Insider Interviews: Rhian Stephenson: ARTAH Founder
A visionary leader and a pioneer in the wellness industry, Rhian's passion for holistic health has propelled her to create a remarkable brand that has transformed countless lives. Here, we have the privilege of delving into her incredible journey, her motivations, and her groundbreaking work. And for the first time ever, you can also listen to the interview in full over on our podcast channel.by Amy Wilson Wyles
Listen to the interview here
Job Title: Naturopath, Nutritionist and Founder of ARTAH
Clients/Fans Include: Busy workers, high-flying executives, tired parents & a host of celebrities.
Years In The Industry: 15
I became extremely interested in health and wellness at a very young age. I was a sickly child – from the age of 5 or 6 I was on antibiotics 3-4 times a year at least, I also had asthma, respiratory problems, gut problems and heartburn at a young age – and as a result I always felt very different from other kids.
When we would go to see specialists they would always say that they couldn’t find anything wrong, so by the time I was 13 or 14 the doctors said that maybe I just had a weak constitution. They even suggested that maybe it was all psychosomatic, which it wasn’t – I was happy. I then got into sport and was a competitive swimmer but noticed that I always had to work harder than everyone else to be at the same level and I was always exhausted.
Finally when I was 17 my mum took me to a naturopathic doctor who was really into functional medicine and they discovered that I had an allergy to casein, which is the protein found in milk. I cut out all milk products and my life transformed. I went from being sickly and having no energy to feeling amazing. I lost weight and went from being 30th in swimming to 1st and my whole life transformed because of what I was eating. That’s what got me so fascinated about the world of nutrition and naturopathic medicine and that’s why I decided to become qualified in it. So it was quite intuitive because of what I went through.
When I went into clinical practice I found that there is a whole spectrum of how people feel and go through life that isn’t diagnosable by a disease. You go to a doctor for something and you might not fall into the criteria of illness but you still don’t feel well. That is the sweet spot for naturopathy and functional medicine because being ill isn’t one day you’re fine and one day you have type two diabetes – there are ten years that lead up to that point. We like to look at all of your symptoms and how to optimise you and look at what your body is trying to tell you so that you can work out what might be causing it and figure out how to get your body on the right path.
After 5 or 6 years in clinical practice I started to do some brand consultancy and met Olivia Wilson Young – who is still to this day our PR for ARTAH – but at the time she was doing the launch for the PR of Psycle and they wanted to consult with someone in the wellness industry. I was still incredibly into fitness because of my time as an athlete and I also used to teach spin in Canada as a side hustle for fun, so they liked my whole view on fitness and wellness. I worked with them for a few months and they then asked me to be CEO. I was so thankful for that opportunity and it was great to get back into fitness, which I love so much.
Movement isn’t about punishing yourself because you’ve had 800 extra calories, fitness is about feeling joy and feeling happy and having time for yourself. Fitness is about health and wellbeing, it’s not all about weight. We’ve been taught now thankfully – and I think Psycle was a big part of this – that finding ways to move that you love are so integral to your long-term health and wellbeing because you have to move and you won’t be as happy if you don’t.
Professionally it was a complete 180 in what I had done, I didn’t know about finance, operations, building sites and I was catapulted in with little guidance or team. It was crazy for the first few years – it was so hard – but I feel like I got an accelerated MBA. I definitely burnt out, so there is the lesson there in asking for help and support. The question is: it’s good to be successful but at what cost?
I left Psycle just after the pandemic when I’d had my first baby and that’s when I started ARTAH. Before the pandemic, at Psycle we were seeing 10,000 rides per week running across our studios but we still had people saying they had things like IBS and acne – they still had all of their problems because health isn’t about just one thing – you need to also eat well, you still could use good supplementation. There were so many people investing in their health via movement but what it showed me is that that alone isn’t going to solve all of your problems. This highlighted to me the lack of knowledge around our own bodies because we’re never taught how it works. I felt that there was still such a need for a nutrition supplement brand that filled that gap and provided people with a solution for when they were out of balance.
Despite always using supplementation because good supplements work, I found it hard to find practitioner-grade brands and so had always wanted to start my own. I had the opportunity to open up a retreat space in Spain and so with ARTAH we thought we’d launch retreats and then build in nutrition and supplements later and then lockdown happened within weeks – so basically it was the worst time to launch a travel business – and we had to shut down for two years. Instead we brought forward the plan for the nutrition and supplements.
What we primarily do now is targeted supplements and transformative nutrition. We offer a supplement line that lets people get to the root causes of imbalances and we also offer nutrition plans that people can use on their own or paired with supplements. We also do experiences like health workshops and masterclasses and we’d love to do more of those moving forward, including retreats.
When I was in practise so many people wanted to see a nutiritonist but its expensive so it’s not accessible to very many people and what I also found is that I’d be counselling people on how to eat and they’d all ask for recipes. I’m not a chef, and although I can cook well this is a disconnect about what people need. So with ARTAH if you can make that nutrition advice more accessible they can work on it themselves. We launched our 28 Day Reset during the pandemic and we had over 1000 people go through it and so many people were raving about how they felt and were shocked at how good the food was and were amazed at how they could eat good food and lose weight and feel great. Much like with fitness, the old idea that to lose weight meant no enjoyment and eating things like steamed chicken was still around and now these self-led nutrition plans allow people to get the results that they want.
Our food is free from dairy, gluten and refined sugar. What we wanted to do was make a really widely accessible way for people to eat in a very anti inflammatory ways that’s going to be great for their metabolism and really good for their microbiome. All the food we use is accessible and easy to find and the diversity of food that you eat might be a bit of a change if you tend to eat the same 5-6 things, which we all fall into. We cater for plant based and omnivore because you don’t have to be one or the other to be healthy. All have a huge focus on balancing blood sugar, which is one of the most important things for long-term health and our addiction to sugar is one of the most prohibitive things to getting healthy.
So many people are addicted to sugar. You have to get a hold of blood sugar – not just for weight but for energy and mood and how we feel within ourselves. So many people eat foods that spike their blood sugar and then have a crash and don’t know why they feel bad but if you can get it in a place where it slowly goes up and down you it will transform how you feel. Our Metabolic Reset is all about blood sugar and is a 21-day plan where you eat incredible food that is all meant to balance your blood sugar. In the middle there is a 5 day keto sprint which is based on the ketogenic diet so it also introduces you to the principles of eating more fat and seeing how that feels. There are so many people who fear eating fat but it will make you feel so balanced and so healthy. It’s easy to execute the program, you can still eat out and you get great results.
Having imbalanced blood sugar doesn’t mean you’re eating candy bars all day. Maybe you’re eating something in the morning like cereal with skimmed milk, which we’ve been conditioned to think is good for us but all it is in empty carbohydrates and will mean that you’re starving an hour afterwards. There are so many people who couldn’t get through the morning without snacks and always feel hungry and that’s a sign that your blood sugar is imbalanced. Another sign is crazy swings in energy and other things like are you afraid of getting hungry? Lots of people panic because when they get hungry they feel awful and their body shuts down and I can’t think, which is a sign of an unhealthy blood sugar. It’s not about being addicted to obvious sources of processed sugar it’s about our overall blood sugar balance and how we’re able to get through a day. Are we metabolically flexible whereby if we miss a snack our body is able to cope and won’t be shaky, angry and snappy.
True hunger starts slowly and builds and you feel that pit but then actually starts to subside. The hormonal hunger when your blood sugar or cortisol crash comes on suddenly and you have to eat immediately, regardless of what it is. So there are little things that you can look for that show you that your blood sugar is out of balance, so the Reset really helps teach you that. And it teaches you to look at ingredients – like porridge in the western world is often milled, so the fibre is gone – so even things like making sure they’re whole oats can really help.
What surprised me about setting up my own supplements is how few labs were willing to manufacture without cheap fillers. Some fillers are functional, for example magnesium is a very sticky nutrient so without a little bit of the filler it will stick to the capsule and clump and the dissolvability is bad. Most people will use a very chemical filler to help to negate that, whereas we use brown rice flour, which I think is better than talc or a titanium base filler. So my challenge was trying to find labs that would work with the standard we had which is that it still had to be as natural as possible.
Our bestselling supplement is Metabolic Fix, which helps to regulate blood sugar. Then it’s the GI Fix, which is about balancing the gut and our third bestseller is Enhanced Nootropics, which is incredible for minimising stress and the nervous system – it has Ashwagandha in it, all of your Methylated B vitamins and Magnesium, so it’s really fantastic at the tackling the moody side of things like anxiety but also great to optimise brain health. It’s unsurprising that these three are our best sellers when they tackle the three issues I’ve seen most in clinic – cravings and weight issues, gut issues and stress.
Our newest product is Enhanced Fertility, the comprehensive supplement I wish I had had when I was going through my own challenging journey to motherhood. It’s a synergistic complex containing 31 of the most targeted nutrients needed to provide a daily, high-impact dose of support no matter what stage of the fertility, pregnancy or postpartum journey you are in.
My nutrition has always been good but I’ve always been one to rely on the ability to exercise to feel good. But when you are a mother and you’ve just had a c-section you can’t even really walk, everything is taken away from you, you’re not sleeping, you’re not moving, your hormones are all over the place and you’re healing. So suddenly the impact of everything I ate I felt – because you’re very sedentary. And so I found that the better I was with my nutrition the better I felt, which sounds so obvious, but it was a good reminder that what we eat is so important. Have a foundational good knowledge of what works for you and how you can use it as a lever to make you feel better is SO important because we don’t always have the luxury of going to a class.
1. Be proactive about your health and wellness: We often wait until we feel bad to invest, but actively focusing on how you want to feel is the best way to stay resilient and thrive. I now have a standing desk and try to be mindful of just moving when you can. I try to walk 8-9k a day and run a lot but the standing desk has made such a difference, my back hurts less, I don’t get as hungry…I think there are small things you can do that really make a change.
2. Support yourself with good quality supplements: Whether it’s as simple as Vitamin D3 throughout the winter and a probiotic after you ‘ve been ill or it’s more comprehensive to address something chronic (for example, IBS), good quality supplements can be transformative.
3. Prioritise rest and recovery: We are in such a rush to get back to the “norm” whether it’s after illness of pregnancy but there’s a period that your body needs to recovery. Even if it’s recovery between workouts, after a period of stress or grief or from an illness. I think it’s a big part of what’s missing from our health right now. Recovery is one of the most underrated tools we use.
4. Be in it for the long-term: Being consistent and think of health as a daily practice. We never get what we want out of it if we dip in and out of it with the seasons. Find healthy food that you love and take the time to experiment and taste incredible and make me feel good. Food is pleasure.
5. Include mindset as one of your health pillars: Creating a positive, beneficial mindset will influence your biology and have a knock-on effect on the rest of your goals. Look after your systemic health: movement, rest and recovery plus nutrition. Proactively cultivate this balance and say every three months spend time doing a cleanse and chill and have massages – not in a panic I’ve been bad so need to cleanse way – do it in a way that’s about self-care and helping you to get out of any up and down spirals. Plan in some time for you – it’s just about doing the things that make you feel so good, things that fuel you in a nourishing way.
1. Bala Bangles are so chic and I use them all the time. One of the things I do a lot more of now is walk to work and I wear them on my arms and/or ankles. I also use them for any pilates or barre workouts at home.
2. Artah‘s Cellular Hydration is my number one. It’s our electrolyte-adaptogen blend that is amazing for hydration, energy, focus and mood. It helps me massively with the fatigue and has been a lifesaver throughout my pregnancies and the sleeplessness that follows.
3. Bed of Nails massage bed. I love using this for tension, deep relaxation and stress release. Sometimes I just have it on my feet at my desk or you can lay down and have a full body moment.
4. Sunday Riley CEO Vitamin C Moisturizer. My skin is prone to being dry and dehydrated and this moisturizer is really rich and plumping. I love it.
5. Zikko The Tech Bar Hot-Cold Massage Gun. This is like a mini Theragun that has hot and cold head attachments. It’s perfect for getting rid of knots, muscle tension, or to use for relaxation before bed.
6. Chantecaille Retinol Hand Cream and their Body Treatment. My hands have started to show their age so I love this hand cream and I quickly also bought the Body Cream. The combination of pregnancy and breastfeeding does a number on your skin. I’ve started using this lately and noticed a significant improvement in the texture and quality of my skin. Just amazing!
Hairdresser: Nicholas Hardwick from Josh Wood Salon.
Facials: I go to Fern Skin Clinic which is just amazing, their therapists are just brilliant. They do manual, LED, Dermapen – they give you what you need.
Workout Spot/Exercise Class: Heartcore and I love to run.
Manicurist/Pedicurist: I use Ruuby app after the kids go to bed!
Masseuse: I had a lot of lymphatic massages after my c-section and I was introduced to a wonderful women named Aniko 2 years ago and have never looked back! She is amazing and can do virtually anything – Thai, lymphatic drainage, sweedish, deep tissue, hot stone. Just amazing.
Favourite Spa Destination: When I was pregnant my friends got me a spa day at The Connaught which was just such a treat and I also like The Corinthia, they are both incredible. I also went on a spa holiday to Como in the Maldives and all of them are so fantastic because they’ve got an offering called Shambala which is their wellness offering, so the food and treatments are both incredible. I also love Alpina Dolomites. Absolutely incredible food, spa and scenery.