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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.
We have all been born into a world that makes weight management extremely difficult. It has relatively little to do with willpower and almost everything to do with the type and amount of food available. As a result, many of us are desperate to lose weight. People in our society will try anything. They’ll even go under the knife. Weight loss surgery is a booming business. Surgeries can now shrink your stomach, bypass part of your digestive tract, and even implant an electrical device in your body that will interrupt the nerve signals between your stomach and your brain.
If these surgeries are not surprising enough, the latest weight loss technology certainly blows the mind: the FDA has now approved a device that attaches to the stomach so that a portion of the contents can be pumped out and emptied into a toilet. Called AspireAssist, it comes with a long, scary list of potential side effects, but that may do little to stop the rush of people who are desperate to lose weight.
Last week in “How to Handle Our God-Given Hunger,” I described how the Lord has already blessed us with the divine counsel we need to enjoy food without battling weight. Eating a wholesome plant-based diet enables our God-given hunger drive to help us consume the right number of calories we need for proper weight and good health, without going hungry. The Word of Wisdom way to weight loss is completely safe, inexpensive, and has no negative side effects.
Of course, fad diets will continue to be appealing because they promise to help us lose weight and still allow us to eat the unhealthy food we want to eat. But fad diets do not work because they are not suited to the type of body our Father has given us. Try as we might, we can’t do an end run around the God-given wisdom of our bodies. We can either eat the wholesome foods that are proper for fueling our bodies or we can engage in a life-long struggle with unhealthy foods and yo-yo dieting.
Stories of People Doing It the Word of Wisdom Way
Many people have found freedom from struggling with food and weight by embracing a whole food, plant-based Word of Wisdom diet. Some of these stories are featured on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. Last week I featured the story of Marla Radeke (“The weight literally melted off”). This week, I’ll share “before” and “after” glimpses of several more people. As you read their stories, note how often these themes appear:
- Eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) high in fat, sugar, salt, and animal foods leads to a life-long battle with weight and uncontrollable food cravings.
- Switching to a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet kills the cravings, and enables us to eat to satiety and still get down to a healthy weight . . . all without counting calories.
- The key to weight management, satisfaction, and cutting the food cravings is to make starch foods (grains, corn, beans, and potatoes) the main staple of our diet.
Carol Lindsey (“Even the least of us can do it!”)
Before: “No matter how hard I tried, the weight would always creep back on. You could probably say in my whole adult life I was either dieting or gaining weight. . . . I was so obsessed with my weight that to this day I can tell you how much I weighed at every important event that ever occurred in my life. Food was a drug to me.”
After: “A major change was that I started loving my food again. I was excited to eat. . . . I would finish a meal and literally feel happy in my heart. . . . The weight began to fall off and people began to notice. Over the next two months I lost over 40 pounds. Within a few weeks of returning home I’d lost 50 pounds and, without dieting, I’m still losing! . . . I truly have never been as happy as I am today. It is hard to explain to people that my food makes me so happy. . . . The most amazing thing to me is that I eat delicious food in amounts that satisfy me, and I maintain a healthy weight. I used to wonder why Heavenly Father made it so difficult for women to do just that, and now I know that through the Word of Wisdom he actually made it so simple even the least of us can do it.”
Lynn Henrichsen (“When I changed my diet, an amazing thing happened”)
Before: “As a teenage boy I could eat anything and never put on a pound. However, as an adult, I found myself putting on weight until I weighed over 50 pounds more than I did in high school. . . . When I was 53 years old, I enrolled in the ‘Y-Be-Fit’ program at BYU and had my body and blood analyzed. I was shocked to find that my body was ‘obese’ . . . Even worse, when I started exercising more seriously, my cholesterol stubbornly remained at unhealthy levels.”
After: “When I changed [to a whole food, plant-based diet], an amazing thing happened. My weight, which had been so resistant to change, began to drop. Over a couple of months, I lost nearly 15 pounds, but when my weight reached the ‘ideal’ . . . it stopped dropping . . . as long as I stuck to my plant-based, whole foods diet. If I relaxed, however, and reverted to my old dietary habits, my weight would creep back up. For most of the past two years, I am pleased to report, it has stayed near ‘ideal.’”
Margie Burton (“I am finally happy with my weight!”)
Before: “I’ve had weight and health issues most of my life. As a child I was known as ‘thunderthighs’ among the taunting peers. . . . I tried every diet that came along: the grapefruit diet, Atkins, Weight-Watchers, Nutrisystem, SlimFast, and many I can’t even remember. I was successful in losing weight with most of them, but the pounds would creep back.”
After: “I felt like I was eating huge amounts of food—probably thousands of calories a day. But the weight started coming off. . . . I never have felt deprived. Now that I have lost over 80 pounds my BMI is down to 21, my blood pressure is usually around 104/52 and I have gone from 15 daily medications down to 4. I am finally happy with my weight—especially since I no longer have to worry about dieting, or counting calories, or limiting portion sizes.”
Jeff Sorensen (“I dropped 80 pounds”)
Before: “Growing up I always felt like I was a little ‘pudgy.’ . . . By February 2012 I had reached my highest weight ever of 262.5 pounds and couldn’t see an end in sight! I knew that I wasn’t healthy . . . I had high blood pressure. I had also suffered three bouts with painful kidney stones and had my gall bladder removed due to a blockage with stones.”
After: “Over the next eight and a half months I dropped 80 pounds . . . It was difficult in the beginning to give up some of the foods I had become accustomed to eating over the previous 61 years, especially cheese, but I have found new flavors and textures in eating from the Lord’s ‘Garden of Eden’ . . . Former aches and pains and physical issues have resolved themselves. . . . my mind is clearer and feels younger. I find that I am a much calmer person. I also have more energy . . . I am more invigorated now! Another difference in eating this way is that I can get full and never feel hungry because my body is getting the proper nutrients it needs!”
A Mormon Mother (“The Gospel is not weight. It is wings!”)
Before: “I am writing to you in a bit of desperation. I am . . . about 5 feet tall, and about 100 pounds overweight. . . . I love cake, cookies, brownies, candy, homemade ice cream, chips and dip, homemade bread, etc. . . . I really am huge, and it’s terribly noticeable being so short. I know through the years it’s been awful for my husband to drag around a gigantic wife, and it has been extremely embarrassing for my children. What is wrong with me!!!! I honestly sometimes wonder if it is just too late for me—kind of the mentality that this is who I am, who I’ve always been, who I always will be, and that there is just no hope for me. I KNOW that is evil thinking, but I honestly feel so overwhelmed at this point in life that I don’t know if I even want to change. How could I really give up the foods I really like—FOREVER?”
After: “I have come to love foods that I never cared about or even knew existed. I make whole wheat cereal, whole wheat sugar-free oil-free bread, I enjoy sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, beets, cuties, salads . . . nuts, soups, beans, split peas, dates, hummus, homemade tortilla chips . . . and so many of the glorious foods the Lord has provided. I am happy and confident in this choice and am feeling joy about my decision. . . . I feel strong and capable and just can’t wait to see even greater blessings and results as I continue to strive to live His Word of Wisdom. His yoke IS easy and His burden IS light! I now know that for myself! Now even my prayers have changed as I seek with a softened heart to do anything the Lord would have me do. . . . I can’t imagine ever going back! WFPB is joyful to me now. It fills my heart with happiness!”
Val Johnson (“Here is the key to the ignition: STARCH!”)
Before: “My weight climbed to nearly 300 lbs and stayed at that level on and off . . . To say I yo-yoed is a huge understatement . . . whenever I tried to lose weight, I had the exact same results as in the past.”
After: “It was amazing—so wonderfully filling and satisfying to say the least. I had to pinch myself all the time to not think I was dreaming. My primary sources initially were rice, beans, and potatoes. I sailed through Thanksgiving and Christmas without ever feeling tempted to the point that I wanted to give up. I ended up eating a lot of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables like corn and squash. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to eat until I was full and to feel fine (not bloated!) and to know that I was getting in better shape while doing so. . . . Dr. McDougall sums it up best when he observes that people who have one or more of the starches as a mainstay in their diet are overwhelmingly more successful in staying the course.”
Maria Avery (“Every day feels like a cheat day to me”)
Before: “I was overweight, pre-diabetic, had a high liver count, acid reflux and high cholesterol . . . I was on medicine for acid reflex, and my doctor wanted to put me on medication for high liver count. As I pondered my health and family history, I decided I needed to make some changes. I was not sure where to start, but I knew something had to happen.”
After: “I’ve lost 110 pounds, going from size 24 to a size 10, on a whole food, plant-based diet. . . . I lost this weight without counting calories, points, or measuring my food and with very little exercise. I never felt deprived or hungry. . . . People ask me about having a cheat day. Every day feels like a cheat day to me. I don’t feel I have given anything up, other than my bad health. I have been able to stay on plan and make this a lifelong change to better health. This way of life can be sustainable, enjoyable and is definitely doable.”
Before: “I just couldn’t stick to any weight-reduction program for very long. I came to see over time that I didn’t simply lack willpower to adhere to a diet; I had an intense addiction to food, with little idea how to overcome it. I ended up gaining more weight in time, eventually reaching a high of 275 pounds.”
After: “Sure enough, within 10 months I’d lost 105 pounds. I’ve maintained that for a year and a half now. . . . But best of all, 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.”
If They Can Do This, So Can You!
Please note that none of these people succeeded on a Word of Wisdom diet because they had super willpower, superior intelligence, or the money to hire a specialty chef. These are average Mormons who, like the rest of us, are among the “weak and the weakest of all saints” (D&C 89:3).
But these Mormons did discover a life-changing secret: the key to good health and proper weight is found in D&C 89. Thanks to research into whole food, plant-based nutrition, we now have greater clarity on the wisdom in Section 89 than we’ve perhaps ever had before.
We have the answers. Let’s exercise the faith to claim the promised blessing!
For more on weight loss see: “The Word of Wisdom Way to Weight Loss”
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.”