• Zakim Center's Healthy Living Weight Loss Program


    Many patients gain weight as a result of their cancer therapy. In addition to the distress this can cause, some studies have suggested that excess weight can lead to increased side effects from treatment, such as fatigue.

    Studies also suggest that patients who lose weight through diet and exercise may have more energy, feel better, and be at lower risk of developing other medical problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

    Jennifer Ligibel, MD, director of Dana-Farber's Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies, recently conducted this program as a research study to look at the effectiveness of a group-based weight loss program to help cancer survivors lose weight and feel better after completing cancer treatment. The study results were presented at the 2016 Cancer Survivorship Symposium of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

    Goals of the Program

    The Healthy Living Weight Loss Program aims to provide support and resources to help cancer patients lose weight and feel better. A health coach and a clinical exercise specialist with expertise in working with cancer patients will lead the classes. The program will focus on increasing muscle mass and fitness levels, while decreasing body fat and fatigue, and giving patients healthier diet and exercise patterns and a better quality of life.

    Who Can Participate

    All Dana-Farber patients who meet the following requirements are welcome to register for participation:

    • Body mass index (BMI) greater than 27kg/m2
    • Able to physically walk two city blocks without any assistance/difficulty, and no unstable cardiac disease, musculoskeletal disease, or joint problems that preclude moderate physical activity
    • No planned surgery prior to joining the program
    • No serious digestive and/or absorptive problems, including inflammatory bowel disease and chronic diarrhea that preclude adherence to diet

    If you are unsure of whether the program is a good fit, please speak with your care team before registering.

    How to Participate

    The program will involve weekly meetings for 15 weeks. Each session will last for 60 minutes and will consist of discussion of a diet and/or exercise topic. Registration is limited to 16 participants and is on a first come, first served basis. Two sessions will be held each Tuesday, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. and from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Each session will accommodate eight participants, and the next enrolling session will start March 8.

    You will receive the following as part of the program:

    • Food trackers to help you keep track of your dietary progress
    • An exercise plan tailored to your needs that includes an exercise journal
    • Fitbit Flex to track exercise goals, which you may keep after the program ends, given your commitment to the program; your level of commitment is assessed by your participation efforts and by the number of sessions you attend
    • Nutrition resources and tips, including recipes, to help you control your weight
    • Fun interactive tools to help you stick to your exercise and nutrition goals


    If you have questions or would like to register for the program, please contact the Zakim Center at 617-632-3322 or email zakim_center@dfci.harvard.edu.

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