From the time I was thirteen I thought I was fat. I tried every diet imaginable and read every weight-loss book I could get my hands on. I would do anything to be skinny: drink lemonade for ten days, count calories, hire personal trainers. I pled with the Lord to just show me the right way to lose weight. Ironically, I was never more than ten pounds overweight.
About seven years ago, the Lord led me down a different path, a path that changed my focus from outward appearances to true health. It was then that I was introduced to cancer.
No—it wasn’t me. But suddenly cancer was “everywhere.” A good friend, two neighbors, close family friends and loved ones were all diagnosed within a very short period of time. I was shaken. My prayers changed. Heavenly Father, is there something I should learn here? Is there something you could teach me—something that would protect my family?
In July of 2008, an article entitled “Cancer, Nutrition and the Word of Wisdom” jumped right out of the Ensign and spoke to my heart: Charity, you are not following the Word of Wisdom as you ought. I had just hired my second trainer at the gym and was following an eating plan that included six small meals a day, all including animal protein. As I read the article, I knew I needed to change. But I didn’t know how.
Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to Colin Campbell’s The China Study. Once again my soul was shaken. It felt like truth. It felt like a gift. I was thankful, but I also felt anger: why had I been deceived for so long by our society and our Standard American Diet? I felt lost. I knew I wanted to change, for myself and for my four children, but how? I’m ready, Father, but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to do this, and I need your help.
Enter Dr. Joel Fuhrman. After reading his wonderful book, Eat to Live, I was ready to dive into this new world. I read anything I could get my hands on—studying, pondering, searching, and praying. I was filled with fire and became passionate about sharing my new knowledge. I started a business focused on in-home, whole food cooking parties. I became certified as a Plant-based Nutritionist through eCornell. I co-founded the plant-based, family-oriented website www.wholefoodmommies.com and became a “Food for Life” instructor (which is how I met Jane Birch).
The Lord has blessed me every step of the way: with like-minded people who are uplifting and encouraging, with sources of light and knowledge that keep me developing my desire for good health, and with a new perspective on the body I was given. I’ve learned that my HEALTH is so much more important than how I look. There is a fine line between eating for health and eating for vanity. I sometimes cross that line, but deep down I have peace. My spirit is happy, and I know this way of eating is the best way for my spirit to progress and grow. (Had I been one of those “skinny girls,” I don’t think I would have had a desire to search for this wisdom.)
I do NOT eat perfectly; I never have and probably never will. I have learned not to worry so much about the every-once-in-a-while. Instead I focus on the EVERY DAY: fruits, vegetables and whole grains . . . every day! I find it helpful to concentrate on things I want to include rather than things I exclude.
Eating a plant-based diet can be challenging; anyone who jumps on board should expect opposition. My advice would be to sit back and watch as the adversary (who fully understands the link between your spirit and your physical body) moves in when you do anything to improve your health. Simply see these moments of opposition as clues that you are on track.
Almost every person I know who has TRULY desired to understand the BEST way to care for our bodies has been led to this path. I know the Word of Wisdom was written for our day. The Lord knew the confusion we would face, and He knew the “conspiring men” who would work to deceive us. He loves us and desires to bless us. He gave us a guide—an instruction manual for our bodies. He knows our bodies are conduits to the spiritual realm. The words He gave us are instructions on how to become closer to Him, how to connect better with Him, and how to receive further light and knowledge (through those glorious “hidden treasures”). As I changed what I put into my body, I could feel my spirit changing too. Growing. Expanding. Seeking more light. I gained a clarity of mind that quickly leaves when I don’t pay heed to what I eat—brain fog is the first symptom when I indulge in things I know I shouldn’t eat.
I am so grateful for the things the Lord has allowed me to learn. I feel so blessed to live on this earth that provides everything I need to flourish. I am thankful for the wisdom and courage of others who continue to share these wonderful truths with the world.
Charity Lighten is mother of four and lives in Riverton, Utah. Born in Canada, she met her husband at BYU where she graduated in Accounting. She is currently serving in her very first call with the Young Women as the Stake Young Women’s President. She loves to cook, exercise, and travel.