Brain & Body, Food and Drink

As the old cliche says, the kitchen is the heart of the home. But hearts, and kitchens, can become unhealthy and impact on every part of our lives. The good news is the reverse is also true. Improve your heart and everything else follow.

A few small, cheap changes to your kitchen and the food you prepare can make a big difference to the well being of you and your family. These are my personal tips for making a healthier kitchen on a budget.

Blender + Fruit + OJ = Smoothie

The health benefits of fresh fruit are well known but most of us struggle to incorporate them into our daily diet. Smoothies are an easy way of doing this and big companies have wasted no time promoting smoothie machines and similar gadgets for the home. The truth is you do not need one. A simple blender does the trick just as well and they cost £10 from Tesco. While you are there, pick up orange juice, a few bananas and whatever fruit is in season (or on discount). Chuck everything into the blender, press the button and 30 seconds later you have a smoothie. Get into the habit of making a smoothie every morning and you will take big a step towards eating your ‘5-a-day’.

Slow Cooker / Crock-Pot

After a hard day at work that pizza menu or tv-dinner becomes very tempting. The solution is to prepare everything in the morning when our energy levels are higher and use a slow cooker. These are the forgotten kitchen gadgets. A basic slow cooker model costs approximately £20 and they, well, cook your food slowly. Don’t stress over fancy recipes. Chop whatever vegetables you have, throw in chicken thighs or stewing beef, add a pint of stock, spices and herbs to taste and turn it on. The slow cooker will heat everything gently over the course of the day and when you return in the evening, a hot, healthy meal is waiting.

A Wok

If you don’t already own a wok, buy one and buy the most basic wok you can find. You don’t need a lid or even a non-stick coating. What is important is you can pick it up easily because cooking in a wok is about speed and moving the food around the pan. This cooks without destroying the flavour or nutrients and it’s fast. A cheap, healthy meal full of fresh vegetables can be cooked in under ten minutes.

A Smile

The kitchen is focused on the needs of the body. A place where we prepare food and drink to sustain our physical form. Often forgotten is our mental health which is as important to our wellbeing as our bodies. Combat this by having things in your kitchen which make you smile and remind you of the good times. These can be nik-naks or pictures on the fridge but I suggest something practical. For example mugs featuring pictures of the family or placemats with photos from your holidays. This way, you are reminded of the good times and loved ones every time they are used. There are numerous products available via the internet and it really doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it makes you smile.

A Shopping List (And A Little Planning)

Everyone wants to eat healthier and save money and one little trick which can do both is using a shopping list to plan your meals. The average family throws away around £700 worth of food a year and spends over £500 a year on take-aways. By planning your meals with a shopping list a family can ensure they have enough easy-to-prepare, healthy food in the house. This stops waste and helps resist the temptations of a take-away meal. Cut your food waste and take-aways in half and you will save £600 per year and be healthier. It just takes a piece of paper, a pen and five minutes of planning before heading to the supermarket.

The Low Budget, Healthy Home Kitchen was written by Chris Tregenza on behalf of Fitted Kitchens, Nottingham.

Dore Achievement Centres

Since Dore went into worldwide bankruptcy in 2008, a new Dore has risen from the ashes. It still offers the same range of treatments for about the same price. Unfortunately, it is still using the same unethical sales techniques.

Last month, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered Dynevor Ltd, the company behind Dore, to remove an advert from Google’s Ad Words programme. The advert read:

The DORE Programme … Need help with Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyspraxia or Asperger’s?

The ASA upheld a complaint that the advert breached several clauses of the ASA’s regulation including 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and beauty products and therapies) and stated:

… in the absence of any qualifying text to the contrary, that consumers were likely to understand the claim “Need help with Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyspraxia or Asperger’s?” to mean that the DORE programme could help treat the named conditions. We also considered that we would need to see robust, scientific evidence to support the claim.

The full text of the judgement can be read here: ASA Adjudication on Dynevor Ltd.

This is not the first time that the Dore treatment has got into trouble over advertising. See TV Complaints Upheld About DDAT and they have also made mistakes with web advertising before (Dore Deceptive and Abusive Advertising). There were also been complaints about the sales techniques used (see Dore Program Selling Accusations). Though the reincarnated Dore seems to have different staff and directors, it is making the same mistakes as the old Dore.

I will tell anyone who will listen that the Dore programme worked for me. Within three months of starting the programme my hand-writing and spelling started to improve and I have seen continual improvement in the five years since finishing the programme. The hypothesis that an underdeveloped cerebellum is a major cause of learning difficulties has strong evidence supporting it.

However, anecdotal evidence such as mine and a good theory do not constitute proof that a treatment is effective.

The old Dore’s failure to deliver overwhelming scientific evidence for his treatment coupled with an approach to selling that was not whiter-than-whiter alienated many potential supporters and customers. It seems that the new Dore has not learnt this lesson.

Many thanks to BrainDuck for alerting me to this.

ADD / ADHD, Dyslexia

Growing up dyslexia leaves you ill-equipped for the world. Your education success is generally low, your poor short-term memory puts in you at a disadvantage in most situation and often poor social skills limit your ability to make friends. Add all the normal teenage problems of hormones, acne and trying to work out who you are, and the transition from child to adult can be very difficult. Fortunately I found an unlikely support group that gave me a chance to develop friendships, social skills and the concept of who I was. This group involved assassins, fighters, thieves and hoard of monsters. It was my local Dungeons & Dragons group.

The name Dungeons & Dragons (or D&D for short) will be familiar to most. A few years ago they made two films under the name and in the nineties it was a Saturday morning cartoon. But to me and millions of others around the world, it will always be a roleplaying game. A game of imagination, dice and arcane rules that is the haunt of intelligent but awkward teenage boys everywhere.

The premise of the game is simple. Each player has a character modeled after one the great heros of the Grey fantasy literature. e.g. a Barbarian like Conan, a noble fighter like Aragorn or a cunning thief in the mold of Mouser. The game is lead by a Dungeon Master (DM) who describes the action and controls the monsters. It’s he who plans the lost cities for the players to explore and interprets the hundreds of rules that make up D&D. Individual sessions of the game last many hours and completing a single adventure often takes weeks.

In this unlikely, fantasy setting I learnt skills that the real world had failed to teach me. In a group of similarly social inept teenagers, my lack of social skills did not impede me, allowing me to build friendships that have lasted 25 years. The D&D fantasy setting also taught me problem solving skills and teamwork as often a deadly trap or a fiendish puzzle would block the adventurers path and could only be overcome by cooperation. Even the mass of rule books with their pages and pages of dry text helped. Normally the requirement to read and remember so much would drive me away but with Dungeons & Dragons, I was motivated to learn. I spent many happy hours reading those books, expanding my vocabulary and pushing my literacy skills in a way that school never did.

Having mastered the basics of the game I was keen to be DM and create my own adventures. With this step, D&D opened new and previously unimagined doors for me. My imagination had always been highly active but I had never had an outlet. With my poor spelling & grammar, writing stories had never been an option, neither had art been an option with my cackhandedness. But in creating fantasy adventures and worlds for my players, I could exercise my creativity without being held back by my inability to express myself. Through this I learnt how to be creative and to turn those creative thoughts into something useful. Skills that have been a consistent benefit to me in designing software and web sites.

Over the years D&D has received some very bad press. Some right-wing nut jobs think its linked to satanic worship and black magic. Others have linked it to suicide and violence. All this is rubbish. Dungeons & Dragons gave me a safe environment to learn vital life skills that because of my dyslexia, the education system had singularly failed to provide me. For tens of thousands of bright teenagers with dyslexia, asperges, ADHD and other educational problems, this fantasy game has provided a safe haven in which to learn, explore and to grow.

D&D is made me who I am and it is why I still play, 25 years on. In fact I now run a company that create RPG miniatures and D&D Adventures to use in the game.

Balance & Coordination, Brain & Body, Dore Achievement Centres

Despite the demise of the original Dore programme, evidence continues to mount that the cerebellum plays a critical part in the dyslexia.

A new study, in the BMC Neuroscience journal, has found significant differences in the right cerebellum in dyslexics when compared to non-dyslexic controls. The study looked at 76 adults, evenly split between dyslexics and non-dyslexics. The subjects were extensively tested to confirm the diagnosis and then their brains were scanned.

Overall, there was no difference in the amount of grey matter in the dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains. However in specific areas, the right right cerebellum declive and the right lentiform nucleus, there were significant differences between the two groups.

Not only does this support the hypothesis of the cerebellum as a factor in dyslexia but it raises the potential for a diagnostic test based on physical differences. Being able to accurately diagnose dyslexia via a brain scan rather than relying on subjective and culture specific spelling / memory test would be a huge advance. Especially if the technique can work on very young children, allowing the dyslexia to be treated before it has a major educational impact.

Source: Brain classification reveals the right cerebellum as the best biomarker of dyslexia


When I learnt to read at about eight or nine, I developed a love of books that I’ve never lost. Books were precious, bundles of excitement that needed to be collected and treasured. This developed into a love of series of books such as the Famous Five that gave me joy in the reading but also joy from the act of collecting the series and my two favourite series of books as a child have stayed with me into adulthood. One was Swallows & Amazons as these were the first books I ever read for myself at my own pace. I still own the old, tattered hardback copies I had as a child. The other books were Herge’s Adventures of Tintin.

My love for Herge’s Tintin was different from that of my other books. Obviously Tintin is a comic rather than prose which meant they were quicker to read but you could spend hours going over each picture, marveling at the details. They also differed in the nature of the stories. Famous Five and Swallows & Amazon were adventures starring children. Tintin is an adult (or at least a teenager) who has guns, fights real enemies, flies planes and has fantastic adventures.

Even as a comic, Tintin stood out from the other comics I was reading. Beano, Dandy and other British children’s comics had a very simple style. Tintin wasn’t like the more intricate pen & ink work of Commado comics either. Herges ligne claire style was bold and above all colourful. Each Tintin album is a careful controlled riot of colour. Strong blocks of colour both compete for attention and balance each other out.

It was this colour (it was years later that I learnt the Tintin books were originally in black & white) plus the excitement that captivated me. I was further hooked by the illustration on the back of the book. In the early UK edition there was an image that used iconic elements from all the books, including ones that weren’t available in the UK. As a kid, this intrigued me. Later, when all the books had been translated into English, they did a montage of all the covers and I could look at each in turn, marveling at the ones I did not own.

Now, years later, as my problems with dyslexia fade to a bad memory and my artistic ability improves I find myself pulled towards Tintin once more as I strive to capture Herge’s clear and bold style. Just like as a child, Tintin captures my imagination and dreams but as a child I wanted to be Tintin, now I want to be his creator, Herge.


A very interesting piece in The Times about how lego therapy helped autistic / Aspergers learn social skills.

For six months, they gathered for an hour a week to play with Lego. The idea behind the therapy, developed initially by Dan LeGoff in Philadelphia, was to encourage high-functioning children with autism or Asperger syndrome to communicate with each other and solve a problem by building in pairs or groups of three, according to set rules.

One child acted as the “engineer” and described the instructions, another as the “supplier” finding the correct pieces, and the “builder” put the pieces together. After a time, they would swap roles. Later, they would play “freestyle” in pairs, designing and building a model space rocket, for example, which allowed them to practise compromise, express their ideas clearly and take others’ ideas into account.

Source: Games that help autistic children

Myomancy Forum

My 6 year old had been on ADDERALL for about 3 years then resently started pulling out of her hair out. I took her off it 2 days ago and she hasn’t pulled out nothing since!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brain & Body, Dyslexia

There are two schools of thought on dyslexia: Those that say it is a permanent condition that is with someone through out their life; and those that say the problem is can be fixed by training the brain (e.g. cerebellum training). One of the major sticking points is how adaptable the brain is. If the brain cannot change, then no amount of training will be able to fix the problem. But if the brain is highly plastic and any part of it can be rewired, then the problem can be fixed with a modest amount of training.

Mind Hacks has word on ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind program that examines the issue in depth.

…a two part series on the implications of neuroplasticity – particularly the discovery that the brain can physically ‘rewire’ itself through adulthood, albeit in a more limited way in comparison to the process that occurs during childhood.

Source: Neuroplastic fantastic