By: Carolynn Spencer
Healthy eating has always been one of my favorite topics and a lifelong passion. I went on my first diet at age 7 by deciding to forego desserts; by the time I was a teenager, I already had plenty of experience in trying all sorts of will-power tactics and diets in order to achieve my “best” body. It was easy to see that everyone had a different, and sometimes very intense, opinion on the latest and greatest way to stay healthy and fit. I now feel that it makes sense to add eating plans to the list of topics to avoid (along with politics and religion) in social settings because people feel so strongly committed to their own ideas. I am reminded of a scripture that I feel is as applicable to our diets as it is to our religion:
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Ephesians 4:14)
Switching our diets based upon the latest and greatest fad, not to mention the “cunning craftiness” of diet companies and others trying to make a profit on our desire to have a perfect body, is literally to be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.
In 2010, my brother-in-law shared with me a book he had just read, Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. He and my sister both said, “Don’t read it unless you’re ready to change your life.” My brother-in-law even testified it was the most life-changing book he’d ever read, other than the Book of Mormon. Intrigued, I read the book and was instantly convinced of the truth and wisdom found in eating only plant-based whole foods. This book, and many others like it that I also read, meshed completely with my study of the Word of Wisdom. I became vegan overnight and was committed . . . for a year or two.
However, as much as the information resonated with me and felt right, and as much as I could see the positive impact on my body, I still struggled. I was discouraged that I didn’t notice much weight-loss. I was the only vegan in my immediate family, and it was hard to have to make two different meals every night. Most often, I’d make what I had always been used to making (and my family was used to eating), and I’d only eat the plant-based half of the meal (such as the salad and steamed veggies, without replacing the meat with anything else). This left me feeling deprived and hungry.
Additionally, when I told my doctor about my eating plan, she ignored my great numbers and said, “BOO! I’m down on that!” and actually gave me a “thumbs-down.” I am still shocked by this reaction. She told me I needed to go straight out and buy some yogurt that day to make sure I got adequate calcium. I did . . . and eating dairy after not having had it for a year or more made me sick all afternoon. Finally, I just didn’t have enough plant-based education or recipes to stay with the plan. I let animal-based foods slowly creep into my diet, though I never ate a lot of them (and never went back to dairy milk). Our family was still eating, as we had for years, lots of fresh veggies, fruits, whole grains (especially whole wheat products like bread/pasta), brown rice, and so on. We were just eating lean animal products too.
I was once again feeling tossed to and fro about my eating in April 2014 and wondering what to do. The hormonal issues due to aging contributed to a slow weight gain battle that I couldn’t seem to win—I was still fighting that elusive 10 pounds. Figuring out the right way to eat was one of my questions I was pondering during April General Conference that year. And I got a very clear answer. Here it is, straight from Elder Russell M. Nelson:
The scriptures provide one of the best ways to find our course and stay on it. Scriptural knowledge also provides precious protection. . . . Many people perished [or, I would add, were clueless about what to eat] because man’s quest for knowledge had failed to heed the word of the Lord!
My dear brothers and sisters, what are we missing in our lives if we are “ever learning, [but] never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”? We can gain great knowledge from the scriptures and obtain inspiration through prayers of faith.
Doing so will help us as we make daily decisions. . . . God’s laws must ever be our standard. In dealing with controversial issues, we should first search for God’s guidance. (“Let Your Faith Show”)
What could be more of a daily decision—or controversial issue—than deciding what to put in our mouths? That being said, I went straight to the Word of Wisdom—again—and studied it prayerfully over and over. Miraculously, at this same time I was spiritually led to Jane Birch’s inspired and informative articles in Meridian Magazine on the Word of Wisdom. Within a day or two, I was utterly convinced and this time completely committed to living a plant-based, whole foods diet, rich in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. This time, I prepared for far greater success through further educating myself through books, documentaries, and websites, and—critically—trying lots of new recipes (thank you, Pinterest!). I no longer feel deprived with this diet whatsoever. I don’t feel I am missing out on anything, but I feel so grateful, blessed, and happy to be on this journey of discovery that has expanded to so much more than just what I put in my mouth.
While it’s true that I still battle that same 10 pounds (which did finally start to disappear when I completely gave up even unrefined sugars), I feel fantastic, I sleep so much better, I never get sick (not even a cold in 2 ½ years), I have noticed menopausal symptoms completely disappearing, and I know I am disease-proofing my body and warding off the effects of aging. I feel a far greater sense of self-mastery and peace as I choose to live this way.
Finally, I am indebted to Alicia Silverstone for her philosophy that this way of eating is the “kind diet”—kind to our bodies, kind to animals, and kind to the planet and its resources. I couldn’t agree more. I would add just one final facet of “kindness” to her philosophy: as I mentioned in the beginning of this article, many of our friends, loved ones, and associates will not choose to eat this way and will be just as committed to eating the way they feel is right. May we treat others and their food choices with the same kindness, honor, support, and respect that we would like for ourselves.
Carolynn Spencer (age 50) is a wife, mother of three boys, and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, currently living in Flower Mound, Texas. In addition to the loves inherent in the previous sentence, she has a passion for spending time with family and friends, practicing yoga, hiking, biking, walking, writing, being in nature, and living the WFPB lifestyle.