Undergoing cancer treatment can wreak havoc on your body, and that includes your weight. Weight gain occurs in almost half of cancer patients, but what is important is to keep your body as healthy as possible while undergoing treatment.
Reasons for weight gain-
- Chemotherapy – After chemo, a patient can experience more fluid retention that normal. This can cause the body to swell, meaning added weight.
- Fatigue- extreme fatigue can occur during treatment and this can lead to a reduction in physical activity.
- Nausea improved by eating- sometimes nausea pains can be eased by eating, but too much eating can lead to weight gain.
- Metabolism changes – some cancer treatment methods lead to a reduction and slowing down of the metabolism, meaning food isn’t burned as quickly as it once was.
- Steroids- Steroids prescribed for pain may cause swelling, an increase in appetite and an increase in fatty tissue. All of these can lead to weight gain.
Reasons for weight loss-
- Steroids- certain steroids when taken can lead to a loss of weight and muscular mass. This is known as wasting.
- Swelling or Bruising- Swelling and bruising after surgery may make you feel uncomfortable and unable to/ not in the mood for eating.
- Irritation: depending on where in your body your cancer is, treatment may lead to swelling or irritation in the mouth making eating difficult.
- Treatment side effects – treatment side effects like a change in taste buds and appetite can affect the way you eat and can reduce your enjoyment of mealtimes.
- Vomiting- Some treatments can make you feel very sick, and as a result you may vomit. Vomiting can also lead to weight loss.
Tips to manage weight –
In some instances, weight gain/loss during treatment is unavoidable, but here are some tips on how to manage your weight during treatment.
- Stay healthy – drink plenty or water and eat a well balanced, healthy diet.
- Break the habit– try and identify any habits and patterns you encounter every day that lead to you eating unhealthily and try and break them, or swap them out for better ones.
- Edema– if you’re struggling with fluid retention, try and cut as much salt out of your diet as possible. Also, avoid tight fitting clothes and shoes as this can make you uncomfortable through the day.
- Keep Track – why not download an app that allows you to keep track of what you eat, and the kinds of exercise you do in a day. This way, you’ll be able to monitor your activity and see your progress over time.
- Eat light – before treatment, make sure to eat light meals, that way, if you are ill afterwards you wont have an adverse memory associated with your favourite foods.
- Just do your best – some treatments change the way your taste buds work and affect your appetite. Sometimes, just eating anything is an achievement. Do the best that you can on days like this and try and eat something you like.
For more information and resources that can help, check out the Survive and Thrive Diet, Nutrition and Exercise page.