Instead of “new year new you”, how about “new year do you”?

Let’s flip the script and talk about have to make healthy habits with ease and joy.

How to Create Healthy Habits with Ease, with McKel (Hill) Kooienga

In this episode with founder and CEO of Nutrition Stripped McKel (Hill) Kooienga, we’re talking about ditching the diet-mentality, embracing bio-individuality, creating change that works in the long term, and actually enjoying yourself in the process.

This is how you do healthy for you.

On what brought McKel to create Nutrition Stripped:

McKel has always had an insatiable hunger to help and take care of people.

Using nutrition as the catalyst and science as the backbone McKel also teaches people that there’s another element to our health that has to be tended to.

All the pillars of our health, including stress management, finding and cultivating joy, sleep habits, support, and accountability, work together on top of nutrition to give you the full picture of taking care of yourself and reaching your health goals.

For McKel, it all starts with food, but our mindset is huge.

“If we aren’t meeting our physical body needs, how are we then, to tap into these other psychological, emotional, spiritual, mental needs?”

If our body is a vessel to make change, we have to nourish it.

We also have to honor the other roles that food plays in our lives, like the enjoyment factor, the tradition, socialization, and culture.

To give people recipes and meal plans but neglect to talk about making it fit into their lives sets clients up for failure.

“Food is more than just fuel.”

It’s really about creating better behaviors and better systems that enable people to make the change that they need to reach their goals.

It’s also about teaching people to be honest with themselves.

For anyone who thinks they “just need to eat better”:

McKel’s recommendations:

1 | If you have access to it, seek out a dietitian.

McKel recommends it to help get an individualistic approach as well as building accountability.

2 | Try to adopt the long-game mentality.

“A lot of people are in it for the sprint versus the marathon.”

This comes with a lot of short-term thinking, especially around new year’s resolutions.

Are these practices, trends, or diets truly sustainable? 

Can you picture yourself doing them a year from now? 

Five years from now?

3 | Lose the all or nothing mentality

“Life is never white and black and all or nothing. It is full of the greys and the rainbows and all of the other in-betweens.”

When we think about health, a lot of us have this mindset of having to go all in or it’s not worth it.

We have to give ourselves more credit.

It takes patience and practice and tons of self-compassion.

Starting with that first practice will make a difference over time.

On inner-health guide:

Our “inner-health guide” is truly about being the inner advocate for yourself.

You know your body, mind, and spirit better than anyone else– better than any practitioner or professional.

Honoring that piece of you is so important, no matter where you are in your health journey and no matter what your goal is.

We all have that inner-health guide and it’s about connecting with yourself, increasing your self-awareness and intuition.

Check-in with yourself and be honest about your why, and do the things that are going to work with you.

First, identify your inner-health guide

Then, using what you know about yourself, use recommendations from others with a grain of salt.

“Take what works for you and run with it and then leave everything behind that doesn’t work for you.”

There will be trial and error and experimentation; have patience.

Be present; notice where you’re holding tension in your body, pay attention to your hunger cues, pay attention to your fullness cues.

On health as a daily practice:

It takes the pressure off when we see health as a daily practice and we can recognize all of the small actions as the health practices that they are.

We’re never going to achieve this perfect, ideal health, but practice really gives you the room to move with the different seasons of your life.

“Health is not an achievement.”

You don’t need to measure “success” in health dichotomously.

Honor yourself uniquely, do what works for you, and leave everything that doesn’t work for you behind.

On the 5×5 framework:

The 5×5 framework is a concept that McKel developed over the past 10 years in health and nutrition, combining all of these things that we’ve talked about.

It’s science and nutrition, the psychology of behavior change, and honoring the fact that nutrition is really important but that it’s not the only thing that matters.

In each of the five pillars of the 5×5 framework, there are five elements.

The five pillars are these overarching, big themes in our lives.

The five elements within each pillar are smaller things that you can concentrate on.

Pillar one is routine.

McKel’s core curriculum on routines is really about helping you build new habits, maintain your habits, and change them when they’re not working for you.

It’s also about how to frame your day.

The five elements, which are really five parts of the day, including morning, lunch, afternoon, dinner, and evening.

The second pillar is check-in.

This pillar is really about how to cultivate self-awareness related to hunger levels, stress, energy, body, etc.

Pillar three is nutrition.

This one is about mindful and intuitive eating, meal planning, cooking, McKel’s foundational five (how to create a meal out of anything really easily).

Pillar four is wellbeing.

McKel focuses on five elements that make up our lives: mental, emotional, spiritual, physical wellbeing, and goal setting.

Pillar five is life.

This one dives into love, including self-love, relationships, general cultivation of love and acting out of love versus fear.

“It’s time that we really start honoring and taking care of our other aspects of health and how our mindset, how our beliefs really play a role in that. How support, love, and joy play a role in our nutrition choices.”

On how this program came to be:

McKel has had Nutrition Stripped for seven years, and she’s had a lot of trial and error.

It came down to the question: how are people going to learn and apply this work in the best way possible?

So she thought about the different ways that people learn.

She wanted it to feel personal, so video lessons were a no brainer (her membership includes nine hours of coaching videos).

There are also journal prompts and worksheets.

So much of the work is done when you’re taking action, opposed to just taking in the information.

There is also one-on-one coaching with a registered dietitian, a private community group, an app, and monthly video classes available to members.

People need accountability, they need repetition and support, which is why this is a year-long program ($49/month).

“Change comes from love, from self-compassion, and finding a middle ground.”

Try it for free!

On what’s lighting McKel up right now:

This past year and season of life, “grounded” is a beautiful and strong word that McKel would describe herself feeling.

She’s feeling inspired, intentional, and joyful about her work.

McKel got married in early 2019 so she’s about to celebrate her first anniversary, they’re building a home in nature in 2020.

On what it really means to be healthy:

“To walk your own path, to honor yourself, show up for yourself uniquely in the way that only you need to be. Leave all the comparison, truly just honor yourself.”

Make it happen:

Find time and space in your routine to do a self-check-in.

You can build that into your 4-R’s routine

Pick a time of day to just check-in and ask:

  • How am I doing?

  • How am I feeling?

  • What do I need today?

These are the small shifts that actually add up to really big changes.

Guest Bio

McKel is a leading voice in nutrition and mindful health, awarded “Top 20 Role Models” named by Arianna Huffington. As a Dietitian and author of the Nutrition Stripped Cookbook, her mission is to guide others on how to create habits with ease. Her 5×5 Framework has helped thousands design a mindful way of eating and living unique to their body and lifestyle — by teaching how to apply the science of nutrition and practice the art of healthy living.

Featured in:, The Good Life by Dr. Oz, SELF, Women’s Health, and other major media outlets.


Connect with McKel on Instagram @nutritionstripped

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