“My overall sense of well-being has never been better!”

Terry & Nancy Hermansen

By: Terry Hermansen

My story begins about 40 years ago when I was about 16. My mother would share pearls of wisdom from her reading with me. She liked to read books and was always learning something new. Her reading was always of a practical nature; she didn’t waste time reading anything impractical. Not even the classics merited her attention, just the scriptures and self-improvement books. Even though this was before The China Study and Forks Over Knives, she somehow managed to find books on diet that favored eating whole grains and cutting back on meat. She never made any dramatic dietary changes, yet her determination to learn and search for wisdom had a big impact on me.

I remember her coming to me and saying on one occasion, “Did you know how powerful grains are and how packed with nutrients they are?” She was preaching a whole foods, plant based diet before anybody that I was aware of. It was strange to me but somehow it seemed logical. Her comments moved from point A to B or even to C, but I had a long ways to go before I reached Z and was ready to give up eating meat.

At 19 I went on an LDS mission to Ecuador, where meat was a big part of the diet. In one city I met a woman who ate less meat. I noticed she was thinner and looked healthier than most of the women. She said that from the time she was a little girl she had felt inspired to eat differently than her countrymen. Her words moved me a couple steps closer to Z.

It was around that same time that I began carefully pondering scriptures about eating meat, specifically Doctrine & Covenants 89:13 & 15. I pondered the meaning of “it is pleasing unto me that they [meat] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Those words had a big effect on me. I wasn’t ready to change my diet, but I thought about those words from time to time.

Years later, I became a scoutmaster. I was probably around 35, and it was my luck (blessing) to have an assistant scoutmaster who was vegetarian. He was also a bodybuilder and seemed to be way healthier than me. On one particular campout, the boys had just finished eating their hobo dinners, which consisted of hamburger, potato, and various vegetables wrapped in foil. My assistant ate something vegetarian that he brought. After we’d all eaten, he picked up a foil wrapper from a hobo dinner that was now caked in white grease from the hamburger. He said, “This is why I’m vegetarian.” As I imagined a quantity of similar grease inside myself, his words had a big effect on me.

Soon after that, my meat eating began to taper off. For example, my wife cooked wonderful barbecue chicken but instead of eating 4-5 pieces as was my habit I began having one or two.

Furthermore, it was about this time that I began hearing statistics about obesity in the United States. I started looking around. I started noticing how much obesity there is inside and outside of the LDS Church. I thought, “Are we living the Word of Wisdom if we can’t run and not be weary, walk and not faint?” I knew that the Lord wouldn’t break His promises so I concluded that we, as Church members, weren’t fully keeping the Word of Wisdom as it was intended.

I wondered if some of the heavy Latter-day Saints might just be struggling with poor willpower, whether they just needed a little restraint and they would lose weight. But over time, I got to know many of these good people, and I dismissed “lack of will power” as a primary factor. I concluded and became fairly confident that the American diet was not healthy and that the Word of Wisdom was saying just what I initially thought it was saying. I decided at that point to take the plunge and stop eating meat.

Now, my timing was a little off because I was giving up meat right before Christmas. My wife probably thought I was joking when I told her my plan, but to her surprise (and my own!) I made it through Christmas. I feared, however, that once the novelty wore off I would fall back into old eating habits and give into temptations. But though the temptations did come rolling in (New Year’s parties, Valentines Day dinner, and my wife’s birthday dinner), I somehow managed to stay the course.

In fact, it became easier and easier to deny myself meat. What further strengthened my resolve was that I began seeing little benefits and blessings. For example, I lost about six pounds, and I started feeling better. I was able to do more push-ups and sit-ups. I was feeling more energy. This helped me to stay the course.

Meanwhile my dear wife was preparing two dinners each night. She would prepare a vegetarian meal for me and then add meat to the main entrée for the rest of the family. After several months, however she got tired of doing this and finally decided to become vegetarian as well. Of course there were other reasons for her decision. She had been studying on the side and decided the health benefits would be worth it.

This was a joyous time for me because I always wanted her to experience the same benefits that I was feeling, but I didn’t want to apply any pressure. Thankfully my example, and the inconvenience of preparing two dinners, turned the trick. Now she and three of our children are vegetarian. The older three children were raised as meat eaters and continue as such but time may change that. We don’t apply any pressure since they are all adults, and we see it as a personal choice.

I’ve now been vegetarian for 6.5 years, and I’m happier than ever with my decision. I’m feeling better than ever. My sense of smell has never been better, my joy of eating has never been better, and my overall sense of well-being has never been better.

When people ask me what my primary reason for being vegetarian is, I first think of Doctrine and Covenants 89 verse 13 and verse 15 (and a few other verses of scriptures), but besides that there are three more reasons why I do what I do (or eat what I eat) and they are: health, environmental stewardship, and yes, humanity toward animals.

I wouldn’t hesitate to eat an animal if I was starving, but hopefully it won’t come to that. A famine could force a dietary change on me, but until such time, I’m content to eat a plant-based, whole foods diet. I truly feel that I am currently living the good life!

Terry Hermansen is 56 years old and lives in Lancaster, California. He and his wife have six children. He teaches middle school language arts & Spanish and commutes to work 15 miles a day (round trip) on bicycle. He loves to play the guitar and sing with his class as often as he dares!

 

Comments

  1. Wow Terry this is a great story; thanks for sharing! Its neat to look back and see how the Lord has worked in our lives through a series of events and circumstances like you describe moving closer to “Z”.

  2. This is a great story. The ASM’s comment about the grease is something I just recently noticed. I used to have to use some pretty heavy duty detergents to keep my kitchen clean with all the flying oils and grease. Now a simple wipe down cleans things up. Wonder if that was what my innards were like before my change from carnivore to vegan.j Kinda gross…Thanks for sharing. These stories give me motivation.

  3. Terry, that which you wrote about your mother’s almost intuitive ability to figure out how to eat in the most healthy manner really touched me. What a woman she is and how blessed you were to have been raised by her.

    My dear and very loving mother, Virginia Jensen Birch (Jane Birch’s grandmother) helped me handle some very serious difficulties regarding my having contracted T.B. in my left knee which came from drinking infected milk we obtained from a dairy located just outside of Roseville, California where I grew up, causing my doctor to make my knee stiff in order to keep my leg from shrinking in length. Much later, in my adult life a doctor replaced that stiff knee with an artificial knee.

    However, there is one decision I wish my mother and my father had made, identical to that which your dear mother made: I wish she and my father who served many years as a bishop, had read Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants very carefully when their sons were very young and then had begun feeding us in accordance with D & C 89: 13, 14 and 15. Because they didn’t, in my middle years as the father of nine, Jane being the oldest, I suffered from diverticulitis, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes and weighed as much as two hundred and thirty pounds .

    After Jane discovered the Word of Wisdom Way of eating like your mother did, she literally retaught me how to eat. Since then along with my regular six days a week of fifty minutes of very intense exercising on a Precore Adaptive Motion Trainer at the Murray, Utah Recreation Center which has been very effectively facilitated by my emphasis on eating grains which I now know for sure are the staff of life, I have not been sick in any way (including not having even colds and headaches), for going on three years. My doctor told me at my last medical exam that of all of his patients 82 years of age (my age) and older I was the most healthy! I am 5′ 9″ tall and now weigh 135 lbs. and people often tell me I’m skinny! I actually believe I’m going to live significantly past one hundred years of age!

  4. What a wonderful thoughtful account of your vegetarian journey! I am glad you and your family can enjoy the benefits of healthy eating. It’s a lot easier to live in a body that is healthy and doesn’t take up a lot of space. I agree and echo your sentiments. I hope others will follow your example and that of your family. We don’t have to eat animals to be healthy. Viva los vegetarianos! George Ann

  5. Wonderful! My family has been trying to eat less meat also but I am having a hard time finding enough simple recipes for us. (my husband, over 300 lbs, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, is somewhat resistant) Could you tell us some of your dinners.

    • Lisa: Good for you! Be sure to explore one or more of the wonderful WFPB recipe sites. I especially love the Forks Over Knives site, but there are many more: http://discoveringthewordofwisdom.com/wfpb-guidelines/links-to-recipes/. If you want to keep it very simple, here are some suggestions: http://discoveringthewordofwisdom.com/wfpb-guidelines/wfpb-made-easy/.

      But the main key is commitment. Unless you are a good cook, the transition can be rough if you expect things to taste the same. Eventually, this new way of eating will be EVERY BIT as satisfying, but it can take some time for your taste buds to adjust and for you to find the recipes that you and your family enjoy.

      I also recommend this resource: The Forks Over Knives Plan: How to Transition to the Life-Saving, Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet: http://www.amazon.com/Forks-Over-Knives-Plan-Life-Saving/dp/1476753296/ref

    • Lisa, this is Terry’s wife, Nancy. I just wanted to tell you how I helped facilitate our journey into vegetarianism since i am the main cook in the house. At first it was just my husband and then shortly afterwards, my son became vegetarian. Not long after, my daughter and I also became vegetarians. (It was hard to cook for two completely different lifestyles!) But, the thing that helped us was taking my old recipes, like casseroles, and just leaving the meat out. Spaghetti sauce without the meat, tuna casserole without the tuna, casseroles without the hamburger meat, etc. They still tasted pretty much the same and I also included whole wheat pasta (which I know isn’t really all whole wheat, but has to be healthier than regular pasta!!) We also started having a lot of brown rice and vegies, potatoes and vegies, etc. At first you think, where’s my main dish because we are so conditioned to having it be meat, but the main dish is the rice and vegies or the potatoes! I put together a fruit salad or a green salad and there’s a meal. We also make our own whole wheat bread, so I make a lot of soups with homemade bread. It really doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to make “weird” meals that your family won’t eat. Just try adapting your own recipes and leaving out the meat. It made the transition easier for me. But when we do get a hankering for a hamburger since we were both raised as meat eaters, we get the Morningstar Grillers Prime or the Gardein burgers. Put that on a whole wheat bun and add some vegies like lettuce (not iceberg!!) and tomatoes and it’s great!! Also just found the best “faux hot dogs” from a company called Lightlife (http://www.lightlife.com) that are really good! I buy the vegetarian Bush’s Baked beans and throw in a couple “hot dogs” and it’s delicious. Another meal we really love it roasted vegies and quinoa. Quinoa is a great grain to cook with. Doesn’t need to cook as long as rice and is filled with nutrients! I am not in the same place as some of the other vegetarians on this site, but I am doing what works for me without stressing me out! Good luck in your journey!! Nancy Hermansen

  6. Also try replacing meat in old favorites with mushrooms. This practice also whittles the waste. We eat oodles of mushrooms especially portabellos. We slice and water saute them for a asada/fajita/bbq effect. We also roast them whole and call them portabello steak. We roast them for holidays meals to eat along side mashed potatoes and gravy. When white or cremini mushrooms are finely minced with cauliflower and onion then water sauted, the result is similar to ground meat–perfect for spaghetti sauce, pizza, shepherd’s pie, lasagne, and other casseroles.

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