To say there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Julie Montagu is barely touching the sides. The mother of four is the perfect example of staying positive in the face of adversity, and her story of love, pain, success and motherhood is nothing short of inspiring…
The one-time reality star – she had a brief stint on the now-cancelled show Ladies of London – also happens to be married to Luke Montagu, more formally known as Viscount Hinchingbrooke, a down-to-earth aristocrat who is slowly rebuilding his life after a long-suffering health issue. The couple split their time between their terrace in London and family estate in Mapperton, where mindfulness, meditation and yoga play a significant role in their daily routine amongst work and kids. The wellness advocate is also known as “The Flexi Foodie” – the name of her website that boasts yoga courses, healthy recipes, self-care advice and nutrition tips aplenty, and couldn’t be a finer example of the positive impact yoga and nutrition has on mind, body and soul. “I do yoga six times a week without fail. I schedule it into my diary every Sunday night (Sundays are my day off). I found that when I didn’t do something for me, in this case, yoga, I became grumpier, moodier and not a very happy person! So, not only does doing yoga every day help me, it also helps my children. I’m nicer to them! I always get a healthy breakfast every morning after the kids get off to school, followed by a cycle on my bike to teach yoga, I then usually do my own yoga straight after, followed by a healthy lunch, more meetings and back home in time to pick up the kids and cook them all a plant-based or vegetarian meal!” We were lucky enough to chat to Julie about her remarkable path from Illinois, America to London and the breathtaking grounds of Mapperton in Dorset, to how she takes time out for self-care every day, and why the power of breath and yoga are vital for overall wellbeing and any challenges motherhood brings. Photography: Helene Sandberg | Words: Marisa Remond | Go to www.juliemontagu.com | www.mapperton.com
Can you take us through some of your morning rituals – how do you start the day right?
I love my morning rituals and urge everyone to have some! They really do kick start your day! I wake up at 6:30am every morning and put my legs up the wall by my bed and begin ‘box’ breathing. Inhaling for four counts, hold for four counts, exhaling for four counts, hold for four counts and so on for five minutes. Afterward, I feel so energised! I then make a good cup of green tea and walk around the house with it while getting kids up and ready for school. Once the kids leave the house at 7:20am, I make my own breakfast which is either granola or avocado on toast or a green smoothie. I try to mix it up!
What makes you feel happy and balanced?
My four kids and of course, yoga. I rarely miss a day of doing yoga. So when people ask me how many times a week I do yoga – it’s every day!
What has motherhood taught you so far?
To let go and relax. I think with motherhood, it’s easy to take the worried, anxious, highly stressed out route – because I did that at first! I quickly realised that this was not healthy and opted to trust my kids, let them be independent, learn from their mistakes and let them lose. Losing is the only way one appreciates winning! Once I did that, I became the most laid back mom ever.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
So far, what has been the most challenging part of motherhood and how have you overcome any challenges?
Worry – definitely worry. Yoga has totally helped me to ‘calm down’ and let go. When I was trying to ‘control’ everything in my four kids’ lives, that’s when I was creating stress in my own life. It’s hard to let go of worry, I get that – but it’s essential for you and for your kids. Or else you will become sick with worry a lot!
What self-care hacks can you share with us?
Breathe a lot during your day. Get your head below your heart (forward fold) a lot during your day. Fuel your body with foods that make your body happy. Sleep – really get some good six to seven hours of serious sleep. Walk everywhere.
What makes you feel stressed?
Deadlines! Deadlines stress me out. So I grab my favourite cup of green tea, turn my phone off and get it done!
Can you tell us about your childhood?
I grew up in Sugar Grove, Illinois in Middle America. It was idyllic. Vivid memories are my mom’s sandwiches and roast beef. My dad playing baseball with me. Mowing our lawn (my dad would pay me, so I loved it even more!), my many hamsters, driving our convertible 1972 MG, taking a yellow school bus through the corn fields every day.
How often do you entertain at home? Do you like to cook?
We don’t entertain in London because we are just too busy – between work and kids – it’s impossible. However, when we are down at Mapperton, all I do is cook! The kitchen at Mapperton has recently been renovated and I just love being in there. I spend hours in that kitchen just cooking! I’m a plant-based chef – so you’ll always find me whipping up variations on hummus and really any type of plant-based dips. I’m known to always have a yummy dip hanging around.
Can you tell us about your new range of gluten-free wraps BFree?
I’m so excited to be working with BFree and their amazing wraps. They are filled will all things good, like chia seeds, sweet potato and quinoa and just so easy to make a yummy wrap with! I personally think they are better than bread my kids love them too, that helps! I was able to create five amazing wrap recipes with BFree too that everyone in Australia just loved!
You’ve said “my life is nothing to do really with the aristocracy”. Can you elaborate and tell us about your hard-working nature?
I wasn’t born into any titles or any money or any inheritance. I’ve been working since I was 16 years old and was always told from – probably my very first breath – that you can be anything you want to be and you can do anything you want to do regardless of class or title or anything else. And that has been told to me over and over again while growing up in America. It’s about what you do yourself, the hard work you put in that brings about the happiness within, not some title or class or money or things.
What’s the biggest misconception about aristocrats?
Probably that they have unlimited funds! That has definitely changed over the last 50 years. Many aristocrats have had to now make their family homes into commercial businesses.
Can you talk us through your journey to becoming a yoga teacher? What lead you down this path?
I started practicing yoga because I had such low self-esteem about myself! And I decided to become a teacher because yoga makes me feel good about myself and the reason I teach yoga is to make sure that my students don’t feel as bad about themselves as I’ve felt about myself in the past.
How important is breath in our daily life and how can we all improve the way we breathe?
I always tell my students that the breath is your superhero power and that you should be using it all of the time. We all have the power of the breath within us to help with mood, energy, stress, digestion, anxiety, fear and so on. It’s up to us whether or not we want to tap into it.
What is the secret to a successful marriage after children – how have you navigated any ups and downs with your husband Luke?
Kindness. You have to be kind even when you are angry or cross or have had zero sleep! It all starts with being kind to yourself and you will then, for sure, be kind to your partner. Once kindness is out the window, a whole bunch of other negative emotions start to appear. Stay kind to yourself and your partner and you will have a strong marriage.
What was it like being part of The Ladies of London? Was it a fun experience?
To be perfectly honest, I did not enjoy being a part of this television show. My husband and I discussed in length whether or not to do it and decided yes in the end, to basically help pay for school fees and bills as my husband, at the time, wasn’t working due to illness. Reality TV can be very manipulated and I didn’t like how I was portrayed or the ways in which I was asked to behave and the things I was asked to say. But in the end, I thought of it more like an acting job, because in the end, that’s what I was actually doing! I’m just thankful that the series was cancelled and I’m no longer involved with it.
What’s daily life like at Mapperton in Dorset? How do you feel when you’re there?
Mapperton is a great escape for me from the hectic, busy life in London. I get to breathe better, eat better, sleep better, rest better and have one of the most lovely gardens in all of the UK to do it in! Mapperton is historic, serene and so far away from everyday life that it has become a great escape for me.
What about your approach to health and wellbeing?
I do yoga six times a week without fail. I schedule it into my diary every Sunday night (Sunday’s are my day off). I found that when I didn’t do something for me, in this case yoga, I became grumpier, moodier and not a very happy person! So, not only does doing yoga every day help me, it also helps my children. I’m nicer to them! I always get in a healthy breakfast every morning after the kids get off to school, followed by a cycle on my bike to teach yoga, I then usually do my own yoga straight after, followed by a healthy lunch, more meeting and back home in time to pick up kids and cook them all a plant-based or vegetarian meal!
What took you to England originally and what do you love about living there?
I went to England for a .com job! Email marketing, can you believe it? Fast forward nearly 20 years and oh, how my life has changed! I LOVE England for its green grass, its history, its culture and yes I can now say its food! London has some VERY good food now! And good for you too! And yes, I’ve gotten used to the grey days and the rain as well. I actually don’t really notice it anymore…
Describe the moment you met Luke…
We met at a drinks party through mutual friends and ended up going out to dinner with each other afterwards. We bonded over our love of films and our first date was a trip to the movie theatre and well, the rest as they say is history.
Did your career change after you became a mother? Were you more or less ambitious/determined?
I think for me, I’ve always been ambitious. I’ve always been determined both before and after children. I grew up in middle America and was just constantly told that I could be or do anything as long as I work hard. I think ambition and determination were built into me from a very young age.
Which women in business do you admire?
I have to admit it now…. I love Oprah Winfrey! I grew up with her on WGN-9 Chicago before she became the Oprah that we know. So, she’s been a part of my life really. And I love her passion for helping others. I also love Brene Brown and Arianna Huffington. Huge inspirations to me.
How do you juggle motherhood with work – what are your time management tips?
I get asked this a lot! And my key to it all – carve out those small moments of self-care every single darn day. You may think you ‘don’t have time’ but you do. Because the time you spend with yourself will make you more productive and energised throughout the rest of your day.
What kind of role model do you want to be for your children?
I want my kids to know that they can do anything they put their minds to. They can be anything they want to be as long as that anything sparks a fire within them.
Can you share your favourite recipe?
Mung Bean, Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Casserole
I like cooking with mung beans because they are not only a fantastic bean filled with goodness, but as far as expense goes… these beans are super affordable compared to other beans and are a nutritional powerhouse packed with Vitamins A, B, C and E as well as minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium.
1 tbsp coconut oil 1 tsp fenugreek seeds 1 tsp cumin seeds 1 tsp turmeric 3 garlic cloves 3 cm ginger, grated 2 large green chilies, sliced 2 small onions, diced 2 red bell peppers, chopped 2 sweet potatoes, chunked 250g mung beans 1 litre vegetable stock 2 large handfuls of spinach 3 large tomatoes, chunked Juice of 1 lime 1 pomegranate, deseeded.
Heat the coconut oil in a large pan. Once the oil has melted, stir in fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds for about 2 minutes until you smell the lovely fragrance of the spices. Add in the garlic, ginger, chillies, onion and red peppers, sauté for 5-7 minutes. Toss in your chunked potatoes and top with the turmeric for about 2 minutes. Stir in the mung beans and the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and then let simmer for about 45 minutes or until the beans are cooked. Lastly, add the spinach and the tomatoes until both are soft for about 7-10 minutes. Squeeze the lime over the mung beans and top with the pomegranate seeds. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Note: Mung beans are a good source of isoflavones, which are a class of phytoestrogen that help to regulate hormonal activity.
Julie's list of little loves...
Building my first ever 200-hour yoga Teacher Training programme Always loving my four kids and husband Re-reading The Secret! Am loving Saturdays at the moment (it’s my only day off!) The renovations at Mapperton – so fun to see them happening live! A new pudding I discovered: Matcha and Lime mousse! Mandala yoga – 360 degrees around the mat 12 times!