Deliciously Ella: Wellness Warrior

BY Julia Maile / Oct 8 2015 / 18:43 PM

Chronic illness prompted Ella Woodward to adopt a plant-based diet. Now her healthy eating blog and book are inspiring us all

Deliciously Ella: Wellness Warrior
Deliciously Ella: Wellness Warrior
Deliciously Ella: Wellness Warrior
Deliciously Ella: Wellness Warrior
Deliciously Ella: Wellness Warrior

In a world full of tempting delights such as cronuts, gourmet burgers and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese it takes something - or someone - special to turn plant-based eating into the hottest new food trend. It’s exactly what 23-year-old London-based internet sensation Ella Woodward has done with her powerful story of overcoming illness through diet, which has inspired people around the world to ditch the naughty stuff and put vegetables firmly at the centre of their cooking. Until four years ago, Ella was a self-confessed sugar monster, living on a diet of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream, gummy sweets and milk chocolate. But after returning to study at the University of St Andrews in 2011 after a summer modelling in Paris, Ella’s health deteriorated rapidly; she was in chronic pain and slept for 16 hours a day. Ella was eventually diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, a rare illness that attacks the autonomic nervous system. Unable to walk down the street and virtually bedridden, Ella turned to Google for help. “I was on so much medication and it wasn’t working so I started researching alternative healing,” she explains to Bazaar Interiors. “I found other people who had been sick and used diet as a cure. I thought, ‘If it works for them, what have I got to lose?’” Inspired by American cancer survivor and author Kris Carr, who adopted a vegan plant-based diet in response to her diagnosis, Ella changed her way of eating overnight, ditching all meat, dairy, eggs, gluten, refi ned sugar and processed foods. Her new menu consisted of porridge, buckwheat toast with avocado and brown rice pasta, and while she slowly began to feel better, she became bored with her monotonous eating regime. “I was a terrible cook,” she recalls. “Before my diagnosis I didn’t eat any fruit or vegetables, so I had to introduce myself to new things and make myself try them.” Ella began documenting her kitchen adventures at Deliciously Ella, the blog she initially started in secret. After she began sharing it with family and friends, word soon spread and Ella now presides over a burgeoning media empire; the blog gets a staggering 2.5 million hits a month, she has amassed 323,000 Instagram followers and 38,000 fans on Twitter. Her recipe app released last year has been downloaded over 80,000 times. Her first cookbook, Deliciously Ella, was released in January 2015 and achieved the highest first week sales for a debut cookbook since records began. Not bad for someone previously addicted to Haribo sweets. “The message of the book is that healthy eating shouldn’t be about deprivation,” she says. “If I say, ‘I’m going to make you a gluten-free, vegetarian meal,’ people panic and think it sounds terrible. My main aim is to show that vegetables are so much more interesting than people think.” A case in point is the blog’s most popular recipe for sweet potato brownies, which are even more delicious than the usual sugar-laden variety. While most recipes could be classified as vegan, Ella prefers to avoid the label. “It’s a terrible word to use because it’s so exclusive and makes people run in the opposite direction,” she says. “It means you can’t eat honey... Well I eat lots of honey.” She encourages her readers to adapt the recipes to suit their own lifestyle. “I’ve got friends that add feta to the beetroot risotto and that’s great. Add chicken to the curry. You can eat a Deliciously Ella meal twice a week and whatever else the rest of the time. If you just start making small changes it will be awesome.” While others can opt in and out, for Ella, reverting to her old ways is not an option. “While I’ve been really healthy and medication free for the last year and a half, my body still reacts to those foods so I have to be very careful in a way I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for everyone else.” Yet despite the apparent limitations, she finds her way of eating easy. “The main misconception is that I sit here just eating salad,” she says. “It’s more that I crave different foods. If I want to overindulge in sweet things, I’ll polish off a tray of sweet potato brownies. If I want to overeat at dinner, I’ll have way too much veggie curry. It just doesn’t cross my mind to eat a steak.” With her legions of followers around the globe devouring every new recipe and Twitter update, how does Ella feel about being the poster girl for a healthy lifestyle? “I love it,” she says. “It’s an honour to be able to inspire people to do things that make them feel good. There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning thinking, ‘yeah, I can do this!’”

Deliciouslyella.com