Reading Challenge 2017


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A friend just pointed me towards this reading challenge for 2017 and I LOVE it.

Absolutely no idea where I'm going to find the time to do it, but I want to try. I'm going to get my son to try it too, and see if I can't diversify his reading a little bit from the standard Marvel/Star Wars/DC Comic stuff he is reading at the moment.

You can click on the picture to see the challenge up close, but here are the rules:

  1. The Light Reader. This plan has 13 books which sets a pace of 1 book every 4 weeks. 
  2. The Avid Reader. The Avid plan adds another 13 books which increases the pace to 1 book every 2 weeks.
  3. The Committed Reader. This plan adds a further 26 books, bringing the total to 52, or 1 book every week.
  4. The Obsessed Reader. The Obsessed plan doubles the total to 104 books which sets a demanding pace of 2 books every week.

Begin with the Light plan, which includes suggestions for 13 books. Choose those books and read them in any order, checking them off as you complete them. When you have finished those 13, advance to the Avid plan. Use the criteria there to choose another 13 books and read them in any order. Then it’s time to move to the Committed plan with a further 26 books. When you have completed the Committed plan (that’s 52 books so far!), you are ready to brave the Obsessed plan with its 104 books. Be sure to set your goal at the beginning of the year and pace yourself accordingly.

Use the #vtReadingChallenge to connect and to keep track of others on social media.

Our Home

This app, my friends, is a game changer. I learned about it from another parent who uses love and logic parenting styles.

First off, if you don't know what love and logic is, go buy a copy of this book and read it. You won't regret it, it's great. Then, if you have a specific need read these books for early years, teens, special needs, adoptive families etc.... there's even one specifically for teachers.
And then finally join this facebook group

You're welcome. 

Next, download the free Our Home app. Then make your husband and kids download it too. We've had it less than 48 hours and I already love it. It's basically a chore management system. You get to assign each family member a cute icon (or a photo, but where is the fun in that?) and then you create chores. 

Some chores can only be done by a specific person e.g. Brush hair is relevant to Lila, but not so much to Will. Others can be claimed by anyone in the family e.g. Unload the dishwasher. You can then set chores to recur e.g. No one can claim they tidied up the school room if someone else already did that today. 

Chores are assigned points e.g. 1 point for brushing your teeth. 5 points for for putting all the laundry away. If you hate a chore, assign it a high points value. My children actually had an argument about who got to clean the school room before bed last night. Not even joking. 

But what are points worth? Well, you get to decide!!

We've created a list with a wide range of rewards e.g. An ombar is worth 50 points.  Family swimming trip 500 points. 1000 points means mum or dad will come have a sleepover with you (that's a highly valued prize in our house right now, but I can see we might need to change that one as the kids get older 😉).

The best part is, you can make the rewards fun for you too, so one of ours is a date at the juice bar with parent (400 points), or seriously low effort (for 200 points my kids get to skip one day of handwriting practice).

This app has the potential to change nagging without bankrupting me in the process (I'm frequently told that my pocket money system was slave labour, but if I had put my prices up, my money oriented boy would have bankrupted me with chores!) and yes, in an ideal world there would be no chores and everyone would contribute as a member of the household... but here's the thing:
  1. that only works if you are all happy to live in the same standard. My husband and kids don't feel the need to have clear surfaces, so without incentives I won't get hem unless I do all the tidying up myself. Which sucks. 
  2. we all need to learn work ethics. You don't work for free. Well, unless you are a volunteer, but even then you probably choose to work somewhere that gives you a sense of satisfaction or meaningful results. There is always an exchange that you consider beneficial or you wouldn't do it.
Am I making my kids buy my love with the rewards?

Yes and no. I love my kids and will often throw in some of these rewards for free just because I want to bless them; but really this is no different from an "energy drain"* but it's a bit more visual and they can watch the accumulation of their actions. If you don't help me out and life is a battle, I will not have the energy to take you to the park. That's just real life consequences for lazy decision making.

Welcome to 21st Century parenting.


*If you don't know what an energy drain is, GO AND READ LOVE AND LOGIC


What's Your 'Third Place'?

I've been listening to Robb Wolf talking at the Thyroid Connection summit (it's free, but you have to sign up to watch the interviews) and I heard about him speaking about your 'third place'. Essentially the concept is that you have your work, you have your home and then you need a 'third place'. A place where you find community and companionship, that's light-hearted but also where you can get support when you are going through hard things.

It's interesting that he suggests that when you have a suitable 'third place' what you eat becomes less of a problem in terms of managing your thyroid function.

The problem most people have today is that the 'third place' has become pubs, clubs, and bars for far too many of us. Alcohol is a stressor, but it feels weird to meet your friends at a pub and not get a drink. Late nights are a stressor, but meeting friends early and leaving before 9pm is kind of weird and loads of bars aren't even open until evening. But it's hard, you feel really anti-social when you are turning down the fourth or fifth invitation from a friend because you are too tired to go, but evenings are a real struggle for your adrenal glands.

Robb's suggestion that works great for him is to get up super early, spend a little time with his kids (they get up at 5:45am - it made me thank the Lord for my little late sleepers!) then when his wife gets up he heads out and meets a few guys for breakfast once a week.

For a lot of us, Church can be a 'third place', but even then, the mid-week meetings often finish pretty late. I'm lucky to be on the worship rota for the evening service and I find it so helpful to have a slot where I'm regularly on that team. There's a great social aspect to meeting up and rehearsing, goofing around and praying with and for each other in the afternoon before the evening service; but if church for you is somewhere you attend on a Sunday and don't really talk to anyone during the week then it possibly doesn't count.

My husband's 'third place' is a group of guys that meet every two weeks and sit around a fire, and have a social and bible study time, but they also have a whatsapp group to keep connected through the week and support one another.

An exercise class can also be a great 'third place'. The pilates class that I used to attend had some really great ladies and the social chat time was short, but so life-giving, and everyone quickly becomes intimate when you are all beginners desperately trying to learn how to balance and hold your core. If you get in quickly I believe Johanna still has a few places left for this half term too.

It can be hard getting out when you have young kids, but join a toddler group if they are small, or meet someone for coffee after school drop off if they are a bit older.

The summary I guess is this, find your tribe. It's so important for your health. If you don't have one, create one. That might be car sharing for the school run, a breakfast club, the park run on a Saturday (it's super social and not competitive I promise!!), knitting group or whatever.

If you don't have one, and you are too scared to start one, why not try church? Even if you aren't a Christian, it's kind of their job to be welcoming and you don't have to believe in God to start hanging out with them.

Your health matters.
Look after it. 

Juice Therapy

Most of you who know me in real life, will also know that I am currently studying to be a Natural Juice Therapist. This seemed like an obvious extension of my nutrition studies and a way to help my clients to really address nutrient deficiencies without resorting to supplements that often have lots of fillers/preservatives and often aren't very bio-available anyway. 

Juicing is such a great tool for getting a large quantity of nutrients into the diet with minimal effort, and it's sooooo much easier to get people to eat kale if you hide it with some pineapple juice!

Part of my course included attending a weekend at the 'Juice Factory' in Kettering. It was a great weekend and I learned so much from Jason Vale (that man can talk VERY fast) and the rest of his team, including my lovely course director Mairi Taylor

One of the things I found really interesting was how the subject of sugar was handled. Generally, I'm a big fan of mostly vegetable juices, adding a bit of fruit to make it palatable. I know the sugar in fruit is not the same as the refined table sugar we see added to most foods, but I have always still been cautious with it. Certainly if you are following a GAPS style diet, Dr Campbell-McBride would recommend limiting even fruit intake for the first two years, but remember that this is not a diet to follow strictly for life. 

However,  I do believe fruit sugars can get unfairly bad press. Fructose is often implicated in all kinds of inflammation/health concerns, but all the studies done tend to remove the sugar from the fruit and either feed it alone (e.g. high fructose corn syrup), or administer by IV!! Clearly this isn't going to having the same effect as eating an apple. 

Interestingly, Jason mentioned a study that's been published very recently, which is the first known to use whole foods, eaten by the subjects. It should come as no surprise then, that the results were vastly different to previous studies. In fact, the fructose is mostly not absorbed at all, but simply passes through the digestive tract (which would explain why the body has such an adverse reaction to having it injected directly into the blood stream!) and the tiny amounts that are absorbed showed no effect on insulin production. The implications for diabetics and those with insulin resistance being huge - fruit is back on the menu! I will admit, I haven't seen the study yet myself, but I'll edit this post and add the references once I've trawled through my backlog of emails and found the notes we were sent after the weekend. 

Restoration Health are going to be joining in with the Juice Master "Big Juice Challenge" and I'm super excited about having a group of people locally juice fasting with me and seeing the results. Matt and I did the seven day challenge in July and found it so helpful, particularly for sleep patterns. My sleep tracker informs me that I get very little (around 20%) deep sleep each night - which explains why I was waking up feeling so tired! When I was juicing, within a few days that went up to nearly 70%, which meant I had loads more energy, despite spending less hours asleep. Slowly that's crept back (I've been lazy with the juicing since term started) so a Juicy reset is just what I need! 


This term, the challenge is only 5 days, but that should be plenty, and I can always continue if I feel I need to. 

If you are looking to be inspired about the benefits of juicing, I highly recommend watching the Juice Master documentary "Super Juice Me" (it's Free). It's amazing to see what a difference juice fasting can make. I love the documentary so much, that I bought several copies of the book (which includes all the recipes and plans you need to do a 28 day juice fast at home safely) and when I finish my qualification, my first five clients will be getting a copy each, so keep your eyes open!





What am I listening to?

Right now there are two albums that I am playing over and over in my house.

The first is The Garden by Lex Brodie. Oh my goodness, if you haven't heard it yet, go take a listen.

Lex was such an inspiration to me when I was younger, having just moved out of home and attending Soul Survivor Watford. She was one of the first female worship leaders I knew, but also someone who spoke with such honesty and authenticity. Her vulnerability about her journey with God resonated with me so much, and then to hear it come through in her music made 'Through the Valley' one of my favourite albums of all time.

It's ten years later and she has finally released another album for me to gush over and it's every bit as beautiful. If you loved Heaven Rejoices, just wait until you hear 'A Beautiful Heart' - songs that speak to your identity like no other songwriter I know.

The whole album is just perfect, there isn't a single song on there that is 'filler' and I'm so in love with it.

The second album is actually only an 'EP' with just four songs, but oh my goodness we love them. Orphans to Heirs by Andy Flood just hit number two in the UK iTunes 'Christian and Gospel' album chart, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if it hits number one by the time I finish typing this an post it.

The first time I heard 'Heaven on Earth' Andy just played it with my rubbish guitar in my living room and I was already so excited about it. If you can make a song sound good on my guitar it is a winner!

Add to that the production skills of Jack Kirchner and you are always going to have something incredible. Andy's song writing is amazing, but this album is backed up by an incredible team and genuinely the only disappointment is that there aren't more tracks. I seriously cannot wait for him to produce a full album.

Both these albums are so worth investing in and I genuinely believe they will build your faith and bless you if you do. 

Catalyst: An interesting turn of events...

This weekend we went to Catalyst festival - I know. Crazy. Everyone kept telling me I was too sick to go, but I really needed to get out of the house and see some people.

Me.

Introverted me wanted to see people. That's how long I've been stuck in my house for. If you aren't sure what Catalyst is, click on the video below for a summary video of this week. The lovely people you see in the thumbnail are from our church :-)



So we were camping, and I was just sleeping through the meetings and getting to spend some time with church family in between, wrapped in a blanket on the most comfortable camping chair ever invented (thanks to Christine for emmigrating and leaving it behind). It was about as much effort as I could manage to walk to the bathrooms and back, but it was great. Absolutely and totally worth it for that alone.

It was taking a toll on my health though. I was staying up later than I should because I wanted to spend time with people and by Sunday night I realised I was taking a lot more pain killers than I had been at home, but I was still in quite a lot of pain. The vision in my right eye was now really blurry and I could feel the visual migraine symptoms creeping up higher and higher.

But on Monday night something else happened.

I was napping in the tent whilst everyone else was at an evening meeting, and during the meeting they asked the children to give 'words of knowledge'. If you don't know what this is, it's pretty simple, they literally ask God what He would like them to pray for. One little girl stood up and said there was a woman in the red zone (the area our church was camping in and where I was at that moment sleeping in my tent) with dizziness and a bad head. Several members of our church were like 'she's with us!' and my husband stood so they could pray. Then he text me to see how I was doing.

I'll be honest, the text woke me up so I didn't really respond beyond "Yeah, alright, I'm trying to sleep", but after that message I couldn't go back to sleep. I got up, went to the bathroom, walking in a straight line the whole way and decided to sit out in the chairs with our friend Andy who had put his kids to bed.

A short time later, after the meeting had ended, our church family came back to the tent to ask how I was doing. I suddenly realised I wasn't in any pain; not only that, but I was due to have pain relief an hour ago and I hadn't taken it because I was asleep. I covered my left eye and my right eye had totally clear vision.

In fact, the only sign that I had been ill at all for the last month was that my neck was still stiff/swollen. They asked if they could pray for that and I literally felt the swelling dissipate and I was now completely pain free.

Our church has seen plenty of healing in it's time, but everyone still celebrated like it was the first. Everyone, except me. I think I was in shock. I didn't really know how to respond, so I just sort of stood there. It was crazy.

So... Am I going to stop taking my supplements?

Well, I thought long and hard about it over the last two days and I've decided yes. I'm no longer taking any antibiotics or pain relief, and I'm going to get a blood test to confirm whether I can come off the levothyroxine, but the herbal supplements I'm going to continue with for another 21 days (the course of the treatment).

Why if I've been healed would I continue to do that?

Plant medicine, unlike pharmaceutical medications, doesn't have any catabolic effect on the body, meaning in short, that it won't hurt me. I only use whole food supplements and live probiotics, which are all good things that I would want my body to have any way.

When I first tried the GAPS diet I committed to doing six weeks and seeing what happened. I saw results in two. Medically speaking, that isn't possible and they say it will be 3-6 months before you start to notice improvements, but that was my experience. It was also my sons. He felt better within days.

I have always said that I thought that was a miracle. That God was kind, and in His grace and mercy he didn't allow us to experience the full extent of die-off reactions that we should have had. Why? Maybe because He knew I'd quit if I did. Maybe just because He was being merciful. I don't know why He did it, but I believe He did.

I've been sick for a long time, and I'm treating myself using plants that God gave us for healing (Ezekiel 47:12) that have no known adverse effects. Perhaps God in His mercy has healed me completely and I don't need them, but they won't do me any harm and they are only improving my nutrient profile (always good); or perhaps he is just sparing me the pain and the suffering now, but I still need to deal with the root cause - because I do know how.

Either way, I experienced a miracle, and I'm so happy to be back at full capacity, and so grateful to have spent my bank holiday with such amazing people.

Church family - I love you more than you know.

Making Informed Choices About Your Health Care

I love that we have the NHS in the UK. I can't really understand why american's get so distressed about the idea of free health care. No, it's not the same incredible standard of care that you would get in the best 5 star hotels privatised hospitals, but we have those too, for people who can afford them.

That said, it's no secret that our NHS is stretched to breaking point and can barely afford to run. The staff are exhausted and doing their best, but often dispense drugs based on protocol because let's face it, no doctor is an expert in every single condition that could possibly come up in your life, and with the hours they work, how could they possibly keep up to date with the latest advances in science on every condition?

That's why I firmly believe in empowering people to learn about their own conditions and make informed decisions about their own treatment plans.

David Cameron is complaining about doctors over use over antibiotics, but I can imagine how many doctors have been hassled by ignorant patients who desperately want a prescription for their virus, having no idea that the antibiotic won't help them get better any faster?

Despite the fact that most ear aches are viral, most parents will beg the GP for antibiotics because we've all heard the scare stories about untreated infections allowing ear drums to burst.

I'm fairly sure there must be doctors have to make a decision to prescribe prophylactic antibiotics because they aren't sure if the infection is going to get worse, but their appointments are all full for the next few days so they haven't got the luxury of asking the patient to come back and check in with them again.  Not only that, but the majority of antibiotics consumed by these patients aren't even prescribed by doctors - they're coming through the cheap CAFO raised meat that they consumed.

Every time your doctor offers you antibiotics, ask if it's necessary. You wouldn't believe how often my GP has looked relieved at that question and suggested that he would write the prescription, but ask that I only claim it from the pharmacy if the fever worsens/infection doesn't improve in the next 12 hours/whatever other useful advice they have.

But antibiotic resistance isn't the only concern.

In an excellent talk by Daniel Levitin on "How to Stay Calm When You Know You'll be Stressed" he talks about patients making informed consent about their treatment plans. How can you make informed consent if you don't know anything about your treatment?

Here's a long, but very relevant quote from the talk:

"And there's perhaps no more stressful a situation than when you're confronted with a medical decision to make. And at some point, all of us are going to be in that position, where we have to make a very important decision about the future of our medical care or that of a loved one, to help them with a decision. 

6:11And so I want to talk about that. And I'm going to talk about a very particular medical condition. But this stands as a proxy for all kinds of medical decision-making, and indeed for financial decision-making, and social decision-making -- any kind of decision you have to make that would benefit from a rational assessment of the facts. 

6:30So suppose you go to your doctor and the doctor says, "I just got your lab work back, your cholesterol's a little high." Now, you all know that high cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke. And so you're thinking having high cholesterol isn't the best thing, and so the doctor says, "You know, I'd like to give you a drug that will help you lower your cholesterol, a statin." And you've probably heard of statins, you know that they're among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world today, you probably even know people who take them. And so you're thinking, "Yeah! Give me the statin." 

7:06But there's a question you should ask at this point, a statistic you should ask for that most doctors don't like talking about, and pharmaceutical companies like talking about even less. It's for the number needed to treat. Now, what is this, the NNT? It's the number of people that need to take a drug or undergo a surgery or any medical procedure before one person is helped. And you're thinking, what kind of crazy statistic is that? The number should be one. My doctor wouldn't prescribe something to me if it's not going to help. But actually, medical practice doesn't work that way. And it's not the doctor's fault, if it's anybody's fault, it's the fault of scientists like me. We haven't figured out the underlying mechanisms well enough. But GlaxoSmithKline estimates that 90 percent of the drugs work in only 30 to 50 percent of the people. So the number needed to treat for the most widely prescribed statin, what do you suppose it is?How many people have to take it before one person is helped? 300. This is according to research by research practitioners Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband, independently confirmed by Bloomberg.com. I ran through the numbers myself. 300 people have to take the drug for a year before one heart attack, stroke or other adverse event is prevented. 

8:23Now you're probably thinking, "Well, OK, one in 300 chance of lowering my cholesterol. Why not, doc? Give me the prescription anyway." But you should ask at this point for another statistic, and that is, "Tell me about the side effects." Right? So for this particular drug, the side effects occur in five percent of the patients. And they include terrible things -- debilitating muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal distress --but now you're thinking, "Five percent, not very likely it's going to happen to me, I'll still take the drug."But wait a minute. Remember under stress you're not thinking clearly. So think about how you're going to work through this ahead of time, so you don't have to manufacture the chain of reasoning on the spot.300 people take the drug, right? One person's helped, five percent of those 300 have side effects, that's 15 people. You're 15 times more likely to be harmed by the drug than you are to be helped by the drug. 

9:15Now, I'm not saying whether you should take the statin or not. I'm just saying you should have this conversation with your doctor. Medical ethics requires it, it's part of the principle of informed consent.You have the right to have access to this kind of information to begin the conversation about whether you want to take the risks or not. 

9:32Now you might be thinking I've pulled this number out of the air for shock value, but in fact it's rather typical, this number needed to treat. For the most widely performed surgery on men over the age of 50,removal of the prostate for cancer, the number needed to treat is 49. That's right, 49 surgeries are done for every one person who's helped. And the side effects in that case occur in 50 percent of the patients.They include impotence, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, rectal tearing, fecal incontinence. And if you're lucky, and you're one of the 50 percent who has these, they'll only last for a year or two."
Ask your doctor questions, be informed. Make good decisions for you and your family. Take your research with you to your doctor so that you can evaluate it together.

It's off the back of this that I'd also like to point you towards a charity called 'Yes To Life' that I recently discovered. They are the first cancer charity I've come across in the UK that provides support, information and financial assistance to cancer patients who want to use an integrative approach to thier medical care. As Daniel Levitin says, it's hard to make a decision when you are stressed. Having the information collated and people ready to support you is so important.



But all of these are just examples. There are far too many medical conditions to list in a blog post (or even for me to list!) Our bodies are so complex, so intricate, so well designed. That's why you need to put your big girl (or boy) pants on and take some responsibility for your own health.

Educate yourself. This is one of the reasons Restoration Health was born. We post articles about health daily, we try to answer questions and help people on journey's towards healthier lifestyles so that they don't need to see their doctor so often, hopefully relieving some pressure from the NHS. We're also hoping to start monthly healthy living and preventative medicine talks locally soon, so keep your eye out for those.

Remember: Your doctor is there to help you, but not to remove all responsibility from you.
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