Preventing weight loss
Cancer and cancer treatment can cause you to lose weight. You may not be able to eat as much as before or you may feel you have lost your appetite. Sometimes, cancer alone can cause your body to use more energy. This may lead to weight loss. It is important to adapt your diet to ensure that you are getting the highest amount of energy possible from the food that are capable of eating.
Diets with supplements are specifically designed to provide more protein and energy to people who have lost weight. Your doctor can advise you of the foods or supplements that you should introduce into your diet. These may help you gain some weight or may make weight loss slow down or stop.
Weight loss may affect your body image and the way you feel about your appearance. This could affect your self-esteem. If you are worried about how these changes are affecting your relationships, don't hesitate to talk about it. Your friends and family members can support you, or you can talk to your doctor or nurse.
INCREASING ENERGY AND PROTEIN INTAKE
Increasing the amount of energy and protein coming in from your diet can help prevent or reduce weight loss. Your doctor, nurse specialist, or dietitian can advise you on this. At first, they may encourage you to try eating day-to-day food that are high in energy and protein, such as butter, cheese, and cream. They can also recommend or prescribe manufactured dietary supplements that can be added to foods or taken on their own. Dietary supplements include:
- powdered drinks.
- milk-based supplements.
- juice supplements.
- fat-based liquids.
- energy and protein powders.
These will allow you to add energy to everyday foods; they can be added to many dishes.
HELPING SOMEONE MANAGE THEIR DIET
If you are the primary caregiver for a person with cancer, it can be upsetting and difficult to know how to deal with their lack of appetite or weight loss. Here are some suggestions to help caregivers prepare meals and other foods:
Know when the person's appetite is at its best and take advantage of these time to give them meals.
Rather than preparing three meals a day, try to encourage the person you are caring for to eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day. This may be a tough change to make when you are used to a routine consisting of three meals a day.
Gently encourage the person you are caring for to eat regularly, but try not to push too hard. Help create a relaxing atmosphere during meals.
Keep servings small and offer the person a second helping rather than overloading their plate at first.
Keep snacks on hand so the person you are caring for can have them when they feel they are hungry.
Remember that energy supplements can be used in daily meals and drinks. For example, by adding fortified milk to tea or coffee as required.
Make batches of a favorite vegetable soup and freeze part of it for a quick meal at a later date. Don't freeze anything that cream has been added to.
Having an aperitif such as sherry or brandy one hour before a meal is a good way to stimulate a person's appetite. Some people find that having a glass of wine with meals helps with digestion. Talk to the person's doctor or nurse specialist to see if the person can drink alcohol.
Try to talk open with the person you are caring for about their weight loss and the different ways it can be managed. This can help both of you feel more in control of the situation.
Don't be surprised if the person you are caring for finds that their taste changes throughout the treatments.
If your sense of taste or smell has changed, it may help to eat foods served cold or at room temperature.
Use plastic utensils if the person you are caring for has a metallic taste in their mouth.
If the person finds that certain cooking smells make them nauseous, prepare their food in a different room if possible. Serve food in a well-ventilated room.
Be especially careful when preparing food if the person you're caring for may have a risk of infection. The doctors or dietitian at the hospital can give you advice on this.