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Meet Dr Hazel Wallace

September 25th 2021

This July, we’re super excited to welcome the brilliant science communicator, nutritionist and author, Dr Hazel Wallace as our Guest Curator.

Passionate about reading and its mental health and self-care benefits, she’s chosen an absolute corker of a book in former Head of Drama at HBO, Miranda Cowley Heller’s debut novel, The Paper Palace. We couldn’t be more in love with it – it will make you feel like you’ve just been on a two week holiday to Cape Cod.

We caught up with Dr Hazel for a little interview...

Hi Dr Hazel! Tell us a bit about yourself and your mission in life.

Hello, I’m a medical doctor, registered associate nutritionist, author and founder of an educational platform called The Food Medic. I started this platform at medical school with the hopes of bridging the gap between conventional medical advice and the latest thoughts and developments in nutrition and other areas of lifestyle. My mission is to simplify science and deliver it to people in a way that is easy to understand and integrate into their daily lives to help support and improve their health.

You’ve been on the frontline in the past year as a COVID doctor. What lessons have you learnt?

Yes, I have spent the bulk of the last 13 months as a COVID doctor in various capacities including working as a doctor on the COVID wards,, acting as nurse in some situations on intensive care units when we were short on staff, and then more recently in a post-COVID clinic following up patients discharged from hospital and also those in the community with post-covid syndrome (or long covid). It has been the most challenging year of my career but it was also a major learning curve. I really understood the necessity of good team work, sufficient rest, and also how fleeting life can be. The collective trauma those of us in the NHS have experienced is huge but it also brought me closer to many of my colleagues and made the team stronger overall.

We think at LoveMyRead that reading does wonders for our mental health. Is that true? What’s the science behind it?

Reading offers multiple health benefits for our brain including improving focus and cognition, memory, reducing stress and depressive symptoms. There’s various ways that reading may improve our mental health including offering us some escapism from our current reality, acting as a form of mindfulness, and also changing our thought processes.

It can be really difficult to find time for self-care. Any tips?

I think self-care is different for everyone, for some people it’s a bubble bath and for others it’s going for a run or reading a book. Try to schedule some time everyday for yourself, even if it’s 20-30 minutes to do something completely selfish that is just for you.

As a non-fiction author, what’s been the mission behind your books?

I guess as an avid reader and an academic, I communicate best through writing and so writing naturally comes quite easy to me. I find it therapeutic so having the opportunity to publish books has been a dream come true to be honest. There’s a quote “science is not finished until it’s communicated” and that is basically the premise of all my books. I’m not a researcher in the capacity that I publish new research, but I am an independent researcher who enjoys distilling and sharing the facts.

And when it comes to fiction, what are your main loves?

Hardest question yet but top of my head; Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi are up there. I also love all the Roald Dahl books and have kept mine from when I was little, my dad has inscribed the inside of them and he’s no longer alive so they’re also a keepsake for me.

Paint us a picture of your perfect reading scenario. Where? What drink and what snack?

Back in bed on a Sunday morning with a pot of coffee beside me and a flaky croissant.

Why do you think that products like LoveMyRead are so important?

I think it encourages people to read books that they may not necessarily come across on their own (and takes the hassle out of finding your next one), builds community and connection, and of course provides an activity that supports mental health.

And lastly, why did you choose The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller as your pick this month?

Where to start? This book had me captivated. The story unfolds over twenty-four hours but weaves through a 50 year history of love and loss, friendship and family, tragedy and shared trauma. I didn’t want it to end. I’m excited for everyone else to read so we can chat about it!

Extract from The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Today. August 1, the Back Woods. 6:30 A.M.

Things come from nowhere. The mind is empty and then, inside the frame, a pear. Perfect, green, the stem atilt, a single leaf. It sits in a white ironstone bowl, nestled among the limes, in the center of a weathered picnic table, on an old screen porch, at the edge of a pond, deep in the woods, beside the sea. Next to the bowl is a brass candlestick covered in drips of cold wax and the ingrained dust of a long winter left on an open shelf. Half- eaten plates of pasta, an unfolded linen napkin, dregs of claret in a wine bottle, a breadboard, handmade, rough- hewn, the bread torn not sliced. A mildewed book of poetry lies open on the table. “To a Skylark,” soaring into the blue— painful, thrilling— replays in my mind as I stare at the still life of last night’s dinner. “The world should listen then, as I am listening now.” He read it so beautifully. “For Anna.” And we all sat there, spellbound, remembering her. I could look at him and nothing else for eternity and be happy. I could listen to him, my eyes closed, feel his breath and his words wash over me, time and time and time again. It is all I want.

Beyond the edge of the table, the light dims as it passes through the screens before brightening over the dappled trees, the pure blue of the pond, the deep- black shadows of the tupelos at the water’s edge where the reach of the sun falters this early in the day. I ponder a quarter- inch of thick, stale espresso in a dirty cup and consider drinking it. The air is raw. I shiver under the faded lavender bathrobe— my mother’s— that I put on every summer when we return to the camp. It smells of her, and of dormancy tinged with mouse droppings. This is my favorite hour in the Back Woods. Early morning on the pond before anyone else is awake. The sunlight clear, flinty, the water bracing, the whippoorwills finally quiet.

Outside the porch door, on the small wooden deck, sand has built up between the slats—it needs to be swept. A broom leans against the screen, indenting it, but I ignore it and head down the little path that leads to our beach. Behind me, the door hinges shriek in resistance.

I drop my bathrobe to the ground and stand naked at the water’s edge. On the far side of the pond, beyond the break of pine and shrub oak, the ocean is furious, roaring. It must be carrying a storm in its belly from somewhere out at sea. But here, at the edge of the pond, the air is honey- still. I wait, watch, listen . . . the chirping, buzzing of tiny insects, a wind that stirs the trees too gently. Then I wade in up to my knees and dive headlong into the freezing water. I swim out into the deep, past the water lilies, pushed forward by exhilaration, freedom, and an adrenaline rush of nameless panic. I have a shadow- fear of snapping turtles coming up from the depths to bite my heavy breasts. Or perhaps they will be drawn by the smell of sex as I open and close my legs. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by the need to get back to the safety of the shallows, where I can see the sandy bottom. I wish I were braver. But I also love the fear, the catch of breath in my throat, my thrumming heartbeat as I step out of the water.

You can get your hands on a copy of this incredible title with a subscription to LoveMyRead today.

Happy reading!

Vicki & The LoveMyRead Team x

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