The Middle Age Creep

So often, I note that my middle aged patients slowly gain weight between visits. It is a recurring topic during routine physicals. I call it the middle age creep and I make a big deal of it. I warn my thirtysomething male patients with budding potbellies that this doesn’t get any easier to get rid of later in life.

People often assume that our metabolism slows down in middle age, but that is not the case. And middle age creep isn’t always a case of decreased physical exercise. It is usually, quite simply, an excessive caloric intake. This was demonstrated recently in a big study published in Science. I read about it in my Swedish morning paper.

There are many reasons we take in more calories than we need. We may snack, we may indulge in sweet treats, we may drink caloric beverages that we desire, from juice and soft drinks to beer. And we may eat “fast foods” that generally contain more calories than a home cooked meal.

Judging from the cars idling in the right hand lane of Bennett Drive in Caribou, waiting to pull into McDonald’s at supper time, it’s not just people bringing their kids for a Happy Meal who eat their dinner this way.

I often bring up the concept of stewardship along with the middle age creep. Call me paternalistic, call me moralistic, but if we can talk of how our behavior and consumption are causing global warming, we must also be allowed to talk about how our behavior and consumption are causing ill health and disease.

Age 34 with Spaniel

Age 68 in Alabai shirt

I see my role at this point in my life and career – technically beyond the statistical middle years of a man’s life – to speak of the perils of middle age health denial. I can even refer to the fact that I was getting pretty pudgy myself in my mid-to-late thirties. I turned it around, as I described in my video “As a Vegetarian, I Gained Too Much Weight”. I didn’t think I ate badly, but instead blamed my metabolism at first.

As a Vegetarian, I Gained Too Much Weight

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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