I started eating only the things I digested well and made me feel physically good afterwards: fresh produce (fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds). For one year, I ate nothing else. Fruits in the morning (usually a fruit smoothie with some flax seeds, brown millet and pure honey in it) and a mixed salad of vegetables and lettuce with some seeds and nuts in the afternoon. Today I think this saved my life. As I got better, I started to reintroduce other foods again. A few years later, as my husband, Markus, also struggled with his health, we felt we should change to a whole food, plant-based diet. Our health improved slowly, but surely. I was able to go back to a more normal life style in general again, feeling less depressed and having more physical energy and no pain. Happiness came back and in the (early!) morning I started to be fully awake again. No more lead in the bones or short breath.
My body still is in the process of going backwards through the symptoms I had experienced on my way into sickness – which is said to be part of the normal process of real healing. So, I go through phases where a symptom gets worse again. But I feel that my body has much more light and energy than before, so I know things are going the right direction. During the past few years I read many books about health and nutrition, and we tried all kinds of whole food, plant-based nutrition styles, such as cooking without salt (recently we went back to using very little, but unrefined salt) and having 80% of our food being fruits and vegetables (this one we kept).
Some five months ago my husband, Markus, felt prompted to suggest we try a three-month period of eating unprocessed raw food only (with very little honey). So we did. At first, we mainly just ate fresh fruit, vegetables, and sprouts (including grains). But I missed having a good meal every once in a while. A salad is delicious, but having a good bread, soup, etc. is a great addition to it! Then we found out there are hundreds of delicious recipes for raw eating, even bread and WFPB pizza, which we embraced excitedly. I started to “bake” raw bread and patties out of germinated spelt (original wheat), nuts and seeds, to blend all kinds of soups, make bread spreads out of dried tomatoes and other things, to “bake” cookies in a dehydrator and much more (heating the food not more than 42°C to keep it raw and not destroy the healthy enzymes). After three months we felt no desire to go back to cooking. Raw whole food, plant-based meals just feel so alive – and make us feel so, too. The only thing we changed after the intensive three-month period was that, whenever we are invited, we eat cooked things we are served, with the exception of animal protein and sugar. We also eat some carefully low-temperature baked or cooked pre-soaked grains and legumes.
What has changed health-wise in this discovery and change process already? I can perform hard work from early morning till night without my body or mind feeling tired or hurting. (Even though I am 50 my boss called me “our whirlwind” lately!) I eat as much as I want and keep my ideal weight. My body is as flexible as in my youth again, and the two toes that had rolled in during my younger years are stretched out again. My hair is thicker and healthier than ever before. My nails have no more rills in either direction, no white spots and usually are of a nice, pink color without me doing anything about it. My feelings of depression are gone, my breathing is free, deep and much slower. After having been in chronic pain for years it is wonderful to usually not have any pain at all without taking any pills. My reactions became much better. My eyesight is improving. My breath and sweat do not smell any more, so that the usage of deodorant or soap is mostly unnecessary. No more constipation. My athlete’s foot is gone (I had tried for years to get rid of it before, with all known means, but to no avail …). I can run without getting out of breath pretty far, even though I’m not training. Now I have to learn to read my body in a new way, as being tired or sick does not feel the same way as before. I used to feel so tired I almost could not move any more. Now I feel fairly good even when I am quite tired or getting sick. I am eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father, who has guided us down this blessed path step by step on the basis of much fasting, praying, and studying. Our life will never be the same again.
Even though all of my health issues have gotten better with our whole food, plant-based diet, with our change to mainly raw eating one additional aspect has changed dramatically: I started to have new spiritual insights and an increased openness and awe for God and His creations, which seems to come from deep within every cell of my body and to open my mind and heart to new understandings of up to this point unknown dimensions. I feel a new connection with every living being around me, which has not been there before. This makes me deeply humble and grateful.
For some people it is hard when I speak about these aspects of the Word of Wisdom. They cannot imagine such blessings to be connected with it. But is this not a message of the experiences of Daniel in the Old Testament which may have been on President Benson’s mind when he taught:
What needs additional emphasis are the positive aspects—the need for vegetables, fruits, and grains, particularly wheat. In most cases, the closer these can be, when eaten, to their natural state— without overrefinement and processing—the healthier we will be (“In His Steps,” 1979).
Additionally, the Word of Wisdom has been “given for a principle … adapted to the capacity of the weak and weakest of all saints” (D&C 89: 3), while promising “all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments,” not only to receive “health in their navel and marrow to their bones” (D&C 89: 18) and that they “shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” (D&C 89: 20), but also to find “wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;” (D&C 89: 19). So, there must be more blessings and understanding to be had! The Lord even promises us that He will bless us with many commandments (D&C 59: 4), guiding us line upon line and precept upon precept.
What originally was a great sacrifice has become a wonderful blessing I would not like to miss – even though I am not at the point yet where this mainly raw whole food, plant-based nutrition has become total routine. I still struggle with foods that go bad or taste so. And, sometimes, I still feel tempted to eat some foods from before, especially when experiencing certain smells triggering beloved memories (some other smells I had liked before have become rather unpleasant though in the meantime, such as the smell of some sausages, meats, grease, etc.). But when I focus on the feeling of my whole being instead of just on the perception of my nose and the connected memories, I usually realize very fast, that I do not want to eat our former food any more. Because our mainly raw WFPB food tastes very good (e.g., all these organic, ripe fruits, vegetables and grains are just delicious!) and makes me feel great, while eating it and afterwards.
Caroline Gappmaier, 50, lives in the Province of Bern, Switzerland. She was born into a large LDS family in Switzerland and got married when she was barely 19. 32 years later, she is the valued wife of Markus Gappmaier (from Austria), the grateful mother of 4 (who had all arrived before she turned 25), and the excited grandmother of 7. She studied Elementary Music Education in Austria and Marriage, Family and Human Development at BYU (during the time when her husband, Markus, worked there as Visiting Professor of Information Systems). After her graduation, she earned the Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) designation, which qualification has been the basis of much of her professional work with LDS Family Services since returning to Europe in 2004. She loves working with friends at the Swiss temple and strengthening couples and families through education and holistic coaching. In July 2016 she will be on stage, together with her husband and guest-speaker Jane Birch, for a one-day conference on Word of Wisdom-based nutrition at the location of the beautiful Swiss Landshut Water Castle.
Note about upcoming Word of Wisdom Conference in Switzerland, July 9, 2016!
Markus and Caroline Gappmaier, along with Jane Birch, will be offering a special one day Word of Wisdom Conference in July of this year. We hope everyone who is close enough to join us will seriously consider it!
Please check out this document for more information and add your name to the email list if you want to be kept informed of this conference and other Word of Wisdom happenings in Europe: 2016 European Word of Wisdom Conference.