Skip to main content

Help! I’m putting ON weight during treatment – what can I do?

Historically, much of the attention given to nutrition during cancer treatments is very focused on building up and staying strong during treatment. I suspect this is because as dietitians we are often asked to meet with people who are having problems eating and whose nutritional health is in decline. It is not often those who are gaining weight are flagged and advised on nutrition, until in desperation they plea with their doctors for some help or guidance.

However, it also needs to be emphasised that not all people lose weight and in fact many people find that they do gain weight and quite often this weight gain jumps up quickly to more than 5-10kgs across the treatment period. Do discuss your weight with your medical team, but, meanwhile, here are some tips:

The top 10 tips for weight management during treatment

Eat small, regular meals based around the healthy eating guidelines – in addition to the UK healthy eating guidelines refer to US guidelines launched in 2011.

Include extra protein both at meal times and as a snack. For example some tuna, eggs, lean meat, chicken, other fish, low fat dairy foods etc.

Choose small amounts of wholegrain or lower GI type cereal foods as part of each meal. For example brown rice, pasta, grain based bread, natural muesli, whole or pinhead oats, oat cakes, malt loaf.

Bulk up with extra vegetables eg cabbage in stir fries, corn, dark leafy’s
Ensure you are well hydrated. In addition to water include sugar free squash or herbal or chai type teas.

Keep being as active as you can. Try gentle exercise classes, walk when you can, try to include some light weights sessions if appropriate. Ideally keep up the 30-45 mins of exercise or activity a day.

Write it down or take a couple of day’s worth of food pictures with a phone or digital camera. Keeping a record across the day is a helpful activity to help you identify times or binge patterns which jeopardise your efforts to stay at your ideal weight.

Don’t let yourself get hungry. If you miss meals or skimp it is likely you will find yourself very hungry and end up wanting to binge or gorge at the next meal time.

Trim extra calories where you can either by limiting added fats, sugars or containing portion sizes.

GO for quality not quantity. Everyone enjoys a treat, especially when you are in treatment. Don’t deprive yourself, but choose something that will give you a real hit. A delicious piece of tropical fruit, some ruby red strawberries, a juicy orange, a piece of dark, quality chocolate, a small piece of a delicious homemade cake. A honey sourced from local bees on some delicious baked sourdough, some Scottish smoked salmon, a piece of pungent (pasteurised) cheese from a speciality shop, a delicious Italian meal – you get the picture.