A Weighty Issue


Well…have you guessed from the title what this is about? Yep, I’m about to get real personal here at AOC. And I might as well tell you that I have sat down to write this series of posts on weight many times – only to have it languish in a folder on my desktop. It’s just not very easy for me, and without the push from my sister-in-law, I might not be doing it even now.

So why am I? Obviously, it’s not just to spill my guts to you all. {smile} But like everything I do here at AOC, I’m hoping to inspire, encourage, and show that if I can do something (without any special skills), then you can, too.

This time it just happens to be about losing weight. I am now 15 lbs. lighter than I’ve ever been in my entire adult life (and than includes high school). Ever. And I didn’t “diet” or eat weird foods. In fact, I’ve eaten all the regular, real, whole foods I write and picture here at AOC.

I plan to go into all the nitty-gritty details in a couple of future posts, but first – a little background so you’ll understand why that 15 lbs that I’d never seen lost before (though my total lost since last summer is 25 lbs.) is such a big deal for me.

Like many of you, weight has been a background issue my whole life (I’m assuming here, but having lived for a number of years, *a-hem* I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in this). While I’ve never been huge, I’ve always carried 20 to 40 pounds more than I should.

Well, I suppose not always– I couldn’t have carried 20 extra pounds when I was two years old in the photo above, for example. But I have been told that I would get such terrible rashes where my thighs rubbed together that I needed to have Vaseline applied regularly in hot weather.

And when I look back at pictures like this one with my brother (I think I was in third grade), I think I look fairly normal. But that’s not how I felt then. What I remember are things like:

  • Walking down the halls of a new school toward the first grade classroom with my mom and hoping I would be able to fit in the desks. I have no idea where this came from, but it was a real fear I never forgot.
  • Gazing at my beautiful third grade teacher and thinking if my thighs just stayed the same, they’d look like hers when I grew up (this seems particularly crazy to me now- but it’s true).
  • Shakily trying on a new pair of the latest, in-style jeans when I was twelve and being amazed that the size 13 fit me. Thirteen was the biggest junior sizes back then and my body image was so skewed that I didn’t think I’d fit junior sizes- before I was even a teenager.


But during my senior year of high school and then into college, I really did pile on the pounds – at one point 30 pounds over my “set point” – which was not an ideal weight, but just the weight I could get to with dieting.

And how did I gain the weight? The old fashioned way- I ate too much. And I was a “secret eater” eating junk food when I was alone – most times mindlessly from a bag while I read a good book. I wouldn’t realize how much until I started to feel sick…and the bag would be empty.

I got back to my “set point” for my wedding in 1988 – and kept my weight within a few pounds of it for four years, mainly by not eating mindlessly from bags or boxes anymore.

Until what I call my “childbearing years.” Ah…the pregnancy weight. Ugh. It came with the first, hung around for 3 years and stayed for the second.

It was actually hard to find a picture (in our photo albums – I’m sure our extended family has some “good” ones) of me where I wasn’t hiding behind people or children. Or that wasn’t just my face. I’m sure they existed- I just edited them out of the photo albums. Who wants to be reminded about extra weight?

But, oh my goodness, isn’t that little face just scrumptious? That little boy was the answer to my prayers – and his sister that followed. I don’t begrudge the weight at all.

I simply needed to find a way back to my set point.

And I did. When our daughter was preschool-age, I got a stomach bug that hung around for about a week. I got used to eating smaller portions, and I realized how big my portions had become.

That was the beginning of my emphasis on the amount of food I ate rather than always the type of food (which were typical of “diets”).

For the past 10 years, I’ve pretty much been within 5-10 pounds of my set point. When I’d get 10 pounds over, my clothes wouldn’t fit well and I’d start to think about portions again to get my weight back down. But I never managed to go below my body’s dumb set point. I assumed this was just the way I was made and I did feel OK when I was there.

Except last winter (a year ago). The pounds were creeping back up and I was having a hard time getting back to my set point. I had heard a lot about getting older and not being able to lose weight, and I started to get nervous – why wasn’t the weight coming off?

Then last June I got a stomach bug again (see a pattern here?) and couldn’t eat normally for a week. This time I determined that I was going to cut my normal amount of food in half.

Yes, almost everything. Half a sausage. Half a hamburger. Chicken leg instead of thigh. Smallest end piece of Easy Artisan Bread. A 1/4 cup of my favorite morning granola instead of 1/3. And here’s the clincher – at least for me – even salad and vegetables.

I just didn’t want my stomach to get used to large amounts of food again – any food.

But other than that, I ate whatever I wanted – butter, bacon, cheese, whole milk, roasted veggies, and even dark chocolate and our occasional desserts. Real food. Not much out of bags (and if there is a bag somewhere, I don’t eat out of it. I take a few and put them in a bowl – I have learned my lesson there).

And something amazing happened over the next six months.

I went below my set point for the first time since high school! First five pounds, then ten, and finally fifteen. I couldn’t believe it, and in fact, didn’t buy any new clothes or tell anyone for awhile ’cause I thought it would come back.

But it didn’t. And it hasn’t. And my sister-in-law thinks I should share what my “secret” is – and I think so, too, because I finally DIDN’T do all the things the medical establishment tells us to lose weight- low fat, no fat, high carb, and lots of fat substitutes.

And this time the weight literally fell off. I’ve gotten some comments over the years of this blog about “the way you eat” – bread, fat, sweets and eggs – that made me realize that I should go out on a limb and share my experience with you. One commenter even said she couldn’t “wrap my head around the way you eat – it goes against all we read and hear.”

And she’s right, sadly. I’m certainly not the only one, but I’m here to stand with the other “real food” advocates to tell you that if you feed your body real foods, amazing things can happen.

Stay tuned for more details, including what I eat in a typical day- make sure to subscribe by email or RSS so you don’t miss a thing!

And PLEASE chime in either in the comments or over on An Oregon Cottage’s Facebook page– I’d love to know I’m not alone with my weighty issues!


Read the entire series on Losing Weight with Real Foods:


  1. says

    Congratulations on your weight loss! I, too, have stopped worrying about what I was eating and have focused on eating real, homemade food. In the past 2 years I’ve lost 40 pounds and have kept it off. I keep wanting to do a before and after on my blog, but I really cannot find any pictures of myself in all my “before” glory! I still have additional weight to take off, but I feel more energetic and better about myself than I have in years.

    • says

      40 pounds is awesome!! I would love to read YOUR story – ask relatives for pictures, I’m sure they would have a couple. It’s amazing how we can make sure we don’t get photographed when we’re not feeling great about ourselves, huh? 😉

  2. Nicole says

    Dear Jami-
    I love your website by the way- great posts about food and recipes and planning and organizing and gardening and projects and everything else :)
    Thanks for this inspiring post :)
    It makes sense–
    I am currently 23 weeks pregnant with my first baby so I am definitely in the gaining weight phase right now – and I love my belly getting bigger every week :)
    Right now I love my body because in the mirror I look exactly how I’m supposed to – no sucking in my stomach or thinking it’s too big – and our little baby is kicking and growing and getting a little bit bigger each day – the cause for my big wonderful belly :)
    But this is obviously not how I felt before I was pregnant – or will afterwards
    I was at my best weight in high school (110ish) and soon after (120ish) – back when I ate whatever amounts of anything – though I did grow up in a pretty healthy eating household
    Now what I eat affects my weight and my normal weight is about 145 – it has just gradually increased 25 pounds over the past 10 years despite eating the same or even better
    But there will come a time when I want to take off the pregnancy weight and will want to try to eat certain foods and plan a “diet” to lose weight like I have tried several times before with not much luck at all ((how can it be so easy to gain weight with food and lack of exercise but so hard to lose it with food and exercise – lol))
    But after reading your post with a new perspective- I now have a new strategy to try for the long term– with new habits to make
    But not yet- for now I just get to enjoy my big perfect belly holding our precious little baby :)

    • says

      Thank you, Nicole! It sounds like you are at a wonderful point in your life. Exactly what you’re feeling is why some women like to be pregnant. :-) Enjoy it – you’ve got plenty of time later to think about weight- but hopefully real, whole foods are part of your diet now, ’cause they’re so nourishing for babies. :-)

  3. says

    I wish more people would realize how your body responds favorably to reasonable portion sizes and real food, i.e., not out of a package or fast food joint. Unfortunately folks are unwilling to invest the time and effort. This is especially a good way to bring up the kids, seeing food prepared at home. Good for you! 😉


  4. says

    Wow, I know all females, young and old, struggle with appearance issues of some sort, but I just can’t imagine it starting at such a young age. How heavy that must have weighed on you (no pun intended).

    I was teased for the opposite – being so skinny as a kid. And completely flat chested. Kids LOVE to tease about that. Then my junior year of high school, that part made a dramatic change and I was accused of getting a boob job. High school’s the greatest, isn’t it? Ha.

    Sorry you’ve had such a struggle. It would be so difficult to have something like that constantly in the back of your head.

    You look great to me. Before, during, and now. Being healthy is the most important thing – no matter what the scale says. I say eat what you love in moderation and forget about the rest. We’re always harder on ourselves than anyone else could ever be anyway.

    Looking forward to the detailed posts.

    • says

      Ugh – high school is so ugly sometimes. The preschool I teach at is in a high school and it’s not always a fun place to be for that very reason. We’ve all got our baggage, don’t we?

      Yes- health is important and my health has always been good and I really was OK at my set point – though now that I know how it feels to be at a lighter weight (clothes are a lot more fun now!), I’m not sure I’d be happy there anymore. 😉

  5. Anonymous says

    Congratulations. And I love that you lost by just plain and simple common sense … portion control!

  6. Diana says

    This is a great post! I have always felt that portion size is the problem for most people — we are so trained now to eat huge portions! My parents gave me a set of dishes that my mother bought in 1960 (when I was around 4 years old), that had been languishing in their attic (Johnson Bros Country Village). The dinner plates are about half the size of what is sold for dinner plates now! The coffee cups look tiny — miniature — compared to the huge mugs people use now.

    I’m looking forward your posts to come on the matter.


    • says

      Oh, I so agree, Diana. Some of the newer dishes won’t even fit in my 1982-era kitchen cupboards!

      And when we needed new silverware a few years ago I seriously brought home and returned three different styles and they were all huge. I mean, I felt like I would impale my mouth with the forks. :-) I ended up purchasing a set from the 1980’s from ebay. They look much better with my vintage (regular-sized) plates.

  7. says

    Congratulations! I am really looking forward to the next posts. I am so glad to hear your point of view! I need the motivation.

  8. says

    Loved this post, Jami! You are speaking my language and a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. I too have been on a journey of learning to eat real food (despite what the medical profession is still tauting as what is healthy) and controlling portions. I am definitely in the years that can be harder to lose the weight (I am 51) but I am doing it. I applaud you and respect you for being strong enough to post this. I am looking forward to the following posts! =) I thought the timing of this was very interesting as I just added a “Healthy Living” page to my blog and my first post was about weight. =)

  9. says

    May I confess something? Well when you left my house the other weekend and I said, “you are just so beautiful in person!” which is true, but what was about to come out of my mouth was – “You are so thin in person!” but I didn’t want to trigger any body issues so I went to the second best compliment. Now that I read this post, I know that you have worked hard at it and I noticed! I really did! and as someone who is trying to lose pregnancy weight (as my baby turns two years old – ha!) I am starting to really hear those voices. For me, it is cutting out almost all alcohol out of my diet and exercising for 45-60 daily. I’ve lost 5 lbs since you last saw me and I think I may lose another 5 in the next month!

    • says

      Well, I can confess that I hadn’t eaten for a week ’cause of that bug, so I was actually skinnier than even my new normal. I’m now eating again, so am back up to my previous low weight (huh? that doesn’t make any sense!). Ok, hope you know what I mean. :-)

      And you were the sweetest – I had such a great time meeting you and your husband! Good for you for losing 5 lbs – that’s awesome!

  10. Tami says

    You look great!! I have been putting on the weight since I turned 40….4 years ago. I was starting to think maybe I just wasn’t going to ever weigh 112 again, you know, because of the age thing. Thanks so much for the inspiration! Can’t wait to hear more on the subject. Wish me luck in telling these extra 18 lbs goodbye!

  11. Anonymous says


    I just wanted to thank you for being so open and sharing this! I actually wrote a paper on childhood obesity in my writing course last term, and discussed “real food” vs. foods like McDonalds, or Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

    Probably my biggest fear going into college, was the dreaded “freshman 15.” I’ve always been a little chubby so that didn’t help. I had also already witnessed several friends end their freshman year at fifteen, and even twenty pounds heavier than when school had started. I knew I definitely did NOT want this to happen to me, but I wasn’t really sure how to avoid it. Most of my friends who experienced the weight gain were dancers, so it appeared the “freshman 15″ did not discriminate.

    By the end of my freshman year of college, I weighed 15lbs less than I did starting the school year. Unfortunately, I didn’t lose it in a healthy way, it was more the result of simply not eating. I still don’t know how I managed to go through dance classes on an empty stomach without passing out! Insane. Glad I realized that was not the way to go about avoiding weight gain!

    I gained it all back pretty quickly after I started eating again, but I knew my eating habits still weren’t as healthy as they could be. Currently, I don’t know what a healthy weight would be for me, especially since I’m dancing so much. But, I think as I continue to eat “real foods” and use better portion control, my body will figure it out itself.:)

    Again, thanks for sharing! I know I’m on the right path!:)

  12. says

    I started with LCHF, low fat high carb a month ago and I have lost seven pounds. But it is difficult to change their mindset to allow themselves to eat cream in your food and real butter. But it works and I am no longer hungry at night. Absolutely wonderful. I get so angry at the Swedish National Food Administration still talking about diet products and high in carbohydrates. I wish you a wonderful weekend! Zinnia

  13. says

    Thanks for the vulnerability and encouragement Jami! I also believe in real food over a bunch of fake stuff, so I really appreciate what you have shared.

  14. says

    Congratulations Jami! What an awesome accomplishment! Just goes to show, it can be something very simple but as long as you stick to it… Congrats!!

  15. says

    I look forward to your future posts on this subject and soooo appreciate this first one. I was at a great weight 3 years ago and eating well and working out at the gym. Within 2 years I’ve had operations on both shoulders which were successful but kept me out of the gym for a time. Now I’m having knee problems (torn cartilage and the like) which are making things difficult in many ways. I’m determined to get the weight off. I had an unhappy weekend of pulling out my fat dress and not being able to button it. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

    • says

      Oh, Jo- you know I feel for you. :-) But I can tell you that I lost weight mainly by cutting portions- I’m not very regular at exercising at all, though I’m active (gardening, walking, etc.), so it can be done. Don’t give up hope- maybe you’ll find my story helpful as I share more!

  16. Tami says

    I can’t wait to read this series! I am the heaviest I have ever been outside of pregnancy and am almost to my heaviest while pregnant. We switched to real whole foods a little over a year ago and I have still gained. Not fun. I don’t eat a lot in a day but I think I need to eat more often and smaller portions. I also need to be more active. The problem is being consistent with both.

  17. Teresa says

    What is set point? Not exactly sure what that is – can you explain alittle? Thanks! I love your blog and your recipes are delish. I am making your rolls for a family function today.

    • says

      I’m not sure it’s an actual scientific term, Teresa, but I’ve read about it over the years – it’s that idea that our bodies have a “natural” weight that we were born to be at depending on our shape (apple vs. pear), heredity, type of fat we have (brown vs. white), etc. This point is often hard to overcome on traditional weight loss diets and over a number of years you notice your body goes back to it – whether you were able to get below it or go above it for a period of time.

      It’s very important to realize it’s not where we just happen to be – no one’s set point should be 300 pounds – it’s a point that seems, well, ‘set.’ I thought it was 150 for me since for 30+ years that’s where my body would return eventually (most of the time, though, it was me trying to get BACK to that, lol!) and it wasn’t until eating real, whole foods and cutting portions consistently that I smashed that – without even trying to – by 15 lbs.! I stay between 130-135 now without really thinking about much more than keeping my portions small and eating healthy, whole foods most of the time. Hope that clarifies it some, Teresa!

  18. Claire says

    Hi! I just wanted to thank you so much for this series. Growing up I had my weight issues; I am now 23 years old, 5’5″, and I’ve been at 160 lbs for several years, which is frustrating because people always tell you that it will only get harder to lose weight as you get older, and I had already tried and failed numerous times to slim down in what is supposed to be the prime of my physical condition.
    For the past couple of years I’ve been cooking with whole foods and following a mostly vegetarian diet, and I was somewhat perplexed about why my weight remained constant. Of course, now it’s easy to see that although I was eating good, whole foods, I was just eating way too much of it!
    Anyway, I decided to try your tips less than two weeks ago, and I’ve already lost six pounds. I think your methods are both healthy and sustainable for the long term, which is what I’ve struggled with in the past. I plan to stick with this, and I don’t really foresee any problems; already this eating pattern feels normal to me. So thank you so, so much for giving me that nudge of common sense to help me get on track to being more healthy. You have really helped me!
    Sincerely, Claire

    • says

      Woot! Claire, I’m doin’ a little victory dance here for you. :) It’s a great feeling to realize we can get to a healthy weight and not have to jump through a lot of hoops, systems, or whatever, isn’t it? I LOVE hearing your success story – thanks so much for sharing!!

  19. says

    You have written the history of my weight/body image! I’m 5’4″ and my set weight is 145. I am always 10 pounds overweight. A couple of years ago, I went on a medical treatment for a chronic condition that had a side-effect of making you sick if you over ate. Sounds great, doesn’t it? All except the crippling nausea and depression. But I digress. During the 6 months of treatment, I lost 35 pounds ( I was at 169) when I started. The most valuable thing I learned was portion control.

    I eat whatever I want, I just stop when I’m full. If you pay attention to your body and stop and think about whether are are actually hungry, you would be amazed how much you actually need to feel full and satisfied. Even when I’m in PMS mode and I give into my cravings, my body makes up for it by my losing my appetite after my period.

    Pay attention to your body, your appetite and you will see a change.

    • says

      Great tips, Sara! We’re more in tune with the clock (it’s time to eat) or swayed by what looks good than we are with listening to our bodies. Even when my body is telling me it’s hungry, though, and I know that I’ve eaten enough (I always get hungry about 9:30 pm!!), I’ve found drinking water or doing something to take my mind off of it helps get past that. :)

      Oh, that sounds like a tough way to lose weight, btw! But there is something so eye-opening about seeing the portion sizes our bodies are actually needing, isn’t it? Glad you are healthy now! :)

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