What practices and therapies can help you manage your body weight?

Top practices and therapies for managing your body weight

Self-care practices

Evidence supporting the statements here is described on the linked pages.

Eating Well: mixed evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • More weight loss and less weight gain among people with body-mass index (BMI) higher than 25 eating more fruits and vegetables (good evidence)
  • Higher body weight among people with type 2 diabetes eating a late dinner (preliminary evidence)
  • No evidence of an effect on obesity among people eating high-calorie (energy-dense) foods in a combined analysis of reviews and combined analyses
  • No evidence of an effect on total daily energy expenditure, resting metabolic rate, or weight loss among overweight or obese people following a calorie-restricted diet with morning-loaded calories
Foods to increase in your diet

Diets high in vegetables and fruits can help you manage your weight.1Block K, Gyllenhaal C. Chapter 6: Nutritional Interventions in Cancer. In Abrams DI, Weil AT. Integrative Oncology. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2014; Abdull Razis AF, Noor NM. Cruciferous vegetables: dietary phytochemicals for cancer prevention. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2013;14(3):1565-70. Vegetables, typically high in nutrients, fiber and water, are low in calories, making them nutrient-dense and filling—an ideal part of low-calorie diets.

Foods to avoid

Diet soda drinks are linked to weight gain, not loss, especially among women and obese people.2Aubrey A. Diet soda may prompt food cravings, especially in women and people with obesity. NPR Shots. October 7, 2021. Viewed October 9, 2021; Yunker AG, Alves JM et al. Obesity and sex-related associations with differential effects of sucralose vs sucrose on appetite and reward processing: a randomized crossover trial. JAMA Network Open. 2021 Sep 1;4(9):e2126313; Fowler SP, Williams K, Hazuda HP. Diet soda intake is associated with long-term increases in waist circumference in a biethnic cohort of older adults: the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2015 Apr;63(4):708-15.

High doses of flaxseed lignans such as high-lignan flaxseed oil may lead to weight gain.3Stein N. The dangers of high lignan flax seed oil. Livestrong.com. Viewed May 17, 2019.

Moving More: strong and good evidence

Less body fat and more lean body mass among people with cancer participating in exercise without regard to treatment phase (strong evidence)

Increased lean body mass and less body fat or obesity among people treated with neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or hormone therapy, including androgen deprivation therapy, when participating in exercise (good evidence)

More lean muscle mass among people with cancer participating in exercise, especially resistance training (good evidence)

Combining Eating Well and Moving More: preliminary and weak evidence

Better markers of body mass index and cardiorespiratory fitness among people with breast cancer participating in an intervention of nutrition and exercise (weak evidence)

Not specific to cancer:

  • More of a decrease in body weight and both visceral and subcutaneous fat among people with type 2 diabetes eating a vegetarian diet and also participating in exercise (preliminary evidence)

Managing high blood sugar and insulin resistance: preliminary evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • More weight loss among obese people who reduced high blood sugar levels (preliminary evidence)

Complementary therapies

Evidence supporting the statements here is described on the linked pages.

Good or modest evidence of benefit

Good evidencesignificant effects in one large or several mid-sized and well-designed clinical studies (randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with an appropriate placebo or other strong comparison control or observational studies that control for confounds) (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) indicates a relatively high degree of confidence that the therapy is linked to the outcomes as noted. Modest evidencesignificant effects in at least three small but well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs), or one or more well-designed, mid-sized clinical studies of reasonably good quality (RCTs or observational studies), or several small studies aggregated into a meta-analysis (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) means several smaller or at least one large study have found the effect described.

Mediterranean diet: good evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • Lower body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and/or body weight among people eating a Mediterranean diet (good evidence)
Tai chi or qigong: good evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • Less body fat among people with or at risk of metabolic syndrome with tai chi (good evidence)
Yoga: good evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • Better body weight and waist circumference among people practicing yoga (good evidence)

Therapies with preliminary or weak evidence of benefit for body weight

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) typically indicates that not much research has been published so far, although the outcomes may be meaningful. Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) may mean that the effects are small or that only very preliminary research has been published.

Ketogenic diet Learn moreSee Less

Therapies with no evidence of benefit

Vitamin D ›

Not specific to cancer:

  • No evidence of an effect on body weight among postmenopausal women treated with vitamin D in a small study


Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant


Miki Scheidel

Co-Founder and Creative Director
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Miki Scheidel is Co-founder and creative director of CancerChoices. She led the effort to transform Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, the prior version of CancerChoices, to its current form. Miki and her family were deeply affected by her father’s transformative experience with integrative approaches to metastatic kidney cancer. That experience inspires her work as president of the Scheidel Foundation and as volunteer staff at CancerChoices. She previously worked with the US Agency for International Development and Family Health International among other roles. She received her graduate degree in international development from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from George Mason University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College.

Miki Scheidel Co-Founder and Creative Director

Last update: January 27, 2023

Last full literature review: August 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocialtherapy, and acupuncture therapies and self carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.