While many people gain weight during and after treatment for breast cancer, others lose weight. After surgery, many people find that they lose a few pounds. Side effects from chemotherapy such as vomiting or diarrhea also may cause you to lose weight. Weight loss can cause fatigue and can extend the time it takes for you to recover from treatment. Losing weight can also weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections.
Assess your weight and then talk to your doctor about an ideal weight for you. Once you have set a goal, you may want to talk to a registered dietitian and develop a customized eating plan.
Some general guidelines for maintaining your body weight:
- Try to eat small meals or snacks every 1 or 2 hours. Keep high-protein, high-calorie foods nearby, such as string cheese, crackers with peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, energy bars, or individual packages of pudding or custard.
- Try eating foods high in protein but low in fat. During breast cancer treatment, some women develop a dislike for fats. If this happens to you, try eating foods high in protein but low in fat such as yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, lean meat or fish, and lentils.
- Eat fruits and vegetables that have more calories. To increase the amount of calories you eat and still get nutrients from fruits and vegetables, try dried fruits, 100% fruit or vegetable juice, or fruits and vegetables such as corn, peas, bananas, cherries, mangoes, lima beans, and sweet potatoes, which have more calories than other fruits and vegetables.
Eating to regain weight after treatment
If you're trying to regain weight, it's important to make sure you're getting enough protein as well as total calories. These amounts will be different for different people. Together, you and your registered dietitian can come up with an eating plan that works for you.
Most adult women need to eat about 15 calories per pound of body weight per day to maintain their weight. If you've lost weight during treatment and need to regain it, add another 500 calories to your daily diet. So if you weighed 130 pounds before treatment and lost weight during treatment, you need 1,950 calories (15 times 130) plus 500, which equals 2,450 calories.
Try some of these ideas to get more calories each day:
- Use low-fat milk in some recipes in place of water.
- Add granola to cookies, muffins, breads, and pancakes. Sprinkle it in yogurt, pudding, and hot and cold cereal. Mix granola and dry fruit as a snack.
- Add dried fruits to muffins, cookies, breads, cakes, pancakes, cereal,pies, and rice.
- Add sauces or gravies to vegetables, meats, and fish.
- Add chopped hard-boiled eggs to salads, sandwiches, and casseroles.
How to get more protein in your diet
Protein helps heal and rebuild tissues. During treatment, a good general guideline is to eat half a gram of protein for each pound you weigh. So if you weigh 160 pounds, try to get 80 grams of protein in your diet each day.
Good sources of protein include lean meat, fish, poultry and dairy products, nuts, dried beans, peas and lentils, and soy.
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