Dieting After Breast Cancer

I have never been a thin woman. I stand at less than five feet tall and carry most of my weight in my upper body. Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt OK about my body – dieting here and there, but not taking my health or nutrition seriously at all. I was, after all, still in my 20s. Breast surgery certainly slowed down my workouts and I began to put on weight. Chemo stopped my exercising entirely and I gained a bit more weight. Once treatment was over, I worked hard to get down to my precancer weight – and I did get there – for about three weeks.

Then I began taking tamoxifen. Tamoxifen and I have a love/hate relationship. I love that I believe it helps me fight cancer recurrence. I hate that it leaves me with night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, and – you guessed it – weight gain. I gained 20 lbs in the first 2 months I was taking tamoxifen. It was amazing how quickly the weight added up. I am currently 35 lbs heavier than I was when I was diagnosed. I have noticed that after chemotherapy, gaining weight is so easy and losing it is so hard. Tamoxifen has intensified this and added the component of water weight/swelling as well.

As we all know, obesity doesn’t help cancer risk at all. My oncologist always asks me at my annual appt, “Are you working out?” Well, I do work out and this satisfies her, but not me. I say “yes, but I am still fat. I can’t lose weight, though I meet with a personal trainer every week and try to eat as health as possible.” She tells me it will be easier after tamoxifen.

I will finish with my five years of daily tamoxifen next summer on my 34th birthday. We will see if it gets any easier. For now, I try to avoid the two ingredients that my oncologist suggested – soy and flax seed. Apparently both increase estrogen in the body. They are in so many foods, but I do my best to limit my intake. I also limit alcohol, mostly because it adds to my hot flashes.

For me, dieting is always easier in warmer weather. It was almost 90 degrees in Boston yesterday. My spring time slim down is officially underway! It’s been about a week, and my pants are starting to fit a bit better. Yay! Next week I will share one of my favorite go-to healthy recipes.

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