Doctor coaches the after-40 fight against fat

For the Mirror

Dr. Pamela Peeke, an author and expert in nutrition, metabolism, stress and fitness, will be the featured speaker as the Franciscan Healthy Lifestyle speaker series begins Jan. 27.

Peeke will talk about the ways men and women approach exercise and physical fitness. She will also share proven methods for losing weight and reducing stress.

The presentation will begin at 7 p.m. at the Best Western Fife Hotel and Conference Center, 5700 Pacific Ave. E. in Fife. Tickets cost $13 per person and may be reserved by calling 1-888-825-3227 or on-line at

Additional speakers on healthier dietary habits and physical exercise are scheduled for Feb. 24 (dietitian and author Zonya Foco) and March 30 (Dr. Yvonne Thornton).

The Healthy Lifestyle series is sponsored by Franciscan Health System, which includes St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way.

In her 2001 book, “Fight Fat After Forty,” Peeke presented results of her research into how chronic stress contributes to weight gain after age 40 and how this connection threatens the quality and length of life.

She says that when people are exposed to a stressful situation, the brain sends out a stress hormone. That hormone then triggers a chain reaction that causes certain cells to retain more fat.

“There are special receptors on the fat cells deep in the abdomen which are specifically intended to hook up with stress hormones, and stress hormones stimulate them to accept fat,” Peeke said in a recent interview with CNN.

Stressed-out people store more fat than individuals who approach their day relaxed or in a better state of mind, according to Peeke. However, relaxation techniques may not be enough to interrupt the stress-fat link, she said. The best way to block stress hormones is with beta endorphin, a chemical produced by the body during physical exercise, she explained.

Peeke, whose next book is scheduled for release this year, has formal training in nutrition science. She’s an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and adjunct senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health.

She also works with the National Basketball Association’s Washington Wizards, helping condition players. Peeke also is an advisor in mind-body fitness with former U.S. surgeon general C. Everett Koop for his national Shape Up America campaign, and is medical director of the National Race for the Cure for Breast Cancer.

Peeke’s notoriety has spread to television. She is a medical correspondent with PBS’ “Health Week.” Her ABC News special, “When Stress Hurts,” with Dr. Nancy Snyderman, won the 2001 Freddie Award for excellence in health and science commentary. Peeke was featured in the PBS documentary “Mind Over Mirror: Women’s Body Image,” which won the coveted 1998 Gracie Award, the highest honor bestowed by Women in Film and Television. And she has appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”

She also writes a monthly wellness column for several national magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Prevention, Shape, Allure and First for Women.

Peeke is a marathoner. She ran the 2001 New York marathon along with 12 of her female patients, some of them breast-cancer survivors.

Franciscan Health System (, which also includes St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, Franciscan Medical Group (a network of primary-care physicians) and the Franciscan Care Center at Tacoma, a continuing-care facility, is owned by Catholic Health Initiatives, a not-for-profit organization.

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