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.

I’ve been addressing some of the discouraging thoughts that can dissuade us from trying a Word of Wisdom diet. Below, I’ve linked to the five topics I’ve already discussed:

  • Taste: These foods won’t be yummy, and I’ll be unhappy.
  • Convenience: It takes too much time to prepare healthy foods.
  • Nutrition: A whole food, plant-based diet will be deficient in vital nutrients.
  • Social Pressure: No one else eats this way, so this will be too hard or awkward.
  • Comfort: I love my current diet and can’t imagine life without the foods I love best.
  • Procrastination: Great idea, but I need to wait until I have time or energy to do this.

If you have been following this series on the Word of Wisdom, you might be persuaded by some of what I have written. I hope so! But are you thinking, “This is a great idea, but I need to wait until I have time or energy to do this”? If so, I’ve written this article especially for you!

Procrastination . . . Not a Good Strategy

I suspect that many readers are convinced that the Word of Wisdom is the best diet out there. I also suspect that many readers would like to try this . . . sometime in the future. Of course, by procrastinating, we are postponing blessings. The longer we eat the standard American diet, the worse our health and the harder it can be to change.

Many people feel pretty good about their health and aren’t worried about imminent disease. They may think a whole food, plant-based diet is too radical, and given their current health situation, figure they can always revisit that decision in the future, when needed. I can see some logic to this, but I can also see some potential pitfalls. Below I’d like to present a few compelling reasons to seriously consider starting this diet now.

Why wait to enjoy the blessings of looking and feeling better?

The blessings of eating a healthy diet are not all in the future or just for the sick. Even healthy people, including children and young adults, feel much better on a healthier diet. And people of all ages appreciate shedding excess pounds and keeping the weight off without going hungry.

Dr. John McDougall suggests that for children, a great motivator is to avoid the pain and ridicule that can come from being overweight, sluggish or just having acne. For young adults, looking and feeling healthy is important to not only feeling good about oneself but also attracting a mate. And of course all adults appreciate looking and feeling their best! [1]

No one who eats poorly escapes in the end

If we already look and feel great, are there still good reasons to consider changing one’s diet? Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the premier whole food, plant-based experts, gave this response to the question, “My health is excellent, why should I change?”

No one escapes in the end—eventually the traditional western diet guarantees some form of disease in all of us. While it may not be heart disease at the moment, eventually it will be or hypertension, diabetes, stroke, obesity, gall stones, diverticulitis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, or a greater likelihood of breast, prostate, colon, ovarian and uterine cancers. Even erectile dysfunction and dementia. The world famous Framingham Heart Study now approaching its 60th year looked at 1,000 people at age 50 who had normal blood pressure. They looked at the same group at age 70, and 90% now had high blood pressure. But there is something that you can do now to stop the cascading events that occur in the body and lead to disease. You can change your diet and begin safeguarding your health for the future. [2]

A whole food, plant-based blogger, the “Healthy Librarian,” wrote this in response to the question, “Why am I following this diet if I don’t have heart disease?”

Because my parents were very sick for many years & I’d prefer to not be. I don’t want to end up in a wheelchair, unable to walk, unable to talk, incontinent, unable to feed myself, or recognize my loved ones. Heart disease, strokes, vascular dementia, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even some cancers can take years to develop. Why wait until it’s too late to do something about them? After seeing the debilitating effects that strokes had on both of my parents—my dad at age 69—and my mom in her late 70’s—I decided to be pro-active. No corned beef sandwiches or chocolate chip cookies are worth that price! [3]

Half-ways measures do not provide enough protection

Lindsay Nixon tells the following story in her new book, The Happy Herbivore Guide to Plant-based Living:

My parents took a lackadaisical approach for years. Yes, they had made some excellent changes like eating whole-wheat bread and pasta, adopted “meatless Monday,” cooked my plant-based recipes a few times a week, and completely stopped eating fast food. But they were still eating meat, dairy, eggs, processed foods, and oil, almost every day.

My parents would argue that, despite their chronic health issues, they were doing “pretty good.” And I’d say, “Pretty good isn’t good enough.” Sadly, I proved correct when my father had a mild heart attack. Initially my parents felt pretty beaten down and said things like, “Here we try to make healthy changes and your father has a heart attack anyway! Why bother?” That’s when I said it was because of the changes they did make that it was a mild heart attack and not a fatal one. My parents quickly realized they had the gift of a second chance, went plant-based that day, and haven’t wavered since. They constantly marvel at how great they feel, how much weight they’ve lost, and what a huge difference it makes when you go the full 100 percent. Their only complaint? They wish they had listened to me sooner.[4]

Poor habits lead to poor quality of life

The following advice is from 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. This is not a book about diet, just advice from some of our oldest citizens—those who have lived long enough to know better:

Act now like you will need your body for a hundred years. Stop using “I don’t care how long I live” as an excuse for bad health habits. Behaviors like smoking, poor eating habits, and inactivity are less likely to kill you than to sentence you to years or decades of chronic disease. Think walkers, wheelchairs, nursing homes, incontinence, dementia, oxygen, social isolation, and years of dependence.[5]

Prevention is easier than treatment

Disease is easier to prevent than to manage. Why wait until serious illness strikes? When I am sick I always think to myself, “Almost no sacrifice would have been too much to avoid feeling this terrible!”

When you are tempted to eat food that is not good for your body, picture yourself in the future with chronic illness. At that time, with all the worry, medical bills, loss of independence, and pain, will you be saying, “Sure I’m suffering now, but those donuts, that cheesecake, all that chicken and beef and processed foods were sure worth it!”?

By starting now, you’ll have a better chance of reaching and maintaining optimal health. If you wait too long, this may never be an option for you.

It is harder to change once you are sick

Don’t wait until you are seriously ill before changing your diet. As hard as it may seem to change your diet now, it is much harder when you feel terrible. People with chronic disease are often consumed with mere survival and following the doctor’s orders, which likely will not include healthy nutrition.

People I know who are seriously ill have no time, energy, or interest in any lifestyle change beyond what their illness is forcing on them. It is often only after many years of chronic disease that people are finally desperate enough to try a radical change in diet. Why wait until you are desperate?

My Experience

When I switched to a healthy Word of Wisdom diet in 2011, I didn’t have any significant health problems, but I did have a few annoying issues. In retrospect, I can clearly see that these nagging health issues were just warning signs of things much more serious to come. Fortunately, when I changed my diet, they all disappeared. How grateful I am that I did not wait until they blossomed into true chronic diseases or medical emergencies!

I used to catch a cold at least a couple times a year. But during the last two years, the most I’ve experienced are barely perceptible signs that I may be getting sick. These have lasted less then 24 hours and then just disappeared, without my actually getting sick.

Oh how grateful I am for the many bullets this diet has helped me to dodge! I fully recognize that I am not immune to all sickness. I also realize that sickness and pain can teach us valuable things. But I am grateful for the dramatically better health I’ve enjoyed since embracing the Word of Wisdom. And the blessings of physical heath are just one small part of the blessings I’ve received. Unexpected spiritual, mental, and emotional blessings have also been a result of eating the Word of Wisdom way.

I’m not alone. Others on this diet feel the same way, and many of them have much more dramatic stories to tell. I doubt any of us who have experienced these precious blessings would give them up for all the material wealth in the world. I certainly would not!

Real Mormons • Real Stories

When people close to Maria Avery started dying of disease, she thought about the chronic illness that runs in her family and her own health issues, which were just starting to be serious. She decided to make a 100% switch to a whole food, plant-based Word of Wisdom diet. Doing so helped her lose 110 pounds (going from a size 24 to a size 10) and regain her health. What would Maria have gained by procrastinating her decision? She loves her new diet . . . and her new body! See her full story (including before and after photos) here: “Every day feels like a cheat day to me.”

Want to give the Word of Wisdom a try? See: “Getting Started”

Next Time in “Discovering the Word of Wisdom”

Although I was born into the Church, my life was halfway over before I “discovered” many of the truths in the Word of Wisdom. Of course, many Mormons before me had discovered these same truths much earlier. Two of the early Mormon pioneers who wrote about the dietary wisdom in D&C 89 were Elder John A. Widtsoe and Leah Widtsoe. Next week, I’ll take a look at their classic text, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation.

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.


[1] John A. McDougall, “Empowering Change in Early, Middle, and Late Life,” McDougall Newsletter, October 31, 2013.

[2] Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., “Frequently Asked Questions,” Dr. Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Hearts Disease Program website.

[3] The Healthy Librarian, “Fifteen Months Into the Esselstyn-Style Plant-Based No-Oil Way of Eating,” Happy Healthy Long Life blog, August 23, 2011.

[4] Lindsay S. Nixon, The Happy Herbivore Guide to Plant-based Living (Dallas, Texas: Benbella, 2015).

[5] Karl Pillemer, 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans (New York: Plume, 2011).