Dealing with Weight Gain or Loss After Treatment

weight gain and lossTreatment side effects, changes in diet, and lack of activity are some of the reasons why many cancer patients experience unplanned weight loss or gain during treatment. Talking with your oncologist, dietitian or other health professional can help you identify individualized strategies.

Here are general strategies to help.

Dealing with weight gain

 Any attempt to lose weight should be done carefully to ensure that you are getting the food and nutrients you need.

   •    You can work with your healthcare team and, ideally, a dietitian to lose weight. They can guide your efforts so you maintain your muscle, while losing body fat. Weight loss of no more than 1-2 pounds per week is typically recommended.

   •    Choose mostly plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. These foods are high in nutritional value and help you feel full but are low in calories and fat.

   •    Choose no-calorie beverages, such as water, for most of your drinks, unless your doctor or dietitian has advised otherwise.

   •    Make sure that your portion sizes are appropriate, too. If your activity level has dropped, try eating smaller portions to see if your hunger is satisfied with less.

   •    Address fatigue, depression, stress and boredom in ways that don’t involve eating. Sleep or rest rather than eat when tired.

   •    Even a little physical activity can make a big difference so follow your physician’s advice about when and how you can be active.

   •    Many friends and family members will often offer help. Instead of allowing them to provide meals, offer suggestions like accompanying you on a walk or an appointment, bringing books, or assisting with housework.

   •    Do not rely on dietary supplements for weight loss due to the potential interaction with treatment and medications. Speak with your doctor about any supplements you are taking or considering taking.

Dealing with weight loss

The goal is to increase your calorie consumption with nutrient-packed foods to gain weight back gradually. Eat several mini-meals throughout the day if you find you can’t eat much at one time.

Foods that are concentrated in calories and nutrients include:
    •    Dried fruits (raisins, dried apricots, dried cranberries)
    •    Nuts, seeds and nut butters
    •    Bean dips or spreads
    •    Fruit dipped in peanut butter
    •    Whole-grain crackers with cheese
    •    High-calorie cereals
    •    Healthy oils (such as olive or canola) to stir-fry or sauté foods instead of steaming or baking without fat
    •    100% fruit juices
    •    Nutritional supplement drinks

You can also drink your beverages between meals instead of during meals. This may leave more room for higher calorie food at meals.

If you're feeling up to it, combine eating more with adding strength training into your routine. This will help ensure that you gain back muscle mass; that way you can add pounds and stay lean.