How about we ALL celebrate National Cancer Survivor Month?! For those who have gone through cancer diagnosis and treatment, or experienced a loved one’s journey, you know that this is among the most sacred and hard-won of victories!! At VCS, we want to celebrate with you! And, while we are at it we want to cheer you on and provide you with the information and resources to be (and stay) healthy.
When it comes to cancer survivorship, nutrition is paramount. Cancer survivors have an increased risk of progressive disease, development of secondary primaries, as well as other conditions that have a nutrition component (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, sarcopenia—loss of muscle with age). As such, we want to set you up for long-term success with the following stips!
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Did you know that obesity is a risk factor for the development of 13 cancers? AND, that a loss of just 3% body weight is associated with a health benefit? Whether you need to seek long-term support in managing your weight or just need to do some tweaking to your diet and lifestyle (more fruits and vegetables, smaller portions, increased physical activity anyone?!)—weight is a great place to start. If you need a list of local DC-area private practice dietitians, contact VCSDietitians@usoncology.com.
- You do not need to perfect your macros. You may or may not have heard that “macros” or macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) are all the rage in diet circles right now with plenty of debate on what the right proportions are. The good news for cancer survivors? There is no exact “right” macronutrient prescription to manage your weight and be most healthy. The best course of action? Make healthy and diverse choices from each food group—fruits, vegetables, grains (especially whole), protein foods (lean animal proteins and plant proteins), and low-fat dairy.
- You can indulge, but understand that there are certain foods that should be limited for good health. These are not going to come to a big surprise to anyone. The foods we are talking about limiting as much as possible are fast foods, sugar-sweetened vegetables, processed meats, and alcohol. In fact, processed meats and alcohol consumption is highly correlated with various cancers. Also on the list to reduce? Red meat and prepared foods that are high in saturated fat and starch.
- It’s not all about diet. Physical activity is associated with good health and cancer survivorship all by itself, independent of weight management. Work in physical activity each day in various ways and build your stamina over time.
- Self-monitoring is key. Many who are successful in managing their weight and eating a healthy diet build in checks and balances to help them stay on track. These may include weighing daily (best to weigh at the same time and under the same circumstances each day), keeping a food and/or workout journal, and/or tracking with “wearable” devices or online digital tools.
The bottom line: You CAN do this and it’s worth it to your long-term health and quality of life to look hard at your diet and lifestyle and assess what you can adjust to maximize healthy behaviors! For more information, check this blog often and connect (like us and follow) with VCS on Facebook or Twitter! For more personalized recommendations, see your VCS dietitians!
Virginia Cancer Specialists Nutrition Team