Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from cancer.
When you have excess weight, you increase your risk for a number of health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. You also increase your risk for cancer.
Even though awareness is relatively limited on the link between excess weight and cancer risk, the fact is, aside from not smoking, staying at a healthy weight throughout life is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself from cancer.
Manage Weight With Food
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about diets and food, and sometimes it can be pretty hard to separate opinion from fact. Our resources can help you sort out what’s what.
The New American Plate
This scientifically sound nutritional model can help you make meal planning simple, nutritious, and delicious.
AICR Food Facts
Visit our detailed food library to see your favorite food’s nutritional value, and start getting ideas about dishes and recipes.
Convincing evidence from the Third Expert Report shows that a strong link exists between excess body fat and cancer risk.
Too much body fat can increase cancer risk. Research suggests that fat at the waist or visceral fat is also a problem.
Here’s how having too much body fat can put you at risk for cancer:
- Carrying too much body fat can produce proteins called cytokines which trigger inflammation and/or chronic inflammation. Cancer happens when cellular growth becomes corrupted. A state of constant cellular growth with chronic inflammation creates more opportunities for such corruptions and cancer to occur.
- Having a large amount of fat tissue can cause your body to produce too much estrogen, which can lead to the development of several cancers, including breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
- Fat cells produce a variety of proteins that cause high levels of insulin and other hormones, which in turn may spur cancer cell growth.
- Risk for cancer increases with having excess visceral fat and significant excess body fat.
It’s never too late to make some lifestyle changes to have a healthy weight. There may be some challenges involved, and it may take some time, but if you’re ready to improve your health, it is possible.
You Can Change Your Weight
Eat Nutritious Foods
An important piece of weight management is your nourishment. Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans complemented with protein-rich foods. Dining on meals comprised primarily of whole and minimally processed foods with tweaked portions will have an immediate impact on your waistline and health.
Avoid Sugary Drinks and Alcoholic Beverages
Sugary drinks and alcohol don’t offer nutritional benefits. Instead of drinking a soda, reach for water, unsweetened tea or coffee. You won’t miss the concentrated calories in sugar-sweetened beverages. You can reduce your cancer risk directly by avoiding alcoholic beverages.
Mind Your Portions and Proportions
Be mindful of portions and fill two-thirds of your plate with delicious plant foods. Try taking smaller servings of food and using smaller plates and bowls. Eat only when you’re hungry and stop when you feel full. Eat slowly so you have a chance to savor your food and know when your body is satisfied. Learn more about portions and proportions by exploring the New American Plate nutritional model.
Be Physically Active
To prevent weight gain that raises your risk of cancer, AICR recommends you be moderately active at least two and a half hours a week. Being moderately active can include going for a brisk walk, cycling, even gardening — any activity that increases your heart rate and leaves you slightly out of breath. The more you move, the greater the benefit — so upping your activity is even more cancer protective. To intentionally lose weight, start with moderate activities and work up to more vigorous activities — go for a run, play sports, or go to the gym. Whatever activities you do, do those you enjoy.
Move More and Sit Less
In addition to adding intentional physical activity to your routine, make it a habit to move around more. Being inactive and sitting too much — whether it is at a desk or in front of a TV can lead to weight gain. Take breaks to get up every once in a while, even if it’s only for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
Keep It Up
One of the hardest aspects of losing weight is accepting that it takes time. Changing your habits and diet can be challenging. Know that feelings of frustration are normal. Consider transitioning to a more nutritious eating style and more active lifestyle slowly, so you don’t get tempted to give up. Before long, a plant-based diet and a more active lifestyle will become your new norm, and you will have a more natural, healthy weight.