In this interview with Alisha Carlson, we delve into the transformative power of her non-diet lifestyle-based coaching, which she aptly describes as a lifestyle medicine framework. Alisha discusses how her holistic approach not only empowers clients to achieve their fitness and wellness goals but also aims to break the cycle of passing down unintentional habits and beliefs to future generations. She highlights the importance of shifting from all-or-nothing thinking and reward-based mentalities, emphasizing the value of self-awareness, understanding, and the rewiring of thought and behavior patterns. Alisha also shares a compelling success story, demonstrating the effectiveness of her approach in fostering sustainable change. Her deep motivation to free clients from the constraints of diet culture and enable them to lead fulfilled lives shines through, inviting us to explore her podcast, “The Strong Her Way,” and her website for further insights into her work.
[Q] Who do you help and how?
I provide non-diet lifestyle-based coaching, which I consider more of a lifestyle medicine framework. I work primarily with women but have also served male clients. My coaching is both in-person and virtual, making it accessible regardless of location.
The core of the non-diet approach is guiding individuals toward true, sustainable lifestyle changes opposed to quick fixes and extreme measures which cannot be sustained over a long period. Rather than approaching change with a restrictive diet mindset, I focus on long-term transformation from within. This includes addressing mindset, emotional health, emotional regulation, and physical habits.
I emphasize mindset but also address tangible changes. For instance, if a client’s goal is weight loss, I start by listening and asking about past experiences. Understanding what has worked and what hasn’t helps me identify thought patterns contributing to the diet cycle. This holistic approach helps clients make sustainable changes.
[Q] What are the main challenges you help people overcome?
One prevalent challenge is the all-or-nothing thinking pattern. People often feel they must approach diet and exercise perfectly; otherwise, they tend to abandon their efforts entirely. Shifting towards a more balanced mindset is crucial. For instance, if there isn’t enough time for a full workout, we encourage making the most of the available time, even if it’s just 20 minutes, rather than skipping altogether.
Another common challenge is the reward-based mentality. Many see exercise or certain foods as punishments or rewards, leading to guilt and feelings of failure. For example, someone might think, “I’ve been good all week, so I deserve this treat.” We work on transforming this mindset by adopting a neutral approach to food and exercise, which helps make consistent, health-conscious choices without feeling deprived or restricted.
[Q] How do you help individuals overcome these mental barriers to achieving their fitness and wellness goals?
I use a tool I created called the behavior triad. Firstly, it’s crucial to raise awareness of their thoughts. I ask questions like, “Tell me about your experiences with food, especially during your upbringing. What behaviors are you exhibiting now?” When clients share their experiences and behaviors, they often reveal the underlying meaning they associate with these actions. For instance, in my own upbringing, I witnessed women in my family constantly dieting and discussing body sizes. This led me to internalize that there’s a ‘right’ way for women’s bodies to be. It’s about avoiding being too skinny or too big. This influenced not only my perception of my body but also how I viewed other women’s bodies. So, the first step is to build awareness through open dialogue and inquiry into their thoughts and beliefs.
The next step involves delving into where these thoughts and beliefs originated and assessing whether they are still serving them. We explore the triggers behind these thoughts, their historical roots, and why they continue to hold onto them. With this understanding, we can work on shifting their perspective. For instance, if the all-or-nothing mindset or labeling foods as good or bad is unhelpful, we collaborate on creating a more constructive approach to food. This process comprises three stages: awareness, comprehension, and redefining thought and behavior patterns.
[Q] What are the primary long-term advantages and benefits of working with you?
One remarkable aspect that has become clear recently is that when someone works with me, it’s not just about achieving immediate results or transforming their life in the present, but it’s also about altering the long-term trajectory of their family. This has profound, compounding effects over time. By adopting a different lifestyle and becoming more deliberate about their priorities, activities, and behaviors, they set an example for their children. Consequently, their children will model these new behaviors for their own families, breaking the cycle of passing down unintentional habits and beliefs. It’s not about disregarding everything inherited from parents or grandparents but rather examining those aspects through an intentional lens and deciding what they want to model and the legacy they want to create. It all begins with one person making lifestyle changes and embracing purposeful thinking.
[Q] Could you share a success story resulting from your coaching?
Of course! One memorable success story involves a client who affectionately called me a “coaching ninja” because she couldn’t quite pinpoint the changes, but she was experiencing remarkable progress effortlessly. We worked together for several months, focusing on lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity, better sleep habits, and addressing various nutritional aspects. While her initial goal was weight loss, she was open to temporarily setting that aside to delve into her relationship with food and address underlying issues.
Throughout our coaching, she consciously avoided fixating on the scale or calorie counting. It wasn’t until later that she decided to step on the scale and was pleasantly surprised to discover a nearly 20-pound weight loss. She described it as the easiest weight loss journey she had ever undertaken because it wasn’t centered around constant number obsession. Instead, it was about embracing the process and allowing changes to occur naturally. It was about making sustainable lifestyle adjustments that supported weight loss without the need for tight control. I appreciate her playful term “coaching ninja,” and it’s truly rewarding to witness her achieve such positive results effortlessly.
[Q] Are there any myths or misconceptions you address when working with clients?
A notable misconception is that clients sometimes expect a traditional mainstream approach. They might anticipate receiving a fixed workout program, strict dietary rules, or a rigid meal plan to follow for guaranteed results. However, I make it clear that I don’t operate within this conventional model. My approach involves coaching the whole person, considering various facets of their life. This comprehensive approach tends to be more effective than solely concentrating on one specific area, as it recognizes the complexities that can impact consistency in workouts and dietary habits.
[Q] What drives your motivation in your work?
My ultimate motivation is to see my clients regain a sense of fulfillment in their lives. Drawing from my own experiences and those of my clients, I understand how consuming and time-intensive it can be to constantly worry about the scale, food, weight loss, or body image. I aim to help my clients build confidence in their bodies, practice self-care, and nurture a compassionate and respectful relationship with themselves. I firmly believe that when we operate from a place of self-acceptance and self-love, it positively impacts our interactions with others in our lives.
For me, the deepest motivation lies in witnessing my clients break free from the constraints of the diet mentality and the diet culture that has surrounded them. In reality, the most valuable contribution they can make to the world isn’t determined by their physical appearance, and their true worth isn’t measured by their weight. When we shift our focus away from these distractions, it empowers us to utilize our gifts and talents to benefit others, contribute to a better world, and find greater satisfaction in the process.
[Q] How can individuals learn more about you and your work? What would be the next step?
Certainly! If you’re eager to learn more about me and my approach, I encourage you to listen to my podcast, “The Strong(Her) Way.” For a deeper dive into my coaching process and how I support clients, you can visit my website at: https://alishacarlson.com/ . If you’re on Instagram, you’re welcome to connect with me at @AlishaCarlson.