It seems like you can never win when it comes to weight. And the media sure doesn’t help to clarify it one way or another.  One day you hear or read on the internet, news, papers or radio that carrying a little extra body weight may actually be healthy.  Finally, something good!  The next day, you hear that being “skinny fat” is just as unhealthy as carrying extra weight.  Time to get back on that treadmill in hopes of becoming a physically fit, “normal” weight individual.  So which one is true and how can you decipher if what is being reported is the truth?

Best word of advice, don’t believe everything you hear or read about nutrition!!!!  Nutrition is a complicated field that is always changing.  The amount of research centered around nutrition is astronomical.  Once a research study reports a finding, whether the study was a well conducted study or not, many media sources report the findings without explaining the study.  Therefore, its better to become a skeptic and seek out professional clarification through Registered Dietitian on nutrition related topics than to start the cabbage soup diet while taking so called “fat blockers” to lose that weight!

Even though it’s best to be a skeptic on nutrition related topics, a vague statement I understand, it does not answer the question of “What nutrition information to listen to?”  Since I do not plan on writing a book today, I am going to start by explaining one of the more complicated nutrition and weight loss topics as it relates to cancer and caner treatment.


Weight, the double edged sword when it comes to cancer! 

Over the years, caner has become a highly researched disease state.  Every cancer is different and specific to different treatments.  However, one thing is consistent when it comes to cancer and that is to maintaing a healthy weight.  Most doctors and registered dietitians will tell cancer patients to not lose weight, if possible, while going through chemo and radiation therapy. However, in certain types of cancer, breast, colon, uterine, kidney, and esophageal, excess weight may boost harmful effects of hormones such as estrogen and insulin that may cause excess inflammation in the body. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight is easier said than done as steroids, lack of sleep, and stress on the body all have an effect on weight.

It has also been shown that women going through BREAST CANCER specifically, are more effected by weight than women undergoing other types of cancer.  Women with BREAST CANCER often exhibit undesirable weight gain as a side effect of their treatment.  Women undergoing chemotherapy for BREAST CANCER have reported an average weight gain of about 5-8 pounds over a year. Premenopausal women tend to be at the greatest risk for weight changes and may gain up to 25 pounds over a year.

There is not one specific reason why women with BREAST CANCER experience weight gain. Some research shows weight gain occurs due to: Premature menopause brought on by chemotherapy as menopause slows down metabolism, or due to the use of corticosteroids to help with nausea or due to the side effect of an increase in appetite and a redistribution of muscle mass from the extremities into the abdominal area.  Lack of exercise, intense carbohydrate cravings, and medications can also cause weight gain while undergoing chemotherapy. Women treated with steroids tend to gain 2 pounds a year as they tend to increase the amount of fatty issue around the face and abdominal region while reducing muscle mass. By losing muscle mass, fat mass becomes more apparent. Hormone therapy is another treatment that can cause weight gain.  Hormone therapy decreases the amount of estrogen and progesterone in females which causes an increase in body fat mass.

 My Body is a Temple

Additionally, weight fluctuations are common during cancer treatment.  However, it is of great importance not to use the treatment or medications as a crutch to gain weight as excess weight causes other health risks and diseases.  Weight gain can increase risk for development of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and an increased risk for developing other types of cancer, especially the recurrence of BREAST CANCER.

Even though there is a laundry list of reasons as to why weight gain can occur, it is importance to do what you can through diet and exercise to ward against excess weight gain.

A few ideas to try:

  • Be active every day — try walking with a friend for 30 minutes, or check out classes at a local gym. Yoga, dancing, stretching can all make a difference.
  • Make small changes in your diet — add more fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy,  healthy fats (omega-3 and olive oil), lean meats and whole grains.
  • Consume a high protein diet.
  • Keep a journal of your activity and eating habits.
  • Find a friend who also wants to make healthy changes and do this together.
  • Set goals and track your progress.
  • Celebrate your achievements with something special  as you are a cancer survivor!!!! 

The weight battle: Dietitians offer strategies for controlling weight after cancer treatment

Breast Cancer and Weight Changes