When I was only 8 years old, my maternal grandmother died of heart disease. She was 51. My grandpa died of cancer in his 70’s, and my other grandpa has had three heart attacks, a triple bypass surgery, and now wears a pacemaker. We do not have good “genes.” Subsequently, I exercised and fad dieted throughout my childhood and teenage years.
My interest in health continued into college where I studied fitness and wellness. A week after I graduated, my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world. She was perfect, except for one thing: she was a colicky baby. She would scream and cry and her little body would writhe in pain, night after night. By the early morning hours I was usually crying with her. After trying anything and everything to try to ease her discomfort, the only thing I could do was pray to God for help. I was nursing my baby and had several women tell me certain foods could cause colic. Around that time my Grandma Johnnie Belle gave all of her children and grandchildren a book entitled The China Study for Christmas. Out of respect for my grandmother and a feeling of desperation, I read the book. It was very overwhelming, but I felt impressed to at least cut out milk at that time. It was an attainable goal, and I began to see subtle changes right away; the irritable temperament of my fussy baby began to diminish, and, much to my surprise and delight, the little bumps that covered my upper arms began to disappear. I was beginning to learn what Hippocrates had said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Although five more children would bring joy and continue to bless my marriage, I unfortunately suffered bouts of anxiety and depression in varying degrees. I have always been able to maintain a consistent exercise regimen, but my weight fluctuated as I struggled to know “what” and “how” to eat. I also suffered recurring yeast infections. I felt I had more love and patience to give and felt sorry and guilty all the time. I pleaded for help in knowing how I might more fully serve my Heavenly Father and his children. One day I read Alma 38:12: “See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” I was guided to understand that my relationship with food and the food choices I was making were limiting my potential by affecting my mood and energy levels. But, book after book, conversation after conversation, scripture after scripture, article after article, it was very clear that when it comes to food choices and getting healthy, it can be very confusing and contradicting.
At my lowest point, I suffered a miscarriage, and compounded with an incident of molestation as a child and the near drowning of my then 9-month-old baby less than a year before that, I literally went crazy—physically and mentally. I was put on anti-depressants and my doctor even considered putting me on high blood pressure meds at the age of 30! After more heartfelt prayer and fasting, with food sensitivities in mind, I was prompted to revisit the Word of Wisdom. I had always believed the answers were there, but I would become frustrated as I tried to interpret the counsel and make it align with all of the other information I had absorbed. One thing that troubled me was all of the things it didn’t say. What about dairy? What about sugar? What about oil? I finally came to realize I only needed to align all other information with the Word Wisdom. The foods I should be eating, besides the obvious contraindications, were listed, and anything else is unnecessary and/or even harmful.
The bottom line was, food was affecting my mind and body, and if I didn’t make some life changes, I was not going to be the instrument in the Lord’s hands I yearned to be. Although I had cut out sugar for short periods of time, many times before, to cure yeast overgrowth and for other overall health improvements, I now felt impressed to really cut it out, as in permanently! It was overwhelming and scary to think about. In the past when going off of sugar I had suffered migraines, vomiting, extreme mood swings and even emotional breakdowns. However, I found comfort in verse 3 of section 89 that the Word of Wisdom was “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints.” I knew God had heard my prayers and accepted my fast. I had faith that, coupled with my righteous desires, the enabling power of Christ’s atonement would help me attain my goals. I decided to use LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program manual, and although it was still a challenge, it has been very instrumental in my being able to really kick my sugar habit. I have not had sugar for over 100 days!
I feel I was being prepared to receive more understanding and accept the challenge to make more changes, and ultimately receive more blessings! About a month after I had quit sugar and lost some weight, I came across an article in Meridian magazine by Jane Birch. I was delighted to see some more in-depth insight into the Word of Wisdom! I had been searching and hoping for this for many years. After reading her story and learning from her understanding of the Word of Wisdom, I knew that I also needed to greatly reduce the amount of meat I ate! Although this seemed a challenge as well, I felt much more in control of my food choices, having been off sugar for over a month.
I have committed to strictly heed the counsel given in the Word of Wisdom, and I have never felt better in my life! I eat lots of fruits and vegetables and make whole grains the bulk of what I eat. I eat meat sparingly, with thanksgiving in my heart. I feel more positive and have more energy. I have lost over 25 lbs in 3 months and am still losing. I no longer require medications of any kind. It has been a truly humbling experience for me to bridle my passions with food, and as a result I have felt a greater capacity to love. I was worried about how my family would feel about new recipes and change. For Family Home Evening I showed them Jane Birch’s 12-minute film, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom,” and we studied the story of Daniel in the Bible and talked about his superior health and wisdom. It has been a blessing to experience the faith of my children! They love to join me in the kitchen making whole grain bread and chopping fresh fruits and vegetables. My vision is to see my grandchildren grow up eating in a way that is pleasing to the Lord! I know that the Word of Wisdom was written for us in the latter days and will never go back to eating the SAD diet.
Julie Brown graduated from Brigham Young University in 2004, and now lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming where she enjoys being a wife and mother of 6 children. She loves home making, cooking, reading, singing and blogging. Writing about her personal experiences at www.tucknjules.blogspot.com has helped keep her motivated to strictly heed the Word of Wisdom and she hopes to help and inspire others to do the same.