How to Gain Weight After Cancer Treatment | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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When going through cancer treatment, it’s common to experience a loss of appetite, taste changes, or other symptoms that make it difficult or less desirable to eat. Some people find that they lose weight as a result of their particular cancer or treatments and are concerned about how to gain it back. Dana-Farber nutritionist Stacy Kennedy describes steps you can take to prevent excess weight loss and promote healthy weight gain during and after cancer treatment.


I’m Stacy Kennedy, a nutrition specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Welcome to Eating Well During Cancer. Today I’d like to talk with you about managing a healthy weight during and after cancer treatment, specifically addressing unwanted weight loss.

Weight loss is a common side effect during cancer treatment. It can come from a number of factors that may all be occurring at the same time. It’s common to experience a loss of appetite, taste changes, or other symptoms that may make it difficult or less desirable to eat—things like nausea, fatigue, and bowel changes. At the same time, your metabolism tends to be less efficient or a bit revved up during cancer treatment, so we can see how easy it is to experience unwanted weight loss when we want less but need more.

But don’t worry—we’re here today to talk with you about some simple, easy tips and tricks to help prevent some of that weight loss. One of the most important things is to eat and drink often in small amounts throughout the day, to set yourself up for success by being prepared. Asking someone to help with the food shopping and preparation can help you save your energy for eating. Having somebody help with cooking is also beneficial, because often the smell of food can be a bit of a turn-off for the appetite when it’s cooking. They could even pack you a cooler you can keep with you at your bedside or if you’re sitting in resting or to take with you on the go full of quick and easy meals and healthy snacks and fluids.

In addition to needing more calories during treatment, we also need more nutrients and also more protein. Protein is really important for the immune system, for energy, for blood cells throughout your entire body, and of course for maintaining muscle mass. So, a few things that can be really helpful are to make smoothies and soups. When it comes to smoothies, they’re a great way to pack in extra vitamins, minerals, fluids, protein, and calories.

We have so many easy-to-make, delicious smoothie recipes on our website and in our app, so I encourage you to check those out. On behalf of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, I’m Stacy Kennedy.

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When choosing to lose weight or get fit it is important to follow this up with some form of healthy eating.
Department of Agriculture recommends that each individual should follow a four-tiered food guide pyramid.

How to Gain Weight After Cancer Treatment | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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Many cheeses are high in saturated fat, so opt for a reduced-fat version. There is much more to losing weight than just improving your appearance. The Mayo Clinic lists fatty fish, such as salmon, as it’s #2 food to help lower cholesterol.

When you think about healthy eating you think about fresh foods and portion control and while those are big parts of healthy eating there are other things to take into consideration as well.

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Plan your healthy weight loss strategy so that you know what you are going to do to accomplish your goals. Outline your start date, end date, obstacles and progress, and chart your results so that you know how you are progressing.

Physical activity: You cannot lose weight and remain healthy without exercising. The amount of physical activity you do should start out small and gradually increase as you build up endurance. Exercise and a proper meal plan are the keys to success for a healthy diet.

In order to maximize your efforts and reach a goal, identify specific and quantifiable actions. Stating your intention of merely improving this week is not a measurable goal. Log the time dedicated to weekly exercise. Count the number of repetition of given exercises each day. Record the foods you each at each meal. These are quantifiable.

Substitute your regular choice of meat, for fish, at least twice a week for a healthier diet. The omega-3 acids in fish help to maintain blood and brain health. Avoid tuna, however, because it contains a great deal of mercury.

Don’t simply utilize nutrition as an afterthought to your program. Employ nutrition as an integral part of your efforts and you will progress your overall training to even higher levels.

Based on this, you can construct a diet of your own and analyze what works best for you. A diet change requires that you make small manageable changes bit by bit. The natural fiber helps to clear your digestive tract of waste buildup.

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