A Bristol couple who overcame depression and eating disorders have launched a new online community for people looking to maintain balance in their diet and wellbeing.

Based on the premise that healthy eating is about how you feel, not how you look, The 321 Effect is a holistic approach to spirituality, diet and mindfulness.

Set up by husband and wife team Luke and Francesca Hawker, The 321 Effect is the result of a year of research and clarity of thought, following several years of struggle with mental wellbeing.

As recently as last year, Luke suffered suicidal thoughts and panic attacks due to depression and anxiety. Francesca, meanwhile, struggled with bulimia and body confidence for many years after giving birth to her first child 12 years ago.

However both have since discovered a new stability both physically and mentally and are keen to pass on the benefits of what they have learned.

They have created a subscription-based website full of recipes, diet plans, mindfulness and meditation techniques, health and fitness advice, alongside an online community for people to share experiences and be upfront about the challenges they face.

It includes healthy versions of popular meals from leading restaurant chains, in order to give people the enjoyment of eating out but in a home environment. And the couple have also focused heavily on vegan food, dedicating an entire section of the website to vegan food plans.

Francesca said: “People wanting to feel better about themselves and their eating habits are often trapped in a cycle, involving years and years of up and down, emotionally as well as physically. Luke and I have both been on that roller-coast and we know it’s not fun. The 321 Effect is aimed helping people break the cycle. It’s a meal planner made by real people, for real people.

“The 321 Effect embraces our thoughts on the concept that everything is fine in moderation. Eating sweets and chocolate, for example, is fine if you limit it. It makes you feel good but too much of anything can make you feel miserable.

“So: three parts healthy, such as beans, vegetables, fruit; two parts hearty – meat, fish, carbs – and one part happy food like puddings and snacks. If you stick to those ratios and combine it with some physical and mindful attention, we think it will serve you well.

“We’ve had it checked and approved by some great nutritionists, who have helped us to perfect its detail. Alongside the ethos and the wider message of mindfulness and spirituality, it’s our articulation of what’s helped us recover from the problems we’ve overcome.”

Subscribers to The 321 Effect website will be given full access to its nutritional information, recipes, meal plans and an app to help diarise and log their meals and calories.

As well as meal plans which include meat and fish, vegans, vegetarians and are catered for, with a food directory providing new options for foods people may not have tried before.

Meanwhile short courses, yoga videos, meditation downloads and daily affirmations are available to those looking to focus on mental and spiritual wellbeing.

“Learning to love our bodies is not always easy but it is possible,” said Francesca. Being kind to yourself is the biggest gift that you are able to give. It can completely change how you perceive your body and your life.

“So the communication is really important too. Part of learning to feel comfortable in yourself is realising that you’re not alone – so if we can get our subscribers to talk to each other and share experiences, that’s a crucial part of what we can offer.”

Luke recently recovered from frequent bouts of depression and anxiety, partly due to the pressures of running a successful electrical business. Since then he has learned self-help techniques from the likes of spiritual leader Eckhart Tolle and sees The 321 Effect as a means of sharing that knowledge.

“I was in a constant state of anxiety all last year,” he said. “When I started letting it go, the bulk of it was gone. You’re not your mind, and you’re not your faults – if you realise that those things aren’t a problem for anyone else, then they can stop being a problem for you, too.

“The 321 Effect is about helping people reach that stage, as a result of eating habits, mindfulness, or a combination of both. We want to help people who have been in the same state as we were.

“We want to provide guidelines to healthy eating which make people feel good about themselves – which bring some enjoyment and happiness without being prescriptive, competitive and guilt-laden. In fact, weight loss isn’t really part of the plan at all – it’s a convenient by-product, if anything. It’s about feeling good about who you are inside, and how diet can help you achieve that.

“We are what we eat and if we want to be healthy, hearty and happy then it would seem like common sense to eat accordingly.”

Visit: the321effect.com