Lessons Learned From (Almost) Five Years on a Plant-based Diet
Back in 2011, I wrote a post about the Word of Wisdom. I had some things that were bothering me personally and decided to face them head on. I did a lot of study and research combined with soul-searching and prayer and out of all that came some powerful insights that propelled me down an unexpected, and to be honest, undesired path.
I’ve written a little about that back-story recently but now I’d like to share some things I have learned since then. While you may not agree with some of the conclusions I have come to, I think there are still some principles that are universal in nature.
First I’d like to emphasize the importance of not becoming a judgmental fascist because of your particular views. Next, are some other interesting and unexpected ideas that unfolded to me over time. Finally, I’d like to share some pictures of some of the tasty meals I prepare, because if there is anything I love as much as symbolism, it’s cooking!
Don’t be a Nazi
The revelation we know as D&C 89 was, “To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint,” so I’ve never felt that it was right to shame, scold, force, command or constrain my interpretations in any way upon those who apply the principle of D&C 89 differently than I do. I believe that doing so violates the spirit in which the revelation was given.
I’m all too aware (and maybe you are too) of those that are passionate about their diet or lifestyle and are quick to put down any others who are not part of their crusade. I’ve tried hard to find the right balance myself, and one day I found some wisdom while reading an alternate translation of Romans 14. If you have food Nazi tendencies, please read the following very carefully (emphasis added all over):
5 Some of the Lord’s followers think one day is more important than another. Others think all days are the same. But each of you should make up your own mind. 6 Any followers who count one day more important than another day do it to honor their Lord. And any followers who eat meat give thanks to God, just like the ones who don’t eat meat. […] 10 Why do you criticize other followers of the Lord? Why do you look down on them?
13 We must stop judging others. We must also make up our minds not to upset anyone’s faith. 14 The Lord Jesus has made it clear to me that God considers all foods fit to eat. But if you think some foods are unfit to eat, then for you they are not fit.
15 If you are hurting others by the foods you eat, you are not guided by love. Don’t let your appetite destroy someone Christ died for. 16 Don’t let your right to eat bring shame to Christ. 17 God’s kingdom isn’t about eating and drinking. It is about pleasing God, about living in peace, and about true happiness. All this comes from the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ in this way, you will please God and be respected by people. 19 We should try to live at peace and help each other have a strong faith.
God does consider all foods fit to eat and modern revelation adds some more details but they are loose enough for individuals to apply them to their own situations. Is there abuse of those guidelines? Sure there is, but is it our job to police them? No, it is not.
Is it ok to share, encourage, and persuade, in a spirit of peace? Yes, I believe it is and that’s what I’m shooting for with this post. I just want to share and if you happen to find something useful, great!
Change and Adaptability
This is closely tied to the whole “don’t be a Nazi” attitude. Here’s the deal, I’ve changed a lot in the last 5 years and even in the last few weeks. I’ve made new discoveries, I’ve re-examined and re-structured my approach and views on things, and I’ve enjoyed a safe space to do that. Based on this track record, I’m pretty sure my views will continue to evolve.
This means that I don’t need to feel so concerned that everyone else isn’t doing exactly what I’m doing at this particular moment in time. After all, this moment may be one that I might find myself disagreeing with some time in the future anyway. We all need the freedom to explore, and most importantly, to experiment on the word. I used to want to “arrive” at THE solution or THE final answer on so many things. I’ll bet many of my posts here on oneClimbs were written in that spirit.
I do believe in truth, but I think our relationship to it and our perception of it can change drastically over time for good and bad. For instance: it is good and true to share the gospel, but how we do that can vary wildly based on the person or circumstance. Take a look at Aaron and Ammon’s approaches and how different they were and who was ultimately more effective.
King Benjamin taught that we are all beggars, and that God is no respecter of persons. I think that doctrine informs the idea that he works with us wherever we are. A person who defines ‘sparingly’ in D&C 89 as ‘never unless needed’ can be blessed just the same as someone who defines ‘sparingly’ as ‘just for dinner’ and I really believe that.
God will answer the prayer of the drug addict just the same as the guy with 100% home teaching stats. He is “merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness” (Lecture 3:14) and if we wish to be like him, we will be the same way to others.
I believe one of the key components of fasting is abstinence. The Hebrew word tsom means to “cover the mouth.” As I transitioned to a whole food plant-based diet and lifestyle, I noticed immediately just how many things I was abstaining from. Whether permanently, periodically, or on an as-need basis, it wasn’t about satisfying my appetite with whatever I wanted, it became more about making eating and the use of resources more of a sacred pursuit. Some of that influence came from Jane Birch’s book, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.
Just as the mind has an appetite, so also does the body. Think about your mind. To obtain the Mind of God, your thoughts must be altered in their constitution and disposition; they must hunger and thirst after righteousness. Our physical appetites are merely extensions of our mind as well; they are not two separate things but one great whole.
I began to examine all that I was taking in to myself, whether it be food or ideas and I gradually transitioned from focusing so much on blocking negative influences to pursuing all good things.
I’ve recently moved back to my home state of Texas where barbecue is king. Everyone around me barbecues and/or hunts so I usually find myself in an paradoxical place. Cooking and sharing with others is a deep cultural tradition so I don’t ask for special treatment or try to make anyone feel bad for their decisions. I love going out to barbecue places with the family, I just have beans, coleslaw, pickles, onions, creamed corn, potato salad, and more. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, I still enjoy barbecue sauce on my beans and potato salad, the family bonding and the whole she-bang.
Hunting is another tricky one to navigate. I don’t enjoy taking life, especially if it is done as some form of recreation. Even in a position of need, I would not enjoy it but wouldn’t feel guilty about it if the need was legitimate. There is an important bonding aspect to being out with the family and I feel that abstaining from that does more harm than good. I can abstain from taking life while still enjoying the company of family. My family is patient and understanding with me, just as God is, and I can extend the same generosity back to them in a spirit of good will.
There is an argument to be made that periodic hunting, even on a rare basis can endow one with necessary tracking and preparation skills that may be necessary to know if a genuine time of need did arise. Nephi hunted in the wilderness and God directed him to animals so they could hunt. On the other hand, the Israelites were provided with manna (bread) in the wilderness. On yet another hand (I have three hands I guess), I’m not living in the same conditions as those ancients – I have grocery stores, refrigeration, UPS, and the Internet. The average American has greater access to food options today than anyone else in history of the world and it keeps getting better.
I think you could make a plausible argument either way. God could have been very, very specific but he seems to leave a lot open to interpretation by design. I don’t have all the answers yet and I’m ok with that. I’m fine with other people living their interpretation and I appreciate being able to live mine.
Vegetarian or Vegan?
I still feel the same about this as I did back in 2011 when I wrote: “I would never refer to myself as a Vegetarian or a Vegan or any other such label.” For those who think those labels adequately convey to others their take on things, that’s fine, but I don’t like the baggage many labels bring with them.
I do get asked if I’m a vegetarian or Vegan from time to time. I try to keep my answer short and simple: “I like plant-based foods,” but often a deeper inquiry gets the explanation, “I think it’s ok to use animals when needed, but with so many alternatives available, that need almost never arises for me, personally.”
The dust hasn’t settled on all of this for me yet and I don’t anticipate that it ever will. For me the governing principle is as simple as a single word: need. I don’t know how that philosophy plays into vegetarianism or Veganism and I’m not at a place where I really care, if I’m being honest. To each their own.
“What do I eat now?” I think anyone who has decided to transition to any kind of diet different from the one they are accustomed to has thought that question.
I love to cook, so removing the flesh of animals from my diet was a challenge, an experiment, and an enlightening experience all at the same time. I wish I could share some recipes, but almost everything I make is from scratch. A lot of it is very simple and you can recreate it yourself just by observing a few of the photos below.
I eat a ton of greens first of all. I like using sprouted grain products like Ezekiel bread or Engine 2. I’m looking into baking my own sprouted bread, it doesn’t look that hard. I’ve figured out how to cook a lot of plants in a manner that allow me to use all my favorite spices that I used to use on meat so nothing feels missing from my meals.
Jackfruit works a lot like pulled pork or shredded chicken, while portabella mushrooms can be made to taste like chicken or turkey. If I really want a beefy flavor or texture, there are other great options out there (although I try to avoid soy and stuff like tofu).
Products I like
I don’t usually pitch products on my blog, but for the sake of sharing, here are a couple of products that I have really grown to like. I work out so I like to supplement with this stuff I get from AllStarHealth.com called Veggie Elite (I swear, I don’t get any kind of kickbacks for any of this), it’s got a great amino acid profile and is derived mostly from pea protein.
I love jackfruit, and this Upton’s brand is decent. There was another brand at Sprouts that I liked a little better, but this brand gets the job done. It tastes like very tender pulled pork for the most part and I’ve used it on salads, sandwiches, pizzas, tacos, and enchiladas. Even if you prefer meat, this stuff is worth a try, it is so tender and works really well on tacos and enchiladas.
If you liked the documentary Forks Over Knives, you may remember the fire fighter Rip Esselstyn who is the son of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Well, he’s got his own brand of stuff that meshes well with a plant-based diet. It’s called Engine 2 and I like just about everything they put out there. I think you can only get this stuff from Whole Foods though. From bread to tortillas, cereal, and burger patties, they use no flour and a great variety of sprouted grains. Ezekiel bread is another more common option and I’ll get that too for the kids.
Well, that’s about it. I’m sure I’ll think of some other things after I post this and maybe I’ll add them if I think they’re worth it. Overall, I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how versatile the Lord is with us. He really respects agency and he really wants us to approach these things and ponder them. Everything seems set up to encourage us to search, ponder, and pray, to seek, ask, and knock, to experiment upon the word.
Little by little, we see clearer until the perfect day. This has been a little of my journey so far, I hope it has been of use to someone out there.