Natasha Rudatsenko (formally known as Natasha Stephenson) is a Dubai based health and fitness entrepreneur who describes herself as a ‘serial health nagger’ after regularly pestering family and friends into living a healthier lifestyle through a combination of yoga, exercise and good food.
Originally from Estonia and educated in London, Natasha moved to Dubai in 2010 and has since gone on to launch a number of award winning businesses including Muncherie Organic Foods and RAWR Yoga.
Shortly after moving to Dubai, Natasha fell in love with Hot Yoga from the first sweat. Becoming a regular class goer, she went to LA to do an intensive two-month training and upon her return in 2012, Natasha co-founded RAWR Yoga Studio, which went on to win a number of awards and became one of the most popular Hot Yoga centres in the city.
In May 2015, Natasha launched Muncherie, the first Dubai born all-natural food company offering raw, vegan, gluten free and paleo friendly food and snacks that are available across the GCC in outlets including Waitrose, Spinneys, Choithrams, Zoom and more. The range continues to grow and exciting expansion is planned for 2017 and beyond, with Natasha’s goal to make it a market leader in the GCC for natural, locally produced foods.
December 2017 sees Natasha combining her favourite things and opening her latest venture, DRYP, a sweat hub in Dubai Marina offering Hot Yoga and other hot fitness classes, which includes a healthy DRYP kitchen serving products from Muncherie, including fresh coconut water, dairy free smoothies, raw protein bars and more. KM had the pleasure of meeting Natasha and learning more about her health journey and successes:
1.When did you know that you had to pursue a healthier lifestyle? How do you overcome the need for comfort food (such as desserts, or any form of carb)?
Believe it or not, I was not always so healthy; I was rather the opposite in fact. My first gym experience happened around 26 years old and my favourite meal was a standard guilty pleasure of fries, burger and coke up until this age. But then my terribly unhealthy lifestyle started to turn into a healthy lifestyle obsession one step at a time. Firstly I quit red meat, then dairy, then deep-fried, then white sugar etc. It’s a journey of almost 8 years, and I had a new solid healthy habit introduced every other 6 months or so. I started to read a lot and understand how food influences us and when you start understanding what it does, the craving just disappears. If you love and care about yourself, seeing how bad food can influence you helps you to turn away bad stuff easily. We are all just misinformed. I could go on forever about food myths we are fed all the time by commercial food giants. It would be a whole new topic in itself and might even be shocking to many people. With a greater understanding and knowledge, my cravings and tastes changed very naturally.
I do however, have cravings for comfort food all the time – I am certainly human. But the definition of a comfort food has evolved for me tremendously over the last 5-7 years. I don’t crave fries, I don’t crave Baskin Robbins, nor do I crave a full fat double cream traditional cake. I just simply don’t find it tasty anymore and the sugar in it makes my teeth hurt. I enjoy an occasional treat – I just opt for a healthier option like dairy free or gluten free. That said, the healthy option is often unavailable and I would just have some of what’s on offer as there’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat. I am also not against carbs – I love carbs. Carbs are life and we all need them. Just consume them fresh, unprocessed, chemical free, as that’s all your body is asking.
2. What makes Muncherie Organic Foods different from other health based food companies?
I founded Muncherie with the vision of creating healthy, all-natural, preservative free products that are free of modern nasty allergens like gluten, sugar, dairy, as well as, chemical and preservative free. I was avoiding eating these and was always dreaming of healthier choices that could satisfy my sweet tooth. ‘Free from’ desserts were the hardest find at the time and I thought why don’t I just do it – surely there are more people like me here? This is how Muncherie was born. It started off with the range of healthy raw vegan treats and slowly evolved into a proper food manufacturing business that had both health and taste factors as uncompromising priority. We were the 1st company born in the whole GCC that was producing healthy retail products in Dubai and we distributed ourselves into all major UAE retailers such as Waitrose, Spinneys, Zoom and etc. 90% of products you see on shelves across UAE are flown from miles away and have suspiciously long shelf life. I wanted to be a local producer, so customer gets real freshness from local shelves.
3. How can a working woman cope with the lost schedule of exercise? What are your tips for staying fit on a busy day?
It’s difficult, there’s no doubt about it. For me, a healthy lifestyle comes mainly from food now as the daily grind leaves no time for it. My gym happens max twice a week, mostly on weekends. I don’t even know how women manage their careers, healthy lifestyle, gym and find time to be amazing wives and caring mothers all at the same time. These must be some superwomen and I applaud them J I am yet to hone these skills as my schedule is already very tight!
4. If you could change one thing about your current lifestyle, what would it be and why?
I would 100% do more Hot Yoga. I absolutely love this class and have been missing it badly since all Hot Yoga Studios in the city closed down. I developed an addiction to it after moving to Dubai and it is the most amazing yoga class which has changed my life completely for the better. It was Hot Yoga practice that healed me on so many levels to the point that I felt I needed to share it with more and more people. I Co-Founded RAWR YOGA Studio here in Dubai 5 years ago as I wanted to help everyone to heal or just improve their physical, emotional and spiritual state too. After a few years, I sold it to focus on Muncherie, but the good news is that it’s coming back! DRYP Yoga studio is about to open in Orra Marina this December and I will be spending lots of time there. I can’t wait to see you all there and DRYP together!
5. After reading about your entrepreneurial spirit and about the companies that you’ve founded, what is next on your bucket list of goals? How far are you willing to push the need for fitness?
Far! I am not planning to stop anytime soon and those who know me well would say I am just warming up. I am working on two new healthy projects at the moment, which will be a great addition to my portfolio of health businesses in order to maintain top notch psychical and mental health. I have so much passion for healthy lifestyle that I feel an incredible urge to ‘health nag’ professionally through all my endeavours. My mission is to keep spreading “’he healthy word,’ continuously, encouraging people to love themselves more and take better care of their bodies through natural food, active lifestyle and regular detoxing.
6. If you could recommend to our readers your favourite health snacks on the run, what would they be?
My latest obsession is Coconut Jerky – a vegan snack with an addictive BBQ flavour that is so tasty and satisfyingly chewy.
7. What are your words of advice for those aspiring to shift to a healthier lifestyle without losing focus?
Don’t go from unhealthy to healthy in one day as this will make you miserable. I tried it and it didn’t work for me. It’s important that you enjoy your daily life and try to transition slowly as change won’t happen overnight. My advice would be to start one healthy habit, choose just one that resonates most for you at the moment and stick to it for a month or two. Once you’ve nailed it and are comfortable with it, add another one. Step by step, without too much deprivation, you will be able to live a healthier lifestyle happily. And don’t forget cheat days – these are a must J