How A Scientist & Nutritionist Stays On Track Over Christmas
How A Scientist & Nutritionist Stays On Track Over Christmas

How A Scientist & Nutritionist Stays On Track Over Christmas

For medical scientist and nutritionist Dr Federica Amati, Christmas is a time for family, relaxation and setting goals for the new year. From the habits that keep her wellbeing on track to the workouts that keep her centred and the little luxuries she can’t be without, here are the health rules she lives by during the festive period…
By Tor West

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A burst of cold water in the morning boosts energy. The benefits of cold water therapy are proven, but you don’t need to immerse yourself in a full-on ice bath to reap the rewards. I turn my shower down to a cool temperature for a final 30-second burst – I’ve noticed a real difference in my energy levels since doing this. Cold water is also a great way to get your lymph flowing and to improve circulation, which can be sluggish during the winter months.  

During the festive period, I practice intermittent fasting. Right now, it’s more challenging to stick to a healthy routine, and while it’s important to enjoy everything the season has to offer, I don’t like feeling sluggish or like I’ve completely abandoned all my healthy habits. When I can, I fast for 14 hours overnight, which gives my metabolism and gut microbiome time to rest. If I want a light breakfast, it’s a bowl of kefir with Indi Body – a blend of 15 superfoods and probiotics – and almonds.

When I can, I FAST FOR 14 HOURS OVERNIGHT, which gives my metabolism and gut microbiome TIME TO REST.

Supplements keep my immunity on track. When I feel run down, the first thing I do is reach for a strong probiotic – your immune system is primarily in your gut and influenced by your gut bacteria. For a sore throat, I will specifically take a probiotic that contains streptococcus salivarius K12, a type of bacteria that is found mostly in the mouth and throat. A bowl of homemade chicken broth always does the trick, too. I also never leave home without Never Go Alone’s sanitising mist – it keeps hands hygienically clean without damaging or drying out the skin. 

Going for long walks is great. Christmas is all about family and for us, it’s all about spending time with our children. They’re at that magical age where Christmas is exciting, so the build-up is just as good as the day itself. A lot of the stress around this time comes from self-imposed expectations, so I remind myself not to stress, and don’t hesitate to ask family members to help with cooking. I make sure we get out for a morning walk daily – studies show a 30-minute stroll improves mood, calms nerves, increases blood circulation and supports optimal energy levels for the day ahead.


When I have time, I’ll do a Peloton class. We invested in a Peloton during lockdown, and it’s been a game-changer. I love Cody Rigsby – his energy is infectious – but Robin Arzon is great for a more challenging workout – Hannah Frankson also has amazing playlists. My go-to class is a 30-minute Arms and Light Weights session, and if I’m in town, I’ll book a class at Heartcore – I always feel refreshed and strong after a class there. If I’m feeling run down or tired, I’ll swap the Peloton for gentler exercises like yoga or bodyweight sessions. 

Yoga nidra keeps my mental health in check. It can be tricky to carve out time for yourself at this time of the year, but taking even a few minutes for yourself, whether it’s a breath of fresh air or even reading in a quiet room will reset and help calm any feelings of stress and anxiety. I swear by yoga nidra – an ancient style that encourages deep relaxation. Don’t let the term ‘yoga’ confuse you – in yoga nidra, you are guided into a sleep state but encouraged to remain conscious in a semi-awakened state while deeply relaxed. As a result, you become aware of different parts of the body, and relaxation is more effective. Think of it as bringing a little more peace back to your waking, everyday brain state. It’s even backed by research to improve wellbeing and reduce exhaustion. I practice it via the Insight Timer app.  

Over Christmas, I’ll be putting on my out of office. I love my work – I run two busy clinics as a nutritionist alongside leading research projects in nutrition and public health with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Imperial College London – but the Christmas break is the perfect excuse to take time off to mentally reset. Working from home has blurred the boundaries so an ‘official’ Christmas break helps me be stricter with myself. I won’t be working or checking the team Slack while I’m off, although I will spend half an hour a few evenings a week deleting emails and flagging urgent ones to reduce the stress of an inbox that’s out of control come January. I think it’s important to plan wisely and take a level-headed approach to the festive season. 

I try to cook from scratch as much as possible. My family are Italian, so food is an integral part of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we eat seafood and tortellini and bone broth, and on Christmas Day it’s homemade lasagne and seasonal vegetables as well as a sourdough panettone – my favourite part of Christmas Day. Everything we eat is made from scratch using whole ingredients. There are endless benefits to cooking from scratch – not only is it more nutritious but you also have more control over what you’re eating and it’s lovely to be able to share homecooked food with family, it’s emotionally satisfying. 

Regardless of the meal, I try to make sure I have some form of vegetable starter. Recent studies suggest starting a meal with vegetables or a side salad means you’ll be able to enjoy the starches in your main meal with a much smaller impact on your glucose levels. This, in turn, means less inflammation, fewer cravings and a more balanced mood. 


Nothing beats curling up with a book before bed. I try to be in bed by 10pm as my children are always up by 6.30am. I avoid screentime after 9pm and read a book to unwind. I’m currently reading Brain Changer by Professor Felice Jacka, a fascinating insight into how our diet can impact our mental health and am also working my way through Count Down by Shanna Swan, which explores the current threats to both male and female fertility. Food For Life by Tim Spector also comes highly recommended and is a must-read for anyone interested in health and wellness – I feel proud to have been part of the writing process. Other books I read this year that have stayed with me include Bad Science, Eating Animals and It’s All In Your Head. Dear Life by Rachel Clarke is also on my bedside table.

Essential oils are a simple way to improve wellbeing. I love making my own body oil blends to avoid synthetic fragrances and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals. I use a jojoba oil base and add ylang ylang, rose otto and patchouli, a combination that boosts mood, eases anxiety, aids relaxation and hydrates the skin. I recently discovered Wildsmith Skin and love the essential oils they use in their products. The Vitality range contains a stimulating blend of black pepper, ginger and cedarwood, while the Stillness range is formulated with calming rose geranium, chamomile and lavender. when it comes to skincare, I love the BioEffect range. 

I swear by YOGA NIDRA – an ancient style that ENCOURAGES DEEP RELAXATION.

Reflexology and energy healing keep me balanced. I’ve booked in to see Julia Anastasiou for reflexology and a head massage over the break – she’s amazing – and will be going to Soho Farmhouse in January for a full-body massage. I recently had an amazing energy treatment at Heckfield Place, which was unreal, I hope I can go back soon in the New Year. 

Be realistic with New Year goals. Research has confirmed what many of us know well through personal experience – resolutions for the new year don’t work, especially ones that involve dramatic changes. Instead, I set small goals and hope to make small daily changes, such as meditating for five minutes. Not only is this more achievable but it’s the small changes that make the most difference. 

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