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Weight Gain after Cancer

Posted 5/12/2014

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  This is another frequent topic, and I will admit at the start that I don't have anything new to say about the problem. I do have a great essay to share, but that comes later. Most of us have gained weight since our breast cancer diagnoses. It is impossible to be clear whether those extra pounds have come from sudden menopause, the treatments themselves (especially the anti-estrogen ones), or less exercise and more calories. Whatever the culprits, we know that the pounds are tough to lose.

  Not only is it harder now to lose weight than it was when we were 20 (remember those days of just forgoing dessert for a week and seeing a few pounds vanish?), but the pounds tend to pack themselves unattractively around her mid-sections. Our waists are surely not what they once were! In addition to the vanity parts of this issue, there are the health ones. Extra pounds are associated with a higher risk of recurrence. The basic reason for this is that estrogen is stored in fat cells, so, the more fat cells we provide, the happier any remaining estrogen may be.

  How do we lose the weight? Or, more realistically, at least for me, how do we hold the weight stable? There is no magic. It is the old few calories in, more calories out. I know that if I don't maintain my daily-to-the-gym routine, a pound or two immediately pops up on the scale. I don't like the gym, but I like dieting less, so I focus on the "calories out" part. That has the added advantage of keeping me on the right side of the "regular exercise lowers recurrence risk" equation.

  Here is the start of Heather Millar's delightful essay from WebMD:

Cancer Weight
By Heather Millar

I’ve been putting on weight.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, I was about 20 pounds above my
ideal weight (the weight where I feel I could see my high school boyfriend again)
and 10 pounds above my healthy weight (the weight I realistically maintained for
more than a decade from my 30s to my mid-40s). Since then, the pounds have
added up slowly, a couple here, 3 or 4 there. By my last check-up, I was 30
pounds above my ideal weight, 20 above my healthy weight.
Breast cancer is notorious for packing on the pounds. No one’s exactly sure why.
It might be that most breast cancer patients are pre-menopausal or menopausal,
and just “being a woman of a certain age” means weight gain. Or it may be the
hormone-inhibiting drugs that many of us take wreak havoc on how our bodies
store energy (i.e. make fat). Or it may be that breast cancer can be pretty
depressing/scary/exhausting, and many of us snack or drink for comfort.
I’ve blamed all of those things in the last 3 years: Darn chemical menopause!
Darn drugs! Darn stress-eating/drinking! Stupid cancer!


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