Health coach and entrepreneur Justine Dampt grew up in France, where she developed a love for decadent desserts. But after being diagnosed with a series of intolerances and immune system issues, she decided to combine her love of food with her professional training…

How did you first get involved in the health and wellness scene?

I’ve always been active and sporty, but around the time I started to be more involved in the wellness scene I faced some health issues relating mostly to diet and stress, and it encouraged me to research nutrition and a better life balance. I completed a health coaching programme combining nutrition and life coaching, then experimented with different diets and worked to become a more positive person. Having learned to appreciate the present moment and to take the time to be grateful, I wanted to share my experiences and the passion I had developed for working in groups to positively influence each other’s lives.

What are the most common health issues people see you about?

Regionally, the most common issues are linked to digestion, such as bloating discomfort and feeling unwell after eating. Other common complaints are fatigue, low energy and motivation, and unfortunately this is an increasing trend many are unaware of. Food is our fuel, and everything that we eat and that our bodies absorb has an impact on our general health, mood, energy levels and happiness.

Are intolerances increasing, or are people simply more aware?

It is true that people are becoming more aware of their diet and their own individual wellness, which to me is fantastic news. Taking the time to listen to your body is essential for happiness. But I also think that people are becoming more sensitive to processed foods, preservatives and other artificial additives, and this is resulting in higher food sensibilities, allergies and eczema.

How did you move from having an interest in health to setting up your healthy snack business, Encas?

After experimenting with different diets and nutritional theories, I eventually came to the conclusion that a non-processed, gluten free and plant-based diet was the most appropriate lifestyle choice for me. However, I grew up loving desserts such as creme caramel and mousse au chocolat, and I was extremely unsatisfied with the bland vegan snacks and gluten-free sweets on the market – the experience was not comparable to indulging in an ice cream or macaron. Worse yet, I realised that many ‘free from’ ranges were filled with additives. Encas was the result of this. 

Do you think the current trend for ‘clean eating’ is a help or a hindrance to those seeking answers to health concerns?

I don’t like the term ‘clean eating’ because it leads to preconceived notions of what is ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’. I think the secret lies in a balanced diet with ingredients that suit your own body, goals and food preferences. One person’s food can be someone else’s poison, so the focus should be on helping people understand and identify what is good for them specifically.

How should someone start with tackling their own health issues?

The first piece of advice to someone who suspects intolerances is to experiment with food. Reduce or remove specific ingredients, such as gluten, dairy and processed food, paying attention to how you feel with regards to energy level and mood, and even how your skin and hair looks in the days that follow. If you’re struggling with severe intolerances, seek medical help and undergo a food intolerance test. As a general rule, though, the key is to always listen to your body.

Is Dubai a good place to be an entrepreneur?

Dubai is an amazing city to start new projects and there are lots of opportunities, especially in the health and wellness industry. That said, there are challenges. Starting a business is not easy, with a lot of costly permits required and some things that are more complex than one might expect, such as opening a bank account without freezing a large amount of capital. But I found a lot of support within the Francophone community, at Marina Souq for instance, as well as within the entrepreneurial network.