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For cancer, fat’s not where it’s at

Posted Jan 31 2013 7:04pm
January 31, 2013 - Posted by tamilb

Eat whatever you want while you're in treatment?

I’m participating in a cancer rehab study that incorporates exercise with wellness education. It has been really great, and I’m hoping with the results, they will implement a cancer rehab program just like they do with cardiac patients.

Today a nutritionist came in and did a healthy cooking demonstration for us and we were treated to lunch. I really liked that she encouraged us to eat whole foods rather than processed ones. But I took issue with a few points she made. One was the common misnomer, “Oh if you’re in treatment, eat whatever you want. It’s not the time to diet.” To illustrate the fact, one of the recipes/dishes was mac and cheese with extra cheese, milk, butter, etc. It was a real fat-fest and was intended to be that way.

I think this mentality is why chemo suites are stocked with cookies, candy, chips and soda. I know there are certain cancers, like pancreatic, in which keeping weight on is very difficult. Still, I think there are healthier ways to do this than to eat large amounts of sweets, snacks and fatty meats that cause inflammation and do more harm than good.

I’ve never had trouble keeping weight on during treatment; in fact the opposite is true. The steroids they give me with chemo feeds the appetite, and, like many people I know, I’ve gained weight on chemo. I’m always told not to worry about it; they’ll worry if I lose too much weight. But is this really helpful?

According to a recent study, losing weight could prevent one of every six cancer deaths in the United States more than 90,000 each year. Researchers spent 16 years evaluating 900,000 people who were cancer-free when the study began in 1982. They concluded that excess weight may account for 14 percent of all cancer deaths in men and 20 percent of those in women. This is especially true in breast cancer and reproductive system cancers like ovarian and cervical. Too much body fat can increase estrogen levels in the blood. My particular breast cancer is fed by estrogen. So staying in a healthy weight range is not just for vanity anymore.

Easier said than done, though, as we all know. To be honest, I find I’ve been eating compulsively lately. I feel it’s a way to comfort myself because, let’s face it, having stage IV cancer is no picnic. I’ve always eaten to soothe and numb my feelings. That paired with some mindless TV, and I can wrap myself in a protective womb of temporary denial.

My weight is in the healthy range but I store all my fat in my addominal region. Fat produces estrogen, and belly fat in particular has been linked to breast cancer and other diseases.

On a positive note, I did lose a pound since my weigh-in last week. Perhaps this is due to the extra exercise. I also take a walk daily with my husband Mike, regardless how much I complain of the cold or try to get out of it. As an aside, studies show that regular exercise can prevent breast cancer or its return and it’s recommended to help reverse fatigue and other side effects of treatment.

So the takeaway? Eating right and exercise is important even during … no especially during treatment. Right now, Mike’s ready to go on that walk. I guess I can’t get out of it. Until next time!!




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