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.
In the last few articles, I’ve been exploring the Word of Wisdom way to weight loss, including three key principles to healthy, permanent weight loss. Here is the complete series:
- Introduction (“My Yoke is Easy”)
- Overview of the three principles (“The End of Dieting”)
- Principle #1: Focus on low calorie dense whole plant foods (“Calorie Density”)
- Principle #2: Abstain from foods that trigger cravings. (“Overcoming Food Addiction”)
- Principle #3: Rely Wholly on the Lord (“Rely Wholly on the Lord”)
In the last article, I admitted that following these principles may not be easy. We can pretty much expect major opposition from Satan, who much prefers we stay on an unhealthy diet. It helps if we can recognize his tactics. Here are some of the arguments I suggested might discourage you from adopting a Word of Wisdom diet:
- 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.
Do any of these sound familiar? It is clear Satan is doing a very good job!
In today’s article, I’ll be addressing the first challenge. Questioning whether healthy foods can be tasty is important because none of us want to eat boring, unappetizing foods!
I woke up early one ordinary Saturday in 2011 with no idea that my life was about to change forever. The TV was on when I walked into the living room, so I happened to see a preview for a show called “The Last Heart Attack.” It described a “heart-attack proof” diet, which seemed impossible to me. But the evidence was compelling enough to encourage me to do more research. I was soon convinced that the diet doesn’t just prevent heart disease; it prevents (or dramatically reduces) almost every major chronic illness that is so common today. As the power of this thought sunk in, I had a strong impression, “This is the way human beings are supposed to be eating.” I decided I had better eat this way.
The heart attack proof diet turned out to be a “whole food, plant-based” diet:
- Whole foods (instead of processed foods)
- Plant foods (instead of animals foods)
A quick check with D&C 89 led to my discovery that this powerful diet had been revealed to Joseph Smith back in 1833. Why hadn’t I seen that before? Like any red-blooded American, I loved both animal and processed foods, so switching to a totally whole food, plant-based diet was a BIG jump for me. I had never considered doing anything like this before.
What To Eat?
My first “meal,” on the new diet was deceptively simple. I had two pieces of fresh corn of the cob, sans butter. It was totally delicious! “Maybe this won’t be so hard after all,” I thought. But this naïve assumption turned out to be wrong, wrong, wrong! After the corn on the cob, it was pretty much downhill for quite some time as I struggled to figure out what was left to eat once you take out animal and processed foods.
I soon discovered I had no idea how to put together a delicious meal using only the wholesome plant foods our Father provided for our health. A huge part of this was I had zero cooking skills. While I was too enthusiastic about the diet to give up, I was quite unhappy with most of the food I was eating. I’m not a terribly picky eater, but I really love delicious foods. The thought of living on a diet that did not taste good to me was not going to work. I was willing to give it a try, but I was not willing to spend the rest of my life not liking the foods I ate.
So Why Did I Persist?
Despite the frustration of not knowing what to eat, because I was fully committed to going 100% from day one, I felt HIGHLY motivated to figure out how to prepare better food. What encouraged me the most at this point were the stories of others who had gone whole food, plant-based. While many of them enjoyed the foods right off the bat, many more had struggled just like me. And yet as they persisted, things changed dramatically. Their taste buds changed, their knowledge expanded, and their cooking skills developed. Before long, they were loving their foods . . . as much, if not more, than they had previously! Here are typical testimonials from average people:
- “The food is delicious. I’ve tried all sorts of new foods and recipes and learned lots of new things.”
- “It has been fun, easy, and liberating. I love the food. I haven’t been sick one day since starting.”
- “I LOVE the food I eat and I weigh less than I did in high school . . . [this is the] first time in my entire life I have not wanted to be thinner.”
- “It is so cool just how quickly real food tastes so good!!! Being off sugar for just a couple days makes a huge difference, and not just with fruits, but the flavors of all foods are enhanced by having a clean palette.”
- “When I started this diet, the food tasted bland. Now it is delicious.”
- “I LOVE the food we eat! Everything tastes so delicious to me. And also, I LOVE how I feel now!”
- “You get to a place where the food tastes great and you don’t need the high calorie density treats.”
- “I love this diet plan because I don’t ever have to count, measure, or deny myself anything. . . . the food is delicious, filling, and nourishing.”
- “I love the food I cook, and I love the fact that my grocery bill each week is as low as it is now.”
- “After awhile of eating well our tastes change and we very much enjoy healthy food. I’ve experienced longing for my oats and broccoli so I know this to be true.”
- “I love the food, I love the fact that I never have to restrict calories, and most of all, I love the simplicity.”
- “I LOVE THIS FOOD!!! What a pleasant surprise it was to find out my taste buds would change and I would find this food to be even more delicious than the old SAD food. I had no idea this would happen! I didn’t know a plain ole’ orange would be soooo delicious . . . or a potato . . . or corn!!!”
- “I love what I eat, never starve myself and do not eat anything that doesn’t taste good to me.”
Reading the stories and posts from other people, I could not doubt their sincerity. These are normal people with normal taste buds. They LOVE their whole food, plant-based foods and feel FANTASTIC eating this way! And there are thousands of these people! I realized I could not be too much different. I had faith that I too could succeed.
Finally . . . Success!
Somewhere between week seven and eight, I suddenly realized I too was loving my food! I began enjoying three very large meals a day. I looked forward to eating; I ate with relish; and I felt fully satisfied after every meal. I had plenty of tasty healthy snacks when I wanted them. I didn’t count carbs or calories and still lost weight. I felt fantastic!
Our Father Designed Wholesome Plants to Be Delightsome to Us
For thousands of years our ancestors have enjoyed the wholesome foods God created. They didn’t have the time or technology we have today to process all the nutrients out of the wholesome plants they gathered or harvested out of the garden or farm. They ate them relatively unprocessed and unrefined, and guess what? These foods were delicious to them! This is just as God intended. He made these foods “to please the eye and to gladden the heart” (D&C 59:18).
Now that modern technology and marketing have totally hijacked our taste buds, we are convinced that, unless we mix them with a bunch of calorically dense rich foods, whole foods are boring, uninteresting, and tasteless! This is not what God intended. God would not recommend a diet of unappetizing foods! Look at the beauty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes: as beautiful as they are to the eye, they are equally as delicious to the taste.
Wholesome foods taste good in the same way that sacred music sounds beautiful. An atheist who only listens to rock music may think sacred music is boring and totally uninteresting, but that evaluation says more about the person than the music! Similarly, a person raised on junk food may be convinced that wholesome foods are tasteless or even yucky, but this is not the objective reality. The person’s tastes have been hijacked by unwholesome foods, so they have not developed the ability to appreciate some tastes. But that does not mean they cannot develop those tastes!
Can we trust the Lord that the wholesome foods He ordained for our “constitution, nature, and use” (D&C 89:10) are delightsome and delicious? Can we trust that by following His food plan, our tastes can be restored to health?
Our Taste Buds Can Change
Most of us think we eat the foods we love, but the opposite is also true: we learn to love the foods we eat. Ask any missionary who served in a place where the foods were very different from what he/she ate growing up! Humans have the innate ability to enjoy a very wide variety of foods. But don’t worry if you are ordinarily very picky! The variety of the wholesome plant foods available to us today is so wide that every person can find delicious foods to eat.
The American diet is filled with sugar/fat/salt, ingredients used by the food industry to create super-palatable foods designed to create repeat customers. Rich meats and processed foods whet our appetites for most rich foods and diminish our pleasure in wholesome foods. But our cravings can dramatically change as we cut back.
I used to think it was funny that children ever got excited about finding an orange in their Christmas stocking. That was before I went whole food, plant-based! When you dramatically reduce or stop eating sugar, you’ll be amazed at how sweet and satisfying fruit is. The only reason fruit does not satisfy our sweet cravings is that we’ve allowed sugary candy and super sweet foods to create those cravings in the first place. Now, many people are finding that their desire for sugar and sweets dramatically diminishes once they cut out added sugars.
The same is true with fat! According to research conducted at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, normal people on low fat (10–15% fat) diets completely lose their desire for fat within 12 weeks. What is 12 weeks in a lifetime!!??
Likewise, when we reduce the amount of salt in our diets, the food may taste bland at first, but then our tastes adjust, and we find that we need much less, if any, salt in most foods. Try leaving the salt completely out while cooking and then adding a bit to the surface of the food, if needed.
Of course we don’t need to rid of our diets completely of sugar/fat/salt. Each of these occurs naturally in whole foods in amounts that are healthy for our bodies. It is the added sugar/fat/salt that is unnecessary, and by dramatically reducing the amount you consume, you’ll find that your craving for these stimulants naturally decreases. But it takes time! Be patient.
Figuring Out What to Eat
I wish there was an easy formula for helping people find the wholesome foods they would love, right off the bat. Happily, there are lots of resources to help, but we are all different enough that each person/family has to find their own way. For some, the transition is easy, but for others, it can be a challenge. Either way, make it a family adventure. If others don’t want to join you, be a pioneer!
I can say this: everyone who continues and doesn’t give up finds success. Their tastes change and/or they find wholesome foods they LOVE.
I’ve created a website with lots of practical, time-tested ideas for switching to a healthy Word of Wisdom diet and finding foods you’ll love: “Figuring Out What to Eat”
There are Blessings in the Struggles
When I adopted a Word of Wisdom diet, I was 100% thrilled to be doing it, but SO DISAPPOINTED that the food did not taste good. No matter what I tried, I was usually disappointed. I felt very frustrated. I was so committed, and I wanted it to be easier.
Now, looking back, I can see how impatient I was. It took less than 2 months for me to figure things out. At the time, it felt like ETERNITY, but now it seems like NOTHING! Now, I’m actually grateful for that experience so that I can relate to other people’s struggles to find foods they’ll love. Now, I can bear a sincere testimony that I know this can happen for others because I have experienced it myself.
Next Time in “Discovering the Word of Wisdom”
OK, so wholesome foods can actually taste good, but don’t they take FOREVER to make from scratch? Next week I’ll be addressing the challenge of “convenience.”
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.
 Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (New York: Random House, 2013) & David A. Kessler, Your Food Is Fooling You: How Your Brain Is Hijacked by Sugar, Fat, and Salt (New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2012).
 Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (New York: Avery, 2007).