By: Olga Maletina
I’m from Russia; my husband is from Brazil. We were attending BYU-Provo when our health reached its lowest point. I had started getting alarmed a few years prior to that when we were getting our first life insurance and my husband was placed in the “smoker” category due to his high cholesterol even though he had never smoked in his life. We knew he had a history of heart disease in his family, but at that time we didn’t know what to do about it and just continued our lives as usual, hoping for the best. We didn’t know that it was the food we were eating that was making us sick.
Since our arrival to the United States, we had gradually moved away from the simpler, mostly homemade foods we had in our home countries (mainly rice and beans for my husband, and buckwheat, potatoes and vegetables for me). Years went by and our blood test results were coming out worse and worse. Our weight, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar were gradually going up, while our energy levels and the quality of life was slowly going down. Finally, my husband’s cholesterol reached an alarming 263 points when he was only 26!
My cholesterol was not as high as my husband’s, but I started having other health issues that were even scarier. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was put on thyroid medication. Aside from my hypothyroidism symptoms (terrible night sweats, lack of energy, loss of hair), I also had ovarian cysts and an overactive bladder. I was overweight and started wearing prescription glasses. Time was passing by, and my health was not getting much better. The thyroid medication helped with the night sweats and constant chills, but my energy and the other symptoms still remained.
I cut out the soda and decided I’d try to watch what I eat: count calories, switch to low-fat dairy foods, and try to eat less carbs. In order to lose weight, I tried the low calorie diet, the hCG diet, exercise, the Paleo diet and the Jorge Cruise diet. I even met with a dietitian, but nothing helped my symptoms and the weight kept going up. I remember feeling so powerless. Why couldn’t I get any results? I was trying so hard!
Around the same time my husband and I went for vacation in Carlsbad, California. Our friends, also a couple, carpooled with us to visit their family in the city where we were going to spend our vacation. On the way back somehow we started talking about diet and health, and they mentioned a movie they recently watched called Forks Over Knives and said they were thinking to improve their diet. We watched it the next day and decided to cut out red meat and start watching what we ate.
In the meantime, I was suffering from pain that my doctor and I were watching closely over a period of several months. Another appointment was up, and I went to get checked. The doctor, having examined me, said that many women have this same kind of pain and that it is related to hormonal imbalance. He told me there is nothing they could do and told me to take Tylenol if it got too painful. I walked out of the doctor’s office completely crushed. Is this my life now? Am I going to live with chronic pain for the rest of my life? I started pleading with Heavenly Father to help me – I wasn’t going to live like that!
I got home and decided to look up my symptoms in Google. Then all of a sudden it hit me! Maybe there was something that I did wrong to get my hormones out of balance. I kept on searching and stumbled upon a few articles that talked about how animals in the U.S. are fed hormones so they can grow faster and that those hormones stay in the meat and milk products humans were consuming. The light bulb switched on, and I decided to try to cut out the meat and the dairy completely. My husband was away doing an internship in Boston, so I thought it was either do it now or never.
I threw away all of the meat, cheese, white sugar, white flour, cookies, etc. and even white rice, not to get tempted. Then I sat down and realized that I didn’t know what to eat! Everything I got used to eating in the last few years contained either meat or cheese. But then I remembered my Russian roots and decided to start with what I already knew. I boiled some potatoes and made a huge salad with tomatoes and cucumbers and some vegetable oil. On a third or fourth day my chronic pain started subsiding and finally disappeared within 2 weeks! My hair stopped falling out, my skin cleared, and I got more energy.
Soon after my husband came back from his internship, he decided to join me in my plant-based food diet. Within the next few months we lost 30 lbs each, our cholesterol went down (my husband’s cholesterol went down to 157 within 3 months!), I took off my glasses, and my ovarian cysts went away. I kept watching different documentaries, and we kept improving out diet. I learned about Dr. Campbell, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Ornish and other great doctors who taught about a better diet that actually works. But my main realization was that this diet was the closest to the Word of Wisdom I had ever encountered.
My husband and I have seen so many health blessings because of this way of eating. With time we lost even more weight, and I got off my thyroid medication. The most important blessings to me, however, are the spiritual blessings I have gained since starting to follow a plant-based diet – those hidden “treasures of knowledge” that are promised to us in D&C 89. I am so grateful for Heavenly Father’s guidance in our healing journey and the opportunity to rediscover the Word of Wisdom.
Olga (32) and her husband Dan (33) live in the Cayman Islands. She is a student at the School of Natural Healing where she is studying to be an herbalist. She currently works as a Sales Rep for Drink Fresh Juice.