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 watched the new Word of Wisdom video, I encourage you to watch it now 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. During the last two weeks, I’ve featured four of the stories behind these photos (see “Before and After Photos” and “Another Transformation”). This week I’m sharing another one of these powerful stories. 

Sheri Farley — Lost over 200 pounds

Sheri Farley’s early flirtation with eating vegetarian didn’t last long. When she returned to eating a standard American diet, she started gaining weight. Various diets helped in losing weight, but the weight loss never lasted. She yo-yo dieted her way up to 350 pounds. By this time, she was very sick and always exhausted. When her doctor advised a low-fat diet and recommended vegetarianism, she returned to this way of eating with enthusiasm. But although she lost some weight, she still fought with the demons of food addiction.

Sheri wanted to get healthy and lose the weight that had tormented her her whole life, but she couldn’t seem to make it happen. She recalls, “I felt I was losing the battle . . . there was no hope . . . I was too far gone.” Sheri felt as “out of control as an alcoholic,” but this thought reminded her of a friend who had lost weight by attending a 12-step program for food addiction. Something clicked for Sheri, and she resolved to join an addiction recovery group. After her very first meeting, she reports, “I knew I was where I would be supported and safe from the torment of my food and weight.”

Key to the 12-step program was recognizing that addiction had made her life unmanageable, but that “There is One who can do for you what you cannot do for yourself.” She says, “I turned to the Lord in prayer and asked him what he wanted me to do about my food.” The Lord directed her to the Word of Wisdom and a plant-based diet and gave her the strength to move forward.

With the help of a Word of Wisdom diet and the 12-Step LDS Addiction Recovery Program, Sheri has been able to maintain a 200+ weight loss for 2+ years. Now that food and weight no longer torment her, she has no plans of ever go back to any other way of eating! She still participates in a weekly Addiction Recovery meeting offered by the Church. She says, “I tried to fight [the food] battle on my own, but the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible for me to never have to endure that struggle again without Him by my side.”

I recently asked Sheri to tell me what affect this change of diet has had on her life. This is what she told me:

When I was 300+ pounds I had sleep apnea (so bad that they wouldn’t let me sleep in the sleep test because they were afraid I would arrest), high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, plantar fasciitis, and osteitis. After losing the weight, I have none of that. No more carrying a CPAP with me when I travel, no more wheelchairs around Disneyland, no more seatbelt extensions on planes (and no more praying I didn’t have to go to the bathroom on the plane!). It all happened gradually as the weight went down, but thinking back I remember all the “penalties” of being overweight. But the best part of my new life is a closeness I feel with the Lord, and keeping the Word of Wisdom is a part of that.

Read all of Sheri’s story: “The weight was a symptom, not the problem.”

We Don’t Have to Do This on Our Own

I love knowing that “There is One who can do for you what you cannot do for yourself.” We are not meant to do the hard things we need to do in this life by ourselves. It is, in fact, impossible to do them by ourselves. The whole point of this life is learning to trust in God and in His power to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. This is the power of the Atonement. If food addiction helps us to learn this vital life lesson, how blessed we are to have experienced it!

Whether or not you have experienced food addiction, I highly recommend the LDS Addiction Recovery Program. When we think of addiction, we think of drugs and alcohol, but addictions come in many varieties, and food addiction is one of the most common addictions in the LDS community. From my study of food addiction, this is not a challenge people can generally overcome through “willpower.” We need God’s power! The support of a 12-step program was key to Sheri Farley’s success and also to Janet Carter’s success (featured last week in “Another Transformation”).

The Church recently came out with some amazing videos featuring the 12 steps. One of these is on food addiction. You can watch it here: “Jessica’s Story about Food Addiction Recovery.”

The Addiction Recovery Program is not just for addicts! It is for anyone who needs to learn to fully trust in the Lord and in His Atonement. Isn’t that all of us? In addition to group meetings, the Church has created a manual you can use at your own pace (available at LDS Distribution Centers for $1 or download free here: “Addiction Recovery Program Guide”). I’ve heard so many good things about it that I’m doing the program myself. Please join me!

For More Help on a Word of Wisdom Diet

For 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.