Weight gain is often seen in patients going through breast cancer. It is the result of a combination of factors, including disease, chemo treatment, steroids, hormonal effects or changes. The subtle decrease in activity, comfort food binges to off set the stress can increase weight. This weight gain hangs around and even increases because your body has been put into menopause.
This is what my Oncologist and General Practitioner both told me (shoutout to Dr Gregory of Texas Oncology and Dr Grace English with Trinity Mother Francis Group), you gain weight because the enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL). Which happens to be controlled by insulin. LPL sits the the cell’s surface, pulls fat out of the bloodstream and into the cell. If the LPL is on a cell in your muscles, it pulls fat in where it is used as fuel. If the LPL is on a fat cell, it pulls the fat in, stores it, and you get fatter.
Estrogen suppresses LPL activity in fat cells. So, for us women taking hormone suppressants or hormone inhibitors, we are screwed. Our estrogen levels either drop or are blocked and our weight continues to go up. LPL has free rein to store more fat in our fat cells.
The shock of diagnosis, disruption of our everyday life, surgery after surgery, the strain on personal and work relationships, financial stress, and less physical activity all contribute to weight gain.
I skipped chemo, so I got out of that factor. But Tamoxifen (devil drug as I call it) caused me to gain 30 pounds in 30 days. It made me so fatigued, made my bones hurt within a months time, along with a very long list of other side effects. I also had to start taking levithyrixine due to the instant slowing of my thyroid. Along with Gabapentin for the Neuropathy caused by the devil drug made me retain water in my feet and legs.
Losing weight takes what seems like forever to get the weight off. But it can be done without starving yourself to death. It just takes work and planning.
Losing weight means you feel stronger, gives you more energy, and will boost your self esteem. Plus it lowers your risk of recurrence.
Many believe all you need to do is eat fewer calories and you will loose the weight. Or living the Keto way – no carbs, lots of protein and fat. And other swear if you eat a fat free diet, you will lose weight. No one plan will work for everyone. It is a hit and miss game until you find what works with your personal chemistry set.
Counting calories is a tricky deal. 1400 calories of fresh fruits, vegetables and a chicken breast is a lot different than 1400 calories of bread, chips and some cake. You are not going to lose weight with the later 1400 calories.
Exercise is a must in your daily routine at least four days a week. When you get your muscles moving and your heart pumping, your body begins to sweat and you burn fat. Before you go out there and purchase a P90X workout video, consult your doctor and find out what he will allow you to start with.
Now, here’s the next tricky thing in losing weight. One pound of muscle is four times smaller than one pound of fat. But muscle is more dense than fat, so per square inch, it weighs more. If you don’t see a lot of weight loss, but your clothes are big on you, you are losing fat. I have had weeks where I just knew I should have lost more than the scale shows. It’s because my muscle mass has increased and my fat mass has decreased. Never rely on your scale!
Depending on your fitness level your total body weight consist of roughly:
1. Muscle- 30-55% of your body weight
2. Fat- 10-30% of your body weight
3. Water- 10-25% of your body weight not including the water in muscle or fat.
4. Bone- 15% of your body weight
5. Organs and other tissue- 19-15% of your body weight.
You can drop a few pounds by losing water weight. But besides losing a few pounds, it could cause significant dehydration which is unhealthy and the weight loss won’t last long. If you want to decrease the amount of salt in your diet and increase your water intake, your body is more likely to release the excess water it is retaining.
If you want to lose weight that will stay off, focus on a fat-burning program that includes improving your eating habits. If you want to set up your body to have a higher resting metabolism and burn passively on a regular basis, condition your body with strength training on week one. Interval (work hard, work easy, work hard…)training on week two. Week three you push yourself until you think you can’t do anymore. And week four you mix it up.
Here is where I need to give a shout-out and thank you to my CG (Camp Gladiator) Family and trainers for putting up with me since March. Without them I would not have gotten this far in my quest to get back the old me. James Gerety, you have pushed me when I needed to be pushed, and questioned me when I needed to back off a bit so I don’t hurt myself. And everyone I workout with…I love you all! You motivate me to keep moving and do better. CG truly is a family.
Tracking body weight as a useful measure only if you want to know exactly how your weight is being affected by exercise and changing your eating habits. A better way of tracking is progress pictures each month. And by measuring your bust, waist, hips, upper arms, thighs and calves on a monthly basis.
If you aren’t able to monitor your body fat percentage, or take body measurements, it may be helpful to pay attention to measurable aspects of your workouts (we do this monthly in CG). Record the amount of time it takes to run a certain distance or do a certain amount of repetitions of a series of exercises. Each time you do this workout, attempt to beat your previous best. If you can do this, you have concrete evidence of fitness progress regardless of what that scale says.
Eating healthy is simple…just follow a few rules:
A. Follow a schedule and don’t skip any meals or snacks.
B. Eat a high protein breakfast
C. Avoid sugary drinks and fruit juice. Carbonated drinks are a no-no!
D. Drink 4oz of water every 30 minutes. By doing this you will drink about a gallon of water a day. Keeping your body hydrated is essential.
E. Try to not eat processed foods.
F. Eat less starches (carbs). When you do this, your hunger level goes down and you eat fewer calories. Plus, your body starts burning stored fats instead of the carbs you just ate.
G. Eat plenty of protein. The importance of eating plenty of protein cannot be overstated.
Meat- beef, poultry, pork, lamb
Fish & Seafood- salmon, trout, crab , shrimp
Eggs- whole eggs with yolk are best
H. Healthy Fat Sources- olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, real butter
Eat in at least 2 of your 3 larger meals.
I. Low carb vegetables- my favorite, cause the list is long.
Broccoli, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Spinach, Tomatoes, Cabbage, Cucumbers, Bell Pepper, Zucchini, Green Beans and Celery
J. Do a “carb reboot” once a week. But remember to stick to healthy carb sources: Oats, Brown Whole Grain Rice, Quinoa, sweet Potatoes
K. Chew your food slowly. The more you chew, the less amount of food you stomach wants to fill it.
Now, I am telling you that retaining myself to eat healthier was hard. Mostly because I really didn’t eat that bad to start with. And I tried to do it on my own. My Doctor finally suggested that I go see Lisa at Metabolic Research. So, I did. The very high protein shake is delicious. I have one every morning for breakfast. I have three protein supplements a day. And I meal prep weekly for my main meals and eat my fruit or extra vegetables for my snacks. Yes, meal prep in a lot of work with measuring out everything to make sure I don’t over eat. But my health is worth the time and effort.
Now for the drumroll moment. I am down 32 pounds, 38 inches and three pants sizes. And I feel great. I am half way to my goal. A pound or two a week is good with me.
Remember before you start any exercise or diet program consult with your doctor. Because what works for me may not work for you.