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How to control your weight  


Being over weight is unhealthy and preventable but loosing weight is difficult. Below is a list the diseases which are more common in over weight individuals

Cancer: The largest trial in humans, from the USA, evaluated 4,310 patients between 1989-94, who had successfully been treated for breast and bowel cancer.  The analysis showed that obese patients with colon cancer (BMI > 35) had worse overall survival than normal weight patients, due to both greater recurrence risk and non-cancer deaths. On a cautionary note however, patients who were very underweight (Body Mass Index < 19) also had a worse outcome.  A study from Los Angeles, published in 2006, analysied 1069 men treated with prostate cancer between 1994 and 2002. Obese men had a significantly higher rate of early disease recurrence. Another study involving women with breast cancer showed that women with a high BMI at diagnossis had a worse survival. Of more clinical relevance was weight gain after breast cancer treatments had finished. Weight gain more than 0.5kg/m2 at 1year correlated both with overall survival and breast cancer specific survival. This effect was strongest in women who gained the most (>2kg/m2)

Other conditions:

  • Heart disease

  • Strokes

  • Diabetes

  • Skin infections

  • Arthritis

  • Erectile dysfunction and other sexual issues.

  • Hernias

  • Incontinence 

Shortened life span; It is worthwhile recounting a much quoted laboratory experiment with mice that demonstrated a simple but powerful take-home message. A healthy colony of mice was split into two groups and kept in a safe, comfortable, stimulating and warm environment. The only difference between them was that one group had as much food as they wanted at all times, and the other group had their food withdrawn for a few days every fortnight. The group that endured a modest degree of regular fasting lived almost twice as long as the others. It is not clear how this relates to humans, but it is fair to say most of us would not tolerate missing a meal let alone going without food for more than a day. Maybe the fasting practices in some religions are based on a fundamental wish to improve the health of their followers, rather than the more commonly held belief that it is a penance to demonstrate their faith. 

Causes of obesity: There are several confounding factors to weight gain and obesity in addition to compulsive overeating and a sedentary lifestyle. 

  • Genetics and family history of obesity

  • Under active thyroid

  • Chemotherapy tends to cause many patients to put on weight  - it causes some mild nausea, which many patients report getting worse on an empty stomach, resulting in regular snacking.  Many oncology units and information materials, however, still encourage patients to eat more as a throw-back to days where vomiting and weight loss was normal. 

  • Steroid medication encourage a strong appetite and tend to cause increased fat deposition. They also cause wakefulness at night and when they are stopped, withdrawal fatigue.

  • Fatigue disruption of a daily routine; regular activity is inevitably affected, putting further pressure on the pounds!

  • Hormone therapies such as tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors and zoladex can also cause weight gain and, unlike chemotherapy, are usually given for many years after initial surgery. 

What can you do to help yourself?

Many people who get upset about being overweight lack motivation which results in more eating and lack of exercise - the cycle has to be broken. This is particularly worse after an illness - whether cancer, flu or an injury. “dammed if I’m going to diet if I have to cope with illness or stress”

Although it is easy to sympathise with this attitude, The trick is not to put on weight in the first place. This, as many people know too well, is easier said than done and if we were all perfect we would not be human. Nevertheless, whatever the reasons, it is never too late to slim down. Fat is the storage of energy. When we have more energy coming in than being used it is stored under our skin and around our organs. The only answer to losing weight is to:

  • Decrease the energy intake in our diet below the level we need to use.

  •  Increase the amount of energy we are using above that provided in our diet.

In either way the body will have to find the extra energy from our reserves. Fat will be broken down and weight will be lost. Fat is a very efficient energy source so in most cases this would have to continue for several months in order to make any difference. Unfortunately, this means that you will have to feel hungry most of the time. There really is no easy short cut! Furthermore, once the weight has been lost, the energy intake then has to match the energy requirement – so even then you cannot relax and start overeating.

Aim for the long term- fad diets do not work. Significant weight loss only really occurs after several months of lifestyle change.


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Summary – tips to help you control your weight:

  • Avoid faddy diets

  • Don’t worry about feeling hungry

  • Don't worry about missing a meal

  • If really overweight, try a day a week without food

  • Distract yourself from thinking about food

  • Avoid processed food (high fat, sugar)

  • Eat less food cooked in fat e.g. deep fried batter, chips, crisps

  • Avoid pastries, pies, sausage rolls

  • Avoid biscuits and cakes (a muffin has more fat than a bacon sandwich!)

  • Trim fat off meat

  • Eat less meat and more fish

  • Eat a large lettuce salad with every meal 

  • Reduce alcohol intake

  • Try not to eat 3 hours before bed 

  • Try not to snack between meals, especially sweet snacks

  • Avoid food between lunch and evening meal

  • Increase exercise levels 

  • Consider nutritional testing as you may have an associated micro-nutrient imbalance



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