How to Manage Midlife Weight Gain

Chris Freytag reveals how she stays lean and fit over 40

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Do you dread getting on the scale? Have you hidden your skinny jeans in the back of your closet? Are you giving up on the thought of wearing a slinky cocktail dress to your next high school reunion? If the answer to these questions is yes, you may be dealing with the onset of midlife weight gain.

As women, we expect our bodies to change as we get older. We watched it happen to our mothers and to the older women in our lives.

But those women were part of a different generation. Times have changed and women are staying more active in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. So is gaining weight later in life really inevitable?

I talked to fitness and lifestyle coach Chris Freytag about gaining weight and getting older. Chris is 48 years old and has maintained a lean, fit physique that most women would envy. Her recent HIIT Series DVDs are a testament to her impressive level of fitness. So how does she do it?  We talked about the best ways to manage midlife weight gain to stay lean and fit over 40.

Should We Fight Midlife Weight Gain?

Malia Frey: Do you worry about gaining weight as you get older?

Chris Freytag: Of course. I’m definitely a conscientious eater and I’m an avid exerciser! And yes, it is hard to notice the little subtle changes like looser skin, wrinkles, etc. But at the end of the day, with age comes wisdom. I like who I am.


Malia Frey: Has your body changed as you’ve gotten older? 

Chris Freytag: Genetics and age are inevitable. I notice skin losing elasticity; areas that were tight are a little loser. My sun damaged skin (from sunbathing with tin-foil record albums reflecting the sun to my chest and face) is rearing its ugly head in the form of basal cell carcinomas.

I notice that stretching is a must after a workout to keep my muscles from tightening like drums. I notice I need more sleep and I need a longer warm-up to get going in my workouts.

Malia Frey: There are plenty of messages in the media about midlife weight gain especially for women.  Should women be at peace with weight gain as they age? Or is that simply a way of “giving in?"

Chris Freytag: I work with middle-aged women all the time and I am one myself. A few pounds may creep on and your body may choose to redistribute its weight slightly. But how much time do you really want to spend beating yourself up about 3-5 pounds, your slight belly bulge or your new wrinkles? These changes may be genetic and nearly impossible to change. However, when you're gaining ten (or more) pounds each year and you aren’t taking care of yourself then you might want to take notice. That isn’t something to be complacent about. If you are rapidly gaining and not doing anything about it, you could be compromising your long-term health and self-esteem.

Lifestyle Changes to Stay Fit Over 40

Malia Frey: What is a typical workout week for you?

Chris Freytag: I am a creature of change and a group fitness junkie. I hate to workout alone and prefer to be in groups. It’s so motivating and inspiring. I’ve been teaching group fitness for almost 25 years and I still teach 8 classes a week. This keeps me fit, keeps me motivated and keeps me on top of my game.  Every day I try to do something different: circuit workouts, HIIT training, spinning, yoga, kickboxing, and boot camp. I change up my schedule every season.

Malia Frey: Do you follow a strict diet?

Chris Freytag: I don’t believe in diets. They are complicated, often ridiculous and not sustainable. I believe in clean eating. For me, the 80/20 rule works. That means I eat clean and healthy 80% of the time. My motto is "everything in moderation." I also am passionate about organic food, non-GMO food and teaching our youth about food and how it affects our lives.

Malia Frey: Have you changed your workouts or your diet to accommodate the aging process?  In what ways?

Chris Freytag: Of course. Life is about change!  I used to be able to eat anything without consequence. That is not the case anymore.  Being willing to change and be creative is part of creating success.  Plus, I’ve spent the last 2 decades of my life educating myself about food.  I know too much not to eat healthy!

  I have learned that certain foods now suddenly cause inflammation in my body and even skin rashes.  I have had to be really aware of cause and effect.

I also am really careful to curtail sugar. I try to eat at least half of my food raw and avoid preservatives, chemicals, food coloring, amd GMO’s.  I’ve become an avid food label reader.  What you eat affects how your systems work! And I have a family that wants real food and real meals so I have learned to cook healthy meals that can still fill up a ravenous 16 year-old boy. I also wrote a  new eBook called Get Started with Clean Eating which educates women on how to eat clean and provides 2 weeks of yummy healthy meals.

Malia Frey: Has your lifestyle changed as you’ve gotten older– has that affected your diet and exercise habits.

Chris Freytag: Well yes.  When my kids were young, I spent more time chasing toddlers, cooking and cleaning. I was constantly active.

  I took advantage of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).  I still workout one hour each day,  but all of that extra activity is gone since my kids are now 21, 20 and 16 and two of them are out of the house.  I’ve had to become conscious of adding more activity back into my life.  I walk the dog, take the stairs, use my standing work station, etc.

  I tell my clients all the time: a one hour workout doesn’t make up for 10 hours of sitting on your butt all day!

I have also learned to embrace the “work harder, not longer” concept.  I tend to do a lot more interval and circuit training for two reasons:  First, it prevents boredom. And second because I’m getting great results and improving my fitness level even as I approach age 50!

Tips to Stay Fit and Lean After 40

Malia Frey:  Not every woman is a fitness guru and lifestyle coach.  What are your 3 best tips for regular women who are trying to lose weight in their 40s?  And what is your best advice for women who simply want to maintain their weight?

Chris Freytag: I recently wrote an article for MindBodyGreen that may be helpful for tips to lose weight or maintain weight.  It's about how to use the 80/20 rule to improve your life.  I would also add these tips:

  1. Change the way you eat.  Get educated, take the time to prepare food and enjoy it.  Clean eating is YUMMY!!
  2. You must exercise. The 2 “F” words go together – food and fitness – can’t do one without the other if you want to see real results.
  1. Love your body.  When you can be kind to yourself and teach yourself positive self talk, you can initiate change from positive place not a negative one


So should you give up on your body as you age? Absolutely not!  Chris is a great example of the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Anyone, at any age, can get stronger, live a fuller life and feel better about their body with a clean diet and a regular program of exercise. 

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