Intuitive Eating and Sick Days

Tis the season…. Flu season that is.

It seems like weekly I hear about the new virus, cold, bacteria that is going around.

While I take precautions to not get sick - like getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated, managing my stress, eating meals and snacks, asking my clients to call if they’re sick and reschedule… in spite of it all sometimes I still get sick. It’s human.

And something I often hear when people are sick is “I just didn’t feel like eating.”


I totally get it. You feel icky. You just want to sleep. Nothing sounds good. Nothing tastes good. Eating is the last thing on your mind. But when you’re ill your body is fighting it’s fight to get you well again. It’s doing everything it can to defeat the virus or bacteria or allergen to make you better… and you’re skipping meals? Depriving it of precious energy? BLASPHEMY.

Yet at the same time I’ve been there, done that, and GET IT. But I try to still eat when I’m sick.

So how do you eat intuitively when you feel so crummy?

  1. Ask yourself what would taste or feel good to eat right now? Is it steaming hot soup, frozen yet creamy ice cream, silky vanilla pudding, a giant ice cold smoothie, crackers on crackers on crackers, or something else all together?

  2. If nothing sounds good and you’re experiencing nausea and/or upset stomach, stick with BRAT… Think of bland foods like Banana’s, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast (BRAT).

  3. HYDRATE! Especially if you are vomiting, congested, experiencing constipation or diarrhea. But even if not, remember to hydrate because just like food, we need it but sometimes forget about it especially when sick. It doesn’t have to be water. It can be juice, popsicles, flavored water, tea, hot chocolate, etc.

    *Alcohol and caffeinated beverages are dehydrating so therefore counter-productive when sick. They also have the potential to mess with your sleep too which is crucial while getting well.

  4. Take the pressure off of food - buy food that is easy to pop in the microwave or oven, grab takeout on your way home from target after picking up Kleenex’s and cough drops, or ask the people who love you if they can make and/or bring you food. MAKE IT SIMPLE! Save your precious energy for getting well.

  5. Taking antibiotics? Consider getting some extra pre- and probiotics in as tolerated by having some whole grains, fibrous vegetables and fruits along with some yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and other fortified with probiotics. Antibiotics can be helpful as prescribed but are hard on your gut! (if taking supplemental probiotics make sure to check that they are third party tested and talk with your doctor and pharmacist about what’s a best fit for you!)

  6. When you're not eating, hydrating, and medicating as prescribed or recommended, can you get extra sleep or rest? Your body could use more downtime and less stress when it’s healing itself so when possible sleep more, take time off, delegate tasks to those you live, let go of things that don’t need to be done - I know that these things are a privilege and not afforded to all because sometimes you can’t miss work or are the sole care taker for others.

  7. If you’re sick consider scheduling a doctors visit if needed or talking with a local pharmacist about your symptoms and the best treatments available for you. Food and rest and hydration are great… but they’re not medicine! And that’s okay! They’re not supposed to be. Medicine is medicine and sometimes it’s necessary or can make being sick a little more tolerable.

  8. If eating is already complicated for you ( whether you currently have or have a history of an eating disorder, disordered eating, chronic dieting, or otherwise) these situations that further complicate it can be really tough! If that’s you I highly recommend working with someone who is specialized in disordered eating to improve your relationship with food, like Wholehearted Nutrition or one of my many wonderful colleagues! If you have questions about working with a dietitian, reach out!

So now you have a few ideas going into this flu season on eating intuitively! Are there special things you do to care for yourself when you feel unwell? I’d love to hear them below!

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**Amanda is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer, however, this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. What is shared here should not substitute the advice of your doctor, dietitian or mental health professional. If you have questions if something you see here may work for you, please reach out to your primary care providers.