In 2011, Ella Woodward was diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome. For the then-20-year-old, the diagnosis and its symptoms — like chronic fatigue, stomach problems, headaches, and uncontrollable blood pressure — caused an enormous shift in how she approached her lifestyle and diet.
After spending two years almost completely bedridden, Ella decided to put her life back into her own hands. Cutting out processed foods in favor of a plant-based diet, she embarked on a mission to revamp her way of life so that she could manage her symptoms — and get to experiment with yummy food in the kitchen!
Fast forward six years, and Ella is the founder of Deliciously Ella, co-owner of three delis with her husband, Matthew, serving delicious eats, and author of three top-selling cookbooks. She’s even created her own app!
In between promoting her newest cookbook — “Natural Feasts: 100+ Healthy, Plant-Based Recipes to Share and Enjoy with Friends and Family” — we caught up with Ella to learn about what inspires her and what she’s excited about going forward.
Q&A with Ella Woodward
Who has been your biggest influence and inspiration in your health journey?
Our readers are my biggest inspiration. Every day, we get emails and comments via social about how much people are enjoying the recipes, and that they’re feeling so well after changing or adapting their diet. We get quite a few messages about huge health journeys too, where people are drastically transforming their health with the help of diet and lifestyle, and those often make me cry!
What’s your favorite way to relax and rejuvenate?
I love yoga. I know it’s a bit of a healthy cliché, but it’s a big part of my life. I practice almost every day before work and it really helps create balance in my day. Work is mad at the moment, I’m travelling a lot with it and our business is expanding quickly, and it’s the thing that I find helps ground me most. Other than that, I just love being home with my husband, Matt, and our dog, Austin!
What keeps you going on tougher days?
Knowing that there’s always a solution to everything and no matter how negative a situation may seem, there is always some kind of silver lining — even if you can’t see it at that moment. I’ve been through a challenging illness, where I spent the best part of two years on my own in bed, and we’re currently going through a difficult period with Matt’s mum who is very unwell, while also managing a period of intense growth with our business. These moments have been really tough at times, but I’ve learned and grown a lot from it.
When I was first diagnosed with my illness (which affected my autonomic nervous system and left me stuck in bed), I really sunk into a dark place, but six years later that negative has turned into a huge positive, which ultimately has defined my whole life. It led me to a new love of cooking and eating well, which I began sharing online and then evolved into a successful business, which I run with my husband, with three cafes in London, three ranges of food products in over 5,000 U.K. stores, four books, an app, a website with over 100 million hits, and most of all a true passion and purpose that I’m lucky enough to share every day.
What are the three most important parts of your daily routine?
My morning yoga — I go 6:30 am to 7:30 am during the week — and then my walk to work with Matt and Austin. I look forward to both so much and they really help me start my day on a positive note. The third part would have to be breakfast, which I eat when I get to the office. It’s normally something simple, like creamy almond milk porridge with berries, banana, and nut butter, but sometimes I get more creative and whip up some sweet potato rosti with rosemary beans and herby guacamole or some blueberry pancakes!
What would you tell your 16-year-old self?
That you can do so much more than you think you can. I used to be so insecure and unambitious, I never would have imagined that I’d be running my own business or standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people at any point in my life. Learning to walk away from that fear and embrace opportunities is so important!
What’s your favorite inspirational song?
I love cheesy 90’s pop music!
What’s your favorite healthy treat?
I love the little orange and pistachio truffles with cacao powder and medjool dates from my recent book, “Natural Feasts,” as well as the oat-y cardamom cookies in there and the chocolate peanut butter pie!
What do you eat on cheat days?
I hate the concept of a cheat day! What we eat shouldn’t inflict guilt and eating well should never feel like a diet. We all need to find the right balance to sate us physically and mentally and then just enjoy everything we eat.
Who is your health hero?
Is there one health trick or life hack you can’t live without?
Finding a way of eating that you genuinely enjoy, because for anything to be sustainable, it has to be enjoyable. Healthy isn’t about dieting or depriving yourself, it’s about eating great food that tastes great and helps you feel your best.
What are you most grateful for right now?
My husband, my health, and getting to do something that I love every day. I feel unbelievably lucky to be on the path that I am.