By: Sarah Gale
I’ve struggled with health and weight for all of my married life. I joined Weight Watchers in 2002 and lost the 35 pounds of extra weight I had put on, but it was very slow going, difficult to do, and I was hungry and unhappy all the time. It also made me feel obsessed with food. I began having periods of binge eating and then starving myself to try and compensate. Five years into marriage, I got pregnant, something I wanted more than anything I had ever wanted. However, I ended up miscarrying that baby, which was horribly devastating to me. I turned to food for comfort, and promptly gained back all the 35 pounds I had lost. A year later, I was able to get pregnant again, and this time, the pregnancy worked out. However, I gained 40 pounds! I went back to Weight Watchers, and lost a lot of the weight, but the old feelings of deprivation came back, and I ended up on a binge and starve cycle again.
With our second child, I gained 30 pounds. I tried exercise, got into P90X and did it faithfully every day for 3 rounds of 90 days. I got strong and felt great, but I only lost 5 pounds!
After another miscarriage, I got pregnant again fairly soon. However, somewhere around the 18th week, I started noticing that I was very short of breath. The doctors and specialists couldn’t figure it out. Finally, I got a blessing from my husband, and he said the doctors would be able to find what was wrong. I soon learned I had a very rare tracheal stenosis, which required have multiple surgeries, ending in an extremely intense resection surgery and a high dose of steroids, which led to a dramatic weight gain.
To get my weight under control, I decided to try to the latest and greatest thing, the low carb diet. This time, I actually got a little nagging feeling in the back of my brain that this was not a good diet, and not what the Word of Wisdom taught, but I brushed it off. After recovering from the surgery, I started low carb, and the pounds just melted off. I lost 65 pounds in about 8 months, and was back to a healthy weight. Then with a fourth pregnancy, I was 100 pounds overweight!
About a year ago, I started getting back to the point where I could think about getting my weight under control and my health back. I didn’t want to do low carb again. I told my husband I just didn’t think it was in harmony with the Word of Wisdom. He rolled his eyes and said that part was outdated, and I shouldn’t worry about it! I decided to count calories with the MyFitnessPal app on my phone. I told myself I would eat three meals per day and no snacks, because snacking seems to be my downfall for binge eating . . . like the potato chips advertise, you can’t have just one! It worked very well, and I lost 65 pounds! But, again, it got difficult to keep it up!
Meanwhile, a niece of mine had gone vegan. Her fiancée and his family were vegan, and she’d decided that she wanted to eat that way as well. They are not LDS. She and I are very close, and so she would come over for dinner often, and I would make vegan food for us all. It was always delicious, and I found it to be very filling. I was struggling with maintaining momentum on my diet. Counting and tracking calories is a very time consuming thing to do, but I knew that if I wanted my weight loss to be permanent, tracking would have to be a permanent thing.
Then one day, I happened to see Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live” show. I got excited and downloaded his book on my Kindle. I thought it could be my solution, promising good health naturally without having to weigh, measure, and count every bite. I began incorporating vegan meals into our diets, eating vegan breakfasts and lunches, and making a vegan dinner once or twice a week, which my husband was not happy about. Soon after, a friend at in my ward mentioned that she and her family ate whole foods plant based, and recommended that I read the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom. I downloaded it onto my Kindle and read it. I loved everything it said, and I remembered that in my patriarchal blessing it says to follow the Word of Wisdom so that I can be healthy. I had always followed strictly the traditional Word of Wisdom guidelines of no tea, coffee, tobacco, etc. That was easy, and so I had sort of skimmed over that line in my blessing. All of a sudden, I thought, “I am not receiving the promise of health, because the part I wasn’t doing was the ‘very little meat!'”
I told my husband that I was feeling prompted to follow a vegan diet. He was very skeptical though, and said I’d better not take away his meat! He hates all vegetables, anything whole grain, and LOVES his meat. Meat and potatoes 100%. So I was discouraged, and slipped away from eating mostly vegan. I gained back 10 pounds of my 65 loss. A month or two later, we were leaving for a vacation to Disney World in Florida, and the day of our flight, I woke up in the middle of the night with horribly bad abdominal pain. I went to the instacare, and found out that I had a very large gallstone lodged in the neck of my gallbladder. I told the doctor I was leaving for Florida with my family, and therefore wanted to delay treatment. He told me that I needed to prevent my gallbladder from squeezing by avoiding eating any fat, including any dairy or meat . . . whole foods plant based! So, I said, who cares what my husband will think, and I did it.
I switched immediately and ate that way all through vacation! I had no pain or symptoms whatsoever, and even lost five pounds. After we got home, I had my gallbladder out, and my husband gave me a blessing before the surgery. In the blessing, he suddenly stopped and choked up, and then said that if I followed the promptings in my patriarchal blessing, that I would gain my full health. I told him, “See, I told you that God wants me to be vegan!” That blessing meant a great deal to me, because I still have a great fear that my tracheal stenosis will one day return. I believe that I can truly live a long and healthy life without that fear if I follow this prompting and fully live the Word of Wisdom.
So far, I have had easy weight loss without being hungry or having to track any calories, which is just fantastic! I’ve noticed that the weight loss is really occurring a lot more in my stomach area, which is supposed to be the dangerous fat, so I’m glad that’s going. I’m in a smaller dress size at the same weight compared to when I was following low carb. My digestion feels much better too, without heartburn or gas like I used to get. I’m grateful for the Lord’s health plan and the promises of the Word of Wisdom.
Sarah Gale (38) lives in Draper, Utah. She attended Utah State University where she joined the Church in 1997 and got her degree in Math secondary education in 2001. She married in 2000 and worked as a math teacher at West High until 2006, when her first child was born, and she quit to stay home. She and her husband now have four kids. Sarah plays the viola with the Murray Symphony orchestra.