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Active Together: a day in the life of a dietitian

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important for everyone, but for people who have been diagnosed with cancer, getting the right nutrition can help with preparing for treatment, energy levels during treatment, and can even help people recover.

Sade Allott is a specialist dietitian working as part of Active Together, a pioneering programme delivered by Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) and funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research.

The programme uses exercise, nutrition, and psychological support to help people prepare for and recover from cancer treatment.

We spoke to Sade about her role at Active Together, what a typical day looks like as a dietitian and how the programme is benefiting people in Yorkshire.

A Day in the Life - Dietitian, Sade

“Services like Active Together are so important because they can give patients a sense of control over their cancer. Taking control of their diet and exercise is something that they are able to do to better prepare themselves for treatment and surgery.”

The Active Together programme offers people diagnosed with cancer tailored guidance on exercise, nutrition, and psychological and emotional support before, during and after treatment. The programme supports people having cancer treatment across Sheffield.

Sade offers these people support with their diet, to ensure that they are getting the nutrition they need throughout their treatment.

She explained: “When a person comes for their first appointment, we’ll talk through their current eating habits to start to identify some goals to improve their nutritional intake.

Services like Active Together are so important because they can give patients a sense of control over their cancer. Taking control of their nutritional intake is something that they are able to do to better prepare themselves for treatment and surgery.”

Active Together dietitian

“I try to get a good understanding of whether someone’s eating patterns have changed since they were diagnosed, if there are any barriers they might be facing to eating, any texture modifications that need to be made, so then we can tailor the advice to their needs.”

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can affect the way food tastes to a person, their ability to chew and swallow, and can cause fatigue and nausea which may reduce a person’s appetite and nutritional intake.

Sade explains that as each person has individual medical and personal needs, their relationship with food should also be treated individually.

“I recently worked with someone who was struggling to eat, and I worked with his medical team to adjust his medication, and this made a huge change for them, they were a different person afterwards. Sometimes it isn’t just about the food, and it is about looking at the wider picture.”

Sade, Active Together dietitian

Sade continued: “Making sure that a person’s nutritional needs are met is an important part of preparing someone for, and helping them recover from, cancer treatment.

“We may look at increasing the amount of protein they’re eating, how we can adapt their meals and fortifying their current intake by using things such as butter, cream, cheese, skimmed milk powder and syrups. I will also think about introducing nutritional supplements if a person is struggling to get all the nutrients they need from their diet.

“It’s also important to consider whether a person is able to shop and cook for themselves, so we can see the wider picture.”

Once an initial plan is in place, Sade will follow up with patients, either over the telephone or face-to-face, to check on their progress and to see whether they need any additional support.

Nutritional support is designed to work together with the exercise and psychological support also provided through Active Together. For Sade, the combination of all three areas is what makes the programme so special.

She said: “Each day varies for me as I try and fit my sessions around the fitness appointments. I might see all my patients face-to-face, or I may see some people in person and check-in with others over the phone.

“I really enjoy the multidisciplinary aspect of the service; we all work together as a team to put the patient first, that’s what we do best.”

Sade continued: “What I really love about being part of the Active Together team is when we receive feedback from patients saying how much they’ve valued the support from the programme. I had one person refer to me as their ‘guardian angel’, knowing that I have had a positive impact on a person’s experience is total job satisfaction.”