Interview
Ella Woodward

ELLA WOODWARD

Ella spoke to BWB’s resident veggie-lover Rebecca Leffler about her ravenous appetite for life and changing the world one sweet potato brownie at a time.

If ever there was a poster child for Hippocrates’ famous dictum “let food be thy medicine,” Ella Woodward is it.
While a student studying art at St Andrews, Ella suddenly became ill and was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening disease of the autonomic nervous system called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. From doing a hospital tour of London searching desperately for a cure to, today, touring the world launching her book and visiting her hundreds of thousands of fans, Ella’s life has been dramatically transformed for the better.
Just a few years after her diagnosis, Ella is the picture of health with glowing skin, a svelte figure and an ostensibly unlimited supply of energy.
Her secret? A prescription for vegetables and a complete dissection of her diet.

She is turning her favorite ingredient Medjool dates into mind-blowingly delicious meals like her world-famous sweet potato brownies, healthy snack bars or creamy porridge.

While most girls her age – a ripe young 23 – are worried about dating, Ella is focusing on …well, also dating only this time turning her favorite ingredient Medjool dates into mind-blowingly delicious meals like her world-famous sweet potato brownies, healthy snack bars or creamy porridge.
Her blog now gets 150,000 visitors daily, her recipe app more than 70,000 downloads and her book Deliciously Ella was a #1 best-seller in the UK even before it hit bookshelves.
The US version of her book launched on March 3rd (Scribner).

Ella spoke to BWB’s resident veggie-lover Rebecca Leffler about her ravenous appetite for life and changing the world one sweet potato brownie at a time.

BWB: You haven’t been shy about your own health struggles leading you to your new lifestyle. How long did it take before you felt “better” once you revamped your diet and lifestyle? And do you still have lingering health troubles or has it really been a happily ever after ?

It took me eighteen months to really feel like myself again. It wasn’t that every day was better than the one before though, I’d have a real mix of good and bad days during this time!
Luckily since then I haven’t had any lingering health troubles and it really does feel like happily ever after!

BWB: You are always so enthusiastic about so many of your recipes and love using superlatives (are you sure you’re not American?) but if you had to choose your all-time favorite recipe, what would it be?

That’s such a hard question! My readers favorite is the sweet potato brownies, they’re almost always the most popular recipe but my favorite is the almond and chia energy bites (from my book) – they’re so delicious and I love enjoying them as an afternoon snack when I feel I need a pick-me-up.

BWB: Are there any foods you don’t like?

I really don’t like green peppers, they’re too bitter for me.

Most people love sweet food so need it in their life and I feel it’s unrealistic to say you’ll never eat dessert again – it’s just not sustainable or fun!

BWB: Sugar has become the current public enemy #1, especially here in the US. I love that you’re not afraid of using – natural! – sugars in your recipes and have a self-confessed sweet tooth. What do you think of this new global sugar fear and what natural sweeteners do you use and recommend?

I think it’s great that people are becoming conscious of what goes into their body and the effect that it can have on their wellbeing, but I think sometimes these things can go a bit far.
Most people love sweet food so need it in their life and I feel it’s unrealistic to say you’ll never eat dessert again – it’s just not sustainable or fun!
Taking care of yourself has to be enjoyable for it to work. That’s why I use natural sweeteners. They make me feel so much better, but I still get to enjoy chocolate.
I use a mix of dates, date syrup, maple syrup and raw honey in my recipes.

BWB: What does a typical day of eating look like for you?

There isn’t really a typical day as I’m always cooking and recipe testing so it really changes everyday!

BWB: What’s your favorite…

…breakfast?
I love oatmeal, it’s so good cooked with almond milk, banana, almond butter and berries.

…lunch?
Probably a kale salad with a lime and tahini dressing, lots of hummus, avocado and toasted seeds. I like quick lunches that can be thrown together quickly and don’t require lots of chopping and washing up! Try this recipe from Elle HERE: lentil, zucchini and mint salad.

…dinner?
At the moment I’m making lots of veggie curries for dinner. There’s a great recipe for a coconut Thai curry in the book that I make a lot. It’s filled with eggplant, squash and chickpeas cooked in a creamy coconut mix with fresh cilantro, ginger, miso and chilli and then it’s all served with brown rice. It’s so good!

…snack?
I love homemade hummus with carrot sticks if I want something savory, or almond and chia energy bites if I need something sweet. I try to keep both in my fridge at all times!

My favorite juice bar is called Juicebaby, they make the best juices in London.

BWB: What are your favorite spots in London to…

…eat out with friends?
There’s a great veggie place called Mildreds, it’s the oldest vegetarian place in London and it has a great atmosphere and amazing food!

…have a drink (“drink” category also includes green juice or tea of course!)?
My favorite juice bar is called Juicebaby, they make the best juices in London.

…to exercise?
I workout in lots of different places, but I especially love psycle, which is a UK version of Soul Cycle – it’s just so uplifting listening to such great music.

…to pamper yourself?
Content beauty. They do the best natural facials ever using things like papaya, raw honey and spirulina.

…get (even more) beautiful ?
Juice places, workout places and content beauty are my favorite places to go to feel great!

BWB: What is your daily beauty routine?

I like to keep things quite simple so my routine is quite basic. I use natural make-up, mainly by RMS and then wash my face in the evening with a cleanser by Dr Hauschka.
I moisturize using a product from a British company called Pai which is amazing!
I try to exfoliate once or twice a week too using Frank body scrub, it’s a wonderfully inexpensive, natural scrub that makes me feel amazing.

BWB: What beauty brands and products do you recommend?

For makeup I love RMS beauty, for skincare I love Dr Hauschka and Pai and then lots of coconut oil – it’s a miracle ingredient!

BWB: What do you do to stay fit aside from your clean diet?

I do a mix of lots of things – I box, spin, do HIIT, pilates and yoga. I love working out and find that by doing a mix of things I get the most out of my movement and feel my best physically and mentally.

BWB: Your book is now available in America and soon across the globe and you have a very international readership.
Which of your recipes have been the most universal / popular across the world?

The sweet potato brownies. Everyone is obsessed with them!

BWB: Are there any typically “British” foods you’ve had to reinvent to adapt to your new way of eating?

Not especially, or at least I don’t think so. I’m never totally sure what classifies as quintessential British food apart from a Sunday roast!

I think people are really becoming much more health conscious. I’ve particularly noticed big differences in the way that my friends eat.

BWB: Wellness in London is gaining momentum (partly thanks to YOU), but clearly traditional British cuisine is a far cry from what you’re serving up. How have you seen a shift in national eating patterns ?

Absolutely. I think people are really becoming much more health conscious. I’ve particularly noticed big differences in the way that my friends eat.
For example, juice is now considered cool and there’s nothing weird about making homemade hummus to eat with quinoa and kale for dinner!

BWB: Do your friends and family eat a plant-based diet? How do you adapt to social gatherings?

My friends and family love the way I eat and their diets now really incorporate a lot of the foods I eat. Normally when we eat together, we make lots of Deliciously Ella dishes and then they sometimes add fish, chicken, eggs to the dish, which works perfectly. I’m all about getting people eating more plant based ingredients rather than wanting everyone to exclusively eat that way.

BWB: You spend time between the UK and the US – what differences do you notice in terms of the health scene in both places?

I spent a lot of last year in LA and it was so interesting to see how advanced the health culture is there. It feels so ahead of the UK. I loved that it was so normal to take care of yourself and that every restaurant had healthy options, it just makes life so much easier.

BWB: Is there one food you desperately miss?

Not at all. I absolutely love the way I eat.

BWB: There are more and more wellness books and healthy cookbooks and blogs out there, but you have managed to become a huge star.
What do you think sets you apart from other bloggers and chefs out there?

I’m really not sure. I’m very honest in the way that I write and I think people like that. I also try to never come across as preachy. I want what I do to feel accessible to everyone and I think that helps my readers feel that they can make small changes to their diet, which is great.

BWB: As a former vegetable-hater, what would your advice be to someone looking to change his or her diet, but not knowing where to begin?

I think it’s great to make small changes to start with. Just adding an extra portion of fruit and veg to every meal really helps and you don’t have to start with green vegetables either. Sweet potato wedges or guacamole are delicious, easy places to start.

BWB: You’re now the health and wellness guru for so many people. Who are your personal health and wellness inspirations?

I have way too many! I follow around 800 people on Instagram and I love the health community there – it gives me so much inspiration. I was really inspired by Kris Carr’s story and her book Crazy Sexy Diet and I love blogs like Green Kitchen Stories.

BWB: Do you have any “guilty” pleasures? When you do indulge, what are your vices?

I have a serious thing for dates with almond butter and hummus, but that’s about as crazy as it gets! My indulgences vary so much, I seem to crave different things every week.
Sometimes it’s anything chocolaty so I’ll make a lot of raw chocolate and other times it’s guacamole.

BWB: Other than of course a new, already best-selling book and your active blog, what else do you have planned in 2015? Any exciting upcoming projects to share?

I’m just focusing on the US book launch at the moment and then we’ll see. I think I’ll need to take a minute to reflect and breathe before jumping into the next big project!

Rebecca Leffler

Rebecca Leffler is a writer, journalist and wellness consultant. She is the author of best-selling French book Green, Glam & Gourmande and follow-up title Green, Glam & Happy. Her book “Très green, très clean, très chic: Eat (and live!) the new French way with plant-based, gluten-free recipes for every season” was released in 2015. Follow Rebecca at Lafleurparisny.com.

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