This article is part of a series on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Featured Author Jane Birch.

If you have not yet seen the new Word of Wisdom video, I encourage you to watch it and share it with family and friends: “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film.” About five minutes into the video, there is a series of amazing before and after photos. Last week, I featured three of the stories behind these photos (see “Before and After Photos”). This week I’m sharing another story from the video.

I find these stories inspirational. Each is about an average person, just like me and you, who decides to take the leap of faith and change their diet. What follows is nothing short of miraculous. Something very powerful happens in our lives when we decide our health is worth the sacrifice it takes to completely change our lifestyle for good. “Decisions determine destiny,” as President Monson likes to remind us. This is illustrated in these stories. 

Janet Carter — Lost Over 100 Pounds!

After years of struggling with her weight, Janet Carter hit a high of 275 pounds and her health was falling apart. She was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, experienced regular bouts of tachycardia (faster than normal heart rate), had terrible sinus allergies, and had a detached retina and rapidly developed cataracts in both eyes. It took seven eye surgeries to restore her eyesight, but the misery of trying to lose weight went on for eight more years. The fact was, she had a serious addiction to food and no diet worked long enough to get the weight off.

While researching about the treatment of sinus allergies, she came across a YouTube video of Dr. Alan Goldhamer, founder of TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California. When she heard him talk about how “health comes from healthful living,” she had a “gut feeling” that he had some important truth for her, so she contacted him. At TrueNorth they treat even the most serious health problems with water-only fasting, followed by a whole food, plant-based diet. Dr. Goldhamer suggested, “If you come here and learn how to eat this way, it is very likely you won’t suffer from allergies anymore.” Janet decided to give it a try. She recalls, “Even though I had woken up every morning for eight years with severe sinus allergies, within five days of fasting I had zero symptoms.”

Janet soon discovered that whole plant foods taste great! Within 10 months she had lost 105 pounds. All symptoms of diabetes were gone, as were the medications and the allergies.

“Best of all,” she says, “I wake up every morning free of cravings for salty, sugary, fatty foods, and I no longer caffeinate myself just to get through the day. I now live with an abundance of energy every day to take better care of my family and really enjoy being a mom.”

Reflecting on her experience, Janet says:

Was this transformation easy? Not at all. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I gave it everything I had. I had to admit that my life had become unmanageable. I found hope in a higher power, trusting God to restore me to complete spiritual, emotional, and physical health. . . . All my life I’ve been trying to figure out how to live the Word of Wisdom in the way I knew God intended . . . but actually I didn’t know. I needed to find out for myself what He meant. I believe I understand that now. I eat only plants. I’ve reclaimed my health. More importantly, I’ve reclaimed my connection with God and his Son. I understand the Atonement now. That is how huge the Word of Wisdom is to me.

Janet originally posted her story on Discovering the Word of Wisdom in November 2014. Recently, I reached out to ask her what she is able to do now that she could not do before she changed her diet. Her reply was so powerful, I feel I have to share all of it:

Every aspect of my life is easier now. After having the weight off and the illness gone for almost three years now, I never get tired of not being tired. Just in every day household chores, I can move easily and freely. When I gather the laundry, pick up the floor, prepare the meals, I no longer procrastinate because of how hard it was to do basic things like bend over. I find myself in a better place today to serve others whereas before I often volunteered but did a poor job or dropped the ball on my end because of sheer exhaustion. Now, when I volunteer to help, I know I’ll do it, and it is such a pleasure to do so.

Next semester is my last semester to complete a teaching degree in biology and health. When I quit school 4.5 years ago to take a year off to get my health under control, it was partly because I failed a genetics class. The biology courses were rigorous, and I couldn’t keep up. I would fall asleep in class and I often had brain fog, making it very hard to concentrate. Taking classes to finish is still challenging, but I am up to the challenge! I can concentrate and stay awake, and I have the energy to do the workload. So thankful.

This past summer I had the opportunity to spend 25 days in Mexico and Belize with my husband being tour guides for a study-abroad program for BYU-Idaho. We hiked 13 sets of ruins. We snorkeled on the reef of Belize. I had energy every single day to keep up with the busy schedule. Then I went on a ballroom dance tour with my son on a cruise to the Bahamas and Universal Studios Orlando. Tons of energy to play all day! Then I went with my daughters to tour the Ohio Columbus mission for a week where my oldest daughter served a mission. It is a glorious thing to not have to worry about whether I fit in the seat on the airplane, or if my clothes would be uncomfortable, or be constantly obsessed with what I’m going to eat today. I truly felt free of all past obsessions with self and addiction to food.

I exercise every day, and it is enjoyable, instead of a burden. I have a four-mile route I run and walk with ease. It feels so good! And last but not least, I am amazed at my ability to learn new things. I crave learning instead of craving the next possible time to eat or take a nap. My mind is clear and open to make constant connections. I am learning things I had never contemplated before about who we are and our purpose and mission now and in the eternities. “And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures,” comes to mind. (see D&C 89:19)

Read Janet’s entire story: “I’ve reclaimed my connection with God and his Son.”

Decisions Determine Destiny

No doubt the Lord does not intend all of us to be perfectly healthy all of our lives. There are precious things we can learn from illness. But the Lord gave us the Word of Wisdom so that we can be a lot healthier than we otherwise would be. Why is health so important? I hope I do not need to answer that question for anyone. Who could doubt the priceless blessings of good health?! How is it possible we’d ever choose tasty treats over feeling fantastic and full of strength and energy? Why damage our body temple for a mess of pottage?

Of course, we can also learn things from health challenges, and those we love can be strengthened by serving us when we struggle. Ill health can definitely be a blessing. But there is a big difference between (1) doing our best and still facing difficult health challenges and (2) stubbornly insisting on eating whatever we want and experiencing all kinds of health problems as a result. Yes, we have our agency. True, the Lord has not commanded us to give up meat or junk food. We are allowed to treat our body temples like dumping grounds, but we then have to live in that dumping ground as a natural result of our actions.

“Decisions determine destiny,” President Monson tells us. Let’s decide to treat our bodies like the temples they are! Let’s decide to use the Word of Wisdom as a roadmap to wellbeing. Let’s show the Lord that we value good health, spiritual strength, mental clarity, and increased light and knowledge from the Holy Spirit more than we value Standard American cookies, cupcakes, ice cream, and BBQ ribs.

For Help on Getting Started

For more help on embracing a healthy Word of Wisdom diet, see: “Getting Started on a Whole Food, Plant-based Word of Wisdom Diet”

Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (2013) and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.