By: Julia Doutre
Nine months after our marriage, my husband and I moved for the third time and I started a new job managing apartment complexes. I had to quit another job to keep up with the demand of managing. Our lives were a little chaotic, and I was extremely stressed. Some days it was so stressful that I would get awful stomach pains that lasted all day.
A few months after starting my job, I noticed these terrible rashes on my skin that started to spread all over my body. My skin would itch all day, every day. Parts of my body were so inflamed and raw that it would “weep” and bleed. Because of that, I needed to wear gauze pads every day for about 7 months to keep it from leaking on to my clothes. It was really embarrassing to say the least! I’ve had issues with eczema growing up but never had it this bad before.
Over this period of time, I tried many skin creams and lotions, and I spent hundreds of dollars at the dermatologist with rounds of antibiotics and strong medications, which cleared up my skin until the moment I got off of them. It just wasn’t sustainable, and I felt out of whack. My wise mother suggested I get off dairy as she’d heard stories of people having success with skin problems when they went off dairy, but I told her I couldn’t live without my cheese and milk. I even ignored the prompting one night, when the itching on my skin was extremely painful, that the reason why it itched so badly is because of all the sugar. This was after having my daily dose of chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. Yet I still caved in almost every night and brushed off the thought that all these foods were probably the reason why I wasn’t able to get over this issue.
Because I had graduated just before we got married, I had a little more time on my hands to make meals, and I learned to love to cook. Looking back on it now, I realized I always went with food lathered with oil, chicken, cheese, and a milk cream base. Those seem to be my everyday staples. What also was my staple every night was feeling bloated and sick to my stomach. Sadly, I thought this was normal for my body. My weight went up significantly, and I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. In some photos, I didn’t even look like myself.
About a year after I started developing this skin problem, I was talking to my sister, Alice-Anne, who was telling me that she wanted to get a hold of her health and start eating a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet without any meat or dairy products. I told her what I told my Mom, that I simply could not live without cheese or milk. And wasn’t chicken healthy for you? Deep down inside I felt like she was right, but I just thought that was too hard to do. I didn’t even know where to start.
About a month later, Alice-Anne sent an article to our family about our cousin, Brecklyn Ferrin, who was eating a WFPB diet. Her story really intrigued me. Soon after this, I felt prompted to look at my patriarchal blessing because I knew in there it talked specifically about the Word of Wisdom. I always glazed over that paragraph thinking it didn’t relate to me, but as soon as I read it with a different mindset, the Spirit quickly confirmed to me that eating a whole foods, plant-based diet is what I needed to do. It was like the Spirit was saying, “I knew you would have this skin problem, and I’ve already given you the tools to overcome it on your own.” It was an answer to my prayers.
Looking back on Doctrine and Covenants Section 89, I know for me, my everyday consumption of meat was not “sparingly.” But it also opened my eyes to how I can incorporate more of the “dos” in my diet like whole grains, wholesome herbs, fruit in their season, etc. There isn’t anything specific about dairy in section 89, but from people’s experiences, what I read, and the prompting of the Spirit, I knew I needed to give up all animal products.
Because I was so desperate to get better, I made some drastic changes within a few short weeks. It was a struggle trying to figure out what to eat and what things to buy. But I was determined! I continued to read more articles from the Discovering the Word of Wisdom website, I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, and I collected many recipes to try.
Meat was pretty easy to give up, mostly because I hated preparing it and worrying about sanitizing my kitchen all the time. Dairy was the hardest for me because sometimes I felt addicted to it. But soon my taste buds began to change, and now I don’t crave cheese like I used to but instead crave rice salads and sweet potatoes.
Reading The Starch Solution by John McDougall changed the way I thought about food and recently finishing How Not To Die by Michael Greger has given me great tips on how to incorporate a wide range of foods in my diet each day. Whole grains, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, berries, have become more appealing, and I’m surprised that food can taste so good without having to add animal products.
My health problems didn’t change overnight, but within a couple of weeks I noticed my weight dropped and my skin got better. In a few short months my skin problem was completely gone, and now, almost two years later, it has never come back! Even during harsh winters, my skin does not break out or get rashes like it used to. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, I notice that I get over it a lot faster. The fact that I don’t itch constantly is a miracle in itself. Overall I just feel great!
These “side effects” of good health from trying to eat this way is a confirmation that this is the right direction for us. Even though we’re not perfect at it, when we make the effort to do our best, we see how the promises are fulfilled of “run and not be weary, walk and not faint.” It’s amazing the control we can have on our health with the tools the Lord has provided through the Word of Wisdom.
Julia is 26 years old and lives in Moscow, Idaho with her husband Austin. She graduated in psychology from BYU-Idaho in 2012. Austin is working on his masters in mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho. They love taking walks together, trying out new recipes, and watching BYU sports.