We have all heard that eating a well-balanced diet and being physically active are two of the most important things you can do for both your physical and mental health. This is especially true for cancer survivors.
Many patients lose a significant amount of weight while they’re being treated for cancer, most often as a side effect of cancer treatment. Patients who received chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy often experienced nausea, a loss of appetite, or dry mouth which makes it hard to swallow food. The taste and smell of food may have also changed, making foods that you normally liked seem unappetizing. These things can all lead to less food intake and ultimately weight loss during cancer treatment.
While some patients need to regain weight after cancer treatment, others may need to focus on losing weight. Some medications cause patients to gain weight. Eating to cope with stress is a common reaction which can lead to weight gain. Or you may have been physically active before treatment but then stopped exercising during treatments resulting in weight gain and/or loss of muscle tone.
If your cancer treatment left you overweight or underweight, it’s important to take steps to return to a weight that’s in the normal range for you.
It’s true: “You are what you eat.” As a cancer survivor, now is the ideal time to evaluate your diet and exercise habits so you can stay on a healthy path. What are your pantry and refrigerator stocked with? Is there an abundance of processed foods? Is there hardly any food because you rely on dining out? If so, it may be time to re-evaluate your habits. Consider asking your cancer care team to recommend a nutritionist to help you get on track. Take it in small steps so that you don’t change everything at once. But work towards eating a balanced diet that is not filled with convenience or overprocessed foods.
Exercise is also important for cancer survivors. If you aren’t planning time for exercise in your routine, now is the time to start. You can do this slowly by adding a little activity at a time. And, you don’t have to go to the gym. Simply walking in the park, lifting light weights at home, or going on a bike ride count. Just be sure you make time for this almost every day. When you find an activity you enjoy, exercise stops becoming a chore and a part of your daily enjoyment! Find out more about exercise for cancer survivors.