By: Marla Radeke
I didn’t learn a lot about nutrition growing up. In my family, our weekly menu was pretty routine: meatloaf, spaghetti, pot roast, and usually some canned veggies on the side. And always chocolate cake.
After I moved away from home, I became much more body conscious. Many years of fad diets, exercise binges, and yo-yo dieting began. I now know that I was a normal girl who decided she was fat.
Eventually I married and had a daughter. After the marriage failed, some of the bad habits I had developed became extreme, and I developed an eating disorder, which I battled for the next eight years. During this time, because of my interest in the aging process and health studies, I worked as a nursing home administrator. I watched people age every day. I knew I was doing it all wrong, but I was young, time was on my side, and I considered myself healthy because, in my mind, healthy equaled skinny. As long as I didn’t go above a certain number on the scale, I thought I was “healthy.”
When I remarried, my husband wanted me to be healthy (instead of just thin) and encouraged me to make some real changes to break free of my eating disorder. I was no longer able to fall back on my old tricks, and my weight soon ballooned. My favorite breakfast food was chocolate doughnuts, which meant that I’d then skip lunch. I drank soda all day long. Dinner was usually a microwaved low-calorie meal. And, of course, there was always room for dessert!
My husband and I both steadily gained weight. We really had no of idea the power of food, for good or bad. My mother had been a diabetic and died at an early age from complications of the disease. I knew my risk of developing diabetes was higher than average, but I felt like I had no ability to control that outcome. One day, I took my daughter to an appointment with her pediatrician. She told me afterward that the doctor had asked if her mom had always been fat. That was motivation enough to get me to join a gym.
I eventually purchased the gym. I loved learning about fitness, and I was anxious to help others! However, I still didn’t have the food piece of the puzzle, so keeping my weight within normal limits was a constant battle, and one that I consistently lost. I left the gym business in 2012 having lost some weight. I felt healthy, and looked normal, but I was still eating stupid. If it said “no fat” or “sugar free”—to me, that meant it was healthy. I was also into protein powders, supplements, etc.
My real education started with a bout of pancreatitis the summer of 2014. I found Forks Over Knives, Juicing With Joe, and started to look at the Word of Wisdom. I felt like the answer had to be natural, that God wouldn’t have sent us here without the tools we needed to heal ourselves and take care of our bodies. I started really praying about it. I prayed to be led to pursue correct information, and for an open mind to change any beliefs I had that might be incorrect. I committed to never paying another dime for a “magic answer”—the “lose 8 lbs in a week” pills, or powders. I started reading the Word of Wisdom to find what I COULD do rather than what I COULDN’T do. When something tempted me, I just told myself “I don’t eat that.” I said it out loud. For some reason, that helped.
While researching how to heal myself, my dad gave me a copy of the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom by Jane Birch. HALLELUJAH! Somebody already did the work for me! Everything in the book struck a chord with me. It all made sense. It was the missing piece! I was looking for something that I could do the rest of my life – and it had been in front of me all along. I could, and I would, learn and follow the Word of Wisdom to the best of my understanding.
I stopped buying so many foods that had labels. I started buying real, whole food. I discovered farmers markets and the produce aisle! I started drinking water. I looked for opportunities to move throughout the day. I listened to my body. I sought out ways to nourish it and use food as fuel. I gradually cut out processed foods and learned to crowd out meat with extra vegetables, fruits, and grains. I learned that in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight—something that had always been just out of my grasp—I didn’t have to eat a grilled chicken salad or yogurt for every meal. Hallelujah!
After a lifetime of struggling with food, I was finally enjoying what I ate, and feeling great. I was amazed to have so much energy throughout the day, to wake up feeling refreshed and rested, and to not suffer from the headaches, mood swings, and cravings that I often had before. The weight literally melted off. I looked forward to exercise. I looked forward to increasing my understanding, trying new foods, and finding fun ways to bring my family on board. My dad and my daughter are making steps toward this lifestyle. My husband is now 100% on board and has lost 20 lbs since January. The two grand babies are on board too. A new generation who will hopefully have the mindset to honor their minds and bodies with a healthy lifestyle.
I believe the reasons I am successful are:
1) I studied food and our environment and discovered that all the chemicals, preservatives, and additives in the food we are eating are reeking havoc on our physical bodies and spiritual well-being. I will not subject this gift God gave me to the “evil designs of men.”
2) I pray daily, telling my Heavenly Father that I am doing all I know to do, and asking him to bless the food I eat to protect and strengthen me that I might use my health in serving Him.
3) I am an example. My patriarchal blessing makes reference to this. I live what I teach, and I teach what I live. People watch me and it’s my job to “keep it clean.”
4) It simply feels SO much better to eat right & exercise.
After I closed my gym, I was hired as a flight attendant and became a personal trainer. Now I train clients online about clean eating, plant-based diets, using food as fuel, and learning what their bodies can do when they are focused on nourishing it appropriately. I am frequently asked to speak to Church groups, social organizations, and health seminars. I am always seeking to expand my understanding of the counsel found in the Word of Wisdom, and I cannot believe the health benefits I have found in doing so. I love to eat! I love to learn! I love to teach! I have found my happy place.
Altogether my clients have lost 279 lbs since the beginning of the year. What is my key to their success? The Word of Wisdom.
Marla Radeke, 52, is married to Mr. Romance and lives in rural Idaho (but then most of Idaho is rural!). They keep busy by trying to travel the world and in between remodel their home. She has worked as a nursing home administrator, social worker, hospice social worker, marketing director, business owner, and flight attendant. She is currently a personal trainer, nutrition advisor, and motivational speaker. Along with being a grandma, mom, wife, and daughter, she serves as the Relief Society activity director in her ward.