Losing Weight After Chemotherapy

by Brittany McNabb-WhatNext

We have had a lot of questions on the site concerning how to lose weight after chemotherapy . Weight gain is a side effect of cancer treatment and might affect your self esteem and morale. There are no magic ways to lose weight gained from chemo or other cancer treatment, but WhatNexters say it may help to focus on your overall health and the practical things you can do to lose weight.

Standing On Scale

Talk to Your Care Team
Your care team of doctors and nurses can give suggestions on how to lose weight after chemo and how to cope with the side effects of chemo. They will be able to talk to you while keeping in mind your specific type of cancer, body weight, and personal capability level after treatment.

“Speak with you oncologist. Though I am frustrated, I just consider this another aspect of, what I like to call, Bizzaro World of Cancer.” - SueRae1

Keep a Food Journal
Many WhatNexters have had success keeping a food journal or simply writing down everything they eat. This could help you realize what you are putting in your body and help you track your reactions to different foods. This tactic, along with other techniques is so simple and effective.

“Write down everything you eat; supposedly this is a popular success factor across all diets because it helps your realize what you are or are not eating!” - Nomadicme

Have Healthy Snacks On Hand
Look at your pantry and eliminate any go-to unhealthy snacks. WhatNexters admit they are guilty of mindless snacking or snacking on the go. Instead of munching on snacks full of carbs, have healthy snacks on hand like nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Plan ahead and put snacks in bags to take to work or keep in the fridge.

“I cut out soda and would eat a fruit or veggie instead. I also cut out sweets. It’s hard the first two weeks or so, but now if I want something sweet just one bite works. It also helped me to keep healthy alternatives in my pantry instead of snacks I was eating before treatment. I also joined the Livestrong Program at the YMCA for motivation to exercise.” - SpunkyS

Burn Calories
Focusing on burning calories might help you lose weight. You don’t have to run a marathon or bike five miles to burn calories. Everyday activities and even hobbies can burn calories. Think about anything you do that involves physical activity for example, a hobby like gardening or woodworking, using the stairs, anything involving moving or lifting, playing with your kids, dancing, the list goes on!

“Exercise was the key for me. I felt like no matter how well I ate, if I wasn’t burning it off somehow it didn’t do much.” - Clyde

Walk and Exercise Daily
A lot of WhatNexters fall into the trap of hanging out on their couch or sitting around the house all day; it can be hard when you are experiencing a lot of fatigue. Getting up and moving around helps more than you think! Whatever kind of exercise you like to do, just get up and move. You can walk with your friends, go on a leisure bike ride, join a workout class, or do workout videos at home.

“I walk, walk, walk or whatever other exercise I enjoy. Also writing down what I eat helps me be aware of what and how much I am eating. I also drink lots and lots of water.” - karen1956

Join the YMCA or Weight Watchers Program
WhatNexters often feel that it is hard to maintain an exercise routine on their own. If you need motivation or help with your exercise, join the YMCA, a Livestrong Group, or another weight loss program. A lot of programs are designed specifically for cancer patients.

“I went to the YMCA and joined a Livestrong Group. I was able to join for free for 12 weeks. I worked out with trainers and other cancer survivors. The best part is that I get to continue to workout with the Livestrong Group even after the 12 week period.” - ticklingcancer

“I joined Weight Watchers! I also did Yoga all the way through my treatments and afterward.” - HeidiJo

Use a Weight Loss App
Many WhatNexters use weight loss apps on their smart phones. Apps can help you track the number of calories you consume a day and the amount of calories you burn.

“If you have a smart phone, download the app called My Fitness Pal. It's free and awesome! I use it everyday to track my calorie intake, number of calories I've burned through exercise, and amount of water I drink. It also breaks down the number of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat you should be getting, and lays it out for you in a neat graph. The most helpful thing I've found so far is that it has a barcode scanner that turns your camera into a laser so you don't have to enter all that information yourself!” - RachaelC@StF

Avoid Emotional Eating
You may find yourself emotional eating by snacking when you are sad, eating too much, or falling to prey to a lot of sugary foods. Try to battle emotional eating by keeping those foods out of your pantry, distracting yourself by doing some form of physical activity, and even letting your friends and family know about your diet so they can help you stick to your goals.

“Keeping active, eating clean (minimally processed foods), and keeping track of what I put in my mouth have really helped me. Recognizing what triggers my emotional eating has helped me nip some, not all, of my pity parties and cravings. Be kind too and love yourself. If you slip, forgive, and move forward. One of my mottos is "failure is not falling off the wagon, failure is not getting back on." - SueRae1

Don’t Worry Too Much
Some WhatNexters say when they focus on the scale or give into cravings they can get very discouraged. Try to keep things in perspective so that you don’t beat yourself up and have anxiety over your diet.

“I am working on endurance and building muscle and hope to get in better shape, and I am trying not to worry too much about what the scale says. My advice is eat right, exercise, see how you do and discuss any difficulties with weight loss with your oncologist.” - RMR

Make Healthy Changes You Intend to Keep
Healthy eating habits should carry into your everyday life even after you have lost weight. If you make healthy changes you intend to keep then coping with the side effects of cancer treatment will be less of a burden.

“I tried not to consider myself on a "diet." I made changes to my eating and exercise habits that I intend to keep for a lifetime. Writing down what you eat is a great habit. There are some apps and online sites that let you track your food intake. I recommend "Lose It" for tracking food and exercise.” - gwendolyn

Focus On Overall Health

“Keeping our weight down is good, but as cancer patients/survivors, I feel we should put our health first. Our diet has to be nutritious and exercise is very important.” - SandiD

After chemotherapy you can talk to your care team, keep a food journal, track what you eat using a fitness app, keep healthy snacks on hand, exercise daily, join an exercise program for cancer patients, and do your best to keep a positive attitude that focuses on your overall health. Although losing weight can be difficult, it is important to keep things in perspective and not be too hard on yourself. It may take some time to lose weight but every little bit counts.

Consider getting connected with other WhatNexters that have worked to lose weight after chemotherapy. You can ask and answer questions from others that are working towards the same goal.

Related Articles:

10 Simple Ways to Change Your Eating Habits After You’re Diagnosed With Cancer

A Cheat Sheet to Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

21 Simple Food Changes You Can Make to Feel Happier & Healthier

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