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  • Meet the Therapist: Helen Ruckledge

    March 25, 2024

    In our first ‘Meet the Therapist’ blog we’re chatting to Helen Ruckledge, Cavendish’s nutrition expert, about how good nutrition can help Cavendish clients and her top tips for eating well.

     Hi Helen. Can you tell us how you got to be a nutritionist at Cavendish Cancer Care and what qualifications you need for the job?

    Oh this feels like a job interview! I have a degree in Psychology and Philosophy, and I followed that up with a Masters degree in Human Nutrition, from the University of Sheffield. I’m a member of the Register of Nutritionists, which shows that the practitioner has the required scientific background and competency. Membership of this register is entirely voluntary – shockingly there is no required registration for nutritionists working in the UK in the same way that there is for other medical professionals, which is why there is a lot of dodgy advice around!

    Having experienced cancer and ill health myself, I’m passionate about supporting people with cancer and so when the job at Cavendish became available in 2019, I jumped at it. Its such a lovely place to work.  I also run my own private nutrition consultancy called Fad Free Nutrition.

    How does a nutrition session work at Cavendish?

    Clients get referred to me as a course of 1-2-1 sessions or I’ll do group sessions. Along with my colleague Delphine, who is a medical herbalist, we run a regular course of 6 sessions delivered online via Zoom which covers a range of nutrition topics. It’s become really popular and is packed with practical tips. The next course starts on April 16th.

    In the sessions I offer practical tips, easy meal planning ideas using everyday ingredients and I clarify a lot of misinformation. We also talk about the psychology of eating – so much of the way we eat is rooted in our minds, for example things related to upbringing and culture.

     What sort of problems do you encounter related to nutrition amongst the clients you see?

    A lot of cancer patients are worried that they are doing something wrong with their diets and there’s also a fear of re-occurrence if they eat the “wrong” things. Some clients have practical issues related to their particular cancer or the treatments they have experienced, which have left them with issues related to digestion for example. There are also weight management issues – it’s easy to become under or overweight due to certain cancer treatments and medications.

    A lot of people with cancer think they must spend a fortune on fancy supplements or organic health foods, so I often have to dispel a few myths on that. People are always surprised when I tell them that baked beans on wholemeal toast, perhaps with a bit of cheese on top, is an excellent and nutritional dinner!

    What is the most rewarding thing about the work you do?

    The best part is being able to help people rediscover the joy of food and help them see that a healthy diet doesn’t need to be boring or restrictive. When people say ‘You’ve completely changed my relationship with food” that’s when I know I’ve done a good job.

    What are your top tips for a healthy diet?

    My favourite mantra is to focus on what to add in to your diet, not take away. What small dietary habits can you build that will make a difference? I always advise people not worry about having a bit of cake or chocolate, life is too short! It’s what you do most of the time that matters.

     Thanks Helen! If you’re affected by cancer and would like some nutrition advice, you can sign up to our free online nutrition sessions. There are a range of topics to pick from or you can book them all. See www.cavcare.org.uk/nutrition for more information or email us info@cavcare.org.uk