This week, in our Friends of The Happy Pear interview series, we are thrilled to welcome the wonderful, Ella Mills. Founder of the hugely popular blog, ‘Deliciously Ella’, author of three best-selling cookbooks, as well as the co-founder of Deliciously Ella Delis and food products, Ella is a big name in the field of health and wellness. She is passionate about spreading the message of health and happiness and, like us, she also loves a great granola! We caught up with Ella, to find out how she balances taking care of her health, with her busy life as a successful entrepreneur.
Tell us about your morning routine?
My morning routine is my favourite part of the day! I get up about 6am and head to the 6.30am yoga class down the road. Then, Matt (my husband and business partner) and I, stop by our local farm shop for coffee and walk our dog, Austin, all the way to work, with a stop at one of our delis for breakfast on the way. We’ll often do a morning meeting there over breakfast. I love having that time to connect with myself and my family, have real space to chat through what’s going on at home and at work, and feel energized for the day.
What is your favourite meal of the day?
I couldn’t choose! I love our nutty granola with coconut yoghurt, banana slices, and peanut butter for breakfast, and always look forward to that. Equally, I so enjoy making a big veggie curry for dinner with coconut milk, lots of spices (normally cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, mustard seeds and coriander), some seasonal veggies, and potatoes. I’m also a real dessert person, so I couldn’t live without things like cinnamon and apple crumble with toasted almonds and maple either!
What is your daily exercise routine?
I’ve tried more hardcore fitness, like HIIT training, in the past but it wasn’t really for me. I just love a great yoga class and walking as much as I can. I really enjoy being active, moving a lot and stretching, but I don’t enjoy burpees at all! I try to get to yoga four or five times a week, however, the reality of work being so busy means that, some months, I’ll only make it to one or two classes and then others, I’ll be able to go everyday. I try to walk to all my meetings though, which keeps me feeling alert too.
Do you get the chance to cook much, now that that you are so busy? What is your go-to meal to make?
Sometimes it can be tricky, but I genuinely love cooking. I find it very relaxing, so I always make time for it whenever I can. My go-to meal when I’m busy is pasta with tons of veggies – I’ll sauté garlic, then add in sliced button mushrooms, spinach and cherry tomatoes with oregano and a little chili, and then stir that into pasta (normally a brown rice or spelt penne). It only takes ten minutes but it’s delicious.
How do you look after your mental health?
My morning routine has been the best thing for my mental health. I have struggled with feeling overwhelmed by work and the vulnerability of operating a business through the lens of social media, but getting that daily movement, space and time outside with Matt has done wonders for me. I’m also learning not to be so hard on myself; to understand that it’s okay to make lots of mistakes (everyone does) and that every problem always has a solution. Embodying that attitude of positivity and optimism definitely has a big impact on how I feel.
How important is sleep to you?
Really important; I’m pretty useless when I don’t get a good sleep. I try to get seven hours every night. Consistently getting that makes the world of difference to my mental and physical health.
Do you have any beauty tips you can share?
I love natural beauty and have really enjoyed discovering great brands in this space. I like keeping things pretty simple with my routine. I do find that what I eat, how I exercise, and my general well-being, massively impacts the way I feel in myself, so I try and be pretty consistent with that. I’ve been lucky enough to do two collaborations with Neal’s Yard Remedies, creating a face moisturizer, face wash, shower gel and body lotion with them and those are my staples! For makeup, I think the brand RMS is great, as are Ilia and w3ll people.
How did your health journey begin and why is eating healthily important to you?
I got into healthy eating about five years ago. In 2011, I was diagnosed with a condition that affected my autonomic nervous system called, Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. I spent about four months in and out of hospital, while I got the diagnosis, and then most of the following year in bed, taking a lot of medication, steroids etc.
I really struggled, both mentally and physically, with the condition and hit a real rock bottom in 2012, at which point, I realized that I could probably do more to help myself than I was currently doing (I was mostly watching terrible TV shows in bed and crying a lot).
I became interested in diet and lifestyle, and began reading up on the subject. I was inspired by the stories I came across and decided to try it for myself, to see if it would help manage some of my symptoms. As I started learning to cook, I recorded my experiments on a blog, deliciouslyella.com, and everything took off from there.
Initially, I was skeptical about the whole concept, and assumed that healthy food would be boring and unappetizing. I soon discovered that it was the polar opposite and really enjoyed everything I was making. It took me about two years or so to get on top of most of the symptoms and come off my medication. I’ve been working on making my body even stronger since then and, although I do still have some tougher days, I feel great now and couldn’t be more grateful for the path that eating well has taken me on.
Congratulations on the success of your delis and products! As someone who is so busy, how do you balance life and work and deal with stress?
Thank you so much. Things are pretty mad and we’ve grown a lot in the last two years. It’s been intense, and a huge learning curve, but I couldn’t love it more. Matt and I both felt there was an exciting opportunity in front of us and that we just had to run with it, which is what we’ve done – we’ve gone from a team of four to seventy in that time! The biggest lesson for me, has been to realise that everyone makes a lot of mistakes when they’re getting started, and that’s okay; you learn the most from them and finding the solution is much more productive than worrying about the issue.
When it comes to work life balance, I like to have a very relaxed approach. The reality of the situation is that we work all the time – pretty much every evening and every weekend, mostly fourteen hours a day. There is no such thing as a day off when you’re running a startup, as you have to be available all the time.
You can go on holiday, but we do sit by the pool doing our emails! So, instead of trying to create a defined line between work and life, I like to look at it as work life integration. I adore what we do, I feel so passionately about the message behind it, I love the people we work with, and I’m so excited about the direction we’re moving in; so it’s really a pleasure to do what we do and I’m happy to make the choice to put it first for now.
You and your husband, Matt, run the business together- what is it like working as a couple?
Lots of people think we’re mad to work together but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. I could never have got to where I am now without Matt either. I was so young when I first started Deliciously Ella and I’d never had another job. I didn’t know the first thing about business and I still have a huge amount to learn. Matt has taken the practical reigns as our CEO, and that’s allowed me to focus on the bits of the business that I love – the creative, the brand, our readers, the recipes etc. and I find that split works really well. I love having that incredible level of support everyday too, the understanding that we have of each other and our commitment to work and the true sense of partnership – it’s amazing.
If you had one health tip for readers, what would it be?
The first thing I say to anyone is for anything to be sustainable, it has to be enjoyable. Forcing yourself into something you don’t enjoy doesn’t work, so find what works for you, appreciate the fact that we’re all different, and create a balance for yourself that suits you, physically and mentally.