The Faye Dunaway Diet might not be a recognised eating plan, but the actress’s eating habits played a role in helping the country’s favourite hotelier Francis Brennan to get his diabetes under control writes Clodagh Finn.
He recalls that the star of Chinatown and Bonnie and Clyde once said the secret to good health was to eat less. She said that every time she went into a restaurant, she divided what she was given in two and ate just half of it.
In fact, she has been known to bring a weighing scales to weigh whatever she is served.
Bestselling author Francis Brennan doesn’t go to quite the same lengths, but he took inspiration from the famous actress when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in March 2016.
He radically changed his diet and now eats just half of what he used to eat.
“We don’t even notice what we eat,” he tells Feelgood, explaining that mindless eating very easily leads to overeating.
“I have always lived on five-star food because I’m in the hotel [the Park Hotel in Kenmare, Co Kerry] seven days a week and I have a very good appetite,” he says.
However, that all changed when he was told he had diabetes last year. At first, he couldn’t believe the diagnosis because he had a relatively healthy lifestyle.
“I asked my doctor why I got it and he said it was a bummer because I don’t drink or smoke. I wouldn’t have been hugely overweight either. I was annoyed about that.”
He was annoyed, too, to hear that there was no cure and he would have to take tablets.
Life continued as normal — though with medication — until he was filming At Your Service in Wexford and the crew met kinesiologist Finola Foley who offered advice on various health conditions.
Francis Brennan was sceptical yet he asked her if she could do something to help diabetes, although he didn’t admit to having the condition himself.
When she said she could help, he made an appointment to see her and followed a course of treatment that involved taking herbs, minerals and vitamins as well as a radical change in diet.
Within a year and a half, Francis Brennan had lost 24lbs and his blood-sugar levels were just two points away from normal.
He says his doctor couldn’t believe the improvement. He still takes medication, but a low dose, to keep diabetes at bay.
“Between the medication, Finola’s drops and a strict diet, I’m technically cured,” he says.
He has swapped his previous breakfast of toast and an occasional fry for porridge and a banana. Lunch is a wholemeal chicken sandwich — “with real bread from Harrington’s bakery, not plastic bread” — and dinner is chicken, fish, and sometimes red meat served with veg and a dessertspoon of potatoes rather than the five potatoes he used to have.
Apart from the initial withdrawal symptoms — “I had a ferocious headache for a month” — he says he has more energy and feels great.
He was never big on snacks, apart from a bag of Cheese & Onion Taytos a few times a year, but now he follows a strict no-eating-between-meals rule. “I’d love it, but I say, ‘no thanks’ and it doesn’t bother me at all,” he says.
He admits, too, that he was forced to review his attitude to alternative therapies.
“I wasn’t mad about it at all. I would have gone to my doctor in preference, but I was proven wrong,” he says.
His kinesiologist Finola Foley tells Feelgood that she first came to the alternative movement therapy when she was suffering from chronic fatigue. “It came up trumps,” she says and later she found that kinesiology could help with other conditions, including diabetes.
Herbs and minerals form part of the treatment but diet also plays a very big role.
“Food is our fuel,” she says. “Carbohydrates, proteins and oils turn to usable energy and create vibrant health. Processed foods and high-sugar diets deplete our immune system.”
Our over-reliance on processed food is a topic that is close to Francis Brennan’s heart and it’s one of several addressed in his best-selling modern-day Mrs Beeton, How to Create a Happy Home, which covers everything from food management and decluttering to cutting food waste.
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