Interview with Rhian Stephenson

As a Psycle regular, it seemed only right that one of the first Q&A’s up on my site was with Rhian. For those of you who don’t know (or aren’t quite as much of a Psycle fanatic as I am), Rhian is the CEO of the best spin studio London has to offer (as well as having a background in sport and a Nutrition degree under her belt – or lycra leggings!) I wanted to find out a bit more about her opinions on fitness, food and business to hopefully inspire you all and perhaps persuade you to hop on the bike!

What made you want to study as a naturopathic doctor?

When I was a teenager my health was really poor. I didn’t have a specific illness, but I was chronically sick with sinus or respiratory infections, migraines, stomach issues, low energy. I went to so many doctors and nobody had an explanation – just that it was my ‘norm’ and I would leave each doctor with more painkillers or medications that would help keep symptoms at bay. Finally, I saw a Naturopath and it revolutionised my health. My symptoms were from food allergies, and after changing my diet and replenishing my immune system I finally felt what it was like to live with energy. From then on I knew it’s something I wanted to pursue.

How has your background as an athlete helped you in your professional life?

Swimming taught me to have an incredible amount of discipline. The training schedule is gruelling — on deck 5 mornings a week at 5:15am, back every night and races on weekends — it is all about hard work and commitment. There have been a lot of difficult times in my career, whether it is facing a specific challenge or just facing really intense periods of long hours, and I know that I draw on the resilience that I built up as a swimmer. One of the great things about being an athlete is that you have to go into challenges monthly, if not weekly, and most of the time you lose. You need to evaluate what you could have done better, listen to coaches critique what you do and try to learn from mistakes so that the outcome can be better the next time. Being open to failing is a strength that I think a lot of athletes have – failure is such a normal part of life, especially if you are ambitious in your career, and if you think you’re going to get there without struggles or failure it’s really challenging. Understanding that losing certain battles is a part of the process and looking at these losses as an opportunity to change something has absolutely contributed to the successes I’ve had in my professional life.

Is there one aspect of your job that you particularly enjoy?

I feel really lucky because I love so many aspects of what I do. I love seeing the change in people when they’ve been coming to Psycle for a few months and feel happier, more energetic, lighter, more confident, more passionate about exercise. I love working on the 360 aspect of what we do — pulling together the Energy Kitchen, INSPIRE as well as the workout, to give a rounded perspective on health.

As a trained nutritionist, what advice would you give to other people looking to lead a healthier and more balanced lifestyle?

It’s always best to start with a self-evaluation. Take stock of what you eat over 2 weeks – don’t change anything, just be totally honest and write everything down. Once you’ve done that you can see where you are out of balance. What are the small changes you can start with to start to incorporate healthier foods? It’s so important to be aware of what the little habits are that creep into your daily regime that will be sabotaging your health & energy.
Another thing I recommend is to learn about food and how it affects the body. It doesn’t need to be in depth science, but if you can support your changes with sound understanding of why you’re doing it, you’ll be far more likely to be motivated to want to eat healthy.

Do you have a philosophy on food and health and if so what would it be?

I believe that health is a practice and it’s something you need to work at everyday.  It’s not a seasonal detox or a summer body blast. It’s a constant and there whether you invest in it or not, so you get out what you put in. I believe that life is so much better when you have energy, confidence and health, and that you should look at how you want to live and use that as your motivation to be healthy. Focusing on a number on the scale is tiresome, unfulfilling and imbalanced. If you can find a positive motivation to be healthy — mind and body — you can stop seeing it as a chore and become truly passionate about it. I believe that healthy food can be unbelievable delicious, and that no matter what your palate is you’ll be able to find delicious food that is good for you. And I believe that you need to move your body everyday — that it will give you confidence, strength, resilience and help you live an adventurous and exciting life, so you need to find some kind of exercise that you enjoy and do it consistently.

What’s your all time favourite sweet treat?

Raspberry pie!

What advice do you have for people who love to eat out but want to stay healthy?

One of the most common things I saw in clinic was people indulging when they ate out, but not realising how often it was actually happening. Eating out feels like a treat — and it is! But if you eat out 3 times a week, then it’s the norm, not an exception, and it’s important to start to make healthy choices while you’re out. There are so many fantastic restaurants out there and most of them are very accommodating. I recommend sticking to some rules — some non-negotiables — and ensuring you stick to them when you eat out. For me, it’s dairy and wheat, so I always ask to ensure they don’t cook the food in butter or cream and I avoid the bread basket at all costs. I am not gluten-free nor do I always avoid bread. But it’s such a slippery slope when you’re out for dinner that it is far easier if you set your guidelines and stick to them.

What do you think is the secret to Psycle’s success?

One of the things that makes Psycle so successful is that everyone involved is incredibly passionate about what we do and what we’re trying to achieve. We have a group of talented, hard working & positive people who are all aligned to a common purpose, and I think you can feel that when you come to the studio.