“I am 81, and my wife is 79”

Cy and Pat WelchBy: Cy Welch

My name is Cy Welch. My wife is Pat Welch. I am 81, and my wife is 79.

When I read “Discovering the Word of Wisdom” by Jane Birch on Meridian Magazine, it rang a bell with me. I was struggling with the normal health problems of aging, such as lack of mobility, some arthritis, enlarged prostate (BPH), hypertension, hearing problems, and lack of strength. My wife is diabetic, arthritic, has fallen many times over the years, has hearing problems, and lots of migraine headaches, etc.

After I read a couple of the articles on “Discovering the Word of Wisdom” on the Internet, I bought the book and started the transition to a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) eating. It has been an interesting journey to say the least. I also bought and read The China Study as recommended by Jane. It connected the dots for me on health problems we were dealing with and just made sense. We went on a two-week vacation about this time while making the transition and found out just how difficult it can be to find food which supports the WFPB lifestyle on the fly so to speak. We did the best we could and are now about 90% changed over to WFPB.

One of the first benefits I noticed was my mobility began to return. I used to be fairly flexible, but I slowly lost my flexibility over the years. I am now flexible enough to get in and out of the van without bumping my head on the top of the door opening. I feel almost twenty years younger. I’m also slowly losing weight, although I wasn’t much over weight. I have much greater flexibility, strength and endurance.

I still work although I probably don’t have to. I tune and repair pianos, including a lot of church pianos. At times it is necessary for me to crawl under a grand piano and make something work better. I also install PNOmation player systems in pianos, which requires a lot of time working underneath pianos. Before I began my WFPB transition, it had become very painful for me to do this. About one month after I began my transition, I was called out on a job that required a lot of under the piano work. I gritted my teeth and said to myself, “Come on you can do this.” Then to my surprise it didn’t hurt, not even a little bit. Later I was preparing a player for delivery and everything went wrong. I had to replace several parts which had quit working, and I spent at least three hours on my back under the piano, getting up and down from the floor 20 to 30 times. The result was my leg muscles got sore from all the getting up and down, but I had no other pain in my back or any place else.

My wife was a little behind me changing over, but about a month into the WFPB change something nobody was expecting took place. For the last few years she looked like she had been putting on her makeup very badly (although she seldom uses makeup having been blessed with an excellent complexion). But now she looked like her face was on its last leg. Then about a month into the WFPB change, she came to me upset, and referring to her face, she said, “Look at my face, it looks like it’s falling off or something.” I looked her over closely and gave her my opinion that I thought that she was having a spontaneous face peel, that’s the best way I could describe it. The skin on her face just peeled off leaving new babylike skin in it place. She suddenly had a complexion at least twenty years younger! She is now slowly losing weight, her blood sugar levels are slowly normalizing and she’s getting her energy back.

I grew up in a house where we had meat, mashed potatoes, lots of gravy and milk and some vegetables. I did not believe that you were eating properly if you didn’t have meat of some kind at a meal and was still skeptical until I tried WFPB eating. I have been surprised at how quickly my tastes have changed. I really enjoy eating vegetables, whole grains, and fruits now. I have little interest in returning to my former eating habits. My digestive system works better than it ever has. I can work or play hard, golf, eat lots of good food, and sleep like a baby. My wife and I are both much more tolerant of the hot weather which is part of Sacramento living.

After starting this way of eating, I remembered something that happened about ten years ago. We lived in a different ward where we knew a couple who were both quite overweight. He played Santa Claus each year without needing any padding. She was a great LDS lady who raised her family right. She was sometimes referred to as Big Mama. She didn’t like this, of course, although it was said lovingly. They were both struggling with sleep apnea and were tired a lot of the time. They ended up both having to use CPAP machines in order to sleep safely at night. They moved out of the ward, and we did not see them for a couple of years. When we did meet again we did not know who they were until they told us their names; they did not look like the same people we knew. They were both fit, trim, normal weight and healthy with no hint of the previous obesity or other health problems. We asked, “What in the world did you guys do???” They answered, “Oh, we just decided to live the whole Word of Wisdom instead of just part of it and changed the subject.” He still played Santa Claus but with padding. This has always stuck in my mind, but it never occurred to me to join them in doing this . . . not at that time at least.

This WFPB eating has been a life-changing event for me. I am grateful for being led to it and look forward to living a much healthier and comfortable life. I recommend anyone who is not satisfied with their health or that of a loved one to give it a 90-day try. You won’t regret it!

Cy served for 20 years in the USAF as a musician. He married Pat West in 1956 and joined the Church in 1957. Cy Jr. was born in 1957, Victoria in 1963, and William adopted them in 1976 when Cy baptized him on Christmas Day. Between William, Cy Jr. (who died in Sept. 2012), and Victoria they have 16 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren (ages from 1 to 19 years). The children and grandchildren are interested in their NEW way of eating but as of now they are content to be observers. Time will tell! Cy retired from the USAF in 1973. He and Pat have served nine part-time proselyting missions and two service missions, as well as several years as temple workers.

Note: The Mrs. Claus Cy describes in this story recognized herself after it was posted and got in contact with him. Read her story here: Sheri Farley.


  1. This story has a special place in my heart. I believe Cy Welch is the first person to share his story who learned about a whole food, plant-based diet by reading my Meridian Magazine articles. Writing these articles takes just about all my spare time, but when I read stories like Cy and Pat’s, I know it is all worth it. Cy and Pat: you are inspirational. I know if you can try this at your age, all the rest of us can give it a go!

    P.S. Less than a week after I posted this story, I got this message from Cy: “My wife is looking better all the time and getting feisty like she used to be.” May we all be feisty at 79!

  2. Cy,
    I really enjoyed reading your story. You and your wife are an inspiration to all of us. Things come across all of our paths when we are ready and willing to listen. I am so happy for the both of you.
    What a wonderful example you both are.

  3. What an absolutely wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing, and welcome to the wonderful world of WFPB and the community of like-minded thinking.

  4. You two are inspirational. It really does make one feel good to eat this way. I won’t go back to my old ways except if facing starvation. AND maybe not then either.

  5. Great story Cy. I too discovered this way of eating from reading Meridian Magazine. Jane you are making a difference. Thanks for all your hard efforts. You are changing the world one person at a time.

  6. Your story is wonderful, thank you for sharing it! “But now she looked like her face was on its last leg” made me laugh. I’m so glad though that your pain went away with the change in diet and you both saw a restoration to your more youthful selves.

  7. Cy I really related very personally to everything you recently submitted to my eldest child, Jane Birch, but I paid particular attention to this one paragraph:

    “I grew up in a house where we had meat, mashed potatoes, lots of gravy and milk and some vegetables. I did not believe that you were eating properly if you didn’t have meat of some kind at a meal and was still skeptical until I tried WFPB eating. I have been surprised at how quickly my tastes have changed. I really enjoy eating vegetables, whole grains, and fruits now. I have little interest in returning to my former eating habits. My digestive system works better than it ever has. I can work or play hard, golf, eat lots of good food, and sleep like a baby. My wife and I are both much more tolerant of the hot weather which is part of Sacramento living.”

    Even though my dear Dad, Phil Birch had served as a bishop for many years of the Roseville, California Ward where I grew up, my two brothers and I grew up eating meat and animal products very regularly. Even after having graduated from Roseville Joint Union High School and eventually from BYU in Provo, Utah , and even after serving a full-time mission during my early twenties in the Helsinki, Finland Mission and then even after having married and raising Jane and her eight siblings I never paid attention to the fact that I wasn’t eating in accordance with the Word of Wisdom. I just assumed most LDS members I ever met ate the same way as I did!

    Just a few months before I turned eighty years of age (I just turned eighty three last month) my dear daughter, Jane spent about three or four hours at our home teaching me the Lord’s way of eating. Unfortunately, (in my opinion) My dear wife, Melva was not interested in being taught how to improve her eating. However, she puts up with all of my cooking of special WFPB meals and my eating separately from her. I really appreciate her not complaining about the way I eat.

    Jane gave me a copy of her book that day and I soon read it and believed strongly in what she teaches in it! I knew previous to her visit that day that she had written a book but really didn’t really realize what it’s subject fully was until that day Jane taught her dad how the Lord wants us to eat! There were actually various times in my life where I learned there were great Latter-day Saints who ate differently than me because of what the Lord tells us in Section 89 of the D.&C. However, I never then really carefully read that scripture in order to find out why they began eating that way.

    By the way, I tell my conversion to eating the Lord’s way on pages 146 and 147 of Jane’s book. I actually believe I was addicted to the meat and other animal foods I used to eat!

    I was born February 13, 1932 in the original Sutter Hospital which was then located across the street from the same block as the famous Sutter’s (Memorial) Fort is still situated. All the time I was growing up Roseville was a part of the Sacramento, California Stake. I feel a kinship with you and your wife because of my eating the Word of Wisdom way as you now do, and also because I know you are now living in the city where I was born. By the way I actually miss the hot Sacramento area weather I grew up in! I don’t enjoy scraping ice off of car windows here in Murray, Utah! I also experienced lots of snow and ice in Finland where my wife, Melva and I served for two years on my second mission there!

    Best wishes to both of you! Your new friend, Neil Birch

  8. It is never too late to change to good eating habits. Thank you for telling your story. Please talk to my mom, will you?!! 🙂 She is 80 and I am forwarding this to her right now.

  9. Cy, thank you so much for your story. iI is very inspirational. I am going to send this link to my friend in my ward who is very worried about her husband who just retired and is having a lot of health issues right now. Best wishes to you and your wife for a continued long, healthy life for many years to come!

  10. Wow Cy! Fancy meeting you here. I was just randomly reading this blog and came across you and Sheri. Fabulous for both of you. (I still send anyone who asks about a tuner your way. . . hope you are still doing it!) Many healthy days for you and Pat!

    Marsha Grover Steed Keller

  11. Cy,I am so “in tune” with everything you wrote in your story, and so happy for you. It was wonderful to connect with our former faithful piano tuner guy…..you are so talented and always brought a sweet spirit into the home. And our piano remains in the family, still going strong.
    I love Jane’s weekly articles and try to live by her advice also….she helps my 83 old body to keep going. I wish she would get asked to speak in General Conference! Annette Slade, formerly of Roseville, California, now Eden, Utah.

  12. Jane,
    Thank you so much for all the articles you have written. They have really helped me. I started out from reading The China Study. And then went on to read as many of the other books. And then realized that they were really talking about the Word of Wisdom. Then I found you, which expanded what I had been thinking about the Word of Wisdom and how we should be applying it.
    Thank you so much for all you are doing. I have only been eating this way for two and a half months and am committed to continuing it. Am encouraged to hear of the other “old” folks doing it. I just turned 80 and am hoping it will add to the quality of my life as I continue to practice eating this way. After all I have read about the animals, the way they are being treated and all that they are being fed, I can’t imagine myself ever eating any other way than plant based. You are indeed doing a good work.

    • Thanks so very much, Janet! I just spent another long evening trying to put together a new article for Meridian. It is hard work, and I feel very inadequate, so kind words like this really cheer me on and make me feel like it is all worth it! I look forward to sharing your “success story” with the world when you are ready to write it!! Bless you, Jane

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