Tips for Designing Your Post-Cancer Diet & Lifestyle

When you receive the “all clear” from your doctor, it is an emotional moment. That moment marks the end of your battle with cancer; however, it can also leave you with many unanswered questions. The first questions that are often asked at Apollo Hospitals are: “What can I do to gain back my health?” and “How can I reduce the risk of cancer returning?”, so it is not surprising if these are the same questions on your mind.

The answer to these issues is to design an efficient post-cancer diet and lifestyle that will support your body’s needs. Studies have shown that making healthy choices while in cancer remission promotes physical and mental well-being and boosts self-esteem. It can also help to prevent the re-occurrence of cancer.

To help you plan your post-cancer diet and lifestyle, we recommend that you follow these tips.

Get the Best from Your Diet
During your cancer treatment, you may have lost your appetite or experienced other symptoms that made it difficult to eat properly. Now that you are better, it is a great time to focus on ensuring that you consume the right foods to support your body as it continues to heal and recuperate.

1. Plant-based foods should be the main portion of your diet. Fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts) should be consumed in abundance. These foods will supply your body with a complex array of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.

2. Eat less red meats and processed meats (bacon, sausages, and lunch meats) in favour of lean meats. Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish, will help you feel full while providing your body with the protein it needs to build and repair cells. When you do consume red meats, such as beef or lamb, make a conscious effort to reduce the fat content by using a cooking method such as grilling or steaming instead of frying. It is also important to cut away, and discard, any visible fat from the meat before cooking.

3. Choose whole grains when possible. Opting for wholegrain bread, pasta, and rice your body receives a higher fibre content, which in turn aids the digestive process.

4. Healthy fats, such as those found in olive and avocado oil, olives, avocados, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, cashews, and sesame seeds, provide a source of energy and are important in for your body’s processes.

5. Replace the sugar in your drinks and foods with natural sweeteners. Some options that you might like to try are honey, stevia, agave syrup and coconut sugar.

6. Drink lots of water. Staying well hydrated helps your body to function at its best, so it is important to drink enough water. For men, the daily recommendation is 13 cups, or 3 litres, of water daily. For women, the daily recommendation is 9 cups, or 2.2 litres, of water daily.

Devise a Fitness Routine
Being physically active is an essential for helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, as well as building up strength and flexibility after cancer treatment.

1. It is important to respect your body’s limits – never push yourself too hard. It is important to realise that your fitness levels will not improve instantly and that it will take time to gain strength and endurance.

2. Take steps to avoid injury by warming up your body first (running on the spot, jumping jacks, or high knees) and then with a series of stretches before you start exercising.

3. Walking is one of the easiest activities that you can include in a post-cancer lifestyle – it is free, you can do it alone or with a companion, and it gets you out of the house. When walking on your own, it helps to have upbeat and lively music to keep you motivated. Pick your favourite music and get walking.

4. Find different ways to get active throughout the day – for example, take the stairs instead of the lift, put on your favourite song and dance in your living room, or run a local errand on foot instead of taking your car when possible.

Trying something completely new also keeps things fresh and exciting, and will help you to stay motivated with your new lifestyle. Research the gyms and classes available in your area, and sign up for something that interests you – not only will the gyms and classes help keep you fit, but you’ll also benefit from the social aspect.

Emotional Care & Support
While diet and exercise are two of the essentials of your post-cancer lifestyle, you should make sure not neglect your emotional recovery. The oncology team at Apollo Hospitals India have found that it is common for people in cancer remission to have a high level of stress, fear, and anxieties. Creating a good support network and finding ways to deal with your worries will all help you move past these emotions that can weigh heavily on your mind. The following suggestions can contribute to easing your stress, fear, and anxiety once in remission.

1. Talk to your doctors and health specialists about any concerns; ask about going to counselling to help you express your experiences with cancer and to understand your feelings about going through cancer treatment.

2. Look for support groups in your area. At these support groups, you can meet with others who have similar experiences. Sometimes, only knowing that you are not alone is what you need.

3. Remember that it is okay to feel anxious as you adjust to everyday life after being told you are in remission. Therefore, it is important not to be too hard on yourself in the instances that you feel depressed or frustrated. Using techniques to reduce stress, such as meditation or deep-breathing, may be effective in reducing both emotional and physical tension.

These diet, exercise, and emotional care tips are important for your remission cancer lifestyle. Using our suggestions as a guide to making healthy choices and improving your general wellness will benefit you greatly as time goes on.

Cancer treatments are physically and emotionally draining; however, cancer remission can almost be more overwhelming as you try to submerge yourself into your old life. Nevertheless, staying positive, seeking help and support, eating healthily, and engaging in a regular exercise routine will make your remission, and the rest of your life, progress much smoother.

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