By: Joseph Peterson
I always thought I ate a fairly healthy diet. Coming from a larger family, my mom always cooked homemade meals, and I just assumed that if it was homemade, it was healthy. After going off to college, I had to begin cooking for myself, which was usually just whatever was easiest, which was anything from spaghetti to frozen dinners. Then on my mission in Monterrey, Mexico, we would either eat at the homes of Church members or buy tacos on the street. The food where I served in Mexico always contained lots of meat and lots of grease. At one point in my mission, my health got so bad because of the food there that I had to be hospitalized. At the time, however, I thought it was just one bad meal with lots of bacteria. I didn’t stop to think that how I ate everyday affected my life so much.
When I got married, my wife and I were just never motivated to cook for ourselves very often since it was just the two of us, so we would usually go out to eat or cook some kind of frozen meal. After a while of that, my wife got better at cooking homemade meals just about every night, but we would still eat meat and lots of cheese and things like that.
Then just last year, I heard my parents talking about a diet they were starting that they were very impressed with. It was the whole food, plant-based diet. At first, I didn’t really think I needed anything like that, since I have always been a pretty skinny, healthy guy. At most I weighed 165, and I’m 5’9’’, so about average. However, my whole life I’ve also suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I have been to many doctors who would just tell me to experiment with different pills, but none of them really worked.
After several months on their new diet, my parents were saying they lost around 40 pounds each and were feeling much better! I was shocked! I have always followed my parents example my whole life and seeing how much this new diet had changed their lives, I wanted to partake of the blessings too. While I didn’t need to lose weight, I hoped it would help with the IBS.
My parents said they didn’t eat meat or any meat products such as dairy or eggs. They also didn’t eat oils. I was thinking to myself, “No meat?! I don’t know if I can do that!” I had grown up on meat, as my wife had as well. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but then I decided I could at least start by cutting out red meat, so that’s what I did. Then eventually I cut out chicken as well. Then I slowly started cutting out dairy as well. My wife also joined me and supported me in making healthier foods.
It was a gradual process, but I saw immediate results even after just getting rid of the meat in my diet. Before my parents changed their diet, I never thought that IBS was caused by the things I was eating, but as my diet started changing, it was evident that that had to be the cause. Because of switching to a whole food, plant-based diet, I no longer have diarrhea and heartburn everyday (I sometimes had it multiple times a day), and I was amazed.
The testimony of my parents has also helped since my mom had some health concerns and my dad had a cancer scare, but once they started this diet, their lives changed as well. My mom doesn’t have to take as much medicine and my dad’s cancer scare simply disappeared. I’ve seen so many blessings in my life and others around me on this whole foods diet, and I hope to teach these things to my 7-month-old daughter as she gets older as well.
The Word of Wisdom has a totally different image in my mind now. I used to think it was only drugs to avoid. We as a family always knew that it said to eat little or no meat but no one followed that. We ate it at Church outings, and all families ate meat and dairy, and they ate it all the time.
I feel as though this diet not only has helped me become healthier but has helped me spiritually to be more aware of the life I need to live in terms of following the gospel. Just as fasting helps us focus on how we can abstain from something, so does this diet. This new diet has given me an awareness of my spiritual well being and has helped me to focus on what other harmful things enter my body, like music, activities, and more.
Joseph Peterson is 27 years old and lives in Chandler, Arizona. He is a software developer currently working for General Motors. He loves to challenge himself, especially in all sports. He is currently into ping-pong and plays a very fast-paced game called SC2 that challenges him to his fullest. He and his wife have a 7-month old daughter.