I’ve always enjoyed eating healthy foods. My mother helped me understand good nutrition and raised me on healthy foods, lots of vegetables, beans and rice and those kinds of foods. I naturally enjoyed that. When I married, I tried to prepare healthy foods for my family, and as time went on, I worked harder at doing that.
I’ve also always loved the Word of Wisdom, but I’ve questioned the “eat meat sparingly” advice throughout the years. I would ask my husband, James, “What do you think this means?” I wondered why God would tell us to eat meat sparingly when we as a Church don’t do that. Sometimes, I’d limit meat to just twice a week or otherwise cut it down. I was confused, but I don’t think I ever prayed about it. I think I didn’t want to give up meat. It kind of scared me.
Last October (2013), my sister, Jane Birch, came to visit for a week. Because I enjoy cooking, I enjoyed modifying my recipes to cook whole food, plant-based foods for her. I knew it was healthy and thought it was great she was eating that way, but I really didn’t feel ready to do that. I felt it would be very drastic. I felt like I was already doing a lot to feed my family healthy foods. We were eating whole grains and vegetables, and I had cut out a lot of white stuff: white flour and white sugar. A whole food, plant-based diet seemed too radical.
Then on the Sunday when my sister was here, I suddenly had a prompting to not eat meat. I was kind of bothered by this, and I certainly did not tell my sister! I kept wondering why I was feeling that way and why the feeling didn’t go away. By that evening I decided, “OK, I’m not going to eat meat. Fine.” And then that unhappy feeling I had went away, and I felt peaceful.
I realized I’d have to tell my husband. I was nervous, but when I told him, he seemed OK with it. So we decided to not eat meat. I think I may have told him it would just be for a little bit, but really in my heart I felt it would be forever. At some point I said to him, “Honey, instead of just trying it out, we are going to do this.” And he said “OK.” Because it was a spiritual prompting, he was willing to go along with it.
A few days later, I cleaned all of the meat out of my freezer and took it to the neighbor family who are on a special diet with lots of meat. The mother had just purchased a quarter of a cow, so I doubted she’d want all of mine, but she said she would love it. When she asked what we were doing, I said, “We decided to try vegetarian.” She asked, “You aren’t going to do that scary vegan stuff are you?” I replied, “Oh no! But my sister does that. She doesn’t eat oil either.” My neighbor seemed very shocked!
I went away feeling very excited to be vegetarian. Later that night while I was cooking, I had a feeling, “We can do this. We can go vegan.” I felt the Lord telling me, “This is a good thing. You can do this.” I called my sister Jane to tell her.
When I introduced the idea of being vegan to my husband, I suggested we just try it out. He loved his milk, but he said, “OK, we can try it for a few weeks.” I told him that would be great, but then the very next day I told him, “Honey, we are going to be vegan. We are going to do this, if you are OK with it.” He said OK, though he was not happy about it.
We have four children, ages 1 to 7 at the time. When I announced the change to them, I reminded them of the little neighbor girl who with her family are on a special diet, and told them we were going to do “our own special diet.” I called it “vegan” because “whole food, plant-based diet” was too long for them, but I explained that this is how their Aunt Jane eats. I also told them about the Word of Wisdom and how God wants us to eat meat sparingly. I told them that we wouldn’t eat meat, and for some reason they were just fine with it. They were OK giving up some of the foods they enjoyed, like chicken and cheese.
For the next while, our new diet was the main topic of conversation at our home. We talked a lot about it, and the kids were excited about it, partly because their neighbor friend had a special diet so they were excited to get to do their own special diet.
While the kids did well on the new diet, it was harder for James. He was not naturally a very healthy eater. If left to himself, he might live on chips and peanut butter. As we read the Word of Wisdom, it made sense to him that we should not kill animals when we do not need them so he felt committed to not eating meat. He also accepted the idea of being vegan because he knew that I felt I had received a spiritual prompting, but it was hard for him to let go of his favorite foods. For me, giving up milk, for example, was not hard as I never thought of milk as nutritious, but he wondered why, if all these things are bad for us, why don’t we all know about it. He had some turmoil, but he was willing to work through it and willing to try.
At first, James was not really happy with the meals I made. It was hard for him, and so of course, that was hard for me. I was used to pleasing him by making foods he really loved. He would eat the new foods, but at first he wasn’t ever really satisfied. It took about 6-8 weeks before he really started to enjoy the food. Once this happened, he started saying things like, “Wow, this is really great. I really like this one. Remember this one.” Now, he likes almost every meal I make and wishes that restaurants cooked food like I make!
I have not told a lot of people about our diet outside of our family, but I’ve had mostly good feedback from the people I’ve told. I’ve shared Jane’s book with a few people in the ward and a few have started to eat this way, so it seems to be starting to spread a bit.
I love the health benefits of this diet. Both my husband and I lost weight, and our cholesterol levels dropped significantly. My digestion has also been a lot better. I used to feel a little sick after I ate meals, but that has gone away. In addition, I had a bunion on my foot that has hurt my entire life, but it stopped hurting after I changed how I eat.
My energy level has also gone way up. Before I started this diet, I used to be super exhausted by 10 p.m. When I first started this diet, I suddenly could not go to sleep, I felt so energized. I was buzzing around. James would call me to bed, but I wasn’t at all sleepy. I felt great. My energy just went through the roof.
We have received many other blessings by following the Word of Wisdom. My kids used to whine for treats, but now that we don’t have any in the house it is not an issue. We also feel we have received lots of spiritual blessings. There is more joy in our family. Both James and I have felt it. We are happier now in an inexplicable way. A friend of mine who also started this diet has felt the same.
Diet and nutrition are very important, but this can be a very confusing subject. We are so fortunate to have the Word of Wisdom to teach us how to eat. I feel very grateful that the Lord has given us the Word of Wisdom. I definitely know it is for our time and that there are many blessings to be had if we will pay heed to the full Word of Wisdom and pray about it.
Parie Drechsel is 36 years old and lives in Columbus, Indiana with her husband and four children, who they are homeschooling. She enjoys cooking, reading, and going on dates with her husband.