Set boundaries and stick to them. I have boundaries in place for my work with clients and brands/organisations. However, I often find that I am bending over backwards and putting myself out to help others, or I feel bad when I don’t do that. But the boundaries are there for a reason and whenever I let someone push or break the boundaries I try to learn from it so either it doesn’t happen again, or I can renegotiate the boundary from a rational place, rather than in the moment.
Asa part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Behaviour change psychologist and certified hypnotherapist Rachel Evans, who specialises in helping women to ditch the diet and nourish their lives. After her own struggle with restrictive eating and orthorexia followed by binge eating and bulimia, she set up Re:Wellbeing and made it her mission to help others. Through her multi-award winning blog Healthy & Psyched, Rachel aims to make healthy eating and a balanced relationship with food easy and accessible to everyone.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Rachel! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve wanted to be a psychologist and help people ever since I started high-school, but it’s taken a while and a lot of ups and downs to get here. I was really happy during my undergraduate psychology degree, but I spent a lot of time studying and taking part in sports clubs, so I never really made a plan for what would happen after I left — when I had to enter the real world and find a job! The thing with psychology in the UK is that you can’t start practicing as soon as you finish an undergraduate degree, and I felt overwhelmed with the amount of options (e.g. educational psychology working with children, or sports psychology working with athletes) and my lack of work experience. So I decided to do an MSc in Health Psychology, which I enjoyed, but it still left me with the same worries as when I had started because to be a Health Psychologist in the UK you need additional training.
After graduating I got a job as a research assistant abroad, but I felt quite isolated and I think that allowed my interest in healthy living to become an obsession and eating disorder. When I returned home I saw a therapist, who encouraged me to think about my purpose in life and the things that I enjoyed, which was psychology, nutrition, and studying. I was lucky enough to be accepted for a funded PhD at The University of Sheffield, which I thought would allow me to do what enjoyed. Unfortunately, the stress of writing journal papers and again feelings of isolation, impacted on my eating disorder, which had been improving, and I developed bulimia as a way to cope with the pressure. It got quite difficult for me to even make it into my office and I knew that I had to do something. I tried to see a new therapist, but we didn’t really click and I felt let down. That gave me the motivation to apply what I knew about breaking habits to help stop my cycles of restricting and binging.
I have since qualified as an Advanced Practitioner in Eating Disorders and Obesity and certified hypnotherapist in Rapid Transformational Therapy, which has allowed me to work with clients to help them reclaim a healthy and balanced relationship with food and their body. My studies and lived experience of difficulties with eating and body image help me to relate to clients and enable them to work towards massive positive change in their life. It sounds strange, but I am happy to have battled with an eating disorder because it helped me gain clarity and finally decide on a job that I am passionate about. I set up my business re:Wellbeing in 2017 and have since worked with individuals, groups and organisations with the aim of promoting healthy eating in a way that is beneficial for physical and mental health.
Something else that I haven’t mentioned yet is my blog Healthy & Psyched, through which I share plant-based recipes and lifestyle tips. I am so proud of the blog, which is coming up to its 4th birthday and won Best Vegan Blog at the Health Blogger Awards in 2018! However, blogging is something that has had to give in the past year while I have been researching for my PhD and expanding my work with clients. I’m looking forward to making and photographing lots of delicious and nutritious recipes once I have handed in my thesis.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
- Add fruit and/or vegetables to your breakfast. It’s a vitamin and fiber boost, plus my clients tell me that they make healthier choices throughout the day when they choose a filling and nourishing breakfast.
- Use a blue-light filter on your phone/ laptop in the evenings. Many phones have a setting, but you can also download one as an app. This is such an easy tweak as it only involves pressing a button!
- Plan fun activities with friends and write them in your diary! Everyone is so busy now-days and I think we underestimate the positive impact of pressing pause on our to-do list and letting our hair down for a while.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the most unexpected things that happened was that I won a food photography competition and an all-expenses paid trip to Thailand. During the trip I visited a mango farm that supplies a major UK retailer and filmed some pieces to camera, which were used in promotions for the retailer! The most exciting part was that I got to see the other fruits growing on the farm and pick a dragon fruit straight from the tree! I love fruit so I really was the most perfect person to win — I loved every minute of the trip and have collaborated with one of the companies involved in some recipes and food photography since.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My biggest mistake was thinking that wellness is the same for everyone and is shown by a flat stomach and toned limbs. I would say my wellness journey started in 2012 while I was studying my MSc in Health Psychology. I wanted to work in health promotion after I graduated, although I didn’t know exactly what that would look like. I started following lots of wellness/ fitness orientated accounts on instagram and copying what the women were doing. I thought that if I ate what they ate and worked out like they did then I could look like them and everyone would respect my advice about health promotion.
To cut a long story short, that’s when I developed an eating disorder and obsession with exercise. My stomach was flatter and my limbs were more toned, however I was anything but healthy; mentally and physically. It took a bumpy road through recovery for me to realise that there is no one size fits all in health and wellbeing because what works for one person might not for another (e.g. what is a satisfying meal for one person might be restrictive for someone else) and that health isn’t shown by body-size. In addition, I want people to respect me now because of my qualifications, experience and fantastic result that my clients achieve, not because of the way I look.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I love working with women (1–1 or in groups) and speaking at events to help people learn more about the psychology of eating and improve their relationship with food and their body. I think there can be a huge ripple effect. I love it when clients tell me that they are teaching their friends, loved ones, and especially children about mindful eating, self-compassion or the other things that I speak about regularly. I’ve even had 2 clients recently who are now training to become therapists themselves!
I’ve had to cut back the amount of time I spend on social media in the past year, but once I’ve finished my PhD I would like to start creating more educational posts and infographics. I think these can be really impactful and easy for people to share.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My dad. He has always been there supporting me, from driving me up and down the country so I could attend competitive lifesaving training days and competitions when I was younger to encouraging me to see a therapist and help with the cost when I was reluctant to invest in myself or my recovery from orthorexia. In both of those examples, I was never really grateful for what he did to support me. I thought I knew best when he would offer me advice on, for example, how to dive further, and then I didn’t want him interfering with what I ate. We had plenty of disagreements but he still persevered and I am very grateful for that now.
Another way that he helped me, which I only realised after the fact, was in giving me a job at his factory. I had just finished my MSc and had to wait 6 months to start my job as a research assistant in Singapore. At first it felt like I was doing him a favour, because one of the employees had left and I was filling her space. I didn’t really enjoy the work that much (e.g. bookkeeping, responding the client and supplier emails), but my dad did teach me a lot more than he would have done a regular employee about how to run a business, which ultimately helped me later when I set up my blog Healthy & Psyched, and therapy business Re:Wellbeing.
What is your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Set boundaries and stick to them. I have boundaries in place for my work with clients and brands/organisations, however, I often find that I am bending over backwards and putting myself out to help others, or I feel bad when I don’t do that. But the boundaries are there for a reason and whenever I let someone push or break the boundaries I try to learn from it so either it doesn’t happen again, or I can renegotiate the boundary from a rational place, rather than in the moment.
- Take your time to find a business coach or mentor who is right for you. When I decided to take the plunge and register my company I was so excited and hired a business coach. She was nice and did help me to get my first 1–1 client and to run my first group workshop, but in hindsight I don’t think her approach suited me at the time. I wish I would have taken more time to find someone who might have been a better fit with how I wanted to grow my business at the time.
- Believe in yourself and fan-girl/ boy for yourself. People less qualified than you are getting better opportunities than you, so ditch the imposter syndrome and just go for it. Easier said than done, but there comes a point where you have to be like ‘I am amazing’ and then do something that scares you, but will have a massive pay-off for your business.
Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be? (Let another “woman in wellness” know that you respect her as a teacher and guide! )
Jessica Sepel from J S HEALTH. Firstly, she has amazing hair, but secondly and more importantly she has built a fantastic business that centres on healthy eating and a healthy relationship with food. She’s an inspiration because she has achieved many things that I aspire to do, including developing an online course and write a book. Crucially though, she shares honestly on instagram if she’s having a bad day, which I respect. Plus, she lives in Australia and I would love to fly there from the UK and take her to brunch at one of the incredible cafes that I keep seeing on instagram.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health. I feel like you can’t have the other things without being in a good place mentally. Or you can have them, but it is costing you your mental health or other areas of your life to sustain.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can find me on
Pinterest: healthy psyched
I have an instagram and facebook account for the therapy side of my business Re:Wellbeing, but they’re not active because it was a lot to juggle and I practice what I preach and prioritise my mental health over doing it all.