“It was like a huge light bulb going off in my head”

cheri-and-david-meinersBy: 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.




  1. Cheri is a great example to all of us. She is open to the truth and willing to embrace it. Thus, she has found hidden treasures. I love that these treasure are not for the few and the privileged. They are for all! But we need to follow Cheri’s example and be willing to receive these blessings. Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story, Cheri!

  2. Cheri, I really appreciated all that you provided Jane which she published above. I think what you learned about eating was summed up very well in this brief paragraph in what you told us:

    “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.”

    I fully agree with you. Those “many hidden treasures and blessings” have been blessing me ever since Jane taught me how to eat in accordance with Section 89 in verses 10 through 21 of Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, just as I was about to turn eighty years of age. I am now just a few months away from turning eighty five and after eating in full accordance with what the Lord teaches us in that very special scripture for almost five years, I never have really been sick! I actually had a number of serious illnesses before Jane taught me how the Lord wants us to eat!

    Thanks for sharing what you allowed Jane to publish about the great blessings that have come to you after you began eating as the Lord advises. May the Lord continue to bless you and your family!


    • Thank you, Brother Birch. I am inspired by the way you give support to all of us. I’m happy that you are also enjoying great health due to living this way.

  3. Your story echoes so many others. We humans simply will not listen until things hit the big crisis. I’m happy you were blessed with the inspiration needed to open your eyes. Isn’t it wonderful how freeing and light this way of eating makes one feel? I thank God every day that He led me to this truth. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  4. Cheri, What an inspiration you are! Congratulations and best wishes as you continue your journey. Such a beautiful contribution for your grandchildren and all other fortunate children to be taught and encouraged by your book(s). Your photo is an ad for better health practices by itself. Blessings on you for sharing.

  5. Thank you for your story!

    I have felt for many years that the Word of Wisdom was my answer to all the confusion in the world around diet. But living it is so hard for me! I’m a serious chocoholic, my husband’s favorite foods are pizza, chips & salsa. He’s “on board” with avoiding meat, dairy and processed foods, but he still has trouble doing it. I’m also very lazy when it comes to food and cooking, which translates into trouble, including eating out at least once a week now (for a while it was probably 2-4x/week). As an over-busy person, I also have a hard time taking time to learn how to do this, and making time to exercise. I don’t like exercise for the sake of exercise very much. Before my first husband died, we enjoyed volleyball a couple times a week. My current husband is a walker, which I really don’t enjoy much – seems like exercise just to exercise – and it hurts because of my joints.

    I was recently diagnosed as borderline diabetic. I’m determined NOT to have to go on medication (my mother was on insulin for about 30 years before her death 3 years ago, and the diabetes ruined her heart which is how she died). But my determination only got me through about two months of eating better, and going without sugar and dairy. Any tips or explanations on how to humble myself into eating this way forever? I believe in it wholeheartedly, but apparently the flesh is very weak. I also have joint issues (and weight issues) and had a total hip replacement (which I really did not want, but it did make walking easier) two years ago. Now the other hip is giving me issues and just yesterday I had a cortisone injection into my hip joint, which I’m hoping will help long enough for me to make the needed changes and lose some weight which I know will help with both the diabetes and joint issues.

    When my first husband was diagnosed with cancer at age 40, we went on a whole foods diet, and it didn’t save him (he died 11 months later), but after years of infertility and two adoptions, I suddenly found myself pregnant. My baby was born 5 months after her daddy died. Through the pregnancy, some of the old habits returned because the (stupid) doctors said I wasn’t gaining enough weight. The weight I gained from that advice has never left. Around 5 years ago, I got my weight down to my pre-pregnancy weight (17 years after the pregnancy ended!), but as soon as I let down my guard, the weight flew back on, and has been here ever since.

    My patriarchal blessing even says “That thou might be able to understand fully all things, He has given unto thee the Word of Wisdom. Follow carefully the counsel He gives unto thee therein. As thou art diligent in following this counsel, thou shalt have health and strength. Thou shalt have wisdom and knowledge given unto thee. Yes, even hidden treasures of wisdom shall be available unto thee. Not only shall thou be blessed but thy family shall be blessed through the careful following of this counsel that our Father has given thee.” So I’ve been pondering this for MANY years! (Almost 50 years!)

    I hate that I sound whiney, and that I don’t seem to take responsibility to just do it. I have a brother diagnosed with cancer now, and his diet is terrible. I find myself judging him and his choices, but then I look back at myself and realize I’m not far different. 🙁

    This got longer than I ever intended. Sorry. But if you have any ideas to help me, I would be so grateful!


    • Hi Barbara,

      I’m sorry I never saw your post until now. I’m happy that Jane did, and has sent you resources.

      For me, personally, I have had more success with this than any other diet in the past because of the Word of Wisdom. Because of my conviction that it is the right way to eat, I have promised myself to avoid animal foods as consistently as I avoid tobacco and alcohol (100%). I am slightly more lenient with processed foods though I try to avoid all oil and sugar. I also spend time each day following The Discovering the Word of Wisdom Facebook group and Dr. MCDougall’s McDougall Friends Facebook group. I read articles, stories and recipes to keep it always on my mind. I think the sense of community has been a big help.

      I wish you the best in your health journey.
      Cheri Meiners

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