“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;
And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
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—
Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:14-17
As I studied this group of scriptures, I was led to the account of Daniel 1:6-20 and his brethren, when they were in the King’s Court. They didn’t want to break their dietary code by eating the “king’s meat.” Instead, they wanted to eat their own foods – which consisted mainly of grains.
As a test, they ate their diet for 10 days, and after this time, they had the following results:
“And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
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As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” – Daniel 1:15
This result really intrigues me. I get the feeling that maybe Daniel and his brethren weren’t ripped. They appeared “fairer and fatter in flesh.” I’m not exactly sure what this means. I doubt that it means that they were fat or obese. I also don’t think that they were underweight or “ripped” like we see so many people who are “fit” today.
I can’t help but wonder how skewed my perception of what healthiness or fitness looks like. I wonder how healthy a six-pack (especially on a woman) is. Of course, that is what we consider completely fit right now. But is it really best for our body – overall? Is it best for our organs, bones, or brains? We are more than our muscular system. I wonder if the obsession with health is actually contrary to the word of wisdom. In fact, I watched this talk Weighty Matters: Current Approaches to Evaluating Body Weight and Weight Loss, by Susan Fullmer about healthy weight, BMI, and other body weight issues. It was really interesting – we don’t know much. Many of the things that we think we know may be wrong! For example, people with a BMI that classifies them as “overweight” are actually usually healthier than those with an “underweight” BMI. You would never get this idea from looking at current media (or pinterest) trends.
I’m realizing that I’m a little confused and maybe brainwashed by the idea that I should be super-thin or fit. Usually, in order to obtain a six-pack body, you have to abandon carbs and eat mostly meats. (Think Paleo). I don’t know that I’m sure how the low-carb high protein diet fits into the Word of Wisdom!
So, when I see this story of Daniel, He denied the King’s Meats and instead ate his own diet of pulse and healthy plants. I know that this diet probably didn’t result with super-duper muscles. I’m sure he looked healthy, in a more balanced, moderate way. I am beginning to realize that I may have an incorrect expectation on what “health” or “fitness” looks like. The Word of Wisdom, keeping our Bodies temples, is much more than being tiny or skinny. It is about having a working body. Additionally, the Lord wants to bless us with spiritual, emotional, and mental health.
As I write this, I don’t want to sound like I’m supporting obesity. Instead, I think that we should not be so focused on our body. Rather, we need to focus on keeping the word of wisdom. If we are keeping the word of wisdom, then we ought to be confident in the results – our bodies, our minds, etc. If we are keeping the word of wisdom, then we ought to also accept the results – that they may not look like what is popular. They may not be as heavy as a Renoir Woman, as skinny as a runway model, or as fit as an olympic gymnast. If we keep the word of wisdom, our bodies will probably vary by each person (tall, short, big frame, small frame, etc), but we will be able to run and not be weary. We will also be blessed with knowledge and understanding. When we keep the word of wisdom, we aren’t blessed with a shredded body, but we’re blessed with an able and fit body – capable of handling the stresses that are placed on us – capable of enduring. We’re blessed with mental and spiritual capability. When we keep the Word of Wisdom, instead of washboard abs, we are a temple.
Another note. As I have been studying the word of wisdom, I’ve noticed a connection between agriculture and civilization. This probably sounds obvious, but here’s an example of exactly what I mean:
“And we began to build buildings, and to repair the walls of the city, yea, even the walls of the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom.
And we began to till the ground, yea, even with all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits; and we did begin to multiply and prosper in the land.” – Mosiah 9:8-9
The righteous, civilized people always till the ground. They always harvest and eat grains, seeds, and other fruits and vegetables. They do raise flocks, and one would assume that they are eating cheeses, milks, and some animal products. They may fish or forage for other wild foods, but they don’t have to worry about availability of wild foods because they are self-sufficient based on their cultivated crops.
On the other hand, we see what happens with those who stop being industrious and growing crops. They begin to lose their culture and are completely dependent on wild animals or wild plants.
“And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us.” – Enos 1:20
The Lamanites, who had given up agriculture also gave up civilization. I bet they were ripped, but I doubt that they lived as long. I doubt that their lives were abundant with understanding and happiness. They might have looked good in a loincloth, but they didn’t understand their bodies were temples. They didn’t have the Spirit striving with them. Most likely, they didn’t enjoy good, overall health.
There is more to healthy living than looking good.
In this modern age, we don’t have to live with the connection between growing food ourselves and mealtime. We just get our food from the store. Some of the popular diets (high protein/meat) may not seem as uncivilized because we get our meat nicely packaged in the supermarket. But it seems like the Lamanites were living a high protein diet; where the Nephites and other righteous civilizations were eating diets that were more plant-based. I bet after eating such a protein-rich diet, the Lamanites noticed their abs, then decided they would look good in a loincloth!
Our modern “diets” may make us look good in a loincloth, but they may not be best for our health or society. I suppose that this is why the Word of Wisdom is so helpful. Even when we get conflicting dietary advice, we can look to the scriptures and know what we should eat in order to be our best selves.
Have you made the connection between the Word of Wisdom and body image? What do you do to keep a healthy body image? How do you wade through fad diets verses the prophetic counsel we’ve been given?