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 preparation for setting health goals for the new year, this month I am sharing various ways a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet can help you transform your life in 2016.
What does a WFPB diet have to do with the Word of Wisdom? The principles of this diet support the principles in D&C 89 and demonstrate that the Word of Wisdom is a much more powerful revelation than most of us ever imagined. (See: The Dietary Principles of the Word of Wisdom.)
The first article in this series focused on the important question “Why Start Now?” I described some of the reasons why adopting a WFPB diet can be a game changer in your life and why you should consider doing this now so that you can start reaping the tremendous benefits and blessings.
Next, I introduced three possible approaches to changing your diet:
- Make a plan to “baby step” your way into a WFPB diet (see Baby Steps to a WFPB diet).
- Go “cold turkey” (see Why Go Cold Turkey?).
- Implement the “maximum weight loss” principles. If you are already eating a WFPB diet but you want to lose more weight, following the maximum weight loss principles is a surefire way to lose additional pounds! (I’ll discuss this next week. If you want to get started now, see The Word of Wisdom Way to Weight Loss.)
Today’s topic is “Strategies for Going Cold Turkey.” These strategies are useful no matter how you approach adopting a healthier diet!
Strategies for Going Cold Turkey
- Decide to revolutionize your diet.
It all starts here. This is the one non-negotiable pre-requisite for making dramatic improvements to your diet. Unless someone else provides your food for you, you won’t begin unless you are committed, and you won’t succeed unless you stay committed.
Decide you are going to do this. Decide that you can do this. Decide that you will do this.
There are some people that were so convinced by the truth and power of a WFPB diet that they went cold turkey without any other preparation except for a determination to eat differently from that point on. I know this is doable, because I did it, and I was not an ideal candidate, but I’m not necessarily recommending this as the best strategy.
One day I was eating the typical American diet. The next day I stumbled into learning about WFPB nutrition and decided to completely change my diet. As a result, by dinnertime I had no idea what to eat. In fact, I had to go off plan somewhat for dinner because I didn’t have enough whole plant-based foods in my home, but I was still fully committed and knew I was not giving up. You can be more prepared by first stocking up and finding some recipes.
Even if you are prepared, it takes time to master this diet, but the “cold turkey” approach is the quickest and therefore (for some people) the most pain-free. Even after I had stocked up on WFPB foods, it took a few weeks for my cooking skills to develop and for my tastes to change, but if I had taken the baby steps route or not stayed committed, it might have taken months if not years. Instead, I was fully WFPB within days, and fully happy and satisfied with my new way of eating within a few weeks.
Your experience may vary, in fact, it undoubtedly will, but for all of us, the journey begins with the decision to do it! There are so many reasons for going whole food, plant-based. It may help you to make a list of your own, personal reasons to do this. (If you’d like some inspiration, see “Why Go Cold Turkey?”). Also write down your current medical issues, medications, weight and body measurements, and take a photo of yourself.
- Study the WFPB guidelines.
To be successful on a whole food, plant-based diet, you need to understand the dietary guidelines, which you can find here: WFPB Guidelines.
Many of these guidelines directly contradict popular advice about food and dieting. For that reason, it will take time to understand these guidelines and the quality of the evidence that supports them. You can find most of the answers to your questions on the websites listed here: WFPB Resources. (Feel free to contact me if you have any unanswered questions.)
Not all the WFPB guidelines are black and white. Decide where you are going to be strict and where you are going to be a bit flexible or eat sparingly of some items. If there is anything that you are unable to eat in limited quantities, you may find it easier to eliminate it entirely (see Matthew 18:8–9).
- Find a few WFPB recipes you like.
There are thousands of good WFPB recipes on-line and over a dozen excellent cookbooks. There are even WFPB apps! Of course, all of this can be quite overwhelming. Start with just a few recipes that look appealing. They don’t have to taste fabulous. In fact, unless you have a mature palate, WFPB dishes will likely not taste fabulous . . . at first! Plan to eat a limited diet of a few foods that you find decent until you find more that you enjoy. You only need a good 6-7 decent recipes to keep you going for many weeks!
Check out: WFPB Recipes
As you plan your meals, make starches (grains, beans, potatoes, etc.) at least half of your plate. The rest will be mostly vegetables, with some fruit. You will need to eat more volume on this diet. Don’t worry about weight loss at first. You are probably in more danger of not getting enough calories when you first start, so plan on eating plenty of food so you don’t get hungry. Hunger fuels temptation, and as Dr. Doug Lisle says, “The power in willpower is glucose.”
For more suggestions see: Figuring Out What to Eat on a WFPB Diet
- Clean out your refrigerator and pantry and stock up on the new foods.
The question arises, should you wait until you have consumed all of the unwholesome food in your home before you begin? When I learned how unhealthy the standard American diet is, I felt awful about giving that unwholesome food to friends and family, but I knew they’d be eating it anyway. I gave some away, and I just trashed others. The right place to dispose of unwholesome food is not our body temples.
If you can’t completely clean out the refrigerator and pantry because of other people in your home, talk to them about how to manage this situation. Perhaps they can confine these foods to one place/cupboard/shelf (preferably one that is hard for you to reach!).
Don’t feel you need to completely stock your kitchen to begin, just make sure you have the ingredients for the foods you plan to make for at least the first week or two. Better yet, prepare several WFPB meals in advance and freeze some so you are ready to go!
As you have time and money, here are ideas for stocking your pantry: WFPB Kitchen Staples.
- Find a WFPB buddy.
Don’t make going WFPB a private act. Eating is very public, and it is helpful to let others know what you are doing. See if you can find at least one friend or family member who is willing to do this with you so you can help each other. Encourage each other to stay strong. Eat together if you can and also find enjoyable non-food activities to do together. If you live long distance from each other, call and/or text every day!
If you can’t find someone who is willing to change his or her diet with you, at least find someone who will support you as your accountability buddy. Commit to reporting to that person each and every day (in person, over the phone, email, or text). Just knowing you will report every day will help you stay on track. If that person can encourage you and provide non-food rewards, all the better!
In addition, I have two Facebook groups you can join for more support:
- Public Group (where I make most of my posts): Word of Wisdom Health Challenge
- Private Group (mainly for discussions): Discovering the Word of Wisdom Support Group
Here are other on-line support groups:
- McDougall Discussion Board (the largest WFPB community)
- McDougall Friends Facebook Group
- Protective Diet Living Facebook Group
Find other Mormons in your geographic area who are interested in a WFPB diet:
- Decide a minimum length of time to go 100% WFPB.
Deciding you are going to go WFPB for the rest of your life is great, and I encourage this commitment! But if that sounds too overwhelming, try a shorter framework at first. Twenty-one days is probably the shortest time that will still make a significant difference. Three months should kill off the worst cravings. Tell yourself, “It is just for a short time, and then I’ll re-evaluate.” You can do anything for 3-12 weeks, right?
Whatever the timeframe, plan to be strict on the WFPB diet so you have a chance to experience more of the benefits. If you are doing well at the end of the time period, why stop?
- Decide which day you will go cold turkey.
Mark the day in your calendar. Tell the people close to you. Ask for their support and give them suggestions for how they can help you (offer to help them achieve their goals in return!).
Plan out your meals in detail (or have them ready to go in the refrigerator or freezer) for at least the first week on the diet. Make sure you’ll have plenty of food at each meal and have healthy WFPB snacks available, if needed. (Remember: “The power in willpower is glucose.”)
- Begin the diet: You are now someone who eat WFPB!
On the day you have decided to go cold turkey, you will of course begin the diet, but you should do something just as important at the same time: adopt a new identity. The day you begin is the day you are no longer someone who eats a typical American diet. Instead, you are now someone who eats a WFPB Word of Wisdom diet. This is your new identity.
Make this a complete mind switch. Just as we Mormons pay no attention to the alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea being served wherever we are, we who eat WFPB simply pay no attention to non-WFPB foods. Those are simply not our foods any more. We don’t want them. We don’t need them. We can ignore them. (Granted, this is harder if you must cook non-WFPB for others, but think of this like preparing the food for your pets: you would never consider taking a bite!)
- Commit to a process of continuing education.
From the day I first learned about WFPB nutrition, I dove into studying as much as I could about this way of eating, from as many reputable sources as I could find. This, in my opinion, is key to success.
I see far too many people who get excited about a WFPB diet, but then they don’t continue to read and study. When the going gets tough, their roots are not planted deep enough. The sun comes up and scorches them, and they fade away. If we don’t read our scriptures and pray and attend Church, our testimony will begin to fade. In the same way, we need to keep our testimony of the Word of Wisdom alive and growing. We can do this by continuing to study and pray about the Word of Wisdom and learning from reliable WFPB resources.
Education takes time! Make the time. Read at least one article or part of a book or watch at least one video every day. Here are some great places to start: WFPB Resources.
- Trust in the Lord!
The Lord is pleased with your efforts to take better care of your body temple, and He will be there every step of the way. That does not mean it will be easy; it does mean you are not alone!
Gaining a firm testimony that this course of action is pleasing to the Lord will give you tremendous power and the ability to stay the course. Pray to know God’s will for you. Counsel with Him. Open your heart to His direction. The Lord knows you and your situation. He is in the best position to guide you. Knowing you are following the Lord’s counsel can give you great peace and confidence that the path you are taking will be for your blessing. As you act on divine inspiration, it will open the floodgates of knowledge and skills that will help you in your journey.
Prepare for counter attacks from Satan. He will try to sabotage your efforts. Give no heed to his tactics. Remember: you are now someone who eats a WFPB Word of Wisdom diet. Period. Ignore any temptation to deviate from this path. With God’s help, you are more powerful than Satan, and you can succeed!
Be patient with yourself. If you do something you regret, don’t waste time berating yourself. Simply repent and move on. PRAY ALWAYS and rely WHOLLY on the Savior. None of us can succeed without Him.
- If you have a hard time giving up certain foods, see Overcoming Food Addictions.
- Think about how other people will be impacted by your new diet, see Handling Social Situations.
- Monitor fiber intake carefully if are sensitive, have food allergies or you experience pain, see Adjusting to Increased Fiber.
- Note that the suggestions given here are not meant as medical advice for specific diseases. If you are on medications, especially ones for diabetes, consult with a (preferably supportive) doctor as you improve your diet. A WFPB diet is so powerful that you may have to reduce the amount of medications you take, so you may need professional help to monitor your situation.
Are You Ready for 2016?
Whether you plan to baby step your way to a WFPB diet, go cold turkey, or simply fine-tune with some maximum weight loss strategies, I hope you plan to join me (and many others) in 2016 as we make important, long-lasting changes to our health.
Next week I’ll summarize the “maximum weight loss” principles. These are useful for anyone who is experiencing difficulty losing weight or has a goal of losing weight as quickly as possible. If you want to get started now, see The Word of Wisdom Way to Weight Loss.
Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or I can help you in any way!
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. Watch the video “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film.”