I met Alisha Carlson virtually through a blog post. After some back and forth conversation, I became fascinated with her work. She’s the founder of FindYourTHRIVE, which integrates fitness, nutrition, and mindset coaching for women, offering online support, 1:1, small groups, local workshops, and meet-ups in and around Portland, Oregon. The approach is non-diet, but what fascinated me the most was Alisha’s key concept of “mindset” coaching: creating a mindset around body, food, and exercise as a foundation to reach goals in a sustainable way. A mindset without restriction, obsession, or stress. A mindset that helps women to make peace with their bodies long before they reach their goals. (Note: Any italics below are my emphasis of points that resonated with me.)
1. Can you describe your path to becoming a life coach? What training or credentials are needed to become one?
There are unfortunately no credentials or certifications you need in order to become a life coach at this time. On the one hand, it’s great because it’s one less hoop to jump through, but as you can imagine not having any required training means anyone can become a coach.
My journey towards becoming a coach started after I had taken myself through my own physical transformation. I saw how much taking care of myself improved my confidence and my relationship with my husband. I wanted other women to experience the same thing in their lives. I received an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science and Nutrition with an emphasis on wellness coaching. After doing fitness and nutrition coaching for a few years, something started to feel unaligned. In my life, I saw how bad habits kept coming back. My mindset at the time was diet and restriction. Even with a decade of experience in the industry, much of the info I was taught was rooted in the diet mindset. What changed my life was a life coach, Brooke Castillo, who wrote that if you can change your thoughts and feelings, you can change your actions…and then your results. I took a step back, pivoted, and approached coaching more holistically. I now coach a lot less on fat/weight loss and more on the “whole” woman.
Example: If I notice I’m up 3 pounds from yesterday, my thought may be “I can’t believe I gained 3 pounds in a day, so I won’t eat so much today and will increase exercising to 90 minutes instead of 30 minutes.” This leads to shame. Instead I might say “I gained a few pounds because I ate too many salty foods yesterday, but it’s no big deal.”
Circumstances like hopping on a scale is neutral—it’s neither good nor bad. It’s the meaning or thought we attach to it that triggers the emotion and then the response. It’s your mindset.
2. How is a life coach different from say, a personal trainer or a dietitian?
Life/lifestyle coaching encompasses the whole person as opposed to focusing on just one aspect of health. There is obviously crossover in the key areas of our lives—biological, psychological, emotional, and spiritual—and I don’t believe that we are ever working on just one, regardless if you’re a dietitian or a personal trainer or a life coach.
One of the biggest differences I have noticed is that life coaching tends to teach strategies instead of prescribing solutions via a workout program or a nutrition protocol. As a coach, it is my job to help clients discover their own solutions. I offer support as they learn how to implement them. I help them to see themselves as a future mentor; to make decisions based on who they hope to be in the future.
3. What are the main mantras that you impart to your clients?
- Practice over perfection
- Habits, routines, and systems over rules and restriction
- Self-awareness is the key to all change
4. What are some of the biggest challenges you see when clients come to you trying to eat healthier, lose weight, or change long-time harmful habits?
The baggage from their past attempts. They’ve got an idea of what life “should” look like, or they’re afraid of failing again.
Our thoughts are deeply rooted in the diet mindset and culture that focus too much on the outcomes and not enough on the process. People think they want a program to follow, but really it comes down to helping people learn how to trust themselves around food and become the expert of their own body and health. That means doing my due diligence to help them create healthy habits, inform them on what is healthy and what’s not, and support them as they begin to take control in this area.
Any time you’re trying to move people out of the diet mindset, you’ve got to help them ease into the journey. It takes more time than a 21-day fix to unlearn negative behaviors around food, exercise, and our bodies. I think people still want that quick fix, so teaching self-control in a different manner than just following rules is huge.
5. What do you believe are the keys to successful behavior change for the long haul?
I cannot say enough about self-awareness. Whether you’re already practicing healthy behaviors or not, you’ve got to be aware of the intention behind your actions. You simply cannot change what you’re not aware of.
Once you become aware, you have the power to change or you have the option to stay the same. Either choice is fine, as long as you make it with mindfulness and are willing to embrace the consequences of those choices.
Secondly, tune into your daily routines. What’s working for you and what’s working against you? The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg is a great book about the science behind habits.
At the end of the day we all want to feel good. Sometimes we opt for the quick fix even if it doesn’t serve the longer vision. Other times, we will decide to hold out for the hope of something better down the road.
Any questions for Alisha? Feel free to comment below!