Experimenting on the Word: One Chubby Lady Tests the Word of Wisdom
Like many people, this desk working mother of four arrived at a point where her lifestyle and eating choices were taking a toll on health and well-being. Meat at every meal, ice-cream more nights than not, Diet Pepsi swigging to wake up and then keep going was rather obviously hitting the bottom line, in more ways than one. There was much rushing around done but none of it exercise.
As the cholesterol numbers rose and the scale inched up a real sense of futility began pervade my thoughts and I found myself praying for help. Fad diets were not the answer, I love food too much and none of them worked long term. Research into nutrition was studied but the afternoon munchies still overcame me most days.
I knew the Lord cared deeply about both my spiritual and physical well-being and so the answer had to be in the Gospel. Over several months, line upon line the truth began to distill.
Near the beginning of this heavenly tutorial a wonderful missionary was assigned to serve in our area. He was bright and happy and excited to be here. He was like so many others who pass through with one major exception, he was a vegetarian.
This anomaly brought much attention to this young man from both members of the Church and non. Texans consider themselves the top carnivores on the planet. If it isn’t meaty, chicken fried, and served with gravy it “aint worth eat’n!” In my experience many Mormons would make pretty good Texans. This fact caused the poor Elder no end of ridicule and comment, some of it humorous and some that was flat out unkind. The observation of this behavior caused me to ponder the love affair that so many us have with meat.
As these thoughts were percolating through my consciousness it became time for my temple recommend interview with the Branch President. When we got the question about following the Word of Wisdom I hesitated. I don’t drink tea, coffee, or alcohol. I don’t use tobacco or illegal substances but did I fully follow the Word of Wisdom? After a short conversation in which my temple worthiness was confirmed I left that office and set out to study and then test the entire Word of Wisdom.
That search led me to all kinds of information and commentary but the most useful was found in the scriptures themselves and in the words of a latter-day prophet.
With our vegetarian Elder in mind I first read about meat.
D&C 89:12-13 “Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.”
This idea of infrequent consumption of meat was echoed in the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 9:11.
“And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.”
Now, for those of you who are ready to whip out the “And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God” quote hang on to your hamburgers. I am not saying that the Word of Wisdom advocates complete vegetarianism but it certainly asks us to eat meat sparingly. Somehow I don’t think sparingly means just two meals a day instead of three.
Then I dove into the discourses of Brigham Young who had much to say about the Word as well as many other pragmatic suggestions for good health and long life.
“If the people were willing to receive true knowledge from heaven in regard to their diet they would cease eating swine’s flesh. I know this as well as Moses knew it, and without putting it in a code of commandments.”
Darn it, there goes the bacon.
“It is difficult to find anything more healthy to drink than good cold water.”
But Brigham what about Diet Pepsi? I have to have it to keep up my frantic life pace.
“Instead of doing two days’ work in one day, wisdom would dictate to our sisters, and to every other person, that if they desire long life and good health, they must, after sufficient exertion, allow the body to rest before it is entirely exhausted. When exhausted, some argue that they need stimulants in the shape of tea, coffee…or some of those substances which are often taken to goad on the lagging powers to greater exertion. But instead of these kind of stimulants they should recruit rest. Work less, wear less, eat less, and we shall be a great deal wiser, healthier, and wealthier people than by taking the course we now do.”
With all this in mind I set out to really test how I had chosen to interpret these parts of the Word of Wisdom.
I eliminated caffeine completely. It was a tough first two days but I knew Brigham was right on this one. Stimulants are stimulants, I would rest when I got tired instead.
I also banned pork from the menu. This was a huge course change, I mean last Thanksgiving I made a bacon blanket for our turkey. It was delicious but if I was going to test this it had to go.
Water would be consumed in most cases for thirst and meat eaten sparingly. That part was intimidating because it seemed all the main dishes I regularly cooked had meat as the main ingredient. Luckily I found there are easy substitutions that can be made. Zucchini slices instead of pepperoni on homemade pizza, it is awesome, and mushrooms instead of beef in stroganoff.
Fish and poultry became my “sparingly” consumption once or twice a week and I also learned about eating less processed food, sticking to whole grains and the like. This did not require me to shop at Whole Foods, take yoga classes, or become an expert on raw sugar. It really wasn’t that hard and the family got on board pretty quickly.
I also took latter-day prophets advice to exercise regularly. I started by walking and then added weight training. My football playing teenage son was a wealth of information and technique in this area.
I am now several months into the test and the physical results are pretty amazing. In general I feel better and my energy has increased. The work load that used to leave me exhausted every night is now manageable, my mind is clearer and emotional state more even-tempered. The most recent visit to the Doctor revealed much lower levels of cholesterol, blood sugar and the stubborn weight that has plagued me the last decade or so is slowly but surely coming off.
Interestingly, I’ve found that when I don’t eat red meat and pork I stay cooler, which is a blessing living in the south. When I have wavered and consumed red meat at a meal I find myself wanting to stay in front of the air conditioner all day. It makes me wonder if that is one of the reasons the Lord advises us to eat it in the winter.
The application of the testing parameters is not executed perfectly every day because sometimes I’m a wimp, but I’ve found that through prayer the Lord helps me get back up and keep trying. Here’s hoping this is one of those weaknesses that will eventually become a strength, but if not I know that I want to do as the Lord has instructed and I will keep at it because the blessing always outweighs the sacrifice, rather literally it seems.
“Prepare to die, is not the exhortation in this Church and Kingdom; but prepare to live is the word with us, and improve all we can in the life hearafter, wherin we may enjoy a more exalted condition of intelligence, wisdom, light, knowledge, power, glory, and exaltation. Then let us seek to extend the present life to the utmost, by observing every law of health, and by properly balancing labor, study, rest, and recreation, and this prepare for a better life.”
It is clear we must take care of the spirit as well as the body to be the most useful instruments in the hands of the Lord. He asks us to experiment on His word and that includes those parts of the Word we like to ignore so we can enjoy our steak and energy drink.
The conclusion I’ve drawn from my on-going experiment is this, the Lord cares about His children both spiritually and physically. He has given us a road map to be healthy and happy. Certainly there is room for individual interpretation and revelation on how to interpret it, but if this chubby lady can test the Word and reap the ever increasing blessings then anyone can do the same.
What health benefits have you gained from living the Word of Wisdom?
How has the knowledge that the Lord asks us to adopt healthy habits helped you?