Common Questions About Weight Management

Here are some of the questions many people ask when they think about losing weight

We don’t know for sure and studies are currently underway to find the answer. What we do know; however, is that cancer survivors who gain weight after diagnosis have higher rates of recurrence, and deaths due to cancer and other causes. Weight loss can be particularly beneficial for reducing heart disease among cancer survivors. This is important since many survivors are more likely to die of heart disease than cancer.

Intermittent fasting is gaining in popularity and may be beneficial in regulating body weight. But there are little data that support its long term effectiveness.

A slightly different version of fasting is the 5:2 regimen. Here, individuals reduce the calories they eat to about 500-600 calories on 2 days of the week and then eat normally on the other 5. This kind of plan may work well for some people, whereas reducing calories to more moderate levels (1200-1500 calories a day) throughout the week may work better for others. Some health conditions, such as insulin dependent diabetes, are difficult to regulate with intermittent fasting. Be sure to ask your doctor before you embark on a fasting regimen.

Try to weight yourself on a daily basis. Granted, you may see the numbers on the scale rise and fall due to changes in your body water. But, if you make a point to weigh in the morning, you are more likely to make healthier choices for food and exercise throughout the rest of the day. People who weight themselves everyday are more successful in managing their weight – join the club!

Some cancer survivors are leery of artificial sweeteners. Indeed, some early studies showed that sweeteners like saccharin and cyclamates caused bladder cancer in rats. To date, there is no consensus that these sweeteners cause cancer in humans. So, if artificially sweetened foods help you to reduce the calories you eat, and if by having a diet soft drink you avoid the 150 calories in a regular cola, then going for the diet product is better by far. However, would you be just as satisfied with a glass of water with a lemon wedge? Do what works for you.

There are many ways that people can lose weight. Some people count calories, some count fat grams, some count carbs and some use exchange lists (as seen in section X of this website). The bottom-line is that each of these methods results in eating fewer calories. If you eat fewer calories, you will weigh less. Pure and simple. Weight management is indeed the top priority in guidelines set by both the American Cancer Society and the World Cancer Research Fund, so finding an approach that works best for you is important. Yet, keep in mind the need to follow other recommendations as you go forward in managing your weight. Therefore, if you chose to follow a low carb diet, try your best to choose plant-based foods (i.e., nuts, seeds, avocados) and limit the amount of red and processed meats you eat.

Feeling hungry can be a problem, particularly during the first days on your diet. Here are some good ways to avoid hunger pangs.

  • Fill-up on foods that occupy a lot of space in your stomach while providing few calories – foods like broth-based soup and raw vegetables can really help (note that the sample menus are specially designed to include these high volume-low calorie choices).
  • A cup of herbal tea or a big glass of water can take the edge off of a fierce appetite.
  • Feeling hungry? Get busy. Go for a walk. Clean your closet. Get involved in a project like knitting or woodworking. You will soon forget your cravings. See section X

Cutting carbs is one way to reduce the number of calories you eat, but it may not be the best way. See item #5 above.

Diet, exercise and behavior modification should always be tried first in order to lose weight. More extreme approaches, like medications, weight loss supplements, or bariatric surgery should only be used when diet, exercise, and behavior modification fail. This guideline is important in healthy people, but is especially important in cancer survivors, since many of the risks involved with diet pills or additional surgery are unknown.

Successful weight management comes from doing three things:

  1. controlling the amount of foods you eat
  2. exercising
  3. modifying your behavior by adhering to basic strategies, like eating on smaller plates, ordering salad dressing on the side, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.

Following all three is important.