By: Cheri J. Meiners
When I was about six years old, it was determined that I had an allergy to wheat, chocolate, strawberries and several other foods. I broke out in hives when I ate them. It was hard to cheat since my mother was careful about eliminating those foods, and all the lunch ladies at school knew what I couldn’t have on my tray!
As a teenager, I tested positive for several environmental allergies, which required weekly shots. On my mission in Italy, I gave myself the weekly injections. After my mission, I saw an alternative doctor who recommended a diet that was very close to the Word of Wisdom. I eliminated processed foods and sugar, and I ate meat and cheese only as condiments. I also took various food supplements. With these changes, I felt that my health greatly improved.
I tried to live this lifestyle when I married and had my family of six children, although we had much more “junk food” in the house than I used to eat. My greatest health challenge was during a period of great stress in my life. People asked if I had been under a heat lamp because the skin on my face and upper body spontaneously burned and peeled. My eyes, especially, were often painfully swollen and burning, and during flare-ups it was difficult to maintain my rigorous schedule with six young children. During this time I was extremely diligent about following the eating regimen I had followed earlier. After several months, the condition eventually cleared up. I also lost 45 pounds and was at my goal weight.
As time passed and I felt better, I didn’t feel the urgency to be so strict with my diet. I gained back weight, and I started to have various joint and other aches that seemed to be a part of aging. At age 49, I began going to the gym 3-5 times a week to improve my health. I never lost weight over this seven-year period, but the exercise did stabilize my weight during this time.
In November 2014, I read an article by Jane Birch in Meridian Magazine. The first article I read was a bit shocking to me. Even though I had previously tried to avoid meat and dairy (and was allergic to eggs), I had never really considered it feasible or healthy to totally eliminate animal products, much less oil. The next time I read one of her articles, however, I was convinced by the logic, and it felt right. I decided to try it.
Despite the fact that I read widely about health before this, it was like a huge light bulb going off in my head. I felt relieved to find out that I didn’t need to eat animals to get protein. As I learned more about a whole food, plant-based diet, I felt new motivation to eat in a way that seemed healthiest, was respectful of animals, and especially, that aligned with the Word of Wisdom. Over the next month or two I eliminated food that I realized I would be better without. First red meat and poultry, then fish, then dairy, then oil.
In my new way of eating there are just two rules to remember: no animal products and no refined foods. It’s a simple formula, and has become easier with practice. The plant world seems larger and more interesting now. I focus on the fresh, natural foods that I’m fortunate to eat, and not the things I no longer eat. I feel that I was led to this, and I have determined to live it as closely as I live the counsel to not smoke, or drink alcohol, tea, and coffee.
After two years of this way of eating, I feel good. My joint pain is essentially gone, and my cholesterol is down 80 points–into the healthy range. I have lost about 40 pounds, and I feel much younger. This is a lifestyle I intend to maintain.
My husband, David, has been very supportive of our new way of eating. One of our new date night activities is shopping together for interesting groceries. 🙂 Our children are all grown now and able to make their own food decisions. I serve them and other guests the food that I eat, and challenge myself to make it as beautiful and appetizing as possible.
I’m grateful for the Word of Wisdom. I believe that God gave it to us for our day, and if we really seek to understand and live it, there are many hidden treasures and blessings that we will receive.
Cheri Meiners, age 58, lives in Laurel, Maryland. She is the mother of six and a grandmother of seven. She served a mission in Italy, graduated from BYU in Elementary Education, and obtained a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Utah State University. Recently, with inspiration from this way of eating, Cheri wrote a children’s book on health that was published in May 2016. (See sample pages: Grow Strong! A Book about Healthy Habits, Free Spirit Publishing.) It is one of 23 books she has written for children ages 4-8.