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An Appointment With: Rhian Stephenson
December 15th 2014 / 1 comment
Nutritionist, naturopathic doctor and Managing Director at Psycle shares her path to the top...
As Managing Director of Psycle, Rhian calls the shots at the cool Soho based studio that offers full body workouts that can be likened more to a dance class than a classic spinning session. As well as providing fantastic fitness classes, Pscyle provides integrated health programs that includes meal ideas, detox plans and exercise advice. A trained naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist, Rhian has had extensive experience transforming people’s lives from a holistic perspective. We caught up with her to find out how she got where she is today…
Why did you decide to specialise in wellbeing?
In high school I was always interested in science and I loved learning about how the body worked. I was also an athlete - I swam competitively for 13 years, and although I was extremely physically fit, I was very unhealthy. I had constant sinus infections, ear infections, migraines, stomach issues - you name it. My immune system just didn’t seem to stand up to anything, which affected my swimming but also my energy and concentration at school.
After countless medical investigations, my mother took me to a Naturopathic Doctor and Nutritionist who did a whole host of specialised tests that were able to pinpoint the sources of my immune dysfunction and from then on I was literally like a different person. I changed my diet, corrected the imbalances and got my body to a normal, healthy state. My swimming performance improved drastically, my skin cleared up, I stopped getting sick, and for the first time ever I started to wake up with energy! So I learned at a very young age how important nutrition and natural medicines are to my wellbeing. From then on I was totally hooked. I remember how helpless I felt before I found help- one doctor said my symptoms were all psychosomatic and that I probably just didn’t want to go to school! This is what motivated me to help others get out of that place and move into a position of understanding how their body works, what may be contributing to imbalances and how they can feel better is a really big thing for me.
Why did you choose to work in the position you’re now in?
When I first moved to London I worked exclusively in a clinical setting. I loved seeing clients 1:1 but as my practice grew, it started to extend to corporate health and wellness work, retreats, cooking demos etc. I loved that as well because I could reach so many people at once and the work so varied. When Psycle approached me to be involved it was a perfect fit for me because it was a little bit of everything under one roof. Most importantly though, it combined my passion for nutrition and my love of exercise. It’s a great platform to influence others to become excited and engaged in their health.
Psycle is a value led brand and I love what it stands for - it extends far beyond the class and the numbers on the scale. It’s about helping people lead vibrant, energetic and healthy lives. It’s about community, connection and balance so it fulfils me in a way that I haven’t experienced before. I still get to see clients, talk about health and nutrition, create wellness programmes, and now I get to be a part of this incredible community where people come together and push their limits everyday. It’s physically and mentally challenging, which I find pretty special.
What does an average day look like for you? (If there even is one!)
There really isn’t a typical day for me! I usually wake up at 6:30 and do ten minutes of yoga just to stretch my body out or once a week I’ll go for a run. I always eat breakfast - which most days is an acai smoothie bowl with lots of greens, sprouted buckwheat, nuts and seeds. I usually get to the office at 8:30 and from then it’s totally dependent on the week. It’s usually a mixture of seeing clients, writing, or meetings. Right now we’re about to open our second site so that’s taking a lot of my focus.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love seeing the transformation in people when they make healthy changes. Their energy and enthusiasm for life just skyrockets and it’s incredibly rewarding. It’s quite remarkable to see how much difference changes in nutrition and exercise can make to people’s confidence, energy, and mindset. I especially love it when someone conquers something they have struggled with for years and previously thought was hopeless. Last week I met with a client who first came into Psycle with horrible anxiety which she suffered from for years. She’d tried every medication, which usually made her gain weight and didn’t help her moods at all. She’s been coming to Psycle for three months and following our nutritional plan and she has completely transformed. Anxiety gone, energy up, and her confidence growing every week.
I also love being a part of the overall dialogue that is helping to increase awareness and empower people to become more knowledgeable about their health. It’s feels very rewarding to be able to help steer people in the right direction to make choices that will improve the health of themselves and their families. Oh, and cooking.. of course!
Are there any aspects of your job that you find challenging?
Of course. It’s difficult to coach people if they’ve had a slip up - nutrition and exercise are a practice. It’s not we decide to be healthy one day and then we’re perfect. People can be so hard on themselves, and so often will give up and think they’ve failed just because they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have or had a bad week. Missing workouts, or eating poorly - it’s a part of life and it’s always going to happen. We just need to recognise what the triggers are and let it go. It’s the guilt and dwelling that really sabotages us, not the slip ups. It’s hard to convince people to be a little more kind to themselves! It’s also difficult to manage people’s expectations sometimes. As humans we’re naturally impatient, we want results NOW, but there really is no quick fix. It’s about consistency. We get out what we put in, so if our nutrition and exercise regime is erratic, our mood, weight and energy will be as well.
What is the most common question asked by your clients?
Hands down the most common question I get asked is "What do you eat?!”
After that the most coming things are:
What can I do to boost my energy?
What do I eat after I train?
What supplements should I take?
And I get asked about digestion and tiredness a lot, it’s something that a lot of people struggle with so it’s often a focus of the conversation.
What do you rely on to keep healthy, happy and sane?
I need to eat well and move my body. I love teaching, it’s physically and mentally exhilarating, but that time and energy is for the riders who come to my class. So, I always make sure I get in a couple of Psycle classes on top of the ones I teach. I need to get my fix as well! I also do rocket yoga once a week which is great for my mind and I’ll try to go for a run.
Being consistent with my food is essential to balance my energy, moods and overall sanity! When I know I have a busy week or am going to be on the run I always make sure that I get in my healthy shake and greens in the morning or have a cold pressed juice in my bag to keep my energy up. Cooking is like therapy for me. I love going to farmers markets to buy incredible produce and then get into the kitchen to create something beautiful and delicious.
Other than that it’s pretty simple - friends, family, travel… all the usuals. Growing up in Canada I think I need to get a fix of nature in every now and then otherwise I go a bit nuts! Even if I can’t get out of London, a walk through Hampstead Health will do the trick.
How is your industry changing?
When I first moved to London eight years ago, you couldn’t get a cold pressed juice anywhere, it was a mission to find super foods, and there were very few boutique specialist fitness studios. Eating out was a major challenge if you wanted to stay healthy, and it felt very much like dialogue around nutrition was solely based on fad diets and weight loss. There was a lot of scepticism around nutrition and more so around the connection between mind and body. The health and fitness industry has changed drastically since then - we’re in the midst of a real movement that is focusing on health and happiness, rather than just weight. People are starting to become more connected to the idea that how we eat has a direct and undeniable effect on how we feel - on our moods, our energy, our overall health.
There’s a constant flow of research emerging around the effects of nutrition and exercise on the brain and especially around exercise and neuroplasticity - we can actually grow new brain cells with exercise! - this is helping to cement the idea of healthy living.
Food can influence brain health, exercise can enhance creativity and reverse cellular ageing - all of these amazing facts are starting to emerge that make food and exercise so much more important to every aspect of our lives. The great thing about all of this research and awareness of healthy food, exercise, and mindfulness is that it shifts the motivation from negative to positive. It’s no longer just about weight loss - which can be such a negative motivator to stick to a regime. It’s about finding ways to lead the most energetic fulfilling life possible. It’s about being motivated to exercise and eat well not because you want to be a size 6, but because you want to feel great, have killer concentration, exude confidence and feel happy in your life - for as long as possible. Healthy weight is just a great side effect.