Julia Matthews and her sister Libby have just launched their second cookbook, Nourished. The whole-food and wellness gurus, known for their relationships with professional sportsmen, have a huge social media following.
1 You grew up in Lynfield. What were you like at school?
I hated school. I switched from Dio to Epsom Girls in fourth form and was badly bullied; maybe because I'd come from a private school and I had blonde hair so they just generalised me. Girls can be such bitches. They'd give me the evils, yell stuff out at me - threaten to beat me up. I didn't realise at the time how much it affected me. I'm much better now but I still get quite bad social anxiety. For years I hated going to the mall by myself. I'd be really conscious of people looking at me. I'd be like, "Do I have something on my face?" so I'd walk around with earphones in or call someone so I'd be on my phone.
2 Did you have an early interest in health and wellness?
God, no. I was sausage roll and cheeseburger girl; all the beige foods. You couldn't buy salads from the school tuck shop. We'd go to McDonald's at 277 for lunch. I got interested about five years ago when Libby was studying nutrition and I was studying business. We'd always be in the kitchen making recipes like green smoothies before green smoothies were a thing and using quinoa before quinoa was a thing. People would ask us for the recipes so we'd put them online. All of a sudden we were getting hundreds of people liking our page so I studied nutrition too. Our parents are super healthy. They're pretty much vegan.
3 Your 'Julia and Libby' Instagram account now has 65,800 followers. What's your secret to social media success?
I don't know. Libby and I just kind of taught ourselves. We're still not pros at all. Some people ask us "How do you get lots of followers?" but it shouldn't be about that. If you've got a great product and you're really passionate about it then people will see that and want to follow you. I feel lucky to have the platform we do to be able to educate people on healthy eating. Being made ambassadors for Five Plus A Day is one of our greatest achievements to date.
4 How did you and Libby both end up dating sports stars?
I know! People will think we're these chase-after-athletes types but actually both of them chased us. My best friend Anna Reeve set me up with my ex-boyfriend Lewis (Brown). He's really good friends with her husband Jay and she wanted us to double date. I wasn't keen. League players have such a bad rep but he kept asking me on dates and when he went to England for the World Cup we spoke every day. It was the same with Libby. Michael (Boxall) was playing soccer for the Phoenix in Wellington so they did the long-distance thing too.
5 You moved to Sydney with Lewis when he got a contract with Penrith five years ago but came home alone last year. Why did your relationship end?
We just weren't on the same page. He's a great guy and we still talk but I'd turned 30 and needed to think about the future. He didn't know what he wanted to do after his league career ended. I like somebody that's ambitious and has goals and plans so I literally packed my two suitcases and left.
6 Did you feel the fertility clock ticking?
I did. As a female in her 30s I feel that pressure all the time; especially when I was in a relationship. Now Libby's had a baby so it's, "When's your turn?" I'm not ready to have kids yet. I've got a few projects I want to tick off first.
7 Such as?
Libby and I are launching our own protein powder. One of the questions we're most frequently asked is, "Can you recommend a protein powder?" so I was like, "Why don't we bring out our own?" It's gluten and dairy-free so it's made from pea protein, which isn't grown in New Zealand, but we're getting it manufactured in Auckland. We're also doing a gender neutral baby clothing line.
8 Are you vegan?
No, I became a vegetarian at 22 for ethical reasons but studying nutrition I realised it wasn't normal to wake each morning feeling tired and foggy and bloated. So I got tested and found out I was intolerant to a whole bunch of foods. When I took them all out of my diet I was left with just vegetables so my naturopath convinced me to reintroduce animal protein. I just felt so much better. Now I eat chicken and beef. I think it's okay to eat meat that's been raised in an ethical manner.
9 You've just launched your second cookbook. In what ways is it different to your first?
Julia and Libby's Wholefood Kitchen sold out really fast but the publishers wouldn't do a reprint so this time we've self-published. In the first book we were very strict on how we ate but now we're much more chilled. Putting restrictions around what you eat can do more harm than good. Diets where you cut out everything you like can fail and that makes you feel bad. It's better to enjoy what you like in moderation.
10 As a "wellness guru", people put their trust in your advice. How do you keep up with the science on what's healthy?
Almost every week there's a new study saying, "Drink red wine, it's good for you" or, "Don't drink red wine" - whoever knows? We both have the education to back what we're saying but you can't be up with every scientific development. I think people really over-complicate food. Just keep it simple; eat fresh whole foods as they're given to us in nature, eat in season – it's cheaper anyway - don't eat things out of a packet every day. If you want to have a drink of red wine, do it - just don't drink a bottle a day. There's no one set diet that's right for everyone. I eat what I want, when I want, and I listen to my body.
11 Does entrepreneurship run in your family?
Not my parents but my brother's doing incredibly well. He owns a company that tests houses for meth and a few other businesses. He was a problem child, ADD, always in trouble. It makes me so happy to see how well he's doing. I really value his advice.
12 Do you read the comments on social media?
I try not to because people can be dicks. Libby wrote a blog when she fell pregnant by surprise and she got slandered; the stuff people said was horrific. We did a campaign with Anchor a while back when they brought out organic milk and we got so much crap from vegans saying, "I can't believe you're promoting dairy. Do you know what happens to cows?" The same thing happened with gluten-free Weetbix; people called us sell-outs for working with Sanitarium but if you're coeliac that's a fantastic option. You can't win. Now we can laugh about it. We'll screenshot the comments and send them to each other. Not everyone's going to like you and that's absolutely fine.