I LOVE using the fresh food that the Lord has provided for my body’s fuel. Here’s my story:
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in a family who ate the standard American diet, albeit a little bit more healthy than most. For example, my parents never bought “store milk.” We were in a co-op that went out to the dairy every week to get the “real milk” (unpasteurized) from the “real cows.” I used to hate being the one to go help my mom pick the milk when it was our turn because of the smell. To this day, all milk smells ‘cow-y’ like that to me.
My dad was a chiropractor who would say things like “sugar is a poison to your body” and “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.” So although we knew this, and we maybe ate a little bit healthier than some families, it was still the standard American diet. In fact, every Sunday we would have a roast, potatoes, gravy, etc. From the time I was 13 years old, my bedroom was directly below the kitchen so Sundays always smelled like a beef-fest down in my room, which got to be nauseating for me. I remember being about 15 years old in my room one Sunday and saying out loud to myself, “I can’t take this, I’m going to be vegetarian when I’m older!” I don’t know that I was actually serious at the time, but it surely must have planted the seed!
Fast forward several years to 1988: I read Diet for a New America by John Robbins and loved it! It validated so many things for me, and made perfect sense. It also matched up perfectly with the Word of Wisdom. I had always believed that when the Word of Wisdom says to “eat meat sparingly . . . ” and “it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine” that it means exactly that. I’ve never understood any other way that could be interpreted; it’s very clear.
At that time in my life, because of my ‘hobby’ of researching nutrition information, I hadn’t eaten red meat for many years, so cutting out chicken and what little fish I ate wasn’t that big of a jump. My husband liked the sound of it too, so a few months later he joined me. We were vegetarians but not vegans, although we didn’t drink much milk. I did try a few different times to go totally vegan (plant-based) for a few months—but I found it difficult with small children because my life was busy, and at that time to get specialty items like nut milks, vegetable pasta, etc. It cost a lot more, and required a special trip to the health food store.
I was a fitness instructor for 20 years, and during that time, because I was so enthusiastic about healthy eating, I would take information from the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine newsletter and other sources and create handouts to give my students. This was before I had a computer, so it took me a lot of time, effort, and money, but I loved sharing this information in an attempt to educate the students in my classes. I’m not sure how that impacted much of the class, but I know of a few people who stopped eating meat because of the articles I shared.
Around 1994 I got a job teaching fitness at the National Institute of Fitness –now known as Red Mountain Resort and Spa. Since at that time it was owned by Marc and Vicki Sorenson, one of the requirements for all new hires was to read Dr. Sorenson’s book: MegaHealth (about the science behind and the rewards of eating plant-based) and take a test on it. I already had the book and loved it, so I studied it even more deeply – I really wanted to pass the test! Other employees had told me, “Oh, it’s so much to learn, just take the test and see what the questions are, then you can study those and re-take it because no one has ever passed the test on their first try.” Well, upon hearing that I determined I would study hard and be the first! And I was! It’s my claim to fame, haha!
In 2000 I was nearly 40 years old and pregnant with our fifth child. A few months into my pregnancy, my midwife told me of her concern about me getting enough protein with no meat and very little dairy.
And this is the part about my story I don’t like . . . even though I knew the research, and I didn’t have concerns, and I knew she had not studied nutrition as I had, since I was a little older and hadn’t had a baby for nearly 8 years, what she said somehow got under my skin so I agreed to add a little tuna fish into my diet and occasional chicken. After all, it made it so much easier to live in society—ward parties, family functions, lunch dates, are easier to deal with. At first eating meat again was weird, but I got used to it quickly, and I’m sorry to say I kept fish and chicken in my diet about once a week for several years after that.
In 2012 at age 51, I began having migraine headaches and occasional hot flashes. I remembered hearing Dr. Christiane Northrup on TV many years prior saying, “If you don’t want the effects of menopause, get off sugar.” I’m not sure why that stuck in my mind, but I’m glad it did. I didn’t eat much sugar as it was, but at least something sweet every day, so in the middle of December 2012 I made a bold decision (bold, because my husband was Bishop at that time and our kitchen counter was filled with Christmas sweets from loving ward members). I went off sugar cold turkey (no pun intended), and since I was taking that step, I also went back to eating strictly whole foods, plant based (WFPB). My soul had been yearning to do that for such a long time, and it felt wonderful to be aligned with that again!
My husband quickly followed suit, and we have been eating cleanly ever since. It is much easier nowadays, with more clean products available in grocery stores and so many awesome WFPB websites, blogs, and recipe videos. Four of our five kids are grown and out of the house now, and although they are not totally WFPB, they and their spouses eat pretty close to that, and they know the importance of it.
I taught Gospel Doctrine class for nearly 5 years and loved it! But my very most favorite lesson to give was on the one on D&C 89. I prayed a lot while preparing that lesson because I knew it was my chance to teach these truths in a way that many class members may not have thought of them before. I also know that it’s not the teacher who teaches, it is the Spirit. I love this subject so much, that I knew I had to ‘bridle my passions’ so the Spirit could teach. I wanted them to see the beauty and order in the Word of Wisdom, and not that it just has a few don’t’s.
So I approached it mathematically by showing that . . .
There are 4 DON’Ts:
- strong drink
- hot drinks.
And 4 DOs:
- and meat (sparingly, pleasing not at all).
4+4 = 8, perfect! There are eight PROMISES:
- health in their navel
- and marrow to their bones
- shall find wisdom
- and great treasures of knowledge
- even hidden treasures
- shall run and not be weary
- and shall walk and not faint
- the destroying angel shall pass by them
I think it was well received. I had several come up after and tell me they had never understood the Word of Wisdom like that before. Personally, I love having the Word of Wisdom as a guide and a standard against which to measure all the false advertising and often wacky diet advice that is thrown around.
I have received blessings, too many to count, from obeying this health practice. I run my own business and need the Lord’s help in daily decisions, as well as in the actual work I do, and I noticed a big improvement in my intuition once I got off sugar, and got stricter on WFPB.
Other quietly amazing things I noticed within a few weeks: easy to jump out of bed in the morning without grogginess; being on the computer a lot, I had gradually gotten used to my hip joints aching whenever I would get up and take a break, now no hip pain or stiffness and at all; and no more hot-flashes. Unless I snitch a little sweet treat, headaches are very rare for me now.
At the time of this writing I am 54, and I love having no stiffness during yoga, being able to run and not be weary, and going cycling most days. My husband Dean is 57. He swims for an hour 6 days a week, lifts weights, and plays volleyball. Together we take a 2+ hour bike ride on Saturdays. We don’t have other friends our age who are this physically active. Hmm . . . we don’t have friends our age who eat a plant-based diet either, coincidence? We don’t think so. But good news—these blessings are available to all.
I have experienced for myself, and I see it in others, that those who adhere to the full Word of Wisdom get extra blessings, not only in physical health, but in all areas. Eating clean requires self-discipline, and can also be a tricky thing when so many people are so indoctrinated by the “evils and designs . . . of conspiring men in the last days.” So, I know the Lord rewards my self-discipline, diligence, charity towards animals, and even kindness to others when they disagree with it.
Like I said earlier, I feel so much better physically since I’ve been eating WFPB for the past few years, but even better than that is how I feel spiritually. Although I haven’t always stayed ‘on the wagon,’ I’ve always known eating this way is the best for my body, and my patriarchal blessing tells me if I take care of my body it will always serve me well—which is a fantastic promise! I love eating cleanly, and I intend to stay on this path for the rest of my hopefully long and healthy life!
Carolyn Cooper 54, believes to be as healthy as possible, the human body needs: proper nutrition, physical movement, and energy healing. She is the founder of The SimplyHealed Method, which is a powerful, yet graceful energy healing modality that clears negative emotions to balance mind, body, and spirit. She is a speaker, trainer, coach, tai chi instructor, & author, but mostly loves to be mom. Her websites are www.SimplyHealed.com and www.CarolynCooper.com She and hubby, ‘Dean the Dream,’ have been married for 34 years, and have five children ranging from 31-14. They love living in hot and sunny St. George, Utah where they can ride their bikes almost year round!