Fran is a Functional Health practitioner, who helps others get to the root of their unhealthy food habits and lead a balanced life. However, this has not always been the case. She told Express.co.uk how she overcame a food addiction that left her overweight and depressed.
Suffering from constant exhaustion, recurring UTI’s, terrible headaches and all sorts of gut issues, Fran had found herself in a terrible place.
But while her physical health was “really troubling and irritating”, her mental health that was also a cause for concern.
She stated that “it was the depression, the lack of motivation, the feeling of dragging myself through the day”, that had really taken a toll on her wellbeing.
She even found herself absolutely miserable on holiday celebrating her husband’s 50th birthday in Kenya. “I sort of hated myself for that.”
Fran stated: “I did not have a bad life. I had a really good job, a wonderful husband and brilliant children. I just couldn’t understand why I was so depressed.”
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It was only after a bet was made with her son that she started to feel much better, and came to understand that the root of her trouble was in fact her favourite food.
Fran’s “particular issue” was bread and bread based products.
“Toast, donuts, all that kind of stuff I could eat until the cows came home.”
This is why, coming up to Lent, Fran’s son bet her that she couldn’t go 40 days without eating bread.
Deciding to go all out, Fran opted to completely eradicate gluten from her diet for 40 days and 40 nights.
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She admitted that it was a huge struggle at first: “At the beginning I thought I was going to die. I had headaches like you can’t even imagine.
“Anger and mood issues also correlate with these sorts of addictions. I could have just raged all day.”
But after three or four days she started to feel better, and immediately felt a mental shift.
After swapping gluten products for eggs, meat and vegetables, the “dark cloud” she had been walking under just “evaporated”.
She also noticed a dramatic change in her appearance: “I was overweight, not massive, but I was much, much too heavy for what I should have been.
“Then I lost quite a bit of weight without really trying. I honestly felt transformed.”
“Fascinated” by the effects of overcoming her food addiction, Fran went on to study Integrative Nutrition, which she described as “a holistic approach”.
She now helps others understand their own relationships with food.
From her studies, she learned that processed food companies designed food “specifically to keep people eating them”.
“With most foods, it’s not an accident that they’re hyper-palatable and that we crave them.
“The odds are stacked against most people. We are powerless in the face of millions of dollars spent creating and advertising food that makes us ill.
“It affects our mental abilities and physiological conditions. And look at how much heart disease, diabetes and obesity have risen dramatically in the last 40 years.
“Once you get off this bandwagon you’re in control and you’re not fighting against yourself the whole time. It actually becomes very, very easy.”
While many may not want to go ‘cold-turkey’ to combat their addictions, Fran has almost completely cut out gluten over the past 10 years, only eating it “very occasionally”.
Having tried “painful” weight loss programmes, where dieters lose small amounts like one pound a week, Fran found this new lifestyle change “amazing”.
“I feel easier in my skin. I don’t feel that I look perfect, but because I don’t have the whole depression thing, it doesn’t worry me so much.”
Those interested in overcoming food addiction or learning more about Fran McElwaine’s story can check out her website.
Anyone who may be suffering with a food addiction or disordered eating can seek help and guidance at Life Works.