By: Yessenia Ornelas
My journey started when my husband and I were living in Provo, Utah. I was getting ready to finally bring my little premature baby home from the hospital four months after he was born. I remember wanting to take so many pictures of him, but I despised the idea of taking any pictures of myself with him because of how I felt about myself. I was very overweight, and I somehow felt that my being overweight and not healthy had played a hand in my preterm labor.
Like most people, I love eating out and trying new places. Growing up, I was told to eat all the food on my plate and not to be picky or wasteful. As a result, I ate as much as possible, and, as you can guess, the weight piled on quickly. I knew it was wrong for me to have such negative feelings about myself and that I needed to make changes if I wanted to see myself more positively. I became determined to do better. I wanted to only do this for health so I was not going to worry how fast or slow I got results.
I didn’t know much about eating healthy, just what you mostly hear, which is eating more vegetables. So I started there and then figured that perhaps I was eating too much meat and started to cut down my intake to only twice a week and just fish and chicken. My Pinterest board became filled with some vegetarian meals and lots of chicken and fish meals that I looked forward to each week. I was consistent with exercising and managed to lose 45 lbs with my own efforts.
During this time of learning about health, I talked with a good friend of mine, Olga Maletina, who was also living in student housing at BYU. I had heard she was a vegan and thought it was interesting so I was intrigued to learn why she had made a switch to that way of eating. She told me about her health benefits and how good she felt. At the time I felt that perhaps it would be too extreme for me and that I would continue to do what I was doing.
After a year or so of maintaining my weight, I was still very unhappy. We had moved to Texas because of a job offer my husband received. I was still eating mostly vegetarian with fish and chicken twice a week and boy did we love our cheese! Although I was happy with my weight, I was still suffering from acne. I didn’t understand why I felt gloomy and had no desire to go out or do anything productive. Also, since my pregnancy, I had suffered from lower back pain that affected me randomly although it was more consistent when I had been overweight.
Then one day I came across an article of a lady who had acne. She proclaimed that after she cut dairy out of her diet, she had been healed. I had had acne most of my teen and adult life. I hated it and had tried medication after medication. I had also seen dermatologists and had been told there was no cure. It was always hard for me to understand how acne could not be cured. Now here I had found a person who claimed she had healed hers. So I thought I had nothing to lose and would give it a shot. Olga came back to mind, and I decided to check out her Pinterest board of vegan foods. She noticed me pinning her stuff and contacted me. Thanks to her I was able to truly discover the treasures and blessings that come from the Word of Wisdom.
My husband and I had so many questions, mainly because you hear so much about deficiencies. After prayer and study of the scriptures, I received the reassurance from my Heavenly Father that what I was doing pleased him. I learned more about nutrition and also learned from doctors like Michael Gregor, Neal Bernard, and Dean Ornish who teach about how food can help reverse disease.
After just four months of following a plant-based diet my acne cleared completely, and I delighted in having more energy. I now have three years living this way and was able to enjoy my second pregnancy on a whole foods plant-based diet and with no complications. Surprisingly I also had no lower back pain even after having a full-term pregnancy.
I am so grateful for the Word of Wisdom and the freedom it has given me. We understand that the Word of Wisdom does not say that you must become a vegetarian or vegan, but it does say meat can be eaten sparingly in times of need. This is why my husband follows a plant-based diet with occasionally eating meat when he feels the need for it.
I have learned that our bodies are remarkable! If we take care of them like the Lord has commanded, our bodies are capable of healing themselves from most sicknesses. I now understand the promises in D&C 89:18-20.
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
I know these blessings to be true and hope that by sharing my story others can try this and find the great treasures of knowledge and health the Lord promises.
Yessenia is a 29-year-old mom of two boys and a wife of a loving husband. They live in Northern Texas where they enjoy the scenery of the nearby lake. When she’s not helping with homework or cleaning up after a rambunctious baby, she likes to paint, read and ride her bike.