What's the secret for staying slim as a woman lives through her 40s, 50s, and beyond? Bring a dozen female health activists together for a cocktail reception for the National Women's Health Resource Center, and that's where the conversation turns after a glass or two of wine. Bestselling biographer Kitty Kelley, who hosted the event this week in her Georgetown home, started it all when she asked the group to explain Oprah Winfrey's weight swings through the years—something to which many women can relate. (Kelley is currently writing an unauthorized biography of the talk show host.)
"It all comes down to one thing: how well she adapts to life's ever-changing environment," responded NWHRC medical adviser Pamela Peeke, a physician who hosts the nutrition and fitness program Fit to Live on Discovery Health. Oprah's weight has tended to climb when she's facing adversity, like when she was sued by Texas cattlemen for her comments about beef. Perhaps she, like many of us, overeats from stress or lets her exercise routine fall by the wayside.
Most women, of course, don't face the pressures of being in the public eye. But we still need to find ways to adapt to changing circumstances, rather than excusing ourselves from good health habits when our lives get a little hairy or when we enter a different life stage. After moving from the city to the suburbs, I might find myself walking less in the course of each day. I'd better schedule time for the treadmill if I don't want to see the pounds creeping on. And I'd better keep lifting weights since I no longer heft groceries up five flights of stairs, as I did when I lived in a walk-up.
"Just look at the centenarians, how they managed to keep from getting frail," Peeke said. "They've always had a positive attitude and ability to adapt their activity to whatever life throws their way." But what if I really hate my treadmill and just prefer to wait for a nice warm day to run outside? "Don't BMW—bitch, moan, whine!" Peeke commands. "Use that treadmill in the meantime."