Rhian Stephenson On Exercise For The Anxiety Age
It’s time to experience the meditative power of movement, and the ultimate wellbeing slashie (fitness CEO, naturopath, nutritionist AND herbalist) Rhian Stephenson should know. Our London-based LDJBabe shares her tips for jump-starting a mood-boosting lifestyle, plus her Nonna recipe for healthy carrot cake. Oh yeah.
Ciao Rhian! As well as being the ball-busting former CEO of London fitness temple Psycle and founder of ARTAH retreats, you are a naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist. Phew. What can we learn from these practices?
“The most important aspect of health is consistency so if you want to be healthy you need to fall in love with movement - anything that keeps you doing it - and learn how to cook the things you love in a healthy way. So many people see health as seasonal. Indulgence starts in November for the holidays; we detox in January; we get back on it before a quick spring detox, and then the cycle repeats. It's actually pretty exhausting to yo-yo like this and it doesn't need to be so extreme. Just like every other part of life, health just takes a little planning. Taking the time to sit down and evaluate how you feel and then making a plan to address your key areas is so powerful.”
We’re living in anxious times. How can we use nutrition to help us break the cycle?
“Food is one of the most influential factors on our health. It has a profound effect on how we experience things, our energy and our mood. If we're already feeling anxious, loading up on anxiety promoting foods like sugar, food chemicals like MSG and too much alcohol is just going to push us over the edge. First and foremost, whole foods rather than food 'products' (think brown rice not rice cakes) should be the staple of your diet to ensure you're getting all of the phytonutrients you need to support your system. Some of the most potent medicinal herbs are also easy to incorporate into your culinary routine: turmeric, ginger, cayenne, rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, parsley and dill are all used in traditional herbal healing regimes, so adding these into your dishes will give you an extra element of support and make sure your food is also functional."
Ginger tea it is! Why should we try movement as meditation?
“The great thing about movement is that there are so many different types that do so many different things to your physiology. It is the most transformative thing I do. If I need to snap out of a mood I'll hit some cardio. If I'm angry, an explosive HIIT or weights session does the trick. If I'm feeling stuck, then yoga always opens me up. With exercise you don't need to work that hard to get a good mood hit - you just need to start and your physiology naturally does the rest.”
We hear you, but what if the thought of exercise puts us off before we’ve even started?
“Right away you need to reframe how you view exercise. If you see it as a chore, or as a pressure to look a certain way, then it's important to tap into a more positive, purposeful source of motivation.For me, first and foremost exercise transforms my mood and my energy. When I move every day, I am happier, I can do more, and I feel stronger and more confident in everything I do. We are sedentary for so much of the day - now more than ever. The less I move the more sluggish I feel, and it’s the same for many people. It may feel challenging to start, but once you pass a certain point it starts to create incredibly positive momentum. We can't ignore the enormous effect that health has on our immune resilience and protection against chronic disease. I think this year has been a really big wake-up call for us all to not take health for granted. So yes, working out will make you feel better, look better and have more energy, but most importantly it's one of the things we can do to protect ourselves and ensure we have our health for as long as possible.”
That’s food for thought. Speaking of food, we’re vibing your Easter table! What is your favorite Nonna recipe for Easter time?
“Carrot cake was our traditional family dessert, and is my absolute favorite. Carrot cake usually has about 1 cup of sugar, is made with white flour and an amazingly rich cream cheese frosting. Because it has so many different spices and elements it's actually quite easy to make this one a little healthier. Instead of the sugar, I use half a cup of applesauce, one grated apple and a few tbsp of coconut sugar. I'll do a mixture of almond and buckwheat flour for the base and make a cashew cream cheese sweetened with a few dates for the topping. It's still amazing and indulgent - but way healthier.”
Finally, what are your rules for happy dressing?
“It needs to feel authentic. There are so many things that other people wear which I absolutely love, but if I don't feel like it authentically represents me I never feel comfortable in it.”