Manage your weight
Maintaining ideal weight is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and is especially so for post-therapy cancer patients. Find out how you can make the most of your diet without compromising on nutrition and enjoyment.
1) Avoid fad diets and be patient
Your diet must be suited to you and tailored to your body’s needs and your lifestyle. Fad diets often do not take these things into consideration. An ideal diet should be nutritionally balanced with a variety of foods such as bread, rice, noodles, cereals, fruits, vegetables, lean meat, fish, poultry and dairy, but with limited quantities of butter, margarine or oils.
Losing 500 g to 1 kg a week is considered ideal weight loss. Take note that the first two weeks of exercise will usually yield greater weight loss due to a combination of fat and fluid loss. Stay motivated and be patient with yourself – sustainable weight loss comes gradually.
- Set reasonable goals
- Gradually make healthier changes in your lifestyle and diet
- Identify triggers for overeating (could be due to stress or boredom)
- Exercise daily
2) Avoid sugar
Sugar has little or no nutritional value. It only adds calories, which may contribute to weight gain. Start by not adding sugar to your food and drink. You can use natural sweeteners such as stevia if you need to have some sweetness in your food. Avoid sweetened condensed milk and sweetened milk products as these contain a significant amount of sugar. If you love chocolate, go for dark chocolate which may give better nutritional value, instead of milk or white chocolate.
- Drink flavoured water or soda water instead of soft drinks
- Avoid snacking on sweets
- Opt for fresh fruit or dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate
3) Watch what you drink
Water is essential for a healthy body. Drink at least six to eight glasses a day. If you prefer flavoured beverages, drink tea or coffee without sugar or creamers. Avoid soft drinks and fruit juices as they contain a lot of sugar and calories. Alcohol is also high in calories and should be drunk in moderation or mixed with water.
- Opt for dry white wine or spirits instead of sweet alcoholic drinks
- “Diet” drinks are a good alternative but should be taken in moderation
- Drink more water
4) Fill your diet with moderate amount of carbohydrates and extra fibre
Dietary fibre is an essential part of your diet and it makes you to feel full for a longer period. Restricting intake of carbohydrates will only result in tiredness and increased irritability and will not help in long-term weight loss. Include in your diet carbohydrate foods that are higher in fibre. For example, wholegrain, wholemeal, and wholewheat bread and pasta, unpolished rice, rice noodles, oats, beans, peas and lentils. You should also include at least two portions of fresh fruit, with the skin on if edible, and a lot of vegetables (cooked with minimal oil, or better still, blanched or steamed) every day.
- Include high-fibre carbohydrates in all your main meals
- Opt for wholegrain carbohydrates
- Eat plenty of vegetables and at least two portions of fruit
5) Reduce your fat intake and choose the right fat
Start by avoiding fried foods whenever possible and reducing the serving size of your meals. However, certain kinds of fat are still essential for your body. Make healthier choices about your fat intake, such as avoiding highly processed forms of fat. For example, trans fat may be present in some products like biscuits and spread. Use full fat butter instead, but sparingly. According to Parkway Cancer Centre’s senior dietitian Fahma Sunarja: “Read the food labels carefully, especially when you are looking for lower fat products as such products may require more processing and hence may not always be a healthier option.”
- Opt for lean cuts of meat
- Avoid processed meats and deep fried food
- Use oil sparingly when cooking
- Consume salad dressings, sauces, gravies, sambal and spread sparingly
6) Exercise daily
Exercise is good for your whole body. Besides keeping you physically fit, it also refreshes the mind and reduces stress. Walking is a great way to increase your daily activity. It will help burn off calories from the food you consume. Start by walking for 20 to 30 minutes a day, at least three times a week. When fitness levels improve, you can progress to an hour of walking or 30 minutes of more vigorous activity.
- Limit sedentary habits
- Take the stairs instead of the lift
- Pick up a sport that you enjoy
- Consult your doctor before starting any intensive exercise regime
Written by Charmaine Ng
This article is based on a talk, Weight Management – The Balancing Act, given by Parkway Cancer Centre’s senior dietitian Fahma Sunarja.
Tags: cancer & exercise, cancer diet & nutrition, cancer tips, healthy food & cooking, healthy lifestyle, weight management