Staying healthy after cancer: Be a healthy body weight

Weight scales

A healthy weight is when your weight is right for your height and you are neither overweight nor underweight.

Being a healthy weight is one of the best choices you can make for your overall health. Being overweight does not just increase your risk of cancer. It also increases your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases and stroke. 

The way to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight is to get the balance right between what you eat and how active you are. If you are unsure about your weight, ask your dietitian for advice. 

There are two ways of finding out if you are a healthy weight: 

  1. Body mass index (BMI) 
  2. Waistline measurement

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI measures if your weight is right for your height. Find out more about your BMI on the BMI calculator designed by

BMI is a guide only. If you are worried about your score, do talk to your doctor or nurse.

Weight scales

Waistline measurement

Measuring your waistline is a way of checking if you are at risk of cancer, especially bowel cancer. Extra weight around your middle can also lead to health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

To measure your waistline: 

  1. Find the top of your hipbone.
  2. At this point, measure around your waist. Make sure the tape measure is snug but not marking your skin.
  3. Take the measurement at the end of a normal breath.

Your risk of cancer is higher if your waistline is more than 94 cm or 37 inches for men and more than 80 cm or 32 inches for women. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you are worried about your waistline.

Measuring your waistline

Taking control of your weight

Being a healthy weight is about getting the balance right between what you eat and how active you are. To lose weight permanently, you will need to change the way you think about food and physical activity for good. Be realistic. For most people who are overweight, losing one or two pounds a week is excellent progress. Some weeks will be more difficult than others - the key is to keep going.

Healthy eating and being active go hand-in-hand if you want to take control of your weight and reduce the risk of your cancer coming back.

If you are underweight

If you are underweight following your cancer treatment, you may need to build yourself up. Your medical team or a dietitian can advise you about this. Our booklet Diet and Cancer  has tips on what to eat if you are trying to gain weight and where to get advice and support. 

For more information

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