Well Told with Natalia Bragagnolo, Registered Holistic Nutritionist at HEAL

Natalia Bragagnolo is a Holistic Nutritionist and leads the workplace wellness programs at HEAL-Healthy Eating and Living. Through her work at HEAL, Natalia provides corporate wellness programs for major organizations including Google, Sony Imageworks and Unilever, helping employees feel energized, calmer, and happier. She also does 1:1 nutrition coaching and meal planning. Natalia is passionate about helping people take a holistic approach to their health and get to the root cause of their health concerns.

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As the seasons change, so do the ways we practice self-care. Are there any fall wellness practices you feel have a big impact on your wellbeing?
As much as I love the summer, I have learned to embrace the fall as a time to get back into a much-needed routine and relax. I like using Sundays to clean and get organized for the week so that Mondays don’t feel so stressful. I make a grocery list, shop, and prep some of my meals ahead since healthy food has such an impact on energy levels and mood. I also focus on getting good quality sleep by prioritizing my wind-down routine in the evenings.

What we eat is such a huge component of taking care of ourselves. Can you share some tips on supporting our health during the fall through our diet?
Heading into the week with a bit of a plan for meals and snacks is an important part of making healthier choices. There is nothing more tempting than takeout or fast-food when 5pm rolls around after a busy day and you have nothing prepped in the fridge or don’t have a quick meal in mind. I recommend establishing a bit of a plan for meals and shopping with a grocery list so you don’t need to make a second trip to the store mid-week. A full Sunday meal prep isn’t for everyone but try removing as many barriers to making healthier choices as you need to. For some people that looks like prepping breakfasts and lunches ahead of time and for others that simply means washing and chopping your produce so it’s ready to go. I also love to lean into one pot meals and one pan meals for simplicity and use my slow cooker or pressure cooker for meals I can store in the freezer for busy days.

For those who find it hard to be active during the fall months, are there any tips you can share that help you personally stay motivated?
Find a form of movement that you love, know what you’re going to do ahead of time, and schedule it into your calendar like other non-negotiables. I also recommend choosing a time of day that you’re most likely to stick with. For example, I know that if I leave my workout until the afternoon, I will probably skip it. I also encourage you to shift your mindset around the benefits of movement. Many of us are initially motivated to workout for the physical benefits. While these are undoubtedly important, it can take a while to see or feel those results and we can lose motivation in the process. During the pandemic, I focused primarily on the mental health benefits of exercise, and I found this to be incredibly motivating because I could feel them almost immediately and that motivated me to keep going.

As our lives have changed pretty significantly over the past couple of years, has your idea of what self-care means to you changed?
I used to always feel like I had to do more. I needed to see more people, work more, workout more, and engage in more wellness activities. I used to get anxious being on my own or taking time for myself and as a result, I got burnt out easily. I’ve learned to find more balance in my life by prioritizing the few wellness habits that make the biggest impact and creating better boundaries around my personal time.

What's been keeping you well these days?
As someone who loves hot weather, I used to get down during the change of seasons and resisted the coming of cold weather. Rather than enjoying the winter I tend to daydream about the summer. Instead, I’m embracing the change of seasons and what they mean. I try to remember that every season has a purpose and the fall and winter for me are about resetting and slowing down. I’m trying to embrace this season, appreciating the coziness and colours of fall, and focusing on being more present.