At the age of 19, blogger Ella Mills (a.k.a. @DeliciouslyElla) was diagnosed with a rare illness, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. She spent four months in a hospital and didn’t start feeling well again until she dramatically changed her diet, giving up gluten, meat, sugar, and dairy.
Mills began blogging about learning to cook and quickly became a food-world personality. She’s written cookbooks, created product lines, and opened restaurants in London. Below, she talks to the Cut about the power of the carrot, the downsides of Instagram, and why she’s looking beyond “dusts” for wellness.
How I start my morning: I used to wake up and check my emails and Instagram and go into a vortex of stress at 6 a.m. Now I don’t do that. My alarm goes off and I go to yoga from 6:30 to 7:30. That’s the first thing I do every single morning. No matter how I’m feeling. I find that it gives me a really good mind-set for the day and a real sense of positivity.
Then I can go into the vortex of stress and work and keep my head throughout that. After that, my husband — who is my business partner — and I walk through the park every day to work.
What I eat for breakfast: A lot of porridge or oatmeal. I’ll have that with almond milk with peanut butter and banana at the top, or coconut yogurt with granola and berries. In the winter, I love cooking the berries for a couple of minutes in boiling water so they’re stewed and warm.
I also do love a cliché avocado toast on a crunchy rye with chili flakes and lemon juice and black pepper. I also enjoy a smoothie. It’s pretty simple: frozen banana, mixed berries, spinach, some kind of almond milk, and oats.
What wellness means to me: It has such a big connection to being happy which connects to being confident in yourself. I don’t think there’s one definition. What’s good for you may be different for me.
My primary focus is food. Broccoli and kale are great, but they’re not the silver bullet. It’s looking at different aspects of your life, your sleep, your eating, your stress and relationships, your job and career as well as your kale.
How wellness has changed for me: Back in 2011, I was studying at college and I got really sick and my autonomic nervous system stopped working properly. It affected my ability to control my heart rate. I had no energy and bad chronic fatigue. I was on tons of meds and steroids. At that point, I was 20. I had suddenly gone from having my whole life in front of me to being stuck on my bed on my own watching the Kardashians on repeat (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
After about a year, I realized that if I continued on that trajectory, I’d never have a job and I’d live at home forever. I came across these people who had amazing success through diet, lifestyle, and nutrition, and changing bits of their life to treat symptoms. I had nothing to lose. But I was all about eating gummy bears at that point, so I started writing my blog because I wanted to learn how to cook.
At the time, it wasn’t cool. Green smoothies weren’t a thing; it wasn’t aspirational or anything. All of the nutrition information out there was about dieting and weight loss, or it was kind of old-school crunchy vegetarian which wasn’t very sexy. I wanted to do something more exciting than those. So Deliciously Ella was born overnight. It took three or three and a half years to really feel normal again. But after two years, I could come off medication and feel like a functioning person again.
Originally, I was so fascinated by the space and got into the “dusts” and the powders. I had to have spirulina and chia seeds every day. Now my wellness routine is much more simple and less sparkly and innovative.
Health is really about simple everyday changes and decisions. We need wellness because we have serious health issues, from childhood obesity to diabetes. We need to get people changing the way they eat and that’s become my mission and my passion. Increasingly, I think that goes back to the carrot and the chickpea rather than the “dust.”
When I get home from work, I’m putting carrots in a pan and sautéing garlic and herbs to make a stir fry. It’s so unfancy, so uncomplicated, and so not groundbreaking in any way shape or form. Let’s celebrate the carrot. We can do great things with that.
On “clean eating”: I’m not a huge fan of the word “clean.” Sometimes, it’s more about adding stuff in rather than taking it out. We could strip it back a bit and make it so much simpler. How can we add an extra portion of vegetables here and there? And if you did that every meal for a week, that’s 21 servings of vegetables.
Personally my go-to tip for people starting to change their diet is to have a great herb rack. If you have great spices like cumin and paprika, mustard seeds, turmeric, basil, thyme, rosemary, that’s such an amazing base for a meal.
For anything to be sustainable, it has to be enjoyable. If your food is bland, you are going to miss pizza. You can only eat boring stuff for so long. Unless you’re not interested in food.
How I like to sweat: I’m a full yoga person — Vinyasa yoga. I used to do weight training and circuits and I didn’t enjoy it so much. After class, I wouldn’t feel great. I would spend the whole time thinking: Make it stop. No more squats. I don’t want to do a burpee. I wasn’t getting the same connection with myself and quiet time that I get in yoga.
So about six months ago, I decided it was enough. And now when I’m home, I go to yoga every day. I’ve felt myself become stronger because I have a mental connection to it. It gives me a clarity and a peace that nothing else does. There’s the idea of physically making space which mentally allows me to make space too.
At first, my husband would remind me that I should be going to meetings, not going to yoga. I said, “Let me go every day, and I will show you that you want me to go to yoga.” Now if I don’t want to go, he’s like No, you go.
How I eat when I’m alone: I love garlic with really good olive oil and blistered tomatoes — salty, garlicky, oily tomatoes — on crunchy rye toast and black pepper. I eat a lot of it.
Or my go-to is making stews. All you need to do is chop a couple vegetables and chuck it in a pan. You come back and have this warming meal. I love things with coconut milk and spices. I love peanut butter from the jar, or dark chocolate dipped in peanut butter.
My biggest wellness struggle: My struggle is keeping calm. I’ll wake up in the morning and I have 150 emails and I’m like, Oh my god, go away. Then you go on Instagram and it feels like, They have their shit together. And I do not today.
Social media is a snapshot — it’s ideas, inspiration, a highlight reel. It’s not real. The more we talk about it, hopefully the less that will be the case. People probably think I’m super confident because I have a million followers. I’m not.
My wellness advice: Know when to put your phone away. When I wasn’t in a great place and I’d see people at parties, it would make me feel so much worse. I needed to turn it off and decide to sit on the sofa and watch Friends and dip chocolate into peanut butter rather than look at Victoria’s Secret models. Just put it down.
Everybody has days when they think they’re failing. Social media is escapism. We have to raise people up and share, but also know it’s not everything.
Ella’s Wellness Recommendations
“These are always in my handbag.”
“I’m in love with essential oils. When I’m traveling, I use the roller ones. When I’m stressed they help me remember to breathe.”
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