Maintaining our healthy habits during the busy and often stressful holiday season can be a real challenge! To help us, we connected with Natalie Pupo from The Naturally Natalie for some holiday wellness tips including how to manage stress over the holidays. As a Holistic Nutrition Student, Natalie is passionate about living a beautiful, balanced lifestyle and helping people make simple, daily decisions that have a big impact on their future!
We connected with Natalie and chatted about some tips on how to manage stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed, some things we can do to boost our holiday cheer and how we can try to be more mindful through the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
WEHL: Tell us a little about yourself and why you became interested in holistic wellness.
NP: About 2 years ago I discovered how madly passionate I was about addressing the underlying causes of diseases using functional medicine rather than only treating symptoms of disease with conventional medicine. I initially became interested in the world of health & wellness approximately 5 years ago when I found myself obsessing over drool-worthy, delicious-looking photos on social media, mainly Instagram and immediately felt as though it would be a fun hobby to share recipes with friends and family. That’s when “The Naturally Natalie” all began! My blog was (and still is) a very special place where I get to share delicious, simple, healthy recipes with my followers and the rest of the world. It’s also the place I decided to share my battle with a very grueling 2 year eating disorder. I was able to connect with other women and felt as though I was not alone, and never would be alone as this global problem affects many women throughout their lives. After I became well and no longer worried about the number on the scale, I decided to leave my family business that I had been employed at for over nine years to follow my dream of becoming a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. I am now currently a full-time student at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and will be graduating late 2019/early 2020.
WEHL: What is your philosophy on wellness?
NP: To me, wellness is the ultimate gift.
We are born to be well and our bodies are designed to keep us well. So long as we treat our body with kindness, love and nourishment we all have the opportunity to live a very healthy and happy life.
WEHL: Why did you decide to become a holistic nutritionist?
NP: I love working with people. More specifically, I love helping people in any way I can! And so, knowing I had this strong desire and passion for health, specifically reversing mild to chronic conditions with proper nutrition, exercise, homeopathic remedies, stress-management and customized holistic wellness approaches, I knew holistic medicine was for me.
Coaching, providing guidance, and educating people about the impact their day to day decisions make on their future lives is what fires up that tiny spark in my soul. It really is the little things in life that make a difference. From the food you eat, to the people you surround yourself with to how you take care of yourself day to day. People think being healthy is eating a salad at every meal … being healthy is SO much more than eating your daily greens. It’s about discovering what YOU need to feel your best so that you can live life feeling amazing, every single day.
WEHL: Why does stress seem to pop up around the holidays?
NP: Oh good ol’ holiday stress! It gets the best of us! And the only way to really not let it run you into a 50 foot hole in the ground is to find a little time for yourself everyday leading up to Christmas. People literally go insane, driving 100 clicks on quiet urban streets to get to the mall so they can get their kids the latest electronics before others beat them to it, they become sleep deprived wondering what other gifts to buy their husbands/wives or family members but then at the same time, worrying how they are going to afford more and wondering how much is enough … Honestly, people these days need to slow down and take care of themselves. My advice is to reserve some time in the evening to unwind with a good book and a hot cocoa, or a warm bath or maybe a good ol’ classic Christmas movie. Enjoy the spirit of the season instead of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, you’ll see Christmas in a totally new way and I guarantee you, people will start asking you how you look so good!
WEHL: What do you do when you notice you are feeling overwhelmed?
NP: This is a good one because when I start to feel overwhelmed I usually make myself a soothing hot tea, put some drops of lavender oil in my diffuser or at the bottoms of my feet and read a book to get my mind off whatever is bothering me. I also find facetiming my two year old niece helps because sweet, innocent, cheeky children… always make you feel 100 times better!
WEHL: What are some life hacks you can do to help reduce stress?
NP: I have a few…
- Limit your intake of caffeine! Around the holidays our bodies and minds already feel overworked and exhausted enough. Coffee, especially large amounts elevate cortisol levels leading to agitation and anxiety throughout the day and a restless sleep at night. Sugar and alcohol also have similar effects, so keep an eye on your intake to reduce anxiety levels.
- Schedule in relaxation time. As previously mentioned, setting aside time everyday to pamper yourself whether it be putting on your favorite face mask, listening to a kick-ass playlist and baking up some delicious homemade cookies, quietly meditating or shutting your phone off completely and putting on a movie you enjoy. All of these simple, yet important relaxation techniques will keep your stress level to a minimum.
- Drink calming teas! Be sure to choose caffeine-free blends and naturally sweeten your teas or tea lattes with raw honey or medjool dates instead of refined sugar. Calming teas I love are: Matcha green tea, chamomile, turmeric golden lattes, and any kind of lavender blend and valerian root.
- My favourite hack to reduce stress is… EXERCISE! Being an avid “sweat-a-holic” as I like to call myself, I live to MOVE! My favourite time to exercise is first thing when I wake up but anytime works, just not too close to bedtime. Exercise not only releases those happy endorphins making you feel so good and charged up to start your day but also helps to prevent more serious conditions like depression and anxiety over time.
- Lastly, practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your thoughts and feelings at all times. By focusing on your internal well-being, you’ll be better able to regulate anxiety and determine how to avoid stressful situations.
By increasing your physical activity, monitoring your intake of harmful foods, and doing the things you love, you can lead a more stress-free life.
WEHL: What are some things that you can do to boost your holiday cheer?
NP: I would recommend to not overcrowd your schedule, spend time with people who make you feel your best, try cooking up that festive holiday dessert you’ve always wanted to try (and don’t feel guilty if you eat more than one helping), OH! And don’t forget to dance around your kitchen to NSYNC’s Christmas album (in your underwear) while indulging! ☺☺☺ Feels so good!
WEHL: Do you have any tips for staying mindful through the hustle and bustle?
NP: Try to spend more time being present. Yes, that means maybe taking a break from social media to give your mind and your breath more opportunity to be noticed. Don’t worry if your Instagram followers drop while you’re away. The ones who understand and love you for everything you are will still be there when you get back!
Also, try and set an intention throughout the holidays, especially around family. I know for myself I sometimes feel anxious when a lot seems to be happening at once. So, setting my intention to “RELAX” and not worry about what others are doing and how they’re spending their holidays always seem to make me feel better. Reminding myself to always do what makes me happy and what I’m comfortable with regardless of what others think is definitely my go-to TIP for any gathering or upcoming event.
WEHL: Do you have a low-alcohol festive drink or mocktail that you can share with us?
NP: I can’t say I have any low-alcohol or “mocktail” recipe to share with you (as I do not drink) however, I do have a delicious keto sugar-free hot chocolate recipe I LOVE and I don’t see why you couldn’t add a shot of Bailey’s to it! ☺
Dairy and sugar-free keto hot chocolate (this recipe serves 2) – lightly adapted from Lauren Holden.
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon lakanto monk fruit sweetener
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 & ¼ cup filtered water
- ¼ cup raw cashews (best if soaked for at least 4 hours)
- option to add in 2 tablespoons MCT oil and 1 scoop collagen. I opt out of this if I’m enjoying in the evening and I prefer to have my boosters in the morning only.
*Using a high speed blender, blend the cashews, milk and water on high until smooth (a few minutes). Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend for another minute or 2. Pour the blended mixture to a saucepan on very low heat and allow to heat up, then pour into your favourite mugs and enjoy! I love adding My Dandies mini marshmallows and some melted Lily’s chocolate chips on top!
WEHL: We’re often presented with a lot of sweets over the holidays that tempt us and can put our blood sugar on a roller coaster. Do you have any tips for how to approach the dessert table?
NP: Hmmm, this is a good one! I would tell you to approach the dessert table with caution! As tempting and adorable as these Christmas baked goods are, beware as most are full of refined flours and sugars that will definitely send your blood sugar to the moon! I always like to suggest bringing one or two homemade sugar-free healthy desserts with you to share at holiday gatherings. This way you know you won’t have to deprive yourself and if you do add a small piece of a sugar-filled cookie to your plate at least it was only a very minimal amount. My favourite healthy, simple desserts and/or treats are my homemade snickerdoodles, my sugar-free lemon poppy seed keto bundt cake, my chia jam almond flour thumbprint cookies and my gingerbread fat bombs! Full recipes can be found on my Instagram.
I can almost guarantee the other guests at your gathering will be scratching their heads wondering how your healthy treats are that delicious! Happens to me every time!
WEHL: How can we sneak in some healthy foods into our holiday meals?
NP: We can sneak in healthy foods into our holiday meals quite easily! Always remember, the more colour on your plate the better! I like to start by filling my plate with as many vegetables as possible (at least 1/2 of my plate), then I’ll add some protein like chicken, fish, tofu and/or beans and maybe a small amount of grains. Lastly, I will make sure to go easy on any dressing and always opt for just a tablespoon or so of olive oil or maybe a few tablespoons of homemade miso dressing, if I decide to bring my own. (Yes I’ve done that plenty of times! And the guests love real homemade healthy dressings better than store bought anyways!)
WEHL: What’s your go-to breakfast before a big holiday meal?
NP: My go-to breakfast before a big holiday meal is a dice up between full-fat chia pudding with fresh fruit, granola and creamy nut butter and a high-protein, high-fat, high-fibre smoothie bowl with all the toppings! Either way with a decent size matcha naturally sweetened with a medjool date and cacao butter. YUM!
WEHL: As we start to look towards a new year, do you have any tips for helping us get a head start on our New Year’s resolutions and goals?
NP: I know many people like to set high standards for themselves and all the power to them, HOWEVER I also know wellness doesn’t happen overnight… Patience is a virtue! Long term results are best achieved through small, gradual changes. If you want to lose say 10 pounds, aim for ½-1 pound a week. If you’re a beginner at running and want to run 5k, start by running a few miles every few days instead. Too many people go all out and push themselves too hard, too fast which makes it very difficult to maintain new habits and they usually end up giving up altogether.
Always remember… if it’s dropping a dress size, running an extra mile or trying out a new exercise class, celebrate each milestone you reach! Do not compare yourself to others or bring yourself down when you don’t have the energy to do what you said you would do that day. Listen to your body, love your body and believe me when I say, it will slowly begin to listen and love you right back.
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