By: Laurie Hoer
As I write this, I have just completed hiking 156 miles (carrying a 25 lb backpack) through and around Patagonia in less than two weeks. Last year I climbed Kilimanjaro, and each day I hike 2.5 miles up a mountain outside our Utah home with 1700 feet in elevation gain. Not bad for a 56-year-old! Proof that eating a whole food, plant-based diet not only provides enough protein but enough fantastic energy to fuel my whole life!
My journey to a plant-based lifestyle began with a natural interest in nutrition and a desire to find out the healthiest way to eat. I grew up in a weight-conscious family where being thin was the goal, but how to achieve this in a healthy way eluded me. I remember following my parents as they tried the Atkins diet, the grapefruit diet, Weight Watchers, and other low calorie plans. Each new eating program usually only lasted a short time and were followed by bouts of overeating (usually junk food) when I got too hungry and fed up to continue. During the last 2 years of high school and first year of college, I really struggled with disordered eating and my weight fluctuated 20 pounds a couple of times a year during this time. Not feeling in control over this aspect of my life really made it difficult for me to feel the Spirit or to feel good about myself. There truly is a connection between feeling good physically and feeling good spiritually and having good self-esteem.
After I got married, my husband and I moved to Xian, China in 1982. It was the first time I encountered really thin, healthy, active people. They ate primarily a whole foods, plant-based diet (with relatively small amounts of animal products). I was so surprised to see tiny women literally inhale huge bowls of rice! With absolutely no processed foods available, people snacked on whole sweet potatoes, ears of corn and sunflower seeds in the shell. Could it be that what I’d been told my whole life—that eating lots of carbs would lead to weight gain—was wrong? This started me on a quest to find out how we are meant to eat. I studied nutrition books and tried to discover “the best” eating plan, but my search was frustrating because there seemed to be no consensus on how humans should eat. There truly could not be a more confusing topic than nutrition!
As our family grew, we ended up living in Asia for almost 20 years, living in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. We spent the majority of those years living in Hong Kong and our 4 children really consider that to be their home. We have been blessed to travel a great deal and have seen much of the world (over 100 countries on all 7 continents), which has given me an insight into how people live and eat. I found that most people in rural areas of the world (generally speaking) eat primarily unprocessed whole foods with relatively little meat. I was drawn to this way of eating, but as an American, I didn’t know how to feed myself or my family this way, and we we did not change our diets much.
In 2004, my husband and I travelled to the Dominican Republic. One night we found a little road-side food stand and with limited language ability, we just pointed to what the people next to us were eating. Thinking it was beans and rice, we ordered the same. When our steaming bowls came, I took one bite and felt fur in my mouth!!! I have no idea what kind of animal was in my bowl, but I could not eat it (so I fed mine to the cat under my table!).
For the next 6 months, I became a vegan! I had no idea what I was doing so I just ate mostly salads and soup. I felt hungry most of the day and I ate throughout the day. In fact, I felt like I was constantly eating and I actually gained 10 pounds! I thought, “Who gains weight as a vegan?” So I abandoned my vegan diet and continued eating the SAD (Standard American Diet) I was used to, which involved counting calories and relying on lean protein like chicken/turkey breast, low-fat yogurt and egg whites. Evn though I wanted to eat a more vegetarian diet and didn’t really like the idea of eating animals, I thought I needed to eat these foods in order to get enough protein and calcium. I didn’t know any Westerners who ate a diet that didn’t include these foods.
Even though those years living and traveling throughout Asia showed me that many people in the world live primarily on plants, I didn’t make the complete connection until my father-in-law gave me a copy of The China Study and I watched Forks Over Knives in 2012. All of a sudden, everything I had seen over the years and what I was learning from the scientific data came together for me. I decided that I wanted to be completely plant-based.
Once I learned that animal meat and dairy are not actually healthy foods, I had no trouble giving them up entirely. One of the first motivating factors for me in adopting this lifestyle was the fact that there is so much cancer in my family. I have a father who’s had prostate cancer, a mother with breast cancer, a sister with ovarian cancer, another sister with melanoma, and a brother with testicular cancer. That is a lot of cancer in one family! I know that eating a WFPB diet gives me the best chance to avoid turning on those cancer cells which are certainly lurking in my body!
It was especially easy to become plant-based because I found some plant-based websites and started cooking from some WFPB cookbooks. This opened up a whole new world to me, and I now love making new, delicious dishes and being creative in the kitchen. At my husband’s encouragement, I have put together two cookbooks with all of the recipes we love to eat in our family. It thrills me when my children tell their friends about our plant-based lifestyle, and they request my recipes. All four of our children love to eat vegan food.
I’ve been eating a WFPB diet for four years now. Besides cutting down my cancer risk, the other health benefits I’m enjoying include being able to finally eat without counting calories or restricting the amount of food I eat and still maintain a healthy, lean weight. I’m 5’4″ and weigh around 110-113 pounds. I also have amazing digestion for the first time in my life! Even though four years ago when I started out being plant-based it was primarily for health reasons, I can now honestly say I am enjoying knowing this is the best way to eat for our planet as well as the animals. It makes me so happy to only eat plants!
My husband has been so supportive of this journey and from the beginning has said he’s not a vegan but a Word of Wisdom-er! I have always wanted to make the connection to the Word of Wisdom but since I did not know any other members of the church who ate this way, I wasn’t sure if my way of eating was exactly what the Lord wanted.
I came across Jane Birch’s website just after April General Conference 2016, and it was one of the highlights of my journey. Here is what I wrote to Jane:
Honestly, I can’t tell you how amazed and happy I was to find YOU! I was on the VegSource website and as I scrolled down, I saw a picture of Joseph Smith — somewhere between Rip Esselstyn and Dr. McDougall!!! It was right after conference and as I watched your video “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film,” tears just streamed down my face because so many things came together for me. First of all, I was just nodding my head and saying “yes!” to everything everyone was saying and I just felt like “these are MY people!!” The only other people eating this way that I’ve been exposed to are wonderful people but don’t have the same framework of the Gospel that I have. Secondly, even though I have had strong feelings that this way of eating is correct and the way Heavenly Father would have us eat, it has felt more of a “leap of faith” that it really is a healthful way of eating. After all, it really is revolutionary to other members when you tell them you eat this way — which is so strange, since we have the Word of Wisdom!! I feel like a “hippie” sometimes!! Anyway, when I saw your film, it totally confirmed my feelings that this is right and that the Lord really is pleased. I am excited to look at your website and to see the other videos you have put on there.
Laurie Hoer was raised in California and Colorado but considers Asia her second home, having lived in China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan for a total of 20 years, where they raised their 4 children. In 1980, she married Michael Hoer, whom she met at BYU Hawaii. After she graduated from BYU Provo with a Bachelors of Science degree in 1982, they moved to Xian, China where she taught English to foreign language professors at three different universities. She has spoken numerous times at BYU and other venues. Laurie accompanied her husband when he presided over the Taiwan Taichung Mission from 2007-2010, and the couple now lives in Farmington, Utah. She speaks Mandarin Chinese, is an avid scuba diver and hiker and will go “anywhere in the world” with Mike. She has traveled to all 7 continents and over 100 countries. She has been plant-based since May 2012 and enjoys cooking WFPB dishes for her friends and family. She also invites friends over to share her knowledge of plant-based eating.
Free cookbooks: Laurie has compiled her recipes into 2 cookbooks which she happily shares with anyone interested (some of the recipes contain some oil, but you can easily omit the oil or use a substitute). Click here to find and download Laurie Hoer’s cookbooks!