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Cancer Answers: Kelsey McCourt

QUESTION: How do I combat weight gain during or following cancer treatment?

It is often expected that once cancer treatment begins, weight loss will subsequently occur. Some have even referred to this as “the chemo diet.”

Although poor appetite and weight loss are two of the more common symptoms, not everyone will experience this. In fact, some people find that the opposite may occur.

Individuals with breast, prostate or ovarian cancer are a specific population of patients that are at an increased risk for weight gain during and following treatment. Due to the fact that being overweight/obese has been linked to increased risk of various types of cancers, it is very important to optimize your weight following treatment.

If you are someone who is struggling to maintain a healthy weight, keep reading for some healthy tips and tricks.

Remember: If you are currently undergoing treatment, weight loss may not be an appropriate goal for you at this time. Talk to your dietitian first to receive individualized nutritional recommendations.

Break for breakfast. A balanced breakfast has been identified as a key factor for long-term success at weight loss. Prep ahead for a quick, grab-n-go option. Choose items that are high in fiber with minimal added sugars. This will help to keep you full and energized throughout your day.

Portion distortion. Portion sizes are often times just too big! Hence the term “supersize me.” Next time you go out to eat, split your meal with a friend or ask for a to-go box and bring half of your meal home. This will benefit both your waistline and your bank account.

Eat the rainbow. Fruits and vegetables are not only packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals, but they also help optimize one’s weight due to their high fiber and water content. It is recommended you eat at least 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables each day.

Ditch the diets. Diets typically do not represent sustainable dietary and lifestyle habits. Rid yourself of restrictions and allow for moderate consumption of your favorite foods. You might find that once you have given yourself full permission to eat the foods you once labeled as your “guilty pleasure,” you will be less tempted to overindulge and be able to enjoy these items on occasion and in moderation.

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Practice mindful eating. Eat when you’re hungry (not starving), and stop when you’re full (not stuffed). Think about each food and how it makes you feel. Your body will start to crave the healthful foods that fuel you when you change your mindset around eating. You will also want to minimize distractions during meal time. Turn of the TV and enjoy each bite.

Smart snacking: Snacking throughout the day is a great way to maintain a healthy weight. Nutritious snacks can stabilize your blood sugars, help keep your appetite in-check and reduce food cravings. Keep your snacks balanced. A good snack could include nuts and fruit or carrots and hummus.

Join registered dietitian Kelsey McCourt for the “Farm to Table” class on April 23 from 8 to 9:15 a.m. (English) and from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. (Spanish) at the Mission Hope Cancer Center Conference Room. New ways on how to transform homegrown sustenance into tasty cancer fighting treats will be explored. Participants will walk away with knowledge and tools that help incorporate fresh products into creative cancer fighting recipes. Reservations are required. Call 805-219-4673 (English) or 805-346-3406 (Spanish) to reserve a seat.

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"Your Cancer Answers" is a weekly column produced by Marian Regional Medical Center, Cancer Program. Have a question? Email it to mariancancercare@dignityhealth.org.

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