VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Weight Neutrality in Oncology Task Force

Are you looking to help your cancer patients nourish themselves without undo focus on weight gain or loss? Are you frustrated with how many of your patients enter or leave cancer care with disordered eating and poor body image? Are you passionate about eliminating weight bias in health care?

The topic of weight in cancer nutrition counseling is complicated and emotionally charged. If you have worked as a dietitian in cancer care, you have probably felt the heart ache of watching a large-bodied patient refuse to eat during treatment because they are pleased with their rapid weight loss, or experienced the pain of hearing a patient angrily say, "I know my cancer is my fault because I am fat."

The existing cancer care paradigm focuses on a tight control of body weight, be it gain or loss, with frequent reminders to aim for an "ideal" body weight. For many patients, the number on the scale each week indicates success or failure with self-care. This focus on numbers as motivation can have wide-ranging consequences during and after treatment, but an alternative, evidence-based methodology is not readily available.

Outside of cancer care, the Health at Every Size (HAES) paradigm has proven very effective for encouraging positive body image and increasing motivation for self-care. HAES methods, such as intuitive eating and body acceptance, are also associated with metabolic and other health improvements.

Could Health at Every Size inspired interventions work in cancer care, both for survivors and patients in active treatment? Is there even a way to follow intuitive eating in the setting of the metabolic abnormalities that occur with treatment? Is there a way to monitor for malnutrition without regular weights? Could we use weight neutral methods to decrease the stress our patients feel around food, improve their mood, and perhaps even improve their long-term outcomes?

If you are interested in these questions and willing to give a little time to discuss solutions, please consider joining the newly forming Weight Neutrality in Oncology Task Force! We need you! Even if you don't know much about the topic, but just want to help with research and find out more, please contact: anitabermann@chifranciscan.org