On paper, you would think that Julie Montagu lives a double life. On one hand, she is Viscountess Hinchingbrooke, the wife of the heir to the Earl of Sandwich, Luke Montagu. But as we've seen on Ladies of London, she's not afraid to do what she loves, such as biking around London or doing yoga the morning after a wild New Year's Eve party, even if her passions may not completely align with what some people expect of a British aristocrat. What's so great about Julie is that she is all of those things and more, staying true to herself the whole way through.
But Julie has had some help in keeping it all together. By building up her expertise in nutrition and yoga over the years, the mom of four has learned that making easy changes to your diet and daily routine can help you look and feel great. Now Julie is sharing her secrets in her new book Eat Real Food: Simple Rules for Health, Happiness and Unstoppable Energy in stores now.
When The Daily Dish recently caught up with Julie, she filled us in on her new book, how health and fitness have impacted her life, and what other exciting projects she currently has in the works.
You're wearing a T-shirt with the word "KALE" on it, just like the one you gave Caroline Stanbury last season of Ladies of London. Why did you decide to have that on the cover?
Julie Montagu: To be fair, I was wearing that T-shirt and took the photo of it before I gave the T-shirt to [Caroline], so I already knew what my cover of my book [would be], because you do the cover of your book quite soon. I guess it even means that much more because it just goes to show that it really is one of my favorite T-shirts. My trying to extend the kale branch [was] sincere.
What inspired you to write Eat Real Food?
The past six years have been a trickier time for me and my family, just with my husband being unwell. The reason I wrote it is it's the things that really helped me stay energized, stay happy, and stay healthy. So I put all those things together in what I call my pocket lifestyle book.
Is the book meant to be something readers carry around with them all the time?
It's nice and compact and really small, so you can carry it around all the time. For me, it's a book filled with positive energy. So even the yoga poses in there, it's not like a whole yoga sequence. The poses are for when you get stressed out or for when you can't sleep or when you have anxiety. There's breathing exercises that are very simple that can take about three minutes. Same with the meditation. It's really the busy person's lifestyle book.
From left: Luke Montagu, friend Adela King, Julie Montagu, Marissa Hermer, and Luke Henderson at the launch of Eat Real Food at Bumpkin on March 8, 2016. Photo: JAB
I noticed you dedicated your book to a young woman named Allegra Whittome, who died from a rare brain injury on February 7, 2015 at the age of 16. Why did you decide to dedicate the book to her?
My very, very first friend over in London was Allegra's mother, and we have been friends ever since. And Allegra was also my daughter Emma's first friend. They met each other in nursery school when they were 2 and they've been best friends ever since. Allegra was probably — and I even have a daughter — the most extraordinary girl I've ever met. Not only was she drop-dead beautiful on the outside but also just gorgeous on the inside.
And so when I was writing this book, everything that I was writing about, from the healthy eating to being happy to the unstoppable energy, that was Allegra. And she tragically died. Allegra, she dreamed of being — and it was probably going to come true — an Olympian, and she was an academic scholar, a sports scholar. She was basically the most all-around girl and a role model for her age, and so her parents set up an extraordinary charity [Allegra's Ambition] where they want to help children live a happier, healthier life. I'm very passionate about this charity, and I really want to get the word out about Allegra. It made sense to me that this book should be 100 percent, completely dedicated to her and to her cause because I feel that if she were here today, yes, she would have touched a lot of people's lives. In her passing away, I just know that she's now gonna touch millions of people's lives.
Allegra died when we were filming [Ladies of London]. We were up in Denmark, and that's when it happened. And all of the ladies were just incredible during that time when I found out about Allegra. They were just incredibly, incredibly supportive and loving. When I found out the news, it was wonderful to be around such a supportive cast and crew.
What do you mean by "real food" in the book?
On the one hand, you have the real food that you actually put in your body, and I always think of that as anything that's whole. So anything that basically has been grown, to me, is a real food. Things that aren't real foods are anything that is processed and packaged and filled with chemicals and preservatives. I like cooking with foods in their whole state and then mixing those foods together, and you can come up with some absolutely delicious meals.
There's food for our physical body and then there's the food for our mind and our emotional and mental wellbeing, and those are the things that are really super important to me in my life, which are simple yoga poses, simple breathing exercises, simple meditation exercises, and basically saying positive affirmations to yourself every day. That's what I try to do on Instagram and on my social media is post a positive affirmation every single morning so that people can look at that first thing when they wake up.
What kind of research did you do to write Eat Real Food?
When you see the research, it's like "studies claim," then I would really look on the Internet that it wasn't just one study that was claiming it, that there were multiple studies. I studied through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, so that really helped. I also got certified in plant-based nutrition at Cornell University. So I do have a good education of nutrition backing under my belt. To be fair, those two certifications were really the way this book got started and then just validating what I already knew through different studies. And then really as far as the yoga, the meditation, the Part Two of the book, the affirmations and the breathing, that's much more practical and it's really what works for me. You'll notice there's not a lot of "studies show" because I just basically said this is what works for me and this is how I help with stress and anxiety and with sleep and with really taking it more practically. So I really think the first part of the book is more research-based and gives you the facts, but it's validated by facts and by research. And then the second part really is what works for me. How do I stay energized and healthy and happy throughout my day? And these are the tools and what I call my "superhero powers," really, because we all have them.
The book is filled with a lot of recipes, too. Are these recipes you use in your everyday life?
I really think that this book is a great starting point for people who really want to start on their healthy journey. So I didn't want to overcomplicate the recipes and be like, "OK, you need to go out and buy and break the bank and head to Whole Foods and buy these expensive ingredients." They're very simple but delicious recipes that incorporate what I call the Flexi Five food groups. I just made sure that they worked. I've seen smoothies before in publication, and they're like, "This is her favorite smoothie," and it ends up costing like £18 when you stick all the ingredients together. My smoothies are just simple ingredients that you probably have in your home, and you can make an incredible smoothie, and this is what it's gonna do for you. It's gonna make you feel great. So I tried to make [the book] as simple as possible, even with the recipes as well.
Julie Montagu and Caroline Fleming at the launch of Eat Real Food at Bumpkin on March 8, 2016. Photo: JAB
What should someone do first to get into living and eating more simply?
I think they should first read my book. [Laughs.] And then after they read my book, get the Flexi Five in a day. So get one green leafy vegetable in a day, [such as] a green smoothie, that would be your green for the day. That's all you have to worry about. That doesn't mean at all three meals. It just means one a day. Get one whole grain in in a day, and I list my favorite whole grains and what they can do for you. Get one natural sweetener in. And it's very easy to get a piece of fruit in, but I focused on the natural sweeteners that you can top on your cereal or you can bake with or you can sweeten up your dressing and your sauces with. Get one good fat or oil in a day, so whether that's half of an avocado or a couple teaspoons of coconut oil and then one superfood. There's this myth that you have to break the bank and buy cacao and goji berries and spirulina and bee pollen and take them every single day. You really don't have to. Just alternate, like one day have a teaspoon of cacao in something and then one day make a soup and sprinkle some chia seeds on there and the next day if you want to get your bee pollen, you can put it over your porridge in the morning. And so for me, if you look at it that way, it's quite simple and doable to get those Flexi Five in.
With your love of health food and passion for yoga, you're very different from what we typically associate with British aristocrats. Has it been difficult to be the wife of a viscount and still do what you love?
I truly believe this, and I say this to my kids: Be authentic to you. Don't let the world shape you. Don't let anybody tell you what you need to be or what you need to do. If you just stay true to who you are, not only will you ultimately be happy within yourself, but you'll make those around you happy as well because you're being completely and 100 percent authentic. So for me, it was like this is who I am. Take it or leave it. And hopefully, they're gonna take it because they're gonna see that I love what I do, how what I love what I do makes me feel inside, and ultimately, I hope that I can inspire others with staying true to who I am. For me, that's the most important thing, and that's the message that I tell my four kids as well. Don't let anybody else dictate who you should be, what you should look like, who you need to become. Go with your gut, and be true to yourself. And that, to me, is ultimate happiness.
Julie Montagu and Juliet Angus at the launch of Eat Real Food at Bumpkin on March 8, 2016. Photo: JAB
Americans are really into health and fitness crazes, but has it been the same in the U.K., in your experience?
I think it's getting there in the U.K. Remember, the U.K.'s also about five to 10 years behind the U.S., so we didn't really have our first juice bar until probably about three years ago, maybe even less than that, where it's everywhere in America. Same with spinning. SoulCycle in America's been around for, I don't even know, probably 10 years? Whereas we just got our first real spinning studio here probably, again, about two to three years ago. We're quickly catching onto how the wellness world has taken over America, that's how I view it, in most parts of America. So I think we're getting there, slowly but surely. When I first started teaching my yoga class seven years ago, people were like, 'Mhmmm, that's a bit weird,' whereas in America, yoga is huge, right? And now finally, yoga is taking its place over here as an incredible workout, not only physically but a great mental and emotional and really spiritual form of exercise as well.
Your Ladies of London castmate Marissa Hermer has said that you've been helping her a lot with her upcoming cookbook. What kind of advice have you given her, since you have two books under your belt already?
I love Marissa, and we've always been close, but I think now the cookbook thing has bonded us even more. I really just gave her advice on timing, the recipes, how long they take to write, how you have to test them, how much time she should give herself before her deadline is due. I gave her advice on finding the right photographer and the right food stylist. And then just things that have worked for me and things that haven't really worked for me and what I've learned in at least creating the book. I can't wait to get Marissa's cookbook because it's all about her favorite British foods, and some of her favorite foods in general. So it's really fun just to swap ideas with her about what recipes she's coming up with and what recipes I've come up with and we work really well together. I just had my book launch today, and I did it at Bumpkin, one of her restaurants. Bumpkin is a quintessentially British restaurant, but yet today, they were serving chia seed pots for my press launch. It was brilliant.
How was the event?
It was fantastic. There were, like, 80 people, and my publisher gave a speech first, and then I gave a second speech. Of course, there were tears in my eyes. As probably the viewers know, I cry. I'm not gonna lie. The first thing that I said was, "I know I'm gonna start crying, but you all should be used to it because you've seen me on TV crying." It was great to have all the [Ladies of London cast members except for Annabelle Neilson] there supporting me. Even Caroline Stanbury turned up, which was brilliant. And she had her funny one-liners, they were there.
Julie Montagu with Caroline Stanbury at the launch of Eat Real Food at Bumpkin on March 8, 2016. Photo: JAB
How is JUB going?
It's hard to write all these cookbooks and do what I'm doing with my online nutrition courses and my online courses, period. For me, the market right now and the big interest [in JUB] is in America. So I'm looking at possibly licensing the name in America, which is very similar to what my father-in-law did with the Earl of Sandwich name. So he licenses the name out to somebody in America who then opened up the Earl of Sandwich sandwich shops all across America. It'd be very hard for me to run JUB while living in London, but it's much easier to strike up a licensing deal. So that's just what I'm looking at doing right now.
What else is next for you?
I've got just a couple of things. I already have one online course on nutrition, and I've got two new online courses just about to hit. Actually, one will be next week, and one will be in the next month. The two new online courses are Julie's Guide to Joyful Living, and that's all about tools to let go, tools for self-love, and tools for happiness. And then the second online course is basically Julie's Yoga to Healthy Living, so it's basically a huge yoga course, learning about yoga, what it does for you, but then lots of different sequences to help with lower back pain, to help with stress, to help with sleep, to help with tight hamstrings. So that will be launching soon as well. And then I actually have my third book coming out, which will be the follow-up to Superfoods. So my first book was Superfoods and then the follow-up to Superfoods is a 100-recipe, full color, hardback book, and that's called Superfoods Superfast. And that hits the U.K. in July, and that's out in America August 2 of this year.
Is your new cookbook about quick recipes using superfoods?
Yes, so that's 100 energizing recipes to make in 20 minutes or less. And then I'm just gonna take a break. After July, then I'm gonna take a nice break.
Maybe during her break Julie will visit one of her favorite London spots featured in the clip, below.