My journey to whole foods, plant-based nutrition began after I was married. I love to cook. I love to bake. I wanted to wow my husband, Eddy, with scrumptious dishes at every meal. Most of the foods were from the rich American diet that we all enjoy. I can bake cinnamon rolls that will make you remember childhood memories, chicken-fried steak with thick gravy that will clog arteries instantly, and funeral potatoes that will win awards at church events.
The problem was, that after a couple of years, we had both gained a considerable amount of weight. I gained about 15 pounds, and my husband gained over 20. I had never been a big fan of “dieting.” I have a great metabolism, and weight was never a problem, but when I couldn’t button my pants without effort, it was time to consider something, anything! I found an app on my phone called LoseIt! that I decided to try out, and my husband, bless his heart, jumped on board because he knew that doing it with someone would be much easier. The deal was that you counted calories. ALL of your calories. I could count calories like nobody’s business, and it worked. We both started to lose weight. Good news, right? Wrong.
A couple of months later, we decided that we should have some form of life insurance. When you apply for life insurance policies, they send someone to weigh you, ask you about your health history, and draw your blood to check for all sorts of things. Well, if you can imagine, my husband is 6 foot tall and pretty thin. We had also just been dieting for a couple of months so our weight, while not optimal yet, was not anything over the top. Everything came back great with the exception of one giant problem: Eddy’s cholesterol was through the roof! Not just a little high, but the highest range kind of high, and our doctor wanted to prescribe a statin that very day. I am not a big fan of drugs, so we asked if we could change our lifestyle and get re-checked in 6 months. She said we could give it a try, but she was not convinced it could be done.
Our real journey to veganism had begun. At first, it was all of the things that we probably all know we should do: stop eating red meat, no salt, and exercise! Eddy wasn’t much into exercising so that was something we started, and I can happily report that we are now avid runners, cyclists and very much into strength-training for healthy bones. After about 6 months of no red meat and learning that Americans had not solved any degenerative diseases by switching from red meat to chicken, we decided to become lacto-ovo vegetarians. We really got into Greek yogurt and still ate cheese and eggs, but we did not consume any dairy milk. (We would later learn that when milk is tested directly from the cow, if it is found to have too much pus, antibiotics, blood, etc. it is not thrown out, but instead made into cheese, yogurt and ice cream. Gross!)
Enter the world of Scott Jurek, Brendan Brazier, and full tilt veganism. I read book after book, but it was after reading Scott and Brendan stories that I decided to try being a healthy vegan. I remember turning to my husband while lying in bed one night with Brendan’s book Thrive, and saying, “I think I’m going to try being vegan. It feels like the right thing to do.” He said, “I don’t think I can go there with you,” and I couldn’t blame him! While I felt like it was the right thing to do, it seemed incredibly scary to me. What would I feed my family? What would I eat? How do you cook without meat, dairy, eggs, and oil? Would it taste like cardboard or look like disgusting mush? I was scared and apprehensive, but I was also determined.
Learning to cook was the biggest challenge, but the most rewarding. I learned so much about foods that I would have never tried had it not been for this journey. It was not always easy, but with help from people like Chef AJ, Shelly Detken (Plantiful Wellness), Lindsay Nixon (Happy Herbivore), and the Forks over Knives Cookbook, they made it easy and fun to transition not only myself, but my family as well. Not all of my recipes were a success. Some were downright awful! A trick I use is to write in my cookbooks. If it was awful, I will write “awful” on the page to make sure I don’t try it again. I make also notes if it was easy, labor-intensive, delish, or just ok. It truly helps. The best thing about this change is that our cholesterol levels are better than they’ve ever been. Eddy has been in the normal range ever since our switch to plant-based nutrition. It has helped us stay committed to this healthy lifestyle change. It also means that anyone can do it!
Going plant-based has made me more spiritually in tune with nature and more sensitive to cruelty to animals. I understand the Word of Wisdom now in a way that I did not before. When people join the Church, they receive the Holy Ghost and move from darkness into light, and their life changes. I think something similar happens when you go vegan. When you have the knowledge and understanding of the health impact of food and the way the meat industry impacts animals and the environment, then the Word of Wisdom just naturally makes sense to you. Eating this way helps you come out of the dark and into the light. I became vegan purely for health reasons, but now I know that my food can help prevent unnecessary cruelty to animals and can help heal our environment as well.
It wasn’t until after becoming vegan that we learned about wonderful resources such as Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, the Forks over Knives DVD, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Pam Popper, Rich Roll, Dr. Doug Lisle, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Neal Barnard with the PCRM, and Dr. John McDougall. I have decided to become part of the movement. I am certified in The Starch Solution from Dr. McDougall’s foundation and have received a certificate in Plant-based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Foundation and eCornell through Cornell University. I am currently enrolled in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and am working towards my certification as a Holistic Health Coach so that I can help others—not to heal others, but to help others learn how to heal themselves.
Please join me and countless others on this journey to health and wellness by becoming a healthy vegan. I promise it will change your life for good.
Lauri Mackey is 43 years old and lives in Southern California. Her favorite hobby and form of exercise is mountain biking. She likes to knit for relaxation. She teaches others how to do their family history online and teaches nutrition classes locally. Lauri can be found at facebook.com/veganmormon.
Lauri Mackey was interview on this episode of Mormon Vegetarian.