“Heavenly Father really does care about our bodies”

Eliza HirschiBy: Eliza Hirschi

I grew up in a family that always tried to eat healthy, without refined sugars and processed foods. My mom was vegetarian and mostly vegan, so we did not have a lot of meat at our house. My dad and siblings and I still had dairy products, but not as much as a lot of families. I remember hearing in school how we needed milk to be healthy and asking my mom about it. She replied that she wasn’t sure, but she felt like it was not necessary.

When I went to BYU, I took a nutrition course. I remember feeling like they were off base because I believed my mom was right and that animal products were not necessary or healthy, but I didn’t give it much thought. I still considered myself to be a healthy eater, but I did occasionally have meat, and I had dairy all of the time by this point.

When our oldest daughter was about six months old, my dad was experiencing health problems and decided to go completely vegan to see if his problems would go away. I got the book Food for Life by Neal Barnard and was so excited when I read it because it made so much sense to me! My husband and I (his idea) decided to support my dad in his decision and try it out ourselves. We have never looked back!

We have raised our five children completely vegan (they do have dairy in crackers/snacks that they are served other places, and we try to be relaxed about it to not make others uncomfortable). They are all extremely healthy and happy, and none of them have any behavioral problems, asthma, allergies, etc. which I believe is at least partly because of our diet. They excel at school and in sports. They have never had meat and the thought of eating animals is completely foreign to them.

When my daughter was about five, I was explaining to her that other people do eat animals and it’s ok, but we don’t in our family. Later on I heard her telling her little brother in an incredulous voice, “Did you know people eat giraffes?” He was of course shocked! She went on to list several other animals that people eat (all of them were exotic animals that people don’t usually eat), and he responded with extreme surprise every time. Although this was just a funny example with my kids, it was also a clear picture to me that if we aren’t raised eating meat, it is not actually natural or necessary.

I once had a friend ask me what we ate for Thanksgiving, and I told her that the “turkey” we eat is made out of mushrooms. She said, “Oh, that sounds gross!” I of course responded with some polite comment, but what I was thinking in my head was, “Are you kidding me? You just cut the head off of your meal, and you think that mushrooms sound gross?” It’s all about perspective!

My husband is a chiropractor and has been able to help several patients with their diets, which has been rewarding. When he was in school, they taught from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live, which helped us become healthier vegans with more vegetables and less processed foods. It was amazing and sad to see how most of his classmates, many of them LDS, totally discounted the nutrition professor and everything they learned because it promoted a plant-based diet. I believe a lot of them wouldn’t even consider that it might be correct, because they didn’t want to make the change themselves.

One of my favorite things about eating this way is that I don’t have to ever wonder about which of the latest fad diets is the best. I have seen many friends struggle with weight, even though they exercise several times a week. I feel like it would also be almost impossible for me to maintain a healthy weight if I was still eating the Standard American Diet. You can’t outrun your fork! There is a lot of confusion about how to eat correctly, even from doctors and nutritionists. It’s no wonder people don’t know what to do. There is so much information (and misinformation!) available that it’s almost impossible to sort out what is correct and what isn’t. I just feel incredibly blessed that I already know because it’s right in the scriptures.

I understand that the parts of the Word of Wisdom that address eating animal products are not the most important part of the law, and it’s certainly not a requirement to be faithful. But I do feel like we receive blessings of health when we try to follow the guidelines laid out as closely as possible. It is so comforting to me to know that Heavenly Father really does care about our bodies and how we take care of them.

I love my mom’s patriarchal blessing that mentions how she will eat, and I also have a vegan friend who had a very specific patriarchal blessing that told her she was “eating in the Lord’s way” even though the patriarch did not know her or her diet at all. I have also had friends have the Spirit testify to them that going plant based was the right direction for them. It is wonderful to know that if we are searching with an open heart, Heavenly Father will guide us to the correct knowledge of how to take care of our bodies.

Eliza Hirschi
, 34 years old
, lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with her husband and five kids. Hobbies include nutrition, CrossFit, yoga, playing with the kids, and anything in the sun!

Eliza’s parents (Paul and Orva Johnson) are featured in the video, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film” and also in an extra video featuring extended footage about their story. Don’t miss these amazing videos! You can find them here, “Video and Extras.”

See also their stories on this site: Paul Johnson and Orva Johnson

Comments

  1. Recd the four books today and eager to read and give as gifts. I am 82 and believe it’s never too late to feel better. Just have a high blood pressure which I believe this program will be helpful. Thank you.

    • Fantastic, Dorothy! You are certainly right. I feel grateful to know you want to share this precious blessing with others. Please keep me posted. Bless you!

  2. I am fascinated by what what I am reading here. I have written a children’s book for k-3 that teaches children to stay away for junk food. I’ve sold over 7000 copies to schools now, but I realize I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg and there’s so much more info I need to learn since I wrote my book. Boxes someone have a quick trick for cutting out the gluten from your life? I cut out wine, coffee, and bread from my diet and dropped 6 lbs instantly. Now I want to drop beef, pork, and chicken but I don’t know how. I’ll starve. Would love to have a coach to teach me to eat vegan. Just came back from Ecuador after a month and weighed 7 lbs lighter, but when I return to American the lbs start coming on and I start getting joint pain again and feel old. What’s going on?

    • You don’t need a coach. It is so easy. Think of all the foods you eat. Most of them can be made by substituting beans, mushrooms, or grains for the meat plus eliminating the oil. It’s that easy.

      I made a wonderful discovery this week. Most days I make a small pot of lentil (brown, beluga, red, or French) or split pea soup (yellow or green) with one of my several recipes containing these fast cooking legumes. Last week we were hungry and our yellow split pea soup was watery at lunch time. Instead of giving up, I finely chopped up a cup of cabbage and added it to the soup. After two minutes of wilting, we ate hungrily. Woo Hooooo! New taste sensation.

      New Split Pea Soup for Two

      1/2 c. yellow split peas
      1/2 onion, minced
      1 T powdered dehydrated mixed veg (Harmony House) or use veggie broth for your liquid
      2 T dehydrated spinach (Harmony House)
      pinch thyme
      dash red pepper flakes
      1 c. finely chopped green cabbage

      Place everything except cabbage in a small sauce pan with enough water to cover by an inch or two. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover, and simmer for 2-4 hours. Add cabbage, correct seasonings, and eat. We only salt food at the table these days. Lentil and split pea soups are delicious with a sprout and grated veggie salad (tiny bit of finely grated carrot, zucchini, celery, winter squash, and/or beet root), dressed simply with a dash of raw apple cider vinegar and a twist of black pepper. Between the salad and the huge bowl of soup, we each consume about 300 calories. That’s pretty good for such a filling, satiating meal. I grow the sprout on the kitchen counter; it’s a cheap way to get lots of fresh, local, organic greens.

  3. I love this article. I too got ahold of DF’s book in a natural healing nutrition class. I didn’t want to listen, but was sick enough to try anything. I wish I had known these things as a child or young mother. At least I found out as a grandma. Thanks for your post.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story, Eliza. We need to be friends! I’m a Mormon-vegan and the wife of a chiropractor too. We also live in the PNW (Washington state). Do you have a blog? I’d love to hear more about what you feed your children and their favorites.
    Thanks again for sharing. 🙂

  5. Eliza, I particularly like this following sentence you included in your message:

    “It is so comforting to me to know that Heavenly Father really does care about our bodies and how we take care of them.”

    I now fully agree with you about that. I had to go through some very severe medical conditions, diabetes, diverticulitis and high blood pressure before my eldest daughter, Jane, could “get through to me”! I could have avoided those serious medical problems which not only affected me personally, but also my wife and our children! If I had read section 89 of the D&C more carefully and prayerfully years before I began to eat with Jane Birch’s loving assistance “in the Lord’s way,” I would have saved my wife and children much concern about what was happening to me.

  6. Thank you, JustMe, for the recipe. I am on my fourth day without consuming meat and have already noticed some changes. My joints have stopped aching. My skin all over my body is much smoother. I don’t have mood swings as often as I did, and I’ve lost some weight. Also, my stomach isn’t bloated. I cut out milk, too. I’m hyped up on this whole foods way of eating now. I only have one little concern now and I need help from all of Jane’s readers…here it is …I’ve been put in charge of hosting the missionary luncheon for next Wednesday May 14th and I want the meal to be a shining example of the teachings in the Word of Wisdom. There will be 32 missionaries in attendance. Yikes! I’ve never done this before. My idea is to buy the large trays of vegetable lasagna, have an incredible salad, whole wheat rolls, and fruit for dessert. We want our missionaries strong, alert, and happy. Do any of you have ideas for a missionary luncheon? The bishopric gave me $160.00 to use for it. Another issue is, a few of the sisters and elders have stomach issues. Maybe I should include a different casserole for them. I would love it if you could send me your ideas for a healthy and attractive meal. Thaaaaanks! Brenda

    • Congratulations, Brenda, for starting on this exciting adventure and for wanting to feed the missionaries well! I think your plan looks good, though if you want to buy the lasagna, it will probably be hard to find a vegan version. You might want to check out Debbie’s post for what she fed her Relief Society. It may be more work than you want to do, but she has some good ideas and even links to recipes! http://discoveringthewordofwisdom.com/christofferson-rs-dinner/

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