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Altered eating: a definition and framework for assessment and intervention

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Duika Burges WatsonORCiD, Dr Joanne Patterson, Professor Madeleine Murtagh



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Background Eating can be a significant challenge for cancer survivors; however, to date there is no systematic way of assessing and addressing food related quality of life in this group. The purpose of our study was to develop a framework for doing so. Methods Over the course of six years in participant-led food workshops, we worked alongside 25 head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors and their partners, employing video-reflexive ethnographic (VRE) methods. The current study reports on data from the two summative workshops of this series where we worked with participants to cohere the emergent themes. Video and transcripts were reviewed and coded with participants and stakeholders according to domains of life that were affected by food. Three of the authors, one of whom is both survivor and researcher, arrived at the consensus framework. Results Seven areas of life were identified as affecting, or being affected by, altered eating. Three were physiological: anatomical, functional and sensory. Two captured the cognitive and behavioural labour of eating. Social life and identity were altered. The foregoing had an enduring emotional impact. Conclusions Altered eating has physical, emotional and social consequences. The altered eating framework provides a systematic way of exploring those consequences with individual survivors. This framework has the potential to improve both the assessment and treatment of altered eating, to benefit food-related quality of life.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Burges Watson DL, Lewis S, Bryant V, Patterson J, Kelly C, Edwards-Stuart R, Murtagh MJ, Deary V

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Nutrition

Year: 2018

Volume: 4

Pages: 1-10

Online publication date: 27/03/2018

Acceptance date: 16/03/2018

Date deposited: 29/03/2018

ISSN (electronic): 2055-0928

Publisher: BioMed Central


DOI: 10.1186/s40795-018-0221-3


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