This article is part of an occasional series on “Word of Wisdom Reflections.” You can also read Randy Campora’s personal story about overcoming cancer.
By: Randy Campora
If you have found your way to this page, you are probably looking for inspiration as to how to make the dietary and health changes that you really need in your life right now. I would like to address you personally and give you an idea of why you should make changes, why you should listen to the promptings you are receiving from the Lord, and what you might expect to happen when you do.
I have seen you in my mind as I have contemplated writing this. I have seen you in myself, and in the friends, work colleagues, and ward members that I have talked to about these physical and spiritual changes in relation to the Word of Wisdom. I know that you have great burdens of many types. I did not think mine could be lifted, but they have been, by the grace of a loving Father and a Savior, through the gifts of the Spirit.
Here are a few observations from the least likely person on the planet to adopt a Whole Food Plant Based diet, after doing it for one year.
This Will Be Easier Than You Think
On paper, the Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) way of living looks like the most severe regimen a human could dream up. My wife, Olga, and I have been consistently surprised that once we committed to it, it has been much less challenging that we predicted. There are challenges, many of which will be common to everyone who makes the change, but there will be some that are individual to you. The biggest difference we’ve found is simply planning: you need to have the right foods in the house at the right times. And, make sure you don’t have the wrong foods in the house at any time.
You can’t wing it nearly as much, though we have found a few go-to places that work well in our neck of the woods when we need to eat on the move. Please let this sentence sink in to your mind: This will be easier than I think.
Your Personal Cravings Will Be Exposed
It surprises me that I don’t find myself daydreaming about eating a steak, ice cream, fatty tuna sushi, fried chicken, salami on a good French roll, barbeque, or so many other things I thought I could not live without. But there are a few things, in certain situations, that do stay in my mind and tempt me more than others, such as a cheesy pizza slice left on the table by my son, or sweet and/or chocolatey things. I feel I have a much better picture of what my personal addictions are, so I can be on the lookout for them. I am not perfect in avoiding them (I have coined a phrase to describe my food failures—A Whole Food Face Plant), but I feel so much ahead of the game now that I know what color uniforms they wear and I can spot them in a crowd. The sugary module of my brain is quite forward with its suggestions, but I am getting better at communicating with it and exerting control.
Eating Will Be More About What Happens After You Swallow
I have learned that for most of my life my experience of eating was all about everything that happened up until I swallowed the food. The anticipation of food, the choice of what to eat, the texture of it in my hand, the packaging, the advertising, the cultural or life associations, the taste and feel of it in my mouth. And then, whoosh, it is gone, and I did not care one bit about what it did in my body or how it made me feel. I was already thinking about what and when I would eat again and have the experience once more.
Now it is the opposite. I look forward to how I will feel physically, emotionally and spiritually from the point after I swallow the food. This is not to say I don’t enjoy the aspects leading up to that—indeed I do. But eating only plants, fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables as close to their natural state as I can has made me feel so good that this is what motivates my eating experience now.
Think about this for a minute: if our eating pleasure is almost totally centered on what we experience when the food is in our mouth (including where we are, who we are with), then our motivation regarding food and eating is going to be focused on that, to the exclusion of the other aspects. No wonder we continually look for those perfect tacos, the best pizza ever, the best fill-in-the-blank of all time and space, and when we find it we want to experience it over and over and over again! If that is what excites us about food, this will continue to drive us unless we change what excites us.
My energy level is astonishingly constant. I don’t feel drowsy and slow after a meal. I have two easy bowel movements each day. My doctor has taken me off medications for type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I no longer need my CPAP machine. My mind enjoys not obsessing about food. My eyes enjoy walking into the Safeway and marveling at all the colors, shapes and textures of the produce and fruit section. After eating I feel satisfied but not full of physical gravitas. At the last general conference, there were beds of live grass behind the podium. I caught myself thinking how would I cook that, and what would it taste like? I had to laugh at myself.
I recently watched a survival show on TV. Two men were in a jungle environment and were having a hard time catching animals for food and were getting weak and obsessing about “needing protein.” It dawned on me: guys, you are in a lush vegetation environment. What do the animals eat? If you had simple knowledge of the edible plants, you would be just as fat and happy as they are.
I feel positive about doing all that I can to reduce my chances of further chronic disease, such as recurrence of esophageal cancer, heart problems, diabetes, kidney stones, polyps, et al. (The China Study is the single most impressive science related book I have ever read and appeals to my logical and spiritual self). I sometimes envision the beauty of the plants as they are being grown in fields and hothouses, how lovely they look and how miraculous it is that sunlight, water and soil can produce such goodness made just for me. I enjoy spending less money on food.
I swear sometimes I look at a clear container of brown rice grains and am transfixed by the subtle shades of green on the individual kernels. Heavenly Father has indeed given us a world full of blessings for our bodies, and it makes me happy that I don’t have to trouble the animals in order to keep myself healthy. In my time and place I don’t need to use them for food—I’ve got refrigeration and a well developed farming and distribution system, though I know that God has authorized me to use the animals if that system should fail me for one reason or another.
I also enjoy not judging others for their use of animals for food, because it’s harder to help someone understand my way of eating if I am thinking negatively of them in any way, and I wouldn’t want people to be thinking of me like that.
The Spiritual Element of Diet is Much Bigger Than You Thought
I have learned that there are so many more direct parallels of the physical to the spiritual. For example, have you thought that as a faithful Latter-day Saint that you already have a great deal of experience living and thinking within Godly boundaries?
Think for a moment of what goes through your mind if a new friend says to you: “Oh, you’re a Mormon. I could never be LDS. No smoking, drinking, sex out of marriage, or drugs; And paying all that tithing, or serving two years as a missionary, and going to church for three hours on Sunday. I would have a hard time just not swearing when I can’t find the TV remote, and you can’t imagine what I’d tell the pastor if he asked me to teach a room full of three-year-olds. And don’t get me started on the idea of a prophet!”
If you are like me at that moment, your mind is thinking about all of the delectable experiences you have had precisely because you have kept all those commandments and followed all those teachings. Those things don’t seem like sacrifices for the most part, but opportunities that have given you much happiness, safety and contentment.
You are already well versed in living between the lines. Moving to a system of clearly defined dietary fences will feel comfy to you, rather than a burden of sacrifice. I dearly wish I had chosen these fence lines of diet found in the Word of Wisdom many years ago.
Another name I have given to this concept is the Mozart Principle. In Mozart’s day, music had to be composed within certain limits: the architecture, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation. All of that had to conform to certain expectations of his benefactors and listeners. Mozart used his gift of genius and worked within the boundaries of his time and place to give us lasting works of surpassing beauty and wonder. He did not complain that the tuba or the saxophone had yet to be invented, or that he could not use trombones in his symphonies. He used his inspired gift and the precious earthly time given him to work within the fence lines. Inside each one of us is a Mozart—we can find great freedom and do extraordinary things using God’s proscribed limits. Eating within these lines will gradually result in the lessening of your physical and spiritual burdens, and the increasing of your happiness and safety.
WFPB is a Two-for-One Lasting Change
Almost every dietary camp that I know of, of which there are so many these days, is a two-staged rocket: you first must manage to make the change of eating habits to conform to the “program,” and then once you reach your goal the rocket booster falls off in mid-air and you are left alone to figure out how to maintain the gains of the “program” for the rest of your life—so you don’t regain the weight or lose all the health benefits.
With WFPB you do all this at the same time. You make the change over a rather short period of time, get used to it and adapt it to your personal life, and guess what? The fuel tanks don’t fall off and you don’t have to figure out how to keep your wonderful changes. You just keep doing things as you are now doing them, refining them over time, and learning more about how your mind and body work.
Is this also not how spiritual conversion happens? We don’t accept the restored gospel, receive baptism, grow in peace and happiness and then go back to fifty per cent of our old habits and expect to move forward or retain our hard won improvements. When we are converted we keep doing what we are now doing, and when we make mistakes we repent and continue our life-long conversion as a disciple of Christ.
Don’t Be Surprised if Others Follow You
I knew that my wife, Olga, would take to this way of living easily and joyfully. She probably would have done it years ago if not for my stubborn-streak weakness. But there have been things I did not see coming at all.
My mother started WFPB after reading Jane Birch’s book (Discovering the Word of Wisdom) on her own, without me knowing. She has found it to be so helpful and comfy for her—she has lost those last few pounds that never seemed to want to go no matter what she did. She is working on getting rid of cheese as her last hurdle. She is so happy that she has committed to it.
She then gave Jane’s book to my sister on a long car ride they recently took together. It came at a time in my sister’s life that she was well and truly ready to put long held physical problems to rest. She has made the change to WFPB and has lost forty five pounds, began to exercise, experimented with all sorts of recipes, gotten advice from a vegetarian son, has seen her husband come on board without complaints, and feels spiritually and mentally renewed. She feels that she has finally found the long-term solution to her health challenges, and finds joy in the fact that it comes with spiritual benefits. She loves to cook and enjoys the challenge of finding WFPB recipes that are satisfying to her family.
I have found members of our ward and work colleagues who follow very similar guidelines, and I had no idea of their dietary habits. You will find help in unexpected people and places, so get ready for that. You won’t have to aggressively evangelize this way of living—that can get old fast if you become “that guy/gal” who is pushing their one note samba willy nilly. Your influence will happen naturally, and you’ll be surprised at how often the Spirit lets you know who is ready to receive a bit of encouragement and inspiration in this department. The Spirit will also let you know when to keep your mouth shut, as nutrition these days may well be added to the rule of “no discussion of politics, religion or sports in polite company and the Masonic Hall.”
You can do this. It will probably be easier than you think it will be. The blessings that can come from it will surprise you, and I bet that you might be in a place in your life when you thought you could no longer be easily surprised for the positive. You will be more of a blessing to others. You will see yourself differently, and your relationship with your Heavenly Parents will be strengthened. Some burdens will be lifted; others will be lighter and more manageable. I wish you all the best, and don’t forget: this can be fun and funny! Laugh at yourself and have a ball, because, like the brontosaurus and the bunnies in your yard, you’re a plant eater now!
See Randy Campora’s bio and personal story of overcoming cancer here: “The most horrible, wonderful experiences of our lives.”