Ella Woodward of Deliciously Ella has been a food blogger long before Bey was wearing KALE printed sweatshirts. In mid 2011, Ella was diagnosed Postural Tachycardia Syndrome; a disease that attacks the nervous system and causes havoc within the bodies regulatory systems. Bed-ridden with no response to conventional medicine, Ella decided to overhaul her diet in an attempt to cure herself. She gave up junk food for a vegan diet overnight—no mean feat for someone who hated fruit and veg so much, she would mix them in with other food to disguise the taste. It’s hard to imagine Ella holding her pretty nose to get some veggies down, when her life now revolves around them. What started as a personal blog to keep track of recipes is now a powerhouse: in addition to hundreds of recipes, Deliciously Ella offers videos, cooking classes, an app, and most recently, a book. Her humble nature would suggest otherwise. Perhaps because her blog started as an accident, Ella Woodward has built her business on a foundation of authenticity—she’s as naturally sweet as her famous brownies. The moral of the story: when life gives you lemons, make some juice and blog about it.
“It all started in June 2011 when I woke up one day just feeling awful—my stomach looked like I was six months pregnant, I was exhausted, I was having heart palpitations and felt generally hungover. Over the next four months these symptoms got gradually worse as I went in and out of hospital, seeing way too many doctors and having countless tests. No-one could figure out what was wrong. It got to a point where I would lose my vision when standing up, couldn’t eat anything without pain, and could barely get out of bed. Eventually I was diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome; a chronic illness that affects the autonomic nervous system, breaking it down so that systems in your body don’t work as they should; preventing regulation of heart rate, circulation, digestion, immune system etc. I tried conventional medicine for about six months, but sadly this didn’t help and I was still bed-ridden most of the time. So I decided to try and heal with food. Overnight I gave up gluten, dairy, refined sugar and meat and started eating a wholefood, plant-based diet. At the time I was living off candy, chocolate, cookies and pasta—I hated fruit and vegetables—so it was a huge change for me. It took me eighteen months to feel well again and come off my medication, but it’s really worked.
During this time I started my blog, really to teach myself to cook. For the first three months I blogged for myself and didn’t show anyone at all. Once I shared it with friends and family, it started to grow slowly over the year. In the summer of 2013 I realized that people were really reading it, so I started blogging more consistently and posting on social media. When it continued to gain popularity, I started looking at it as a potential business. Because Deliciously Ella started as a personal outlet, being authentic was totally subconscious–
but as the blog has developed I think maintaining that authenticity has really helped in connecting with people.
I really just love what I do and I get so over-excited sharing my discoveries with everyone! That said, as important as it is to be genuine and engage with everyone, there’s also a balance. You have to share enough so that everyone can see that you’re a real person and connect with you, but you also have to keep your private life private. It’s not something I thought of when I started, but as my blog and social media following grew, I realized the importance of keeping some things for myself, especially when I was sharing so much with the world. I have a private Instagram account, for example, that I only share with friends and family, and then the Deliciously Ella one is just about Deliciously Ella. My Deliciously Ella account is still 100% me, but it’s the aspects of my life that relate to what I do in the health and wellness space, rather than photos of me and my siblings at Sunday lunch. It’s not about having anything to hide, it’s just about keeping some things to yourself.
As well as learning how to balance my private vs public life, I’m also learning how to manage a million different things at once, with so much Deliciously Ella stuff going on. It can be tricky at times but it’s so exciting nonetheless. I love that I get to explore so many different avenues and it’s incredible to have the ability to do it—I feel very lucky! I’m grateful that I haven’t received too much criticism, but it does hurt and it’s hard to handle. I’m still learning how to deal with this really.
It’s scary putting yourself out there and being so vulnerable.
I just focus on the fact that the feedback is so much more positive than negative. The thing I find most rewarding is getting emails/comments/tweets from people saying that this way of eating has really helped them or that they love the recipe–it’s very humbling. I really feel that everyone is becoming more conscious of the way they eat and the effect that it has on their mind and body, and I’d love to think that Deliciously Ella helps with that awareness. Whenever I find myself overwhelmed or stressed I come back to this and it always inspires me to keep going. Something else that drives me forward is a piece of advice that my mum gave us growing up: you get back what you put in.
It’s a phrase I come back to every day, and I try to apply it in all elements of my life. It’s a mentality that really helps me push myself to put more love and energy into everything I do. I also make a conscious effort to to enjoy myself along the way, even when times are pretty mad. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what you’re doing and stop focusing on the good stuff, and get caught up in the stress and negative instead.
There’s no point putting so much time and love into something if you can’t enjoy it.
Overall, this whole experience has completely changed the way that I look at life, I’m far more open to everything now. I see the world in a much more positive light: everything is a possible adventure.”
Photography courtesy of deliciouslyella.com
As told to Amy Woodside, March 2015