The Weight-ing Game


The following article features in Issue One of the ST BREAST magazine.

68 year- old Judy* was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2018. After a lumpectomy and adjuvant radiotherapy, she began treatment with tamoxifen. Six months later, she was disappointed to discover she’d gained 12 kilograms, despite eating what she considered a ‘healthy’ diet and watching her weight. Senior Oncology Dietitian Lauren Atkins tells Judy’s story.

“Judy presented with solid nutritional knowledge. She was eating a diet shake for breakfast, a small salad for lunch and chicken or fish plus veggies for dinner.

She avoided bread, potatoes and pasta and would snack on low-fat yoghurt and 1-2 pieces of fruit. She rarely drank alcohol. Her intake was well below her caloric  needs, so understandably she felt she should be losing weight. But when we scientifically analysed Judy’s weight, food intake, exercise and blood results, it was  revealed she was in fact, undereating.

Step one

For Judy, this was about improving her baseline diet. Because she was undereating, her body had become accustomed to this state of caloric insufficiency.

Our focus initially was on:

Whole foods, plenty of fresh vegetables, legumes, fruits, wholegrains, nuts and seeds (Mediterranean style diet)

Meeting Judy’s protein needs with a variety of poultry, fish. lean meat, tofu, eggs and legumes

Choosing low GI carbohydrates wisely and including good quality fats

Steering away from ‘low fat’ options when these weren’t required.

Step two

This was about achieving a metabolic shift. We changed Judy’s eating patterns and aligned her diet with her exercise routine. She was surprised that her weight didn’t  increase, even though she was eating more. She was actually enjoying the enhanced variety of foods and noticed improvements in her energy levels and mood.

We then worked with her sleepwake cycles, social and exercise routines to change the windows in which she ate. This gave her body more of a chance to access her fat stores for fuel while maintaining her muscle mass.

I collaborated with Judy’s Exercise Physiologist to ensure we were fuelling her optimally to get the most out of her workout, recover well and feel great in the gym. Judy  increased the number of resistance/strength training sessions she was doing, and added some intervals and high intensity work under the exercise physiologist’s  guidance. She continued to enjoy her walks twice a week with friends.

After only three weeks of ‘step two’ Judy had lost four kilograms. This was after many months of gradual weight gain followed by stagnant weight. Judy was thrilled and

We continued with this routine, tweaking the plan along the way to ensure her nutritional intake was adequate, fit her lifestyle and aligned with her exercise program.  After four months, Judy had lost 10 kilograms, and to date, ten months post-treatment, she has lost a total of 17 kilograms. Judy continues to get stronger in the gym and is improving her ‘six minute walk test’ so she is preserving her lean body mass and feeling more energised and comfortable in her skin.

With an individualised,  tailored and supportive approach to Judy’s nutrition, we were able to achieve her health goals and get her feeling amazing. Judy has had to buy  a whole new wardrobe (although she isn’t complaining!) and is looking forward to a trip to Europe in the coming months.”


Judy was a client of Oncore Nutrition


Breast cancer treatment can be physically gruelling. The foods we eat can be a powerful tool when striving to improve or regain health both during and after therapy. Many women don’t know what or how much they should be eating, but building a nourishing meal really is simple. Click on the banner on the left to check out the specialised eating guide prepared by Oncore Nutrition.