My family has a history of high cholesterol. My father passed away in 1990 at age 54 of heart disease, and all six of my brothers are on cholesterol lowering medications. My cholesterol was also high, and I was on cholesterol, pre-diabetic and hypothyroid medications.
I’m a mother of five children and part of a blended family that added three more children to the picture. Though I was a dancer in college, I now work full time outside the home in an office sitting at a desk. In addition to family and work, I’ve always had busy church callings. I was tired and my body ached all the time. I slept poorly and was frequently constipated so I took sleeping aids and extra fiber. I wasn’t very happy and dealt with depression despite my “push through it” attitude. In 2010 I started visiting doctors more frequently to try to address this general “not feeling well” cloud that was hanging over me. I tried eating better, walking for exercise again, and started all those medications.
Despite the things I tried to get healthier, it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference. After four years, I had come to an “I don’t care, it doesn’t seem to make a difference” frame of mind, which included my eating patterns. Then in July 2014 a brother who is four years younger than I had a mild stroke. That really shook me up. I realized I was on the same health path that he was. I was 47 years old at the time, and at 5′ 11″ I weighed 215 pounds.
Shortly after my brother’s stroke, because of my expressed concerns, a son-in-law invited me to watch the DVD Forks Over Knives, and my daughter gave me a copy of the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom by Jane Birch. They were living with us at the time and had wanted to adopt a whole food, plant-based way of eating, but had not successfully converted fully over.
After watching and reading this information and being introduced to additional scientific evidence from Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn, the enlightenment of the truths found in the Word of Wisdom (that I had not paid any attention to previously) came to life for me. This whole food, plant-based diet lined up in my mind so well with the counsel given in the Word of Wisdom that I decided to put my faith to work and give it a try for 30 days. You could say I planted the seed and was testing it out to see what kind of fruits it would yield. I was blessed to have my daughter and son-in-law joining me in this “experiment upon [His] words” (Alma 32:27).
Well in 30 days the fruits were tremendous! The constipation and fatigue were gone. I had more energy during the day and was sleeping well at night again. I felt lighter and did in fact lose about 15 lbs. that first month. I was motivated to continue on this path and not look back, even believing that I could make it through the food landmines of the holidays. I felt empowered that with the help of the Lord I could make a difference in my health once again.
We utilized the “Meal Plans” from the Happy Herbivore to assist with making shopping and preparing meals at home easier over this last year. Over time, food no longer was my entertainment or reward or a way to stuff bad feelings, or at best a dreaded necessity. The simple potatoes, brown rice, whole wheat homemade bread, and fruits and vegetables I was now eating in abundance were delightful and delicious to me again. I not only felt I SHOULD eat better—I WANTED to nourish my body and take care of it!
I also began to experience the emotional and spiritual benefits as well. I gained insights and inspiration for other difficult areas in my life as I added this tool for having the Spirit’s direction to my prayers and scripture study. The “hidden treasures” of a happy life were returning to me, despite some other hard things in my path.
I’ve lost over 60 pounds. I now weigh 152! My cholesterol is 143, and my blood sugars are staying down—without medication! The only medication I still take is thyroid, which I’m now taking at a lower dosage than previously. I am able to enjoy water aerobics, power yoga, and dancing and playing with my grandsons once again.
As I continue to enjoy the blessings of keeping this commandment more fully I have gained a desire to share the truths of the Word of Wisdom more willingly. (I even had the opportunity to share it in a recent Relief Society week night meeting.) I’m grateful to add one more way I can show the love I have for Heavenly Father by the way I take care of this gift he has given me of a physical body. By taking care of my body, I know that I am a better instrument in His hands.
My personal scripture theme for the year of 2015 has taken on a much deeper meaning than I ever imagined:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
Maria Farley, 48, lives in Lehi, Utah. She and her husband enjoy a blended family of 8, with 4 married children and 8 grandchildren. They love just getting together and playing games and recently enjoyed a weeklong trip to Lake Powell where Maria enjoyed water activities and hiking that she never imagined she could do only a few years ago!