This week on the Calmer You Podcast I shared an intimate conversation with Ella Mills, British food writer and entrepreneur under the brand Deliciously Ella, about wellness, anxiety and dealing with criticism. She’s been through it all and shares much wisdom so many of us can connect with.
We chat about:
- What wellness means to her and why it gets a bad rap
- Her experiences of anxiety around her business and motherhood
- Dealing with criticism
- Ella’s advice for those thinking of starting a business
Chloe Brotheridge: Hello and welcome to the Calmer You podcast. This is your host, Chloe Brotheridge. I’m a coach, a hypnotherapist, and I’m the author of The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl. And this podcast is all about helping you to become your calmest, happiest and most confident self.
Thank you so much for joining me today I am joined on the podcast by the completely lovely Ella Mills aka Deliciously Ella. I’ve been following her since the very early days in her career back when I was making sweet potato brownies while having weird autoimmune issues. That was a massive help to me. I’ve been a big fan ever since.
We chat about what wellness means in this day and age, why it gets a bad rap, and how we can make the most of it without it becoming something negative in our lives. We talk about her experiences of anxiety. She has experienced anxiety twice in her life and she shares her stories around that. She also shares about how she deals with criticism and how we can start to recognise what we can use as constructive criticism and what we can just let go of. We also talk about Ella’s advice for those thinking of starting a business. This is incredibly helpful and insightful.
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Let’s welcome Ella to the podcast
Let’s get into the episode with Ella. Welcome Ella. Thank you so much. How are you? I’m very excited to speak to you. I have been following you since I think 2013 or 2014. I was making your sweet potato brownies when I was really struggling with weird health symptoms that no doctor could really explain. Finding you and what you were doing was such a massive help. It really helped with the weird symptoms that I was having. And I felt so much less alone knowing that there were other people who had to have diets that were a little bit out of the ordinary. Yeah. So thank you so much for everything that you do.
Can you say a bit about how you are the moment. How are things with everything that’s going on in the world? Are you working from home and how’s all of that going?
Ella: Yes, since the middle of March we’ve been working differently. Do you know what I feel like? It depends what day you asked me. I’m an emotional person anyway so I’m definitely an up and down kind of person but I feel like some days I literally couldn’t think working from home was better and I’m loving it. I’m loving the quietness of not commuting into Central London. Other days I miss it so much. I miss getting dressed and being with lots of people and the kind of buzz and energy you get from that.
Pregnant and working from home
It really depends, but I have to say I was pregnant last summer as well. I’m pregnant this summer is a theme at the moment and I have to stay working from home. It’s very nice when you’re pregnant. A lot more comfortable. Waddling down Oxford Street when it was like 30 degrees last year was not the best few minutes of my life.
Chloe Brotheridge: It’s kind of up and down at the moment. We’re not the same every day. I guess that’s life normally, but maybe it’s intensified during lockdown because things are just more intense.
Plant-based cooking made easy
I’m very excited about your new book Quick and Easy. And I follow a plant-based diet myself. Things being quick and easy is just basically what we’re all looking for right now. Do you have any kind of key tips that you have for having a plant-based diet and doing it in a quick and easy way?
Ella: I think with anything in life, your diet, the way you look after your mental health, your exercise, relationships, everything it has to feel sustainable with long term doable options. Sometimes that’s what goes wrong. People think they have to go all out and eat lettuce with grated carrots and cucumber and tomatoes. And I mean, it’s just so boring.
It’s unbelievable. It’s gonna last like two minutes. Yeah, and for me, they’re like, the most important thing is that things taste good because then you want to keep coming back to them. Obviously, you know, the focus on mental health, like it’s so important to feel satisfied. And it’s so important to feel like you’re doing something that feels good and positive. And I think that’s key.
Lockdown: 21 meals a week
Equally, that’s great, but it only actually works in your lifestyle. If it is doable in the sense that it’s like, actually manageable. For most people, that has to be quick. I don’t know about you guys, but I am not used to making 21 meals a week. Normally if you’re in the office, we do team lunch in the office every day anyway. We’d go out maybe every now and again or just grab something on the way home. Now it’s just so different. We’re sitting at home and so we’re having three meals a day, seven days a week at home. That’s been really different. I have appreciated batch cooking and things like now more than ever.
Chloe Brotheridge: I can’t imagine if you’ve got lots of kids. Having an approach of not making it too complicated and keeping it simple. During lockdown I started cooking then it waned. Now I feel like I’ve got a second wind. I’m getting back into cooking again.
Ella: Like you said, some days you’re really loving the time gained from less commuting and new opportunities to have hobbies. On other days you just cannot be bothered with anything anymore.
What does wellness mean to you?
Chloe Brotheridge: I really wanted to talk to you about wellness. It’s a term that we hear so much about these days. We’ve kind of lost our connection with what that is, or it’s become quite an overwhelming thing. There’s been a sort of a backlash, I suppose, in some ways to the term or to the sort of approaches. What does wellness mean to you?
Ella: It’s a great question. It’s so nuanced and has so many layers to it. It triggers different things in different people. I’m really aware of that. Equally, I’m not sure what’s a better word. I think it’s just become so confusing for people because we all know that we need to eat a few more vegetables. What does wellness mean to our mental health? The fact that our brain and our gut are directly linked to the gut-brain access. My favourite food is fibre. There’s a reason we need a certain amount of fibre in our day. And the vast majority of us, again, are not meeting that by almost 50%. There’s a real disconnect there.
30 different plant-based food in a week
Researchers are now saying you should have 30 different plant-based foods every single week. Perhaps to get that much in your diet you are going to have to do and buy all these weird and wacky things that won’t be available in your local Tesco.I think that that is a slight problem. And if people want to do anything extra on the top, you know, it’s like, add the fairy dust, try it, whatever works for you. I don’t have any criticism of any of it.
I do think taking care of ourselves a bit more, whether that is trying to make something for lunch that’s fresh, whether that is you know, trying to go on a walk every day or do even just like a 10-minute online yoga video, whatever it is that you enjoy. Trying to turn your phone off for an hour just trying to maybe try a meditation app for five minutes. Nothing complicated. Just five minutes here, five minutes there. Sometimes we’ve become quite divorced from that in amongst the confusion of all the weird and wacky messaging.
What does that look like?
Chloe Brotheridge: So lentils and carrots, it could be as simple as, you know, more vegetables. I hadn’t heard that and about 30 different plant-based foods a week. How would you visualise that across the day?
Ella: It’s quite easy. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds both count as two. If you like, total some of those and put those in the salad. That would be two, and you know, oats count as one and rice counts as another and so on and so forth.
Chloe Brotheridge: Good to know. I was curious about whether there were any weird and wonderful wellness concepts that you were interested in or that you’d find helpful. Other things that you do or things that you’ve tried that that do really work for you.
Trying new wellness opportunities
Ella: I’m really open-minded. I think some of it’s so interesting. But it can be a barrier. I’m fascinated by this space and what’s going on. One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had is for example at Crystal Sound TV. They’re playing the kind of gong along with a guided meditation. I never felt such relaxation in my life. Some of my friends and family think oh my goodness, you know when you start going into that territory. I’ve had some really amazing experiences with practices like that. Hmm.
Chloe Brotheridge: Yeah, me too. I definitely am up for trying any of those sorts of things. Quite often things can surprise you. You might get dragged along to a gong bath or a sound healing or trying something like CBD oil because someone recommends it to you. Then actually you get surprised that it does work for you. If it works, I think we should be open to trying different things.
Ella: Totally. I think there is, you know, on the flip side of what we’re saying, I think there is a lack of open-mindedness that we see just too much. If something works for you, and there’s no kind of evident negative repercussions of it, then why not? Who cares? You know, if the placebo effect is the only reason why it works, who cares? It doesn’t matter. It works. We are quite quick to judge and we are quick to dismantle what really works for people. If it supports your wellness then who else is to judge. Who cares why it works, if it works, it works and that’s all that actually matters.
Chloe Brotheridge: I think we should be maximising the placebo effect as much as possible. In some studies, it’s comparable to medication. Even with antidepressants, placebos perform pretty well instead of anti-depressants. You should definitely be trying to use those obviously in a safe way.
I was interested to know whether you have experienced anxiety in your life and what was that experience like for you and other ways that you deal with it personally?
Ella: Yeah, I’ve had it. The most recent time was after Skye, my daughter, was born last year. I felt so terrified by the responsibility. And I just found myself overthinking everything like did I turn off every appliance in the kitchen? Is she still breathing. There’s no reason logically to think for some reason today I’m going to fall down the stairs.
Motherhood and anxiety
It may have been a combination of exhaustion and hormones wrapped up with this new level of responsibility which you’re not prepared for in any shape or form. I was breastfeeding, and I am literally keeping this child alive in like every sense of the word. Am I doing it right? And I’m sure that’s a very normal experience for people with early motherhood, but I did find it for the first like couple of months overwhelming. That sense of responsibility in shaping someone else’s life impacted my wellness.
I had a lot of anxiety about and would just worry about absolutely everything. Pregnancy wasn’t like that. And in fact, I found that quite crippling. That was after our first book came out and everything just changed overnight and it grew so fast. Suddenly people are talking about you rather than to you and suddenly people have all kinds of different opinions. I found that that sense of vulnerability overwhelming and paralyzing.
Dealing with criticism
Chloe Brotheridge: or anyone that’s such a massive thing to suddenly be exposed to all these opinions. Criticism make us not want to make a mistake. That can be on a massive scale with so many opinions coming in. It can be really difficult.
How do you deal with criticism and that sort of thing? Because I guess it’s a like a numbers game, the more people you have kind of following you, the more likely you’re going to have people with unhelpful kind of ideas. messaging you. Do you have any kind of how do you deal with that?
Ella: It’s been a real learning curve for me. I definitely had a moment where, it made me consider getting out and starting a different career. If you want to do this, you’re gonna have to figure this out because this isn’t just today, this is going to be part and parcel of the career.
Two types of criticism
I found for me, criticism had gone into two buckets. The first was constructive criticism. And actually, you know, it’s one of those things, sometimes it’s not always delivered in the most constructive way, but it is genuinely constructive criticism.
We can all do better and be better. That criticism is genuinely helpful, and I think has helped me and us as a business also learn and develop and grow. Some criticism can be genuinely constructive and it’s not personal, which I think is, is the most important part.
The second is personal criticism, like when someone says I absolutely hate your voice or you’ve put on weight or you’ve lost weight or you know, you’re terrible mother. I get that probably because we do is food. At a certain point for my own wellness, I just had to say okay, some people are always gonna think that about you and you just can’t make everyone happy.
Tip for dealing with criticism
Chloe Brotheridge: It’s exhausting if we’re trying to please everyone. I was talking to a friend who was on the podcast recently and she’s she looks at the reviews of her favourite books and films. There will be terrible reviews. That’s evidence that we can’t keep everyone happy no matter how brilliant you are.
Ella: I don’t read my reviews or interviews. I won’t read it. I never read it. You know, because it could take me to the comment section. For me, that’s the only way to do it. It’s too negative to deal with.
Chloe Brotheridge: The comments section of the Daily Mail definitely! I made that mistake of reading some comments or something that I wrote.
Ella: It’s really damaging, I think. It’s really important to take constructive criticism on board. But that kind of personal criticism isn’t constructive criticism or good for your wellness. That’s just like, more brutal keyboard warriors most of the time.
Your boss or colleagues may offer criticism of you and you don’t like it, but it is genuinely probably constructive in some ways, and it’s going to help you in the long term.
Starting a new career
Chloe Brotheridge: Right now many people are faced with furlough or considering what they want to do with their lives. Would you have any advice for people who are thinking about working for themselves or starting a business or launching a blog or anything like that?
Ella: That’s a great question. Part of me is like, do it. It’s the best thing ever. And the other part of me is like, don’t do it. It’s the worst thing. It’s much harder than it looks. There are massive upsides and there are massive downsides.
I think there’s a real glamorization of starting a business at the moment like female entrepreneurship and hashtag girl boss. That’s amazing and empowering. And feeling like there’s opportunity. That’s only a positive thing. That being said, it’s really hard. It’s particularly hard in a pandemic, especially on your wellnes. It’s full on and it’s super fun. If you run your own business, you are answerable seven days a week, 365 days a year, Christmas Day does not mean a day off. It really doesn’t. It hasn’t for us since we properly launched the business.
I think it’s really important to acknowledge that. That being said, you really get to see and experience the growth and the learning and the excitement of doing something you care about every single day. We’ve got 20 people that work for us, we’ve got a lot of overheads, we’ve got a big commitment. I don’t really feel like a work myself anymore. That being said, I still get to make big decisions, and I still get to do something that I love every single day.
Entreprenuership and stress
The impact on your mental health of running your own business is not talked about enough. Especially in the startup phase. For the first two years or so, we really worked full-on seven days a week. We saw no friends, we canceled five attempts at a holiday in two years. Our first wedding anniversary to go away for the night and we cancelled it that morning to sit find my samples for Tescos.
It’s not to say poor us like God, no. Even a couple of weekends ago, it was Matt’s first Father’s Day. We had this really boring long story, but basically lost our domain name and were locked out of every single company email, so we have no way of replying. We have a huge supply chain. We’re in 7000 stores with almost 30 products. When we had no communication with our supply chain. None of our delivery partners could communicate with us. None of our manufacturing partners, you know, none of our accounts. It was stressful. I can’t explain the stress.
We spent Friday night on the phone until one o’clock in the morning to America. We canceled all our Father’s Day plans and this carried on for four days.
It is the biggest privilege to do something which you feel has purpose and that you have passion for and that you wake up excited to do and that you feel independence in. I wouldn’t change that for the world. But I do think that that part of it has to be acknowledged because you don’t get to turn off.
Glamorisation of Entreprenuership
Ella: I think that’s partly why in some senses as a kind of glamorization of it, because there is something so exciting about it. There really is like, it is so exciting. There’s a buzz about it, that I wouldn’t change anything in the world. But I think it’s with anything in life, it is full of ups and downs. If you’re the kind of person that enjoys that, because it keeps it interesting, which I am as well my husband and business partner, then it’s the best thing in the world that you can possibly do. But if you don’t enjoy it perhaps the right thing to do is stay away for your own wellness.
Chloe Brotheridge: I’m sure there are people listening that are breathing a sigh of relief. Thinking, I don’t need to do that. You just let me off the hook. Take the pressure off. You don’t have to have a side hustle or be a girl boss and have an Instagram business on the side or something.
Ella: I agree with you. There is a pressure for that. If you don’t enjoy that, like spend that time with your friends.
The commitment is huge
Chloe Brotheridge: I’ve heard quite a few people say if you’re thinking of starting a podcast don’t unless you’re committed to do it every single week for at least two years. It takes that long to get any traction. It just shows the level of commitment that you need to have to keep something going.
Ella: It’s disheartening, but it’s it’s reality. Sometimes our level of expectations are so high. Then part of the reason that we struggle is we feel disheartened and disappointed that things don’t happen the way we expect them to happen. That can impact our wellness.
Chloe Brotheridge: I just want to ask you about your podcast. Congratulations on how amazing it’s done. What have you learned from it, either from the guests that you’ve spoken with, or from the actual process itself of putting that out there?
Ella: It’s definitely been one of my favourite things that we’ve ever done. I’ve really enjoyed it and I love that opportunity to learn from people and fields. You know, I’m so interested in health and wellness and our kind of well being in general and so any opportunity to learn more, I appreciate that.
Every guest has been fascinating. And we’ve covered so many topics from relationships to sleep and all manners of mental health. I think there is a huge amount to be learned from that.
Remain in the moment
With Coronavirus, we do not know what’s going to happen tomorrow. None of us have got a clue. I’ve been really listening to that advice more than ever. All you have is today. Just try and appreciate that and make the most of that. I do totally subscribe to that idea and I’m much happier living that way. There is nothing you can do about what happened yesterday, and you haven’t got a clue what’s going to happen next week. So other than like, obviously the practical elements of like, planning meetings, you know, just let the headspace event go for better wellness.
Chloe Brotheridge: I love that. It’s so simple and we often think that our happiness is going to have to be some kind of 10 step plan and getting this job and moving to this place. Actually, none of that stuff matters if we’re constantly in the past or the future unless we’re present and I think that’s such a wonderful reminder for us.
I wonder if we are definitely learning that more in lockdown. Especially as a lot of the things that maybe would have made us happy before been taken away from us like holidays and going out for nice meals. We’re having to find happiness and wellness in different ways.
What is most important to you right now?
Ella: Family by a million miles. I think there have been loads of lessons from Coronavirus, to be honest. You’ve got to find such joy and happiness in just your every single day and for me like time with Matt and our daughter. It genuinely makes me so happy and just I don’t really need anything else other than a nice cup of coffee. Just being at home with them is genuinely such a massive source of happiness.
Chloe Brotheridge: My two sisters moved 10 minutes up the road from me and Hackney. It was amazing, but they were just so close and I couldn’t see them for three months or so. And I saw them yesterday and we all had a little cry, being able to be reunited again. I’m definitely thinking a lot about getting a dog moving to the countryside, changing a lot of different things. Let me get a dog.
Ella: Dogs are honestly is the best.
Chloe Brotheridge: Everyone says that who has a dog.
Ella: Two things, one dogs always make the like house so warm, they don’t have bad moods Not really. There’s just this kind of happiness that they exude that I think brings a lot to a room. I love that it makes me get out every day. I really appreciate that so much. We go on a walk first thing every morning. For us, a dog definitely makes the biggest difference on mental health and wellnes.
Chloe Brotheridge: My dog broodiness is like getting a bit out of control. I’ll need to speak to the landlord again or maybe just move house. Thank you so much for everything that you shared. It’s been amazing. When is your new book out? And where can people find out more about you? And yeah, what else you’re offering?
Where to find Ella
My new book is called Quick and Easy. It has over 100 plant-based recipes and it’s out this Thursday. It’s currently half price on Amazon and Watson which is very nice.
Chloe Brotheridge: I have had a little advanced look at your book and it looks amazing.
Chloe Brotheridge: Thank you so much for speaking to me. Thanks for having me today. You have been listening to the Calmer You podcast with me Chloe Brotheridge.
Don’t forget you can download loads of freebies for wellness, anxiety and confidence at my website Calmer-you.com. You can also find out about my app and my one on one sessions.
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