Cancer, Chemo + Weight Gain: A Nutritionist’s Perspective

There’s been a lot of debate around cancer treatment (like chemotherapy) and weight loss/weight gain. The main misconception is that chemotherapy makes you lose weight. But there are a lot of other treatment options that prove otherwise, particularly steroids and hormone treatments. For the second instalment in our Cancer, Chemo + Weight Gain series, we asked Marsha Fenwick, a clinical nutritionist and certified cancer coach, for her thoughts on tackling wellness goals post cancer treatment.

Diet and weight gain when it comes to cancer.

According to Fenwick, post-cancer weight gain doesn’t happen overnight. Most often, it’s gradual, persistent, and occurs over the first two years post treatment and beyond. Aside from medication side effects, other factors contributing to weight gain post cancer treatment are: changes in appetite, reduced activity and slower metabolism. In other words, diet is important.  

What should we really be eating?

If you didn’t already know, there are a lot of changes coming to the Canadian Food Guide between 2018 and 2019. The last revisions were made last year and there has been a lot of research done on nutrition and the kinds of foods we should be eating since then. While we don’t yet know all the updates the new food guide will have, we do know that the plans include more practical advice on how to meal plan, prepare, and eat healthier foods. But, in the mean time, what food choices should we be making?

Marsha suggests avoiding processed vegetable oils and refined sugars and carbohydrates, while focusing your nutrition on:

  • Whole foods: Plant based, unrefined, and unprocessed foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean protein: Plant based proteins like edamame, beans, chickpeas, wild rice, quinoa, etc. and small amounts of meats that are free from pesticides and antibiotics.
  • Large amounts of vegetables: Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower.
  • Healthy fats: Think avocados, fatty fish, whole eggs, nuts and chia seeds.
  • Low glycemic fruits: Cherries, grapefruits, pears, apples, oranges and strawberries.

While gaining weight after cancer treatment can be extremely frustrating, there are ways to make your nutrition goals less daunting.


1. Personalized Nutrition Plan

Chemo and Weight Gain Tip 1

2. Be Realistic

Chemo and Weight Gain Tip 2

3. Mix In Other Wellness Habits

Chemo and Weight Gain Tip 3

4. View Food Differently

Chemo and Weight Gain Tip 4

marsha fenwick cancer and weight gain

Marsha Fenwick, C.N.P. R.T.   Marsha is not your typical nutritionist. She began her career 20 years ago as Registered Respiratory Therapist. Later, she earned her certifications as a Registered Nutritional Consultant Practitioner, Certified Nutritional Practitioner, and Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner. Marsha is also a Certified Cancer Coach. Her clinical practice specializes in: sustainable healthy weight loss, digestive health, women’s hormones, diabetes, heart health, and cancer prevention and recovery. For more information, you can also check out her website: Marsha Fenwick Nutrition.

Click here to get a naturopath’s take on cancer, chemo + weight gain.

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