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Expert Q&A: Fighting Midlife Weight Gain

An interview with Pamela Peeke, MD
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Should my goal weight increase when I hit midlife?

A better goal than focusing on scale weight is to keep track of body fat. The goals should be to decrease body fat and optimize bone strength.

For a man, a body fat percentage of 18% to 25% is not bad for 40-plus. For women 40-plus, 22% to 27% is not bad.

To get that body fat percentage, you need to have excellent fitness to maintain a good muscle base.

Also, a man should have a waist circumference below 40 inches and a woman below 35 inches.

I'm 40-plus, eating right, and exercising but not losing weight. Why do I have midlife weight gain?

If you have tailored your portion sizes to ones that are appropriate, look at the frequency of your eating. Eat every three or four hours. But not too late at night. The later you eat, the lighter you eat is a good rule.

Eat a balance of lean protein, fats, and carbs. Make the fat good fat, not palm oil or hydrogenated oil, but high-quality good fats [such as those in nuts]. The protein should be lean -- a turkey burger or a veggie burger.

Most people have been doing the same exercise routine for years, and your body acclimates. Fat cells at 40 are reticent to give it up. Mix up the exercise routine. Exercise at least five times a week, and I mean cardio.

Add intensity. Add some level of weight training, and challenge yourself with the weights. [Getting professional instruction is advised if you're a novice.] Weight train two or three times a week.

Building muscle gives you that metabolic edge, since muscle mass burns more calories than fat.

Does HRT cause midlife weight gain, is that the culprit?

You can't blame the low doses of HRT in use today for midlife weight gain, at least not for any more than a few pounds. You do get a little more bloated on it, but it does not cause body fat accumulation. Overeating, not exercising, and stress do.

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