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This article is part of a series on the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Discovering the Word of Wisdom.
In the recently released August Ensign you’ll find a wonderful Word of Wisdom story written by Carol E. Wolf entitled, “Physical Health: Weight Loss and the Word of Wisdom.” Carol’s story is yet another testimony of the redemptive power of the Word of Wisdom. Truly the inspired counsel in D&C 89 from our Savior is a precious gift to us in these days when it is so very hard to consistently choose nourishing foods and maintain a healthy weight.
In this week’s article, I thought it would be interesting to invite Carol Wolf to answer a few questions that will be of interest to Meridian readers about her experience. First, let me provide a brief summary of her story.
Like so many others, as Carol got older, she gained weight and found it progressively hard to get around. She writes:
Something as simple as getting in and out of the tub became a safety issue. I had my bathroom remodeled and the tub removed. Safety bars were installed in the shower. When shopping, I had to decide which side of the grocery store to shop as I couldn’t cover the entire store in one visit. I gave up my Sam’s Club membership and stopped shopping at Wal-Mart. I obtained a handicapped parking permit and started using a cane. I had very low energy and stamina. Just the act of showering and getting dressed wore me out for the day. I never got a second wind. I learned to shower the night before for an activity the following day.
Although she felt that losing weight would help, she also despaired at figuring out how to do that. She needed to lose about 150 pounds, and she had tried so very many diets in the past. Feeling a need for greater wisdom, she turned to D&C 89 and asked the Lord, “Help me to understand what this is really telling me.” He did not let her down. In fact, she recalls, “With those words things were about to change.” As Carol read and studied D&C 89, the verses opened to her understanding. She saw that it teaches us quite a bit about what foods are healthy and what foods we should use sparingly, if at all.
Carol set a goal to lose 50 pounds in 50 weeks by following the counsel in the Word of Wisdom. She began counting calories and tracking everything she ate, figuring out the nutrients, etc. She realized she could eat more food for fewer calories if she concentrated on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. She reports:
I was blessed with thoughts and ideas coming into my mind. My body seemed to know what it needed. I felt satisfied. I had no cravings. Food I used to eat and enjoy lost its appeal. By the next year I had lost over half my body weight, 150 pounds, 10 dress sizes; an average of 6.5 pounds per month. I reached my goal in just over 23 months.
After reaching her goal, Carol’s taste for meat continued to wane and she cut back on its use until she gave it up altogether. She also eliminated dairy products from her diet as she adopted a whole food, plant-based Word of Wisdom diet. (You can read Carol’s full story here, “I have now lost 163 pounds.”)
Questions and Answers — Carol E. Wolf
What prompted you to send your story to the Ensign?
I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting about personal revelation. I shared my experience of receiving an answer to my prayer of how to use the Word of Wisdom to lose weight. I got a lot of positive feedback from my talk. I was even asked by the ward historian to submit a copy to be kept in the permanent ward file. His request made me wonder if perhaps there were others who might benefit from my experience.
You started your Word of Wisdom diet by adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. What made you decide to eventually give up meat and then dairy?
I grew up as a meat eater. It was the center of the plate and other foods were geared around it. As I ate more plant-based, I no longer thought of meat as center to my eating. Meat didn’t look as vibrant on my plate next to the beautiful colors of the fresh plant foods. Cooking and cleanup was much easier without it. The verse in the Word of Wisdom that says the Lord is pleased when we don’t eat it, gave me pause. I felt like I had been instructed to not eat it any longer. I cut way back and then realized one Thanksgiving that I was actually repulsed by the taste of the turkey. That is the moment I knew I was finished. The dairy came about because I studied the treatment of cows.
I find that on a whole food, plant-based diet, the choices are endless. It includes so much more than green salads. I now eat a larger volume of food than at any other time in my life, and I am never hungry. The fresh plant foods look beautiful and taste so good. Eating has become an adventure that I savor and enjoy.
What was the hardest part about changing your diet?
The hardest part was changing my mindset and breaking old habits. Sometimes I would have to ask myself if it was my mind or my body that was craving something. Many times it was my mind. Once I recognized that, the transition really was fairly easy for me. Old habits I had to break included deciding which fast food place was the choice of the day. Twelve years earlier when I had quit soft drinks, I had to break the habit of “Happy Hour.” Two o’clock would roll around, and I had to figure out something else to do at that time rather than a Sonic run. I knew that once again I had to reinvent a new normal.
What was your total weight loss and how long have you maintained that?
I lost about 165 pounds and 12 dress sizes. It will be four years this December. The only time I begin to gain weight is when I fall off the whole food, plant-based lifestyle by adding something that is processed or not plant-based.
What is your daily diet like now?
I eat very simply. I cook a lot of soup, especially during the winter. I jam pack them with vegetables, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes and/or pasta, depending on the recipe.
I make a rolled oats concoction that I eat on nearly a daily basis. It contains rolled oats, freshly ground flax seed, chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, wheat germ and amaranth, raisins and Black Strap molasses.
I center my meals around starch foods like beans, baked potatoes, quinoa, rice or a whole wheat/grain pasta such as spaghetti or penne noodles. I rotate these on separate days with no rhyme or rhythm. Baked potatoes are a favorite. I top them with salsa, guacamole, or black beans. I use nutritional yeast and salt and pepper also. I don’t use a lot of oil, but I occasionally add a little avocado oil to my baked potato. A steamed vegetable or a salad is part of the meal.
Some of my meals are as simple as possible. It’s not uncommon for me to have a large bowl of mixed beans for one of my meals. For snacks or for part of a meal, I often enjoy a plate full of fruit and/or vegetables in the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple. Sometimes it’s a plate of cherry tomatoes, petite carrots, mini corn on the cob, avocado and blueberries. It’s almost a game finding different colors and varieties of foods to try.
One of my go-to meals is a Rainbow Salad. I’ve expanded on the original recipe, so mine is LOADED with beans. I make a huge 24-cup batch which keeps in the refrigerator for several days. It is crisp and wonderful on a hot day.
Carol’s Rainbow Salad
- Red, orange, yellow and green bell peppers, cut into bite size pieces
- One red onion, diced
- Beans (whatever variety you like). I use canned beans because of the convenience, all drained and rinsed: black, white, pinto, kidney garbanzo, black-eyed susan.
- Frozen corn and frozen peas, rinsed slightly to thaw
- Red and yellow grape tomatoes
How do you handle various family get-togethers?
My family is very supportive of my lifestyle. Get-togethers are generally just one meal, and I just do the best I can with what is available. There are usually choices. They are not offended if I don’t eat something and desserts are something that just don’t tempt me. The gathering is about the people and not about the food.
My one daughter is trying to be plant-based. She cooks meat for her husband so finds it challenging cooking two meals, although he is very supportive of her. She is learning about meals that can be eaten by both of them by just adding meat to his later.
What are your biggest challenges now in maintaining your new way of eating?
The biggest challenge for me are days that are emotionally charged, such as anniversaries or other special occasions. It can be tempting to mark these occasions with foods that are not good for me. I have learned through sad experience that sugar and dairy are addictive. Since I have an addictive personality, I have to stay away from them, just like a recovering alcoholic stays away from alcohol. For me, buying a new book is a better way to celebrate.
Beyond physical blessings, can you describe any spiritual blessings you’ve received by eating this way?
Genuine gratitude! My understanding of the Word of Wisdom has broadened to truly feel thankfulness in my heart for the revelation. I am grateful for the wide variety of foods available upon the earth. There is sufficient and more to supply my body with every nutrient, vitamin and mineral necessary. To me, that is almost mind-boggling. The one exception is Vitamin B12 which I take by supplement.
My gratitude extends beyond food to experiencing more reverence for all of creation and how all things are connected and bear witness of Christ. I feel more reverence for life itself. Of course, that means a physical body—a home for my spirit. This gift would not be available to me without the greatest sacrifice: my Savior’s atonement. The Word of Wisdom helps me keep my body temple worthy to house a broken heart and contrite spirit, my gift to Him.
Of course, since I am mortal, there is no way to avoid growing older and eventual death, but many diseases can be avoided or reversed by following the Word of Wisdom, which to me is a whole food, plant-based diet. Even though my body is slowing down, I feel well and better than I did before losing weight. I have no health problems, and I take no medications.
What recommendations do you have for others who want to eat this way?
Begin where you are and don’t beat yourself up.
Take a good hard look at the Word of Wisdom and pray about it and how it relates to you. Make the Word of Wisdom a standard and measure all choices by it.
Choose an area you want to improve in, e.g., quitting sugar, eating less meat, or more vegetables, adding the rainbow of colors to your day, or eliminating processed foods.
Line upon line you can do it!
It might change your life as it did mine.
For help getting started on a healthy Word of Wisdom diet, see: “Getting Started.”
Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom. Watch the video “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film.”