Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from cancer. Recent studies have found that up to 41.9% of US adults have obesity – making weight management a crucial factor in reducing the populations risk of cancer.
Excess weight and cancer risk
When you have overweight or obesity, 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.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight to Reduce Cancer Risk
What is a Healthy Weight for me?
A healthy weight varies from person to person, depending on many factors such as height, age and gender.
You can use our AICR BMI calculator to discover more about your ideal healthy weight.
How to lose weight and eat healthy on a budget
If you are looking for some creative inspiration to enhance your daily meals with healthier alternatives, we have caringly curated an exciting recipes section which combines these ingredients into delicious, well-balanced meals that will help you in your journey to achieve a healthy diet and weight.
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.
The New American plate helps you to manage your weight by suggesting that at least 2/3 of your plate should include vegetables, fruits, whole grains or beans, whilst only 1/3 (or less) should be animal protein.
Understanding food values to manage weight
Our AICR Food Facts page breaks down the science behind different cancer fighting foods, which can help you to choose healthy, budget-friendly cooking ingredients.
Visit our detailed food facts library to see your favorite food’s nutritional value, cancer fighting potential and start getting ideas about dishes and recipes.
The Third Expert Report shows a strong link between excess body fat and cancer risk
There is convincing evidence that too much excess weight from body fat can increase cancer risk. Research suggests that fat at the waist or visceral fat is also a problem.
Impact of excess weight and obesity on cancer risk
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.
Take Action to Manage your Weight
Now is always the best time to take action and make some lifestyle changes to achieve a healthy weight. There may be some challenges along your journey, and it may take some time, but if you’re ready to improve your weight, it is possible.
How to Maintain a Healthy 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. In fact, these unnecessary, unhelpful calories will only help you pack on the pounds. Instead of drinking a soda, reach for water, unsweetened tea or coffee. Not only will you avoid gaining weight from the concentrated calories in sugar-sweetened beverages, you can also reduce your cancer risk directly by avoiding alcoholic beverages.
- Mind Your Portions and Proportions
Try dishing up smaller servings of food and using smaller plates and bowls when you eat. Also, try to eat only when you’re hungry and stop when you feel full. Eating slowly can help with this, as it gives you a chance to savor your food and know when your body is satisfied.
Being mindful of portions and filling two-thirds of your plate with delicious plant foods can help you to manage and maintain a healthy weight. You can learn more about portions and proportions by exploring the New American Plate nutritional model.
By being more aware of how much you are eating, and the proportions of different types of food on your plate, you will have a much easier time managing your weight.
- 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
Being inactive and sitting too much — whether it is at a desk or in front of a TV can lead to weight gain. You should build regular movement breaks into your daily routine to encourage yourself to move around more.
Try taking breaks for 10 to 15 minutes to get up, move around or stretch for a little while to give your body a break from the day-to-day stresses of being sedentary. By keeping your body more active, it will help you to keep excess weight off.
- 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 be well on your way to attaining a healthy weight to help reduce cancer risk.
Check In With Your Health
The choices we make each day can help reduce our risk of cancer.
AICR's new Cancer Health Check will help you learn more about your
choices and how you can stack the odds in your favor.