If you’re seeing an increase in body weight after your cancer treatment is complete, don’t worry: You are not alone. Many women face a significant weight gain when undergoing cancer treatment. While weight gain is extremely common during treatment, extra weight can negatively affect your self esteem and overall health. To give you a better idea of why your scale may be showing a higher number than usual, we’ve broken down the causes of weight gain during treatment along with some ways to manage your weight after.
Weight Gain Causes During Chemo & Cancer Treatment
As previously stated, an increase in weight during cancer treatment is completely normal. The below list highlights the ways different treatments may have affected your weight.
Chemotherapy & Weight Gain
While chemotherapy is considered to be more attributed to weight loss due to nausea being a common side effect, chemo can actually lead to weight gain. There are several reasons that chemo causes some people to gain weight:
- Excess fluids being held within the body (Edema)
- Fatigue and lack of exercise
- Food cravings
- Nausea that is improved by eating certain foods.
Steroids & Weight Gain
Steroids may be used as a form of treatment to reduce inflammation and nausea. Unfortunately, while steroids prove extremely helpful for some, they are also notoriously linked to weight gain due to increases in appetite and fatty tissue.
Hormonal Therapy & Weight Gain
Hormonal therapy is used to treat several types of cancer, including breast, uterine, testicular, and prostate. The medicines used help lower the amount of estrogen or progesterone in the human body. While this form of treatment is effective, some major side effects include an increase in weight due to an increase in fat deposits and a decrease in muscle and metabolism.
Losing Weight After Chemo Treatment
As you can see, there are so many factors that may attribute to weight gain. This section covers simple ways to help shed the extra pounds.
1. What You Eat Matters
Food is the majority of the battle when it comes to weight management. Try these quick tips for eating healthier meals:
- Balance your plate, leaving ½ vegetables and fruit, one quarter for lean protein, and the last quarter for healthy grains.
- Consider baking or steaming your food instead of frying.
- Limit your intake of fat, sugar, and refined flour. For instance, replace sodas with water to reduce sugar intake.
- Maintain a food schedule, complete with meal and snack times to keep you feeling fuller longer.
- Keeping a food diary helps you stay accountable and allows you to keep a closer eye on how certain foods make you feel, be it full, nauseated, energized, etc.
2. Say No to Fad Diets
Fad diets are exactly that: Fads. A blip in the radar of ‘THE EASIEST WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT’ trends. While no one should EVER choose to pursue a fad diet, this is especially crucial to those who have just completed cancer treatment. Your body needs all the nutrients it can get at this time. They might help you lose weight, but is important to lose weight in a healthy, balanced way. Furthermore, only 5% of people who lose weight on fad diets actually keep the weight off. Don’t fall for any ‘Lose 40 pounds in 2 weeks by only eating pickles’ or ‘Eat yourself skinny with taco shells!’. In other words, crash diets just won’t get the job done!
3. Keep Moving
This may sound easier said than done (probably some days more than others!). Start out with some light exercises such as stretching and yoga, and move onto going for walks. Staying active will not only help maintain weight but can also leave you feeling better all over.
4. Listen to Your Body
Some days you might do really well with your eating habits or exercise regimen, while others may feel you feeling like you "can’t even." This is normal - after all, your body has been put through the wringer. Cut yourself some slack on these days! Don’t force yourself to eat something that makes you nauseated or push yourself to exercise when your body demands relaxation.
Take everyday in stride and don’t get down on yourself if you slip up every now and then. Have any post-treatment weight loss tips or words of encouragement? Give us the deets in the comment section below!