I grew up in Salt Lake City, the fifth of seven children. My parents were active in the Church and we were taught gospel principles. As a teenager I remember my father being really interested in nutrition (he subscribed to Prevention Magazine). At one point my father changed jobs and became self-employed. He got involved in selling wheat grinders and bread mixers. They were called Mill & Mix machines. They had powerful motors. You could grind your wheat on one side and the other side had a large stainless steel bowl where you could mix 9 loafs of bread. If there is one thing we learned about nutrition, it was that wheat was for man! We grew up on homemade whole wheat bread, but like everyone else we ate plenty of ice cream, milk, meat, eggs, and sugar. My father died at age 76 of heart disease and my mother at age 81 with dementia.
At one point in my dad’s life he had gone on the Atkin’s diet. I remember him eating A LOT of chicken. I also remember trying that when I was an older teenager, but I was not able to do it for more than one day. I remember it making me feel really sick. I was always a little bit over weight and struggling with 10-30 lbs of unwanted weight.
I became a great dieter over the years and was great at losing weight, which tells you it never stayed off. I did like vegetables, beans, fruit, chicken, diet soda, non-fat yogurt, eggs, bread, and lots of high protein shakes made with non-fat milk. (I now believe that all the excess protein is what has given me osteoporosis, which I am trying now to reverse). I knew dieting was about planning not about will power so I would always try to plan ahead so that I could make the weight loss happen. The thing is I LOVE butter and sugar. I mean I really love butter and sugar. I love what I can make with butter, sugar, and flour. I loved baking from an early age, especially cakes!
I went straight from high school to Utah State where I met my husband. We were married at the end of my third year there. I graduated after four years in Early Childhood Development. Our early marriage proved that I was going to have problems getting pregnant and having children. (Who knows if I had had a better diet if this would have been different?) I taught kindergarten for a few years but eventually quit when we started adopting. We ended up with four children over time, and I stayed busy raising them. When the youngest of those four was 13, we ended up adopting one more child, for a total of five. Over the years the kids and I would look forward to birthdays, which meant that I could make some awesome cool birthday cakes.
When my oldest daughter got married she asked me to make her wedding cake, with fondant, no less. I practiced for several months to prepare. I discovered working with fondant was very fun. I was hooked! It’s all pretty much history from there. I became quit proficient at making wedding cakes so I decided to have my home kitchen (in the basement) licensed. I opened my own wedding cake business.
Then one day about six months ago while I was making cakes, I decided to watch Netflix and ran across the documentary Forks Over Knives. After watching that, I had to watch all the other documentaries on Netflix about food. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and learning! Why hadn’t I heard this before? Why hadn’t I ever heard of T. Colin Campbell or his book The China Study? Why hadn’t I heard of all these doctors: John McDougall, Neal Barnard, Caldwell Esselstyn, and Michael Greger? I went to the Internet and listened to every talk that I could find by them. I started sharing information with other people. People started looking at me like I had two heads. Why weren’t they as excited about finding out about this information as I was? A whole food, plant-based diet made sense. A whole food, plant-based lifestyle was the way to eat! I realized we have been mislead about nutrition all these years! It’s all about the money! We have all been very (understandably) confused!
Well I don’t know where I had been all these years, but I feel I have finally found what makes sense in nutrition. I am no longer confused about what is healthy and what is not. On a whole food, plant-based diet I can eat food that is satiating and not feel deprived or hungry, AND I have learned the side effect of eating plant-based is losing weight. The losing weight part was a welcome side effect. Finally those last few vanity pounds have come off. I am now 58 years old, 5’6 and 121 lbs. I am quite confident those pounds will stay off as long as I eat this way. I still have to plan ahead, but I feel great. I am grateful to know the truth. Eating plant-based whole foods really is fully obeying the Word of Wisdom, and I really do want to claim the blessing that go along with it.
I am saddened by those who are not yet ready to hear this message, but it has driven me to gain more knowledge about it by getting a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from e-Cornell (Cornell University) on line. I’m excited to know that I am not predisposed to die of heart disease like my father or die with dementia like my mother. My sisters and I took care of my mother in our homes during this time and none of us want dementia. My sisters are on the bandwagon! (On another note, I am still trying to get use to all the dishes I have to wash because of all this cooking. I guess it’s a small price to pay for blessings of health.)
I have been interested to see how this winter will go as far as colds. I get at least one or more bad colds every year that have a lot of croupy coughing where it feels like I have broken ribs; it goes on for weeks and weeks. I did get a cold a few weeks ago. It wasn’t pleasant and lasted for 2 1/2 weeks, but I never did get that croupy cough. I’m hoping I never will again. We shall see.
I still have a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in me though. I continue to make wedding cakes. I feel that is a tradition that is not going away very soon. I also believe that it is O.K. to have a piece of your child’s wedding cake, as long as you don’t bring home the left overs!
Colleen Peck is 58 years old and lives with her family in Bluffdale, Utah. She has a bachelor’s in Early Childhood Development from USU. She and her husband have four grandchildren, with one of the way.