Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of cancer prevention.
But losing weight is easier said than done. We talked to two of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center patients who have been making changes to lose weight. Here’s what tips they said worked for them.
The problem: Struggling to find time to exercise and eat healthy
Yvonne Jacobo was tired of not fitting into any of her clothes, so she decided to do something about it. After talking with her doctor she made an appointment to see a dietitian and a health educator at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. These consultations are available to MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center patients.
As a night nurse, Yvonne struggled to find time to eat healthy and exercise. A health educator reviewed her schedule and helped her incorporate some healthy habits.
Tip: Embrace mindful eating
Yvonne often overate, so her first step was to establish a routine that cut down on snacking and worked with her busy schedule. Now Yvonne eats something healthy every five hours.
She also began eating more slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your brain and stomach to communicate that you’re full, so Yvonne began by setting a timer for 20 minutes each time she ate, and stretching her meals out to the full time.
In addition, Yvonne used smaller plates. This helped her keep her portion sizes under control. Studies show that using larger plates encourages overeating.
At the end of each meal, she drank a cup of coffee to signal to her body that she was done eating.
Tip: Make nutrition and exercise a priority
Yvonne also made exercise a part of her routine and started strength training.
“I’ve made exercise a priority,” she says. “Even when I can’t make it to the gym, I hop on the elliptical at home.”
Since starting these efforts to lose weight in March 2016, Yvonne has lost more than 50 pounds. She says she’s proud of the changes she’s made, but she couldn’t have done it without the support of her husband and son. The two have helped her prepare healthy meals and snacks.
“They’re tremendously involved,” she says.
“If you make a mistake, just keep going. That advice, more than anything, has really helped me.
The problem: Living a sedentary lifestyle
Kerrye Middleton always had trouble losing weight.
“I’m a stress eater,” she says.
She also confessed that she led a sedentary lifestyle. An appointment at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center helped her get on the right track. Now, Kerrye is eating healthy, staying active and feeling better.
“I’m losing weight slowly,” she says. “But it’s staying off.”
She offers these three tips for others trying to lose weight.
Tip: Start small
Instead of going on a diet, Kerrye made small, sustainable changes. Before, she didn’t eat many vegetables. But she knew they offered the nutrients she needed to feel healthy and full, so she started eating salads for lunch a few times a week. She swapped her favorite dressing – honey mustard – for a lower calorie raspberry vinaigrette.
To help control her sodium intake, she also started using salt packets. This way, she knew exactly how much salt she was taking in.
Tip: Set goals and keep going
Not only did Kerrye not exercise in the beginning, she wasn’t being active.
Whittney Thoman, an exercise physiologist, helped her get moving. She knew that to see a difference in her weight and health, Kerrye didn’t need to spend hours at the gym. She just needed to get moving and add more activity to her day.
Kerrye had just moved into a new house and hadn’t finished unpacking. Thoman suggested that she unpack one box each day.
“That got me up and moving,” Kerrye says.
Now she goes to the gym to exercise for an hour five times a week.
Kerrye urges others trying to lose weight to be honest with themselves and to set realistic goals.
“If you make a mistake, just keep going,” she says. “That advice, more than anything, has really helped me.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.