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Don’t Let It Happen:
Preventing Weight Gain Throughout Life

Why Worry Now?

Maintaining a healthy weight throughout life may be one of the most important ways you can protect yourself against cancer, according to AICR’s Second Expert Report on Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer.

Excess body fat increases the risk of these cancers:

  • Pancreatic
  • Colorectal
  • Breast (post menopausal)
  • Endometrial
  • Kidney
  • Esophagus (adenocarcinoma)
  • Gallbladder

(See more about risk by cancer site.)

Excess weight also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, gallstones, asthma, cataracts, infertility and Alzheimer’s disease.

That is why AICR recommends that you aim to be a healthy weight throughout your life.

Preventing Weight Gain

A “healthy weight” is a satisfactory ratio of body mass to height. Use the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to see whether you are in the healthy range or not. If your BMI score is between 19 and 24.9, you are a healthy weight.

The best strategy to prevent weight gain is to set a reasonable weight limit. Each day our weight fluctuates a couple of pounds above or below our usual weight due to water retention or other factors.

Set your weight limit to 5 pounds more than your actual weight. Your goal should be to stay within this range. As soon as you go over your limit, it is time to take action.

Taking the Necessary Steps

In order to shed a few pounds and stay within your limit, you need to eat a little less and exercise a little more. Make the following changes in your daily routine and you will reach your goal.

  1. Base your diet on low energy-dense foods
    • Eat meals high in water and fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains beans. They will fill you up without a lot of calories.
  2. Watch your portion size
    • Avoid snacks and meals that come in oversized portions. Serve yourself a little less than you are used to at each meal and eat slowly and consciously so that you stop eating when you are full instead of when your plate or package is empty.
  3. Keep physically active
    • To prevent weight gain, AICR recommends 60 minutes a day of moderate physical activity (walking or gardening) or 30 minutes a day of vigorous activity (jogging, cycling, dancing).

If these steps do not help you lose weight gradually, consult a doctor or registered dietitian for a more customized weight loss plan.

Periods of Higher Weight Gain

There are periods where men and women are prone to weight gain due to hormonal changes. For women, this is usually:

  • After the onset of menstruation
  • During pregnancy
  • After menopause

Men (and sometimes women) tend to gain weight after lifestyle changes that lead to a less active routine:

  • After marriage
  • After taking a sedentary job
  • After ceasing to play team sports

During these periods it is important to continue your efforts to maintain a healthy weight. You may have to adjust your calorie intake and physical activity level to compensate.

large man's waist with tape measure

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Published on April 17, 2011

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