Our family was introduced to the whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet on March 23, 2013 when we watched Forks over Knives. My husband walked in the door that night to the exclamations of our elementary-aged boys saying, “Guess what, Dad! We’re vegan!” Boy, was he surprised.
With a host of health problems, including a recent three-year collapse, I was desperate for answers to my health woes and willing to try anything—although I did have reservations about a diet that didn’t include meat, dairy, or eggs. That went against everything I had ever learned in school.
We had always eaten lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but, at the time, we also had four dairy goats that we milked twice a day. I made yogurt and cheese several times a week, and we drank all the goat milk we wanted. Our ducks provided us with five fresh eggs every day, which I also managed to use with no problem. Meat wasn’t as big of an issue for us. With seven children (six of whom are boys), I always tried to stretch meat as far as possible—frying it and mixing it into our soups, chili, casseroles, etc. But I could immediately see that eliminating not only meat, dairy, and eggs, but also refined flour, sugar, and oils from our diet was going to be a hardship.
And it was. In spite of the four vegan cookbooks that my enthusiastic son ordered online from the library while we were watching Forks over Knives, I was at a loss. I had cooked from scratch for our family for twenty years, yet didn’t know how to cook without those “staples.” The first few weeks were a cooking nightmare. It felt like all I did was stand in the kitchen all day and chop fruits and vegetables. Physically, I felt miserable—tired and moody with lots of headaches.
Three weeks in, I realized that I wasn’t eating enough! I was used to watching my portions because of my propensity to gain weight. With all the fat missing from my plate, I was starving! No wonder I was tired and moody. I began to eat until I was satisfied and found that my energy levels increased dramatically.
In the meantime, I was slowly mastering the cooking learning curve. Six weeks in, I realized that cooking had become easier. I had a file of WFPB meals that my family loved; we had discovered raw oatmeal for breakfast (which could be set on the table the night before and required nothing more from me than cutting up a few apples with the “apple-peeler-corer-slicer” in the morning). I invested in a food processor. I bought several WFPB cookbooks.
Now, almost two years later, I still cook a lot—but no more than I did with our Standard American Diet. We have an arsenal of old favorites that I spice up with an occasional new recipe. We love the food. We love how we feel. Realizing that it is not a cure-all, we still have seen great benefits with a diverse array of problems: acne, cavities, migraines, urinary tract infections, and irritable bowel syndrome. A three-year old cyst from a woodcarving mishap disappeared within the first six weeks of changing our diet. And my husband’s recent blood work results for his life insurance policy amazed our insurance agent. He informed us that we qualified for the best policy rates and wanted to know what my husband had done to achieve those results, which outshone his blood work done fifteen years earlier by the same company.
As for me, I am in better health than I have been for years. In addition to maintaining a strict WFPB and gluten-free diet, I have to get enough sleep, exercise in moderation, manage my stress levels, and take time for relationships. Sometimes I slip (as recently happened on a trip to Florida), and I pay for it with months of personal rehabilitation. These times are stark reminders of what life was before I found my answers.
Best of all is the feeling of knowing that I am trying my best to take care of this marvelous body that God has given me. I love 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 love the thought of pleasing Him. I love knowing that answers are there if we will only turn to the Lord and keep seeking:
Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened (3 Nephi 27:29).
Michelle Jones is 43 years old and lives in Eagle Mountain, Utah. She loves homeschooling her seven children, yodeling with her daughter, playing guitar in the family bluegrass band, and keeping her husband updated on the “latest and greatest” self-improvement books. An amateur oil painter, classical pianist, and fair weather gardener, she finds great joy in sharing her interests with others.