How do you know which diet is right for you?
I’m not using the word “diet” as it’s commonly known, in the way that means “eating less to lose weight.” I’m talking about “diet” in the traditional sense, meaning “habitual nourishment.”
Maybe you read a book or heard about the latest health & diet bestseller. Maybe you had a friend or family member who lost a ton of weight after changing her diet and she convinced you to give it a try. Maybe you watched a documentary or two or started following a few blogs that made you realize it’s time to re-think the way you view food.
Whether you follow a specific diet or not or whether you’ve even stopped to think about how you feed and nourish yourself, there’s one question we all need to ask ourselves: “Is this really the way I should be eating?”
The diet industry makes a lot of promises. Many of them can be fulfilled, but often only in the short term and almost always at a great cost. Our rabid pursuit of beauty, health, and happiness can cloud our judgement and make us feel that if we aren’t achieving our goals then the fault is ours — that we’re not disciplined enough or working hard enough, that we’re not “doing it right” or are too weak to stick to the plan. In the midst of this chaos it becomes impossible to focus on the one thing will tell us whether or not we’ll be successful. The “one thing” is the answer to this simple question: Is this diet right for me?
In actuality there are many ways to answer that question, and only you will be able to interpret the answer for yourself. As for me, I first turned to diet to help me find a better way to fuel my body so I could keep up with my kids. And as for knowing whether or not my newfound diet was truly the best one for me, I chose to find the answer in a slightly unconventional way: I turned to prayer.
It may seem unusual, and perhaps it is. But for me, it made perfect sense. I am a spiritual person by nature and I believe in a God who not only cares for me, He knows who I am individually and wants me to succeed and be happy. As a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (you know, the “Mormons”) I have learned to take all my doubts and concerns to my heavenly father. When it came to understanding how I should care for my body, the greatest of God’s gifts to me, it was only natural that I would ask my creator. The answer to this question came in the form of scripture.
It was a scripture I had read many times before, but for some reason I had never taken the time to truly understand the words. The scripture is found in the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 89. This passage has come to be known as “The Word of Wisdom.”
In our church we believe that the heavens are not closed, that God still speaks to us individually and to prophets today the way He spoke to ancient biblical prophets. We believe that Section 89 contains a revelation given by God to our our church’s founder, Joseph Smith, in 1833. Joseph was inspired to ask the Lord about early church members’ use of tobacco, and the answer he received has forever changed the way the people of this church live.
Most people know the Mormons do not use tobacco, drink alcohol or coffee, or use harmful drugs. This was part of the revelation and is most associated with the Word of Wisdom. But there is more.
The Word of Wisdom also contains dietary guidelines, principles given by God on what is fit for human consumption. The passage discusses fruits, herbs, grains, and even animals, including how and when to eat them. It’s a scripture that’s worth reading and re-reading again, as there is much to learn and consider. You can read the Word of Wisdom in its entirely HERE, but the passages that became the most meaningful to me are as follows:
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
12 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;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground.
It’s amazing to me that I had these guidelines in my possession my entire life but I never gave them a second thought until I was in my 30s. In fact, I probably never would have realized their deeper meaning had I not read the book “Discovering the Word of Wisdom” by Jane Birch. Throughout the book, Birch, a communications professor at Brigham Young University, examines the scripture in the context of modern health and diet research. She draws attention to the similarities between the guidelines of the Word of Wisdom and a whole food, plant-based diet, illustrating that science is now proving that those who follow this diet are not only living longer, healthier lives, they are avoiding and even overcoming most of the medical challenges plaguing our society today.
Jane has recently released a short documentary film on this very subject, showing how people are choosing to more fully live the Word of Wisdom and the blessings they are receiving because of it. You can view the 12-minute video on YouTube, or click the video below:
With this scripture being such a treasure trove, why isn’t it more widely known? Why don’t all Mormons follow these dietary guidelines? It’s most likely because, as the scripture says, it is given “not by commandment or constraint” — meaning it is not an explicit requirement for members of the church to live this way; rather, it is “given for a principle with promise.” That promise, as is relayed in verses 18-21, is this:
“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.”
I can personally attest to these promised blessings. About one year ago I changed the way I eat to fit more closely with a whole foods, plant-based diet, following the Word of Wisdom as I understand and interpret it. I have indeed received health in my navel, and at last I can “run and not be weary.” To learn just how this diet has changed my life, read my personal transformation on the My Story tab or on this blog post here or this one here, and now you can read my account in a more spiritual way on the Discovering the Word of Wisdom website. For now, I invite you to watch the film, read the scriptures, and ponder on the word.
Ask yourself, “Is the way I’m eating in harmony with what the creator has designed for me?” For me, when I could finally answer that question with a resounding “yes,” that is when I knew that for the first time, my diet truly was right for me.