Jim’s Eating Habits and Weight Info Compilation

by Jolene McDonald

(Jolene McDonald is an admin of the Facebook group Jim Jones Cult Leader created in February 2018, and the creator of a blog – the Jim Jones Information Blog – to share some of the informative posts from the group. This blogpost was originally posted here. Earlier posts from this blog also appear here. Her collected works on this site are here. She may be reached at immaculatesleep@gmail.com.)

Jim, Food and Weight, Part 1.

Jim was prone to overeating all through his adult life. It was both a pleasure and a problem for him. An addiction, just like the drugs, confirmed by his son Stephan.

Jim said he could eat 18 pancakes without thinking about it. In 1974, he admitted he gets into a “food problem” to keep his mind from thinking too much, and if he ate as much as he felt, he’d weigh 300 pounds within the month. He had spoken about fasting in 1972, but it was only a brief occurence.

Jim was never cooperative when it came to diets. In Indiana in the 1950s and 1960s, he saw a hospital dietician named Jane Haldeman for a short time. She confirmed he was not very compliant.

In the early 1960s, he would often visit Acapulco Joe’s, a Mexican restaurant in Indiana.

When he was preaching throughout the 1970s, temple members would mention the amount of food he had at the pulpit. Meat, like steak as an example, along with some sweet things. There was KFC and cake on his bus. He often spoke about living humbly but contradicted himself when he ate the most expensive food, including more steaks, at restaurants in California.

On a couple of Jonestown audios, he can be heard saying he cannot eat the fudge and cake that was being passed around, but he was clearly eating that and a lot more in private, before and during Jonestown.

A doctor said he was supposed to consume just 1700 calories, which would also help to manage his blood sugar, but again, he obviously did not do it.

Jim ate fruit and vegetables, but his main daily menu included eggs, potatoes, chicken, pork, beef and a variety of candy, cake and pastries. He took massive amounts of insulin to counteract the effects of the sugary food (and drink). A cook named Rose Shelton was said to oversalt his food which was bad for his high blood pressure.

Jim, Food and Weight, Part 2.

Jim said it was disgusting if people ate a lot of food, yet he had several servings. He criticised overweight and obese temple members, which was definitely hypocritical.

Jim wasn’t overweight on his wedding day aged 18, but by the time he was 21, he had become fat. He stayed obese or overweight for the rest of his life, never lower than overweight. Being in the overweight category was short in comparison though. Without making formal calculations, his fatness is easy to see, but I did calculate his weight. From the age of 21 to 47, he was overweight for 30% of that time, which was 8 years, but he was various stages of obese for 70% of that time, which was 18 years. So, obesity was the large majority of his adult life.

Drugs, medication and medical reasons cannot be blamed for his weight. He was obese as early as the 1950s, years before he regularly took substances for illnesses that may contribute to weight gain. Also, most drugs he abused later on have weight and appetite loss as side effects, not gain. Amphetamines are marketed as ideal weight loss drugs, but in no way did they work for Jim. After death, the autopsy report did not indicate abnormalities with his thyroid. On all known photos of his family members, none of them are heavy, so his weight problem didn’t run in the family.

His body type combined with love of food and food addiction would all be contributing factors. He’s fat by any standards and seemed destined to remain fat, the total opposite of someone who is very thin no matter what. At his lightest he was overweight and the lighter era was only brief anyway. He never reached a weight range for his height. When he did lose some for a short period, it was either a fluke or by fasting. He always gained it back quickly and easily, plus more besides.

Food and obesity were two main issues during his entire adult life, many years longer than the drug addiction, but drugs are discussed more than anything.

Jim’s Autopsy Weight vs. Living Weight.

A couple of reports of Jim’s weight are highly off the mark, including his autopsy.

Going back to his younger years again, Jim was obese in the 50s and 60s. But from 1968 into the early 70s, he lost about 50 pounds, putting him in the overweight category. It was his lowest range and he had reached his lightest: 180 pounds. Even after losing so much, he remained overweight by 15 pounds. In 1972, he claimed to aim for 165, but never got there. He put all of his weight back on after the early 70s, bringing him into the obese categories again, long before Jonestown.

He remained obese for the rest of his life and gained even more in Jonestown, but he did lose several pounds during the final couple of weeks, reportedly between 21 and 40. According to November audio footage a week before the massacre, Jim lost 30 to 31. Dr. Carlton Goodlett estimated 40, which appears likely. It is entirely possible that he lost the remaining 9 or 10 pounds in the final few days leading up to 18th November, making his weight loss 40 pounds in total.

On the final day you can see he’s lighter with his face and jaw sharper, more angular, but facial sharpness was not an indicator of his weight. Like other times if his face happened to be less rounded, he was still clearly fat.

The weight of 175 pounds on his autopsy report, 5 pounds lighter than his lowest era, is far from correct of course. He definitely didn’t weigh 5 pounds less than he was at his lightest! His overall appearance on the final day is significantly heavier than the period in the early 70s when he weighed 180 – 190. Plus, a loss of 30 – 40 pounds would mean he weighed 205 – 215 prior to that; he was more than 205 – 215. His low autopsy weight was certainly due to the decomposition his body had gone through while exposed in the jungle for days. That makes it understandable for him to weigh 175 pounds after death, but definitely not when he was alive.

A newspaper inaccurately stated his weight in the last weeks jumped from 170 to 140, while another said 160. Anyone can see they are ridiculous estimates! 175 is far too low for Jim, never mind 170, 160 or 140. He was nowhere close at any age.

Before his weight loss at the end, he could fluctuate to a certain degree, even though he always remained obese. So although his exact weight at the end is unknown, it was obviously higher than 175 – 180 pounds.​

Jim’s Clothing Sizes.

Although the weight on Jim’s autopsy report is too low to be accurate because of the severe decomposition, other details are accurately confirmed, including his height of 5′ 8″. Also mentioned are Jim’s clothing sizes, so knowing those measurements on the final day means we have a good indication of what they would be during the rest of his life too.

On the final day he wore a red Fruit of the Loom shirt, size Extra Large. The chest measurement was to fit 52 inches (not 48 as I originally posted). In men’s modern clothing, a 52 inch chest can vary, but it’s often a size 3XL, not XL. The total opposite of vanity sizing. That measurement has been even larger sizes in some shops! He wore beige perma-press trousers and the waistband was 36 inches. His trousers were worn low, underneath his belly obviously, so 36 was smaller than the measurement around his natural waistline, around his belly. The measurement of his natural waist was over 40 inches by far. The belly area of the shirt would be around 48.

​On an early death photo, the waistband of his trousers can be seen clearly because of his exposed torso and it is tight around him, the zipper looking difficult to close. A waistband of 38 inches would have most likely fit more comfortably than the 36.

Bearing in mind the final day was not his heaviest, so he would certainly have larger clothing than this at other times. At his heaviest, the measurement around his belly would be no less than 51.

At any point before Jonestown it is quite easy to gauge too. His chest size would be up to the 50s, and possibly mid 40s chest for the lowest of his size and weight. At his lightest he would not be less than a size Large, which is a chest of 43. His natural waist would be well over 45 for the majority of his adult life, without a doubt reaching 50 and more, as mentioned above.

Originally posted on April 4th, 2021.

Last modified on April 5th, 2021.
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