How Health Fits into Intuitive Eating



One of the most common questions (or really, concerns) is how health fits into intuitive eating. The idea of food freedom sounds great- but many women are afraid food freedom also equates to pizza and ice cream and donuts every day. They want to live healthy, happy lives- they want to find nourishment, this was why they turned to diets in the first place.


Here’s the thing: the goal of intuitive eating is to live healthy, happy lives of balance and joy- with freedom from diets, restriction and deprivation around food, so you can show up well for people and things in your life that matter.


And where- yes, pizza and ice cream and donuts can ALL find their place into your healthy life if you so choose (this is the power of permission, and making peace with food)- freedom doesn’t need to mean chaos.


But this ALSO doesn’t mean we need to control or limit our freedom. Confused, yet?


Inflexibility is what keeps us trapped in the diet mentality. We’re either controlled, or we’re out of control.


Inflexibility is what keeps us trapped in the diet mentality. We’re either controlled, or we’re out of control.

This is what Intuitive Eating teaches: releasing the all-or-nothing, black-or-white mentality and embracing balance- the gray area, where each and every day, we make the choices that serve us, that day.


What it comes down to is exactly that: choice.


Freedom with food gives us the choice to explore. To experiment. To approach food with a neutral curiosity. To find what feels good.


To take in information from the ever evolving science of nutrition and apply it, if we so choose, keeping what works and letting go of what doesn’t.


This is likely the most hard part of navigating health and intuitive eating: learning to let go when something doesn’t work.


Freedom with food gives us the choice to explore. To experiment. To approach food with a neutral curiosity. To find what feels good.

It’s why the mindset piece- allowing unconditional permission to eat and attunement- learning to tune in to our body’s cues- and thus, what actually feels good, needs to come before we begin to make changes for our health.


The last principle of intuitive eating focuses on gentle nutrition- not because it’s not important, but because the groundwork must be laid before we begin to build upon it. We need a solid foundation of freedom before we start to navigate filling our homes with nutrition principles, otherwise we risk crowding that foundation with a new set of rules- filling in weak spots in the foundation that might not have been solidified with fragile materials, limitations and constraints that might not fit our lives- in the name of health. A weak foundation of rules begins to sink as soon as we put more pressure on it- pressure on ourselves- to live a certain way. A solid foundation of freedom allows us to make choices that serve us, on a strong foundation of knowing ourselves, and knowing we have the ability to change at any time. We have the freedom of choice- limitations are unnecessary when we know ourselves well and can lean into any changes that might need to be made, without our foundation crumbling.



So how do we incorporate non-dogmatic healthy practices into our lives with flexibility? We create a solid foundation, first.


Then we begin to incorporate practices, one at a time, with an addition mindset.


Adding, not subtracting.


When we add nourishing practices to our lives, and they stick (because they feel good), eventually they crowd out the practices that no longer serve us.


When we add nourishing practices to our lives, and they stick (because they feel good), eventually they crowd out the practices that no longer serve us.

This is opposite the most common approach to establishing healthier habits: “Out with the old, in with the new!”. But too much new is often overwhelming, and the overhaul approach doesn’t work long term- we quickly find ourselves overburdened with change for no perceived benefit and give up entirely. Adding practices, one at a time, allows us to tune in to how each practice feels, allowing it to sink in and become a part of our routine if we so choose- letting it go and moving on if it doesn’t. Once that practice is established, we can add a new one in.


There are many ways we can begin to do this, here are a few examples:

  • Adding some greens in your morning smoothie and see how that feels.

  • Adding flax seeds to your cereal or granola because you want to see how more fiber feels and fills you.

  • Choosing to add one fish recipe per week to your menu to increase your omega-3 intake. Another healthy practice? Deciding you don’t like fish and adding in an omega-3 supplement, instead.

  • Trying out new veggie recipes as sides to your already-favorite dishes, to incorporate more variety and more veggies in.

  • Exploring new types of probiotics to incorporate for gut health- yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut.

  • Adding lemon juice to your water for a boost of Vitamin C.

  • Trying a Meatless Monday on for size to add more plants to your life.

  • Trying cauliflower rice in place of white rice one night (not as a rule, but as an addition).

  • Adding new veggies, spices or fresh herbs to your stir fry or egg scramble for more variety and nutrient density.

What if we have healthy practices we’ve already established? These are 100% ok to include in your intuitive eating journey- knowing health is highly individual. If the practices you’ve established are rule-based, or based on someone else’s definition of health, it might be worthwhile to take a step back and decide if they’re serving you, or if they’re a rule you’ve put on yourself. If the answer is no, they’re a solid habit that feels good, by all means keep them- remember, the goal here IS to live a healthy life (as you define in)- in freedom.


I hope this gives you a feeling of peace and understanding when it comes to intuitive eating as as health practice.


In fact, Intuitive Eating is likely the BEST practice you’ll make for your health- because it allows each decision you make to be individualized, chosen for your unique benefit and kept, not for the sake of guidelines set out by an expert, or rules to control but for the sake of your health, happiness and wellbeing, long-term.


Are you looking to create a solid foundation of intuitive eating and healthy living practices, but need some guidance along the way? Book a free 45-minute consult with me to see if coaching is right, for you.



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© 2019 Kristin Rugg Dovbniak for Healthy Mama Kris. All Rights Reserved. 

Headshots Marie Guagliardo Photography

Information on this site is intended to be informational and inspirational only and is not to be taken as medical diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with a trusted healthcare practitioner before making any changes.