We’re approaching the first week of February and, while most of us have already shamelessly let our pledges to live a healthier lifestyle in 2015 fall by the wayside, Ella Woodward is on top form. The 24 year old resolved to the same thing back in 2011 after she found herself sleeping 16 hours a day, struck down by an illness doctors were unable to diagnose for months.
‘I just woke up one day feeling awful – my stomach looked like I was six months pregnant. I was so exhausted, was having heart palpitations and general hangover feelings,’ she explains. ‘For four months I was in and out of hospital, seeing so many different doctors and having countless tests, by which point I would lose my vision when I stood up, couldn’t eat anything without pain and could barely get out of bed.’
Shortly afterwards Woodward saw a neurologist who diagnosed her with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a rare and under-diagnosed disease of the nervous system. She was studying history of art at St Andrews at the time.
‘It was so hard. Looking back on it, I think I was pretty depressed and I really just shut myself off from the world. I stopped talking to almost everyone and just hid away,’ she recalls. ‘I didn’t understand the illness or what had happened to me and as a result I went into denial mode and pretended it wasn’t happening.’
She was put on a course of steroids and was ‘taking a crazy number of different pills everyday’ but was still feeling better. After being brought home semi-conscious in a wheelchair after an attack on what was supposed to be a romantic getaway in 2012, she had had enough. ‘I realised it was time for me to take some responsibility for what was going on with my body,’ she says. ‘I tried conventional medicine but it wasn’t working so I decided to heal with food.’

Inspired by a book by Kris Carr, who changed her life after being diagnosed with stage four cancer, Woodward gave her diet an overhaul. Overnight, she gave up gluten, dairy, refined sugar and meat and started eating a wholefood, plant based diet. ‘The book gave me hope for the first time in nearly year. I was so inspired by her story and really felt that I could get better again – it was an amazing feeling,’ she says.

‘It took me eighteen months to feel well again and come off my medication but it really worked. I’d still have days, even weeks when I had to go to bed but over time I had more and more good days until eventually they were always good days.’

It wasn’t exactly an easy transition, she confesses. ‘I wasn’t a healthy eater before – I hated fruit and veg and lived off pesto, pasta, chocolate and ice cream. I was also a big carnivore, so it was hard to go from that to healthy eating overnight.’ A friend suggested to keep a blog as a place to share new recipes. ‘I didn’t know what to eat to be healthy and I couldn’t cook so I started the blog as a way of teaching myself how to cook delicious, healthy food.’ Creating food that actually tastes good is the key to sticking at eating healthily she tells me. She doesn’t understand people who try to make tofu stakes or vegan sausages – ‘they’ll always be horrible.’ Instead she focuses on making healthy versions of your guilty pleasures. Her first recipes for example, were things like mashed avocado with lime and sweet potato-wedges with cinnamon and her now much-loved raw brownies. ‘I remember making them, trying them and loving them. I think that was a big moment for me as I realised how awesome healthy food could be.’

All of the recipes you see on the blog are her own. ‘I create them just by playing around with new ingredients,’ she laughs. ‘I’m terrible at following instructions too, which is probably why I didn’t just buy someone else’s book!’

THE_LIFESTYLE_EDIT_DELICIOUSLY_ELLA_2Hers is the blog every healthy food junkie swears by and since it launched back in 2012, it’s attracted quite the cult-following with hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors both here and internationally.

Now a brand in its own right, Deliciously Ella now offers regular cooking classes to fans wanting to get tips from the pro and she’s currently studying to be a naturopathic nutritionist at the College of Naturopathic Medicine.

‘I didn’t expect it to turn into a business at all. Originally the blog was meant to be just a way of recording my new recipes and then later on I just did it for fun. Honestly, I still can’t believe that it’s got to where it is!’

When she launched an app last year it instantly went to number one in the food and drinks category in the UK and US and number five overall on iTunes, racking up 17,000 downloads in its first month of release alone. ‘It was so crazy and unexpected. I went to bed hoping it would make it into the top 200, expecting it to be number 199 if I was lucky,’ she laughs, ‘so I was completely shocked to see that so many people bought it.’

Now, off the back of that success she’s just released her debut book, an assortment of never-seen-before recipes. ‘I wanted to create something that people can treasure and enjoy in the kitchen. I love the blog but it’s quite transient so I think it’s nice to have a hard copy of Deliciously Ella recipes.’

There’s no doubt about it: Ella’s quickly making an empire but it was never about that, she admits. Instead, all she wants is to inspire people to improve their lives with food, like she did. ‘It’s just incredible to hear that I’m making a difference in people’s lives. I’m continually overwhelmed by how much people love and respond to the recipes,’ she says, obviously moved. ‘It’s just quite humbling to have people of all ages from across the world tell you that you’ve helped them in some way.’

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