Back in the day, farmers were up before dawn, working. They came in for breakfast, which meant a plate loaded with eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, jams, and who knows what else. By noon they were ready for a table groaning with food, or loaded baskets carried out to the field by the farm mother. Then there was supper. And you bet there was pie. All of these calories were sustained by the labor.
One of the frequent ongoing comments I get on my website is about weight (mine). I write about old-fashioned recipes, and an old-fashioned way of cooking. I’m fascinated, always, with old-time ways, and that includes the food. I can’t stand diet food, have never been able to abide it. If it’s not real ice cream, I don’t want it. Give me lard and butter, or shoot me. And if I can’t have pie, why keep living? (Life is short; eat more pie.)
Let me preface this entire thing with: I am not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a wellness expert or a therapist. I’m just some woman living on a farm. What you find here are my thoughts, not medical advice.
When I lived in the ‘burbs, I exercised and dieted quite frequently. In fact, I’ve exercised and dieted since I was a teen. I was raised in a weight-conscious home. My parents were never overweight, and worked to stay that way. My mother was particularly conscious of weight and health. She did grow up in the country, so her behavior was sometimes contrary. The only time salt was put on the table was for the Sunday roast. Sugar was not put in our cold tea. Yet she fried up bacon on Saturdays and dipped biscuits in the grease in the iron skillet (both sides, flipping them) before she baked them. (Man, that was good.) We were required to eat everything put on our plates, and were frequently admonished about gaining weight. If I got “fat” I would be disowned. (I don’t think my parents actually meant that, but in the 1970s, you were allowed to state such un-politically correct things to your children and nobody cared.) My mother owned an exercise salon in California when I was in my teens, and I worked there in the summers. She cared about her figure until the day she died and had exercise equipment in her home. My father was eternally affected by the obesity of his grandmother, who eventually became so heavy she could barely move around. (She had too much hired help! She didn’t have to work!)
Having grown up in such a weight-conscious home, I remained weight-conscious as an adult, and am weight-conscious today–more than I wish I was. After I had each child, I always lost weight before I got pregnant with the next, and after the third (when I was finished), I got down to the weight I had been the day I married at 18. (115) That’s not a weight I can sustain as an adult, so that didn’t last long, but I just think I was proving to myself I could do it. I accomplished this with what I called the “wine-jalapeno diet” and I would describe this, but perchance ONE insane person might be reading this and decide to try it. And it’s a ridiculous diet that should not be pursued by anyone, so I refuse to provide the directions. It worked. But it was stupid.
Fast-forward to today. I love bread, cheese, bacon, pie, cookies, ice cream, butter, and lard. I do not have, and never have had, diet products in my kitchen. If I’m going to eat, I’m going to eat the real thing. I’m a believer in real food versus anything processed or scraped of its calories into a diet product. There are certain products that rarely make an appearance in my house–“junk food” such as store-bought cookies, chips, soda pop, and so on. I make food from scratch, using real ingredients (fat and all), and I mostly drink water. Many people have commented over the years about my weight and the kind of food of which I write. I work it off.
As I stated above, I’m not a doctor, I’m just a woman on a farm. There are medical conditions, metabolism issues, hereditary tendencies, and more, that play into weight. I can’t address any of that, so please understand I’m speaking to the average person without those issues.
Our forebears consumed food in proportion to what they were expending. A given when it comes to weight (for the normal average person) is that to maintain the same weight, you consume calories coming in equal to calories going out. If you consume more calories than are going out, you gain weight. Consume less, you lose weight. For the average person, it’s that simple.
What happened is that, for most of us, what changed was the labor. We stopped working hard, physically, when our lives became more cosmopolitan as we left the farm. A replacement for that is purposeful exercise–walking, running, biking, working out in gyms, etc.
I’ve always walked or run. I ran track in middle school and high school. I continued walking or running through my adult life. At Stringtown Rising, I used to run up and down the steep driveway. When I lived at the Slanted Little House, I used to walk four miles a day. I did less purposeful exercise at Stringtown Rising because I was working so hard. Sassafras Farm is a much easier farm to work, and I started gaining weight here. I started walking the ridge road behind my farm, at first just a mile or two, and eventually five miles a day. Sometimes I run parts of it. I do this because I can either stop eating pie or I can expend more calories. This is what I call eating like a farmer. Eat what you’re going to work off; work off what you eat.
I hate scales, by the way. I haven’t owned a scale in nearly 10 years. When I am at a doctor’s office, I look away while I’m being weighed. I don’t really trust myself around scales. I’m afraid of becoming obsessed with weighing myself every day! So no scales for me. Though recently I became randomly intrigued, wondering what I weighed. I asked a few friends what they thought I weighed. Like some exercise in exorcism, when I decided to write this post, I decided I would post whatever my weight was. WHATEVER it was. Publicly. Like, to release its power or something. The guesses ranged from 135 to 160. My own guess was 150. Jerry, who must think I’m weighing down his four-wheeler, guessed the top number at 160. A friend, who has actually picked me up, guessed the lowest number at 135.
Since I don’t have a scale, I went to K-mart and pulled a scale off the shelf.
I know that I’ve lost weight in the last six months, due to more purposeful exercise, just from these photos (taken by Jerry Waters).
The scale at K-mart read 132. (I didn’t buy it. I just used it in the aisle then put it back.) Of course, I have no idea if that scale was calibrated, accurate, or whatever, but it certainly at least suggests a range much less than I expected, so I was surprised. And told my friend that next time I wanted to know how much I weighed, I’d just ask him.
I have all the nutso things going on in my head that many of us have when it comes to weight. My childhood influences, concern about my appearance, how I look in clothes, what people think about me, craziness, not to mention hunger and a desire for pie. The point of all of this is that, when I realized my workload was too easy here, I added purposeful exercise–rather than giving up food. And I strive to eat what I expend in energy.
Like a farmer.
Real food, real work. Whether you live on a farm or not.
Now, if you want to make me feel less neurotic, you can tell me if you have scale or not, and if your parents said they’d disown you if you got “fat” or anything else that comes to mind!