How to know if it's time to make changes: The 5 signs of health



If you’ve been working on your intuitive eating journey for a while, you might be in the early stages of exploring gentle nutrition. Maybe you’ve been working on intuitive eating for a while and you’re not sure whether or not to include gentle nutrition-- or maybe something came up in your life or your health and you’re interested in exploring some health changes… friend, that is 100% ok.


There is a misconception in the intuitive eating world that making changes to our health or the way we’re eating now is somewhat un-intuitive, but the truth is-- as long as we are making changes from a place of mindfulness, from a place of intuition, there is nothing wrong with recognizing we need to make some changes, and in fact-- is an example of serving our bodies WELL in recognizing something is off and rather than ignoring, exploring some solid changes that could improve our health, wellbeing and quality of life.


Here’s an example: You’ve been working on your relationship with food and eating intuitively for a few months, now. You start to notice sometimes when you eat, your stomach is bloated and distended for long periods of time after. It’s not just uncomfortable to look at, it feels uncomfortable-- but you’re nervous about making any changes- after all, shouldn’t my body just be doing it’s thing if I’m eating intuitively? The answer to that question is-- YES, and this is PART of eating intuitively, but sometimes- part of intuitive eating is recognizing the need for shifts- in our food OR our lifestyle and moving forward with those changes.

For this example, I’d ask you a couple things:


  1. Do you have a history of digestive issues?

  2. What has changed in your life, since the bloating started to happen? Changes in job or life stress, noticeable hormonal shifts, changes in sleep? Anything that has been a change- list it.

  3. Have there been any distinct changes in your eating habits, other than eating more intuitively? Are there certain foods you entirely eliminated prior to eating intuitively you’ve included more lately?

  4. Do you notice any patterns to the bloating- i.e. is it after certain meals, times of the day?

Notice MANY of these questions have LITTLE to do WITH the food. It’s important to explore EVERY area of our health, rather than jumping into making drastic changes to our eating habits.

Many holistic protocols would immediately tell you to eliminate the big offenders for gut distention, like gluten and dairy-- but I’d argue that’s not holistic, at all- holistic, the style of nutrition I practice, implies the WHOLE being- beyond JUST the food, because our nutrition is SO MUCH MORE than just the food we eat.

It’s important to explore every factor that could contribute to whatever you’re experiencing and approach it with a 360-degree view to determine first, what the potential root cause of your issues are, and then, potential shifts, both in and out of your food.


It’s important to explore every factor that could contribute to whatever you’re experiencing and approach it with a 360-degree view to determine first, what the potential root cause of your issues are, and then, potential shifts, both in and out of your food.

If this was you, after exploring all of those questions and determining you’ve had a little more stress in your life, lately, we’d practice more mindfulness and breathing around meals. I might also offer the option of adding in some supplemental support to manage symptoms and provide comfort, and if stress is not the main factor- perhaps some light food journaling to determine patterns. Once we have an idea of patterns and potential triggers, IF NEEDED, we can then explore removing triggers-- this would be a situation I would ALWAYS recommend working with a practitioner on, as going at it alone can be extremely difficult, both mindset-wise, without support, and nutritionally- you need to know you are honoring your body well, while making changes.


Here’s an important thing I’d like to point out: just because you make changes NOW, doesn’t mean they need to last FOREVER.

You are allowed to…

  • Make changes to your lifestyle or food choices as an intuitive eater

  • Change your mind around what intuitive eating looks like for you, in this season

  • Pursue health, without extremes

  • Bring on professional support when needed

  • Try new things to determine what feels good

  • Ditch anything that doesn’t

  • Take things out when appropriate- in order to heal

  • Add things back when you’re ready- nothing is set in stone.


Sometimes, we need support and to make changes for a while to heal and bring our body back into balance. This isn’t a death sentence to food! In fact, if you’re working with a balanced practitioner their goal should be that you won’t need them- or the protocol- any more, one day in the near future, and you can enjoy as much freedom with food as possible while still staying well.

And p.s. Just because you have food constraints- doesn’t mean you can’t find freedom IN THAT. Remember: it’s not the food you eat that matters the most in this journey, it’s your MINDSET around it.



So all that being said… how do you know if you need to make changes, and how do you go about exploring making changes while still maintaining an intuitive path?


There are five health indicators (I call these the five signs of health) to look at, when determining if how you’re eating isn’t working and you might need to make changes (to your eating or otherwise).

  1. Energy

  2. Focus

  3. Mood

  4. Digestion

  5. Hormones


I’ll go over each one BRIEFLY- please note, this is not a protocol for you to follow- these are questions to ask in determining if it might be something to explore further.


  1. Energy: How are your energy levels throughout the day? Are you noticing steep spikes and drops, are you feeling fatigued throughout the day or do you suddenly feel like you’re moving through molasses at 3pm? Do you feel tired but wired at night, unable to sleep even though you’re exhausted? How are you feeling around workouts? All of these can be indicators of something more immediate going on-- like imbalanced blood sugar, or underlying, like a hormonal imbalance.

  2. Focus: How are you feeling in terms of focus and brain power? Have you felt consistently brain-foggy, or are you feeling sharp? Are there certain meals you notice brain fog after, and how long does this last?

  3. Mood: Have you noticed any shifts in your mood, up or down? Do you notice mood shifts throughout the day, or the month? Note some level of mood shift around the start of our cycle is normal- but drastic shifts could indicate an imbalance.

  4. Digestion: How does your gut feel before and after meals? Are you experiencing bloating, distention, indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, gassiness or burping? Any of these, frequent or outside the norm for you, is cause to look deeper.

  5. Lastly, Hormones: Just saying hormones oversimplifies this complex system of chemical messengers which manage not just our reproductive system, but metabolism, stress response, and more-- but a few indicators your hormones are off are imbalanced or missed periods, extreme pms, severe changes in energy level throughout the day, cold hands and feet, hot flashes or night sweats, vaginal dryness, lack of libido, cystic or frequent acne, extreme thirst, bloating, headaches, puffy face or thinning hair (This podcast episode from the ladies at Zesty Ginger is a great overview of the power of our female hormones).


There are other things that can be symptoms of underlying issues- such as skin problems, but these are the main five- because often symptoms like skin problems are ALSO accompanied by other symptoms.


It’s also important to note here, shifts in weight are NOT an adequate reason for concern. Remember in the process of finding your balance, small shifts in weight are normal until you find your natural weight. HOWEVER- if there are DRASTIC shifts, in a SHORT period of time-- less than 60 days and a full pant size (that is, the size before fit you comfortably, all of a sudden, you don’t fit into them at all) or more… could be a SYMPTOM of something greater going on- but remember it’s just an outcome, and we need to look at what’s underlying, not fixate on one symptom.


If you do decide to make changes, how do you do so while maintaining an intuitive path?

First and foremost, if you can work with a practitioner who is well versed in Intuitive Eating that is your absolute BEST option. Remember, your goal is gentleness with your body- not extremes and it’s all too easy if you have been someone who has been wrapped in the diet mentality for so long to turn nutrition changes into a set of rules. Mindset MATTERS. Here’s a couple tips:


  1. Having a mindset of ‘this is for NOW,’. Remember we are constantly evolving humans. Our needs change. These are your needs, now, and they will likely change in the future. It’s ok to make changes, knowing they might change, too. You are serving your body well NOW.

  2. Avoid extreme thinking. It can be easy to switch into an extreme mindset, especially when you are in pain- but I want to encourage you to avoid this, as this is what can spiral us back into a life felt dominated by rules and restrictions. A couple ways you can avoid this are:

  3. Avoid extreme-lanuage: “I only,” “I never,” “I can’t,” “I don’t eat…”

  4. Shift this to “I am choosing not to…” This will help you to maintain the freedom and self care mindset around making choices that serve you. As soon as the choices you’re making turn into a rule, is the point where some mindset shifts need to happen.

  5. Remind yourself of your why. If at any point, your actions don’t align with your why- this is a good indicator another change can happen. For example, if you’ve made changes and haven’t been bloated for weeks, what can you slowly add back in to increase the variety of the foods you’re eating? Obviously, while still maintaining any positive lifestyle changes you’ve made.


So I hope through this, you’ve learned a few things:

  1. It’s ok to make changes- for your health or otherwise.

  2. It’s also ok if these changes aren’t forever- the hope is, they aren’t.

  3. Mindset matters- avoiding extreme thinking and approaching changes with a self care mentality.

  4. Work with an intuitive-eating informed practitioner, if at all possible, if you’re struggling in any of the 5 indicators of health. This can be immensely helpful in maintaining a positive mindset and balanced approach to creating change.


Was this helpful for you in determining where changes might be necessary- and helpful- in your journey as a balanced eater?


Are you ready to simplify your nutrition to live your healthiest, happiest life- beyond the rules? Registration for The Supermama Society, my online group coaching membership. is open NOW. For less than $30 a month, you will enter summer feeling empowered in living your healthiest life, without restriction. Learn more and sign up here.



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© 2020 Kristin Rugg Dovbniak for Healthy Mama Kris. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use

Headshots Marie Guagliardo Photography & Sarah Zollo Portraits