Weight loss

If you want to lose weight, think about how much weight you want to lose and over how long. It’s often better to lose weight gradually. You can talk to your doctor, nurse or dietitian about a suitable target for weight loss.

Knowing how many calories (energy) you’re taking in will help you to lose weight. There are recommended daily allowances of how many calories you should have for men and women. You need to burn off more energy than you take in to lose weight. Having fewer calories from food and drink and burning off calories through being active will help.

Most packaged foods that you buy in supermarkets have food labels. These can help you choose which foods will help you lose weight. Food manufacturers may use a traffic light system of red, amber and green to show the levels of fat, calories, salt and added sugar in products. You should try to choose more foods with green and amber labels and avoid those with a red label.

Setting a target for weight loss

It is important to be realistic about how much weight you want to lose and over how much time. If you lose weight gradually, you’re more likely to reach and stay at a healthy weight.

Most people put on weight over several months or longer, so the time to reach your target weight should be roughly the same.

To monitor your weight loss, weigh yourself weekly at the same time of day and using the same scales. If you find it difficult to get to your target, or if you reach it very easily, talk to your doctor, nurse or dietitian about setting a new one.

An image of a clinical oncologist talking to a nurse

Cancer and eating playlist

Watch our videos about cancer, eating and managing your diet during treatment. (This playlist includes British Sign Language interpretations.)

Cancer and eating playlist

Watch our videos about cancer, eating and managing your diet during treatment. (This playlist includes British Sign Language interpretations.)


Energy (calories)

Food and drink contain energy. This is measured in units called kilocalories, or more often abbreviated to calories or Kcals.

Daily calorie intake
Daily calorie intake

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We need fewer calories as we get older. If you’re worried about the amount of calories you are eating ask your doctor for advice.

Two thirds of the energy we should take in is used for bodily functions such as controlling our body temperature, digesting food and making new tissues. The rest of the energy should be used up during physical activity. When we take in more energy than we use up, this is stored as fat and we gain weight.

To lose weight, you need to burn off more energy than you take in.

You can do this by:

  • reducing the amount of calories you take in through food and drink
  • increasing the amount of energy you burn off through physical activity.

Many weight loss programmes include calorie-controlled diets. You can eat different food types in healthy amounts to help reduce the amount of energy you take in. This can help you lose weight, especially if you also increase the amount of physical activity you do.

I eat lots of fruit and vegetables and aim to have five a day. I always eat wholemeal bread and eat other food in moderation, rather than give it up.

Robin


Food labels

Most packaged foods have labels giving information to help you make healthier choices at the supermarket. They give information about the levels of fat, salt, added sugar, calories, and sometimes sodium and fibre.

Many food manufacturers and supermarkets use a food traffic light system on their labels. The label tells you the amount of fats, saturated fats, sugars and salt per 100g (3½oz) of the product.

The colours show if the amounts are high, medium or low:

  • Red – content level is high.
  • Amber – content level is medium.
  • Green – content level is low.

You should eat more foods with amber and green labels and fewer with red. You can use the table below to check products that don’t have traffic light labelling, by comparing it with their ingredients list.

Back to Managing weight gain

Tips for losing weight

There are things you can do to help change your eating habits, which will help you lose weight.

Weight gain and cancer

Some cancer treatments, side effects or even lifestyle changes can cause weight gain.