By: Erik Jensen
Three years ago I was feeling that my health was beginning to slowly decline. I was not happy with the way I felt but accepted that it was probably part of growing older and that there was probably nothing that could be done. I was 60 lbs overweight, cholesterol was about 220, blood pressure 140/90, and I was taking drugs for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My feet developed neuropathy, painful arthritis was spreading in my fingers, and I had restless leg syndrome for years (about every 15 seconds during sleep my leg would twitch). I also had an autoimmune disease in my eye that would flair up regularly, my knees and ankles would begin to hurt if I ran or hiked regularly, and every morning I woke up exhausted. I had a scary episode hiking in the Sierras when my body just quit.
My wife Wendy has suffered for years with fibromyalgia symptoms. She also suffered with terrible acid reflux, diverticulosis, kidney stones, and allergies. The only way she could control the acid reflux was to take a calcium blocker that would eventually weaken her bones. Her blood sugar was at pre-diabetic level, and she had difficulty with exercise and knee problems.
We were discussing the new stage of life we were entering as our children are growing up and will soon be on their own. We began to include in our prayers our desires to prepare ourselves spiritually, financially, and physically so that we could serve missions and be useful as we enter into the last third of our lives. The answer to our prayers for physical preparation began at Costco one day as we were looking at a product called a Nutribullet. A lady next to us remarked that her brother had bought one and had been able to lose a lot of weight. We bought it and for the next few weeks it sat on our kitchen floor unopened until two of our sons decided to unpack it and see how it worked. We read the smoothie recipes and started to have them for breakfast. Our energy levels increased, we lost a little weight and found that our appetites were somewhat decreased during the morning. I continued to occasionally read about nutrition on the Internet, but it was difficult to figure out what to do since there are so many opinions.
A few months later, I came across an article online by Jane Birch on using the Word of Wisdom as a guide to our diets. She referred to the documentary Forks Over Knives. As we watched this video, both Wendy and I felt light and truth. We felt that after all the conflicting information about diet and nutrition we had been exposed to that finally here was the truth. I bought the books Discovering the Word of Wisdom and The China Study, and Wendy and I read them together. We had no idea how to transition to this way of life but over the weeks and months we learned to shop, cook and eat this whole food, plant-based way. The most difficult time was during the first two months. We did not realize how addicted we really were to sugar, salt, and fat, particularly cheese for myself and sugar for Wendy. We learned to plan and prepare our food and snacks so that we were never hungry. It became much easier after a few weeks as our addictions began to lessen.
Amazingly, we found that after two months, our taste in foods totally changed. We discovered that with many of our past favorite foods, it was not so much the taste that we loved but rather the really addicting properties that had attracted us. Standing outside of our addictions, we found that our ability to taste seemed to explode. All types of vegetables, fruit, rice, potatoes, and grains tasted amazing. The last hamburger I ever ate (Five Guys), tasted so fat and greasy that I did not even finish it.
It is now about 2 ½ years since we started this journey. I have lost 60 lbs and now weigh 169 lbs., just 4 pounds more than I did when I was playing soccer for BYU. My cholesterol is down to 135 and my LDL is 75. My blood pressure is 110/65. My arthritis has cleared up, though I still have a couple crooked fingers. My restless leg syndrome symptoms are significantly decreased, and I have not had an outbreak of the autoimmune disease in my eye since changing our diet. I can run for miles even though I do not train regularly. The pain in my knees and ankles are gone. The neuropathy in my feet remains, though it does not seem as bad as before and does not impact my life.
Wendy’s fibromyalgia symptoms are totally gone as are her acid reflux and kidney stones. Her blood sugar is down to normal levels, allergy symptoms have lessened and she lost 30 lbs. She still has diverticulosis but has not had a flare up for more than two years. Other changes we have noticed in our bodies are: We never get headaches, almost never have colds or are sick, plaque is almost nonexistent at our dental cleanings and our skin feels smooth and amazing. We handle stress easier. It is almost like a floor is placed on our moods that keeps us from feeling depressed or overwhelmed. We have constant energy throughout the day. Exercise has become a delight rather than an ordeal. We hike together for miles on the weekends.
We did not expect all of these results when we began. We were just looking for a way to feel better. It became apparent to us that though our doctors were well intentioned, they did not have real training in the healing power of a plant-based diet. Their answer was to just give us pills. We now no longer need any of the prescriptions we had previously. All of these amazing physical blessings just began to unfold the longer we stuck to this way of life. This has been one of the great blessings of our lives! We joy in it every day! We never feel like we are on a diet or feel deprived and have never enjoyed eating more than we do now. I actually eat more now than I ever have in my life.
As significant as the physical blessings have been, we’ve also experienced the unfolding of the spiritual blessings outlined in the Word of Wisdom. Some of the spiritual treasures we have gained from eating this way include:
- A greater appreciation for our bodies and the relationship between our bodies and spirits. (The temple is just full of these references.)
- A love and appreciation for the wonder of animals as God’s creations and beings to be cared for with love and respect.
- A vision of the world as it should be and will be during the Millennium when the land and seas will be teeming with all manner of life and where all beings will have joy in their creation.
- Peace—I no longer worry as much about temporal things as I have the greatest temporal gift to be had (D&C 89:2). If I get a disease due to my bad eating habits from my first 55 years, at least I know that I changed when I came to a knowledge of these truths, and I have a great hope that the last third of our lives will be healthy and productive. In any case there is no need to worry since we have done all that we can do.
I remember how I used to laugh at an uncle and aunt that followed an unusual diet and how amused I was in the past by friends who excluded sugar or dairy from their diets. I find it highly amusing that I am now preaching the joys of healthy eating myself. We have shared this great discovery with many of our friends and family and have seen some incredible changes in their lives.
Erik (58) graduated from BYU and has a Master’s Degree in International Business from the University of South Carolina. Wendy (55) graduated from Ricks College and attended BYU. Erik served a mission in Switzerland and Wendy in The Netherlands. They spent 12 years overseas working and living in Egypt, Germany, The Philippines, and Australia. They currently live in Clovis California where Erik manages a company. They have one daughter and four sons (three living); the youngest will be graduating from high school this month.