I’ve had weight and health issues most of my life. As a child I was known as “thunderthighs” among the taunting peers. I had an emergency appendectomy the last day of elementary school, and that was the first of many surgeries yet to come. At the age of 13, a fall off my beloved horse broke my tailbone and began a series of issues with my lower back that has continued through adulthood.
I was bedridden due to my back the latter part of my senior year, and during that time I gained about 40 pounds. I never realized it since I never got up to dress or go to the bathroom. I tried dieting on and off with some success here and there. I lost 30 pounds in college during a month-long survival course traveling 250 miles on foot and living off the land. That life-changing experience shocked my internal system to change moving my bowels from once-a-week to a daily event. I went on to my first back surgery during college.
I married and had continued health problems during pregnancies. I was bedridden again during my second pregnancy when a disc in my lower back became herniated. I gained 45 pounds with each pregnancy but deliveries were successful. I was plagued with cluster migraine headaches, some of which lasted weeks. I tried every diet that came along: the grapefruit diet, Atkins, Weight-Watchers, Nutrisystem, SlimFast, and many I can’t even remember. I was successful in losing weight with most of them, but the pounds would creep back. I spent hours running at the school track, pushing the stroller and carefully watching my other children on the football field as I ran laps.
My health issues continued as I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia, rheumatoid arthritis, myofascial pain syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and degenerative disc disease. I took medication every day to help prevent the migraine clusters that still came if I forgot to take the meds. Many of the side effects of the medications included weight gain, so I had my excuse.
My two daughters developed eating disorders in their teenage years. I tried to convince myself that I had not caused them, but with mom dieting her way through life, the emphasis was definitely there. We shared Weight Watcher meetings together and celebrated successes at losing a few pounds. The girls threw themselves into exercising. I would convince myself that my poor health would not let me run anymore so my life became sedentary. I was tall, so I could carry many extra pounds without looking fat. It was my grandson who asked me one day why I was so fat.
The health charts categorized my weight as morbidly obese. I refused to allow myself to feel upset about my weight, but I was taking about 15 medications just to get through the day. I counted my surgeries: two on my lower back, two maxillary sinus, two thyroid, two knee replacements, two carpal tunnel, bunionectomy, gallbladder removed, hysterectomy, prolapsed uterine repair, appendectomy, and tonsillectomy. My body and I finally reached a point when we were ready to make a change.
Six months ago, about a year before turning 65, I woke up one day and decided to join a nearby gym. I was retired from teaching, had relocated to be closer to grandchildren, and wanted to improve my health. I was as heavy as I had ever been with a BMI of 34. Never having been to a workout fitness gym, I got some instruction on various cardio and weight machines. I determined to join a class designed for seniors and there met a fitness instructor who would change my life.
The Young at Heart class met once a week. The instructor was a fit 71 year old who gently pushed us to do a little better to become a little stronger. She was a personal trainer, a yoga and fitness teacher and a nutrition expert. She praised us for caring enough to come to class to help strengthen our muscles, but she cautioned us not to be there to lose weight. Exercise was not for losing weight, eating the right foods would help us lose weight. What? I’d run all those years to lose weight. What was I supposed to eat? Lettuce all my life? When I listened I learned that she did not eat animal products—no meat, no dairy, no cheese, no eggs, no fish, no chicken . . . what was left? What should one eat? I can’t do without cheese, or ice cream, or In-N-Out burgers . . . It was not possible . . . yet here she was, claiming that she had fought and won battles with obesity and cancer. She called it a plant-based diet. She encouraged me to read The Starch Solution by John McDougall MD.
I mentioned my experience with my trainer to a friend, and she told me about a movie called Forks over Knives and invited me to come to her house to watch it. I felt like my life was changing while watching the movie. She loaned me Jane Birch’s book, Discovering the Word of Wisdom, which I devoured along with The Starch Solution. I felt like I was discovering things about eating the right foods for the first time in my life. I felt betrayed by what I had learned all my life from the media, the trusted Dairy Council, the Food and Drug Administration, and on and on, from the Food Pyramid I taught for years in my classroom to the health news on the great benefits of olive and coconut oils. I couldn’t believe that everyone could be so very wrong! I watched videos including PlantPure Nation, Food Inc., Vegucated, and Fed Up. It was like I couldn’t get enough of a world that had been right there, yet so far away from my world. I determined to start eating Whole Foods Plant Based the very next day.
I took seriously the 70% starch guide adding vegetables with a couple fruit servings a day. I began each day eating a large bowl of oatmeal for breakfast with a heaping tablespoon of ground flax seeds and a scant tablespoon of hemp hearts along with a fistful of blueberries. For lunch I usually eat a large bowl full of a variety of cut up Yukon gold, red and sweet potatoes. Sometimes I add a large spoonful of quinoa, or a handful of spinach or broccoli. Then I usually have rice and beans for dinner with a large serving of vegetables. My sweet treat includes handfuls of grapes. I felt like I was eating huge amounts of food- probably thousands of calories a day. But the weight started coming off. I lost 10 pounds the first two weeks and an average of .2 pounds every day after that.
My exercise class teacher continued to mentor me by encouraging no oil, no added supplements, and chewing food rather than juicing it into drinks. I took her nutrition class and got lots of new recipes. I bought vegan cookbooks at the thrift store and online. I searched the Internet for new recipes nearly every day. I learned to make sauces using carrots, chickpeas, and red peppers. I learned that it was possible to brown onions and garlic in water instead of oil. I found that it was possible to make yummy sweet treats using Medjool dates and real maple syrup. I never have felt deprived. Now that I have lost over 80 pounds my BMI is down to 21, my blood pressure is usually around 104/52 and I have gone from 15 daily medications down to 4.
I am finally happy with my weight—especially since I no longer have to worry about dieting, or counting calories, or limiting portion sizes. I may still lose a few more pounds, but I’m no longer worried about it. I am in the normal range instead of being morbidly obese. This way of eating is not dieting. It is the way I plan to eat for the rest of my life, eating to live healthfully.
I saw parts of the Word of Wisdom I had never really noticed before. One phrase is usually left out by those quoting the scripture from D&C 89: 12-13:
Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
I kept reading it over and over again, wondering when that had been added. I am a convert, but I had never even noticed that section before. I have a desire to please the Lord, so I have made a commitment as strong as the four items we are to stay away from. I will never smoke, drink coffee, tea, or alcohol, and I will never eat meat unless it is the last thing available on earth, and only then if the Lord tells me I have to. We’re certainly not suffering from famine or from a lack of grains, or fruits or vegetables. Why do we not talk about pleasing the Lord? The scriptures never force us to keep commandments. That’s why we are encouraged to read and pray for answers for ourselves. I have made my decision, and I know I am receiving the blessings.
I have not gotten the usual colds and flus this winter. In fact I feel stronger than ever. I do believe that there are nutrients in plants that enhance the body’s ability to fight germs and viruses. I have more energy. In the past, my fibromyalgia would contribute to a week or more of recovery time after a busy day. Now, when my schedule is overflowing I find that it takes just one night’s rest to recover. I feel strength added to my body as never before. I can dance with my two-year-old granddaughter or play basketball with my seven-year-old grandson. I can easily get down on the floor with my grandchildren, and I can just as easily get up again!
Others have said to me, “Oh I could never eat the way you do!” and I think back to a few short months ago when I thought the same thing. Rarely do we hear the fact that the number one cause of death in our society is our diet. No one wants to hear that they are killing themselves by what they choose to put in their body. It is all about choice! But what I have learned is that I can never go back to eating the way I once did. I see meat in the stores and I find I get nauseated and teary-eyed. I do think we will be held accountable to God for the animals we have needlessly consumed. I see God’s creatures as offering more enjoyment for us than for just being eaten. I see new vegetables at the farmers’ markets I have never seen before, such as the beautiful Romanesco cauliflower, and I am excited to learn how to prepare them. I don’t worry about what nutrients I lack but instead focus on eating a variety of starches and vegetables every day. I love this way of eating!
My husband came on board about a month after I started. Although he does not have health problems, he has lost 30 pounds. My developmentally disabled sister lives with us and she has had to eat Whole Foods Plant-based No Oil. She, like most young children, loves fast food, especially bacon cheeseburgers. But after 4 months of adhering to this way of eating, she has now lost 30 pounds. After 20 years as a diabetic, her doctor has taken her off all her diabetic medications, and high cholesterol medications. For the first time in 35 years, her blood pressure is normal! I’m not sure she would eat this way if she had the choice, but she is happy to have her weight down and loves the compliments she receives about the way she looks. She loves being able to pick something up off the floor without worrying about falling over. (Yes, she was that heavy!) Even her depression is far better these days, helping her to be happy most of the time.
I feel like a convert on a mission to help transform people’s lives. I see morbidly obese folks and wish I could help them to eat plant diets. I hear of those with health issues and wish I could help them see that changing their diets would give them a new lease on life. If they only realized what they are doing to the sacred bodies they have been entrusted with during mortality. They have their agency, and can choose to kill themselves earlier than ever or thrive more happily longer in service to God and their fellow human beings. The world still says carbs are bad and coconut oil and Paleo diets are good, but I now know better. I would encourage you to research by investigating those who choose to eat Whole Foods Plant Based No Oil diets. How have their lives improved? I am striving to learn all the facts I can so I’ll be ready when anyone comes to me wanting to know how I got this way: thinner, happier, and healthier!
Margie Burton will turn 65 this year. She is a retired schoolteacher who happily homeschools one of her 15 grandchildren in Elk Grove, California. She and her husband, Jim, help care for her developmentally disabled sister, Helen, who lives with them. Avid preppers, Margie and her husband teach emergency preparedness workshops, encourage other Amateur radio operators, and sell dehydrated foods when they aren’t taking others to doctor’s appointments, babysitting grandchildren or watching the kids ballgames, recitals, or many awards ceremonies.