AICR's Guidelines for Cancer Survivors

Healthy Weight Management

Taking the first steps in the journey towards a healthy weight include a healthy diet and appropriate physical activity. Below are some tips for healthy weight management.

The recommendation from the AICR 2007 expert report states: “Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.”

Understanding the Body Fat – Cancer Connection

Research is convincing that body fat may be second only to smoking as a primary cause of cancer.

Scientists have found that body fat produces hormones and proteins that cause inflammation and increased blood levels of insulin. More of these substances are produced with more body fat, especially if the fat is around the waist. These substances create an environment that may encourage cancer development and growth.

Tips for Losing/Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Losing weight is not easy and you can get discouraged if you do not see progress even when you are taking steps towards that goal. Remember, your first step is to stop the weight gain and then to focus on losing.

  1. Limit calorie-dense foods. Calorie-dense foods contain a lot of calories in a small volume of food. Fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and rich desserts are examples of calorie-dense foods. Vegetables, fruits, and beans are some foods low in calories and high in nutrients. Fill 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, and limit animal products to 1/3 or less, to limit calories-dense foods.
  2. Avoid sugary drinks. Sugary drinks such as sodas, juice drinks, and specialty coffee beverages (with added syrups) don’t fill you up. The calories Americans get from sugary drinks are increasing and research shows that those calories don’t replace calories from food.
  3. Limit traditional fast food. Most fast foods are calorie-dense and offer little in the way of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. The fat, sugar and sodium in fast foods are a triple whammy and undermine efforts to achieve a healthy weight. When you want to dine out, choose establishments that offer fish, chicken, or lean meats and vegetables with your meal or as a la carte sides.
  4. Aim for 60 minutes or more of moderate physical activity. See Exercise Tips

Making and sticking with these healthy habits will improve your health in the short and the long run. You will feel better and your body will become healthier and eventually achieve a weight that is better for you.

Tips for Gaining/ Maintaining a Healthy Weight

If you have recently completed treatment, you may have lost weight and be under your healthy weight range. Here are some tips to gain weight with a healthful diet:

  • Eat balanced meals and snacks several times a day rather than limiting yourself to 3 meals.
  • Keep your favorite foods available so it is easier to eat more often.
  • Eat the most when you feel hungriest. You may be most hungry in the morning so you can make breakfast your largest meal.
  • Going for a short walk before mealtime can help stimulate your appetite.
  • Try new foods and recipes. More variety can help increase the amount you eat.
  • Leisurely meals offer the opportunity to eat in a relaxed atmosphere. This may allow you to eat more.
  • If you get full quickly, try limiting the beverages you drink at mealtime. Drink higher-calorie beverages such as juices, smoothies or milk during the day.
  • If you have trouble increasing your food enough to gain weight, talk with a registered dietitian who can help develop an appropriate plan for you.
ICON: Weight

Staying Lean for Cancer Prevention

Excerpted from AICR’s Staying Lean for Cancer Prevention. You can read the full text of the brochure online.