Since I am a person born in the fifties, I had the experience of eating dinner at the table with the entire family every evening. I grew up “setting” the table before we ate and asking to be excused before I got up to leave. My mother made dinner every evening and shopped for the weekly menu once a week, with a list. She canned food, had a garden, used a pressure cooker, and knew how to combine leftovers.
My mother had seven siblings and grew up on a farm. They milked cows, plucked chickens, and grew food. I am old enough to remember the introduction of TV dinners, snack foods, and one of the first Burger Kings in Illinois. By the time I was a teenager, we ate at McDonalds or Burger King once a week.
I came in to adulthood during the seventies just when the fitness craze began and being skinny was the thing to be. I suffered with “hip huggers” before the term “low rise” was part of the vernacular. Technology had just given us polyester and Twiggy was the icon. My after-school snack was white bread spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar.
My mother was beginning to see changes in her twenty-inch waist and so she ate “aids,” little chocolate nuggets “guaranteed” to make her fit and healthy. She attended Weight Watchers and brought home artificial sweeteners. One of her favorite breakfasts was cottage cheese on toast, sprinkled with saccharin and broiled. She and her best friend drank gallons of diet soda and went out to lunch after the weekly weigh-in.
In my mind, I was always ten pounds over weight. The US Navy confirmed that belief and told me I had to lose ten pounds before going active duty. I had seven months to do that. Instead of dieting for the first time in my life, I lost the weight by falling in love and dating! I also started riding my bike. No car for me!
After bearing six children, I was proud that I still weighed what I weighed in high school, but remember the government told me I was ten pounds overweight. I knew I’d feel better ten pounds thinner and clothes would be easier to fit as I’m not that tall. Since Paleo is the recent diet craze, I tried it. I liked it. I lost weight eating an entire chicken on the way home from Whole Foods in the car, scrambling eggs for breakfast, and grilling tilapia for lunch.
While the Paleo diet encourages a lot of good things, like avoiding packaged food and sugar, I knew that not eating legumes and devouring that much meat was wrong from a common sense level and against my religious health code, the Word of Wisdom. While doing Paleo, my cholesterol shot up ninety-six points, and I was having to drink a tea called “smooth move” to have at least one bowel movement a week. I knew in my gut this couldn’t be right.
In January 2014, while reading a vegan fitness magazine, I stumbled on a program called “Get Waisted.” It is a plant-based diet with lots of veggies. It encourages people to go back to the idea of actually eating food, real food, and eating as much as your body tells you to eat. What thrilled me with this program was it seemed to back up my religious teachings, and it made sense. I decided to give it a try.
I don’t like to cook and my previous experience with plant-based eating required lots of time in the kitchen, complicated recipes, and cold food. I love salad, but I can’t eat it all day. The Get Waisted program gives me instructions, menus, shopping lists and recipes to eat totally plant-based. I jumped in with both feet and loved it. In just six months, my cholesterol numbers went down ninety-six points. I was so thrilled and excited about the simplicity of the program that I became an area director, leading others in their quest to find health naturally.
Last spring, I attended a training course to become a certified nutrition coach. On the first day, the instructor gave a brief history lesson mentioning Hippocrates and other great scientists who have taught that food should be our medicine. She then went through a list of groups of people who have adapted a healthy life style. She mentioned “Mormons” and said that Mormons have a code of health that restricts red meat and only allows fish and chicken. WOOPS! Good thing I was there. I quickly instructed her and gave her a quick explanation of our code of health.
The instructor went on to ask our class who we thought were the healthiest group of people. She asked if we knew where the healthiest city was in America. Being slightly competitive and also quite proud to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was anticipating her answer would be Salt Lake City. It wasn’t. According to her, the healthiest city is Loma Linda, California, where many of the healthiest people live: the Seventh Day Adventists!
I was disappointed and frustrated that as members of a church who claim to have the full restored gospel in our hands, who boast about having a living prophet on the earth who instructs us and guides us with modern revelation, that we aren’t the healthiest people on THE EARTH! I hope someday that our faith will one day reach the number one position of healthiest people on the earth and that we will follow the guidelines given to us by the Lord in D&C 89, thus being a shining example to the world.
René Steelman is 60 years old and lives in Vancouver, Washington. She grew up in the Midwest surrounded by women who loved to cook. Her mother and grandmother made the best fried chicken in town and fried green tomatoes were always on the table in the fall. Her family moved to the Northwest when she was a senior in high school. After serving in the US Navy, René married and is the mother of six children and fifteen grandchildren. René has recently become the area director for GET WAISTED NORTHWEST, a program that assists people in transitioning to a plant-based diet.