What if women who have been through a cancer diagnosis could get a few hours away from the demands of everyday life to focus on what they need to be at their best?
It’s easy for anyone these days to feel overwhelmed by all the nutrition information that surrounds us, and that’s especially true for people who have or had cancer. The desire to address that problem sparked Dr. Costanza Cocilovo, MD, to take action. She is the Medical Director of the Breast Care Center at Inova Schar Cancer Institute in Fairfax, Virginia.
The result: “Eat to Thrive: Making Nutrition Your Ally.” This free workshop for women who have, had or are at high risk for cancer was held in Falls Church, Virginia, in September 2021. And although AICR was not affiliated with the program in any official capacity, AICR Cancer Prevention Recommendations and resources provided the workshop’s foundation from start to finish.
Workshop and AICR’s resources
- The workshop included a series of sessions that clarified the state of the science on topics trending in headlines, often with conflicting messages.
- An equal amount of time focused on taking the “overwhelm” out of healthy eating. “Knowing isn’t the same as doing,” notes AICR Nutrition Advisor and registered dietitian Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND. “One session shared tips on judging the quality of evidence behind claims. The strong process behind the development of AICR Cancer Prevention Recommendations was contrasted to what’s behind many of the books and individual studies that grab headlines.”
- Developing body trust is key to recognizing and responding to hunger cues. Another session focused on mindful eating, including how to recognize troublesome self-talk and reshape its influence on eating habits.
- The day concluded with a session sharing lessons from research about how the way that we set goals influences our chances of successfully developing new habits.
“We wanted to bring this whole concept of nutrition to life,” notes Dr. Cocilovo. Lauren Fay, RD, CSO, LD, CNSC, Oncology Dietitian Clinical Specialist at the Schar Cancer Institute, jumped in to make that happen.
“By providing examples of meals consistent with an eating pattern that can help reduce risk for cancer, workshop participants were able to see and taste how nutrition science translates into meals.”
Breakfast options included AICR’s Southwest vegetable frittata recipe adapted into a wrap, and another AICR recipe was the foundation for a dish of overnight oats. Lunch included AICR’s walnut cauliflower glow bowl and Mediterranean bean salad.
AICR’s New American Plate is a model that workshop participants were encouraged to use to guide meal preparation and choices. Fay notes, “You can always visually assess if the majority of your plate is made up of minimally processed plant foods.”
The workshop was sponsored by donations to the Inova Schar Cancer Institute and the Inova Life with Cancer Program.
Collins, involved in planning and presenting at the workshop, notes, “The main goal of this workshop was to help women feel less overwhelmed by the mountain of nutrition information they encounter, and to develop a clearer sense of one or two realistic steps that make the most sense for them personally. We were thrilled when post-event surveys showed that for the vast majority of women attending, the workshop did exactly that.”