Purpose: Equipping pre-service teachers with the skills and knowledge needed to teach health in socially critical ways requires pre-service teachers to examine and critique individualistic understandings of health. The purpose of this paper is to use Bourdieu’s concepts of the bodily hexis (the body as both separate from society (autonomous individuals) and the body as socially mediated (the influence of social forces upon individuals)) and pedagogic work to investigate the challenges of redressing the reproduction of individualistic conceptualizations of health in teacher education. Design/methodology/approach: The paper focusses on an analysis of 31 pre-service teachers’ reflective writing in a foundational health education course, which sought to engage students in thinking about health in socially critical ways. A systematic and procedural form of document analysis was employed to examine and interpret data to investigate the ways in which students were engaging with the socially critical health discourses and course content. Findings: The findings evidence that while students attempted to engage with and demonstrate their knowledge of a socially critical view of health, contradictions, or places where students unknowingly slipped into individualistic ways of thinking appeared frequently across the data. Findings are presented to elucidate challenges facing pre-service teachers in teaching the AC:HPE curriculum. Practical implications: Findings suggest the need for teacher educators to employ pedagogic practices that can disrupt previous pedagogic work, serving to challenge and interrogate current constructions of health, and delve deeply into critical discourses through interchange and reflection. Originality/value: This paper extends the current scholarship of Bourdieusian theoretical concepts in relation to critical health discourses and pedagogies.