May 3

Episode 121: How Lisa Helps Her Clients Achieve Whole-Body Wellness


In today’s episode, Mike talks with Lisa Dahl. Lisa is a certified Health and Wellness Coach specializing in Intuitive Eating, Mindful Eating, and Body Image. Her hallmark emphasis on mindfulness and self-compassion helps women find a successful pathway to whole-body wellness.

Lisa Dahl’s Bio

Lisa Dahl is a certified Health and Wellness Coach specializing in Intuitive Eating, Mindful Eating, and Body Image. Her hallmark emphasis on mindfulness and self-compassion helps women find a successful pathway to whole-body wellness. With compassion and expertise, she supports her clients as they discover “Body Peace & Food Freedom” on their journey to break free from dieting and diet culture. Her clients achieve a higher level of well-being as Lisa guides them through visioning, goal setting, and accountability.

Topics in This Episode

  • The concept of intuitive eating and its benefits
  • The role of stress, emotions, and overall well-being in eating habits
  • The difference between dieting and intuitive eating
  • The impact of mental health on eating habits and body image
  • The holistic approach to health and wellness
  • The failure rate of diets and breaking the failure cycle
  • Set point theory and the goal of intuitive eating
  • The importance of body image acceptance and dealing with societal pressures
  • The role of self-compassion in the journey towards wellness
  • The myth that thinner bodies are better bodies
  • The process of working with Lisa and creating a health and wellness vision plan
  • The ongoing nature of health and wellness as a moving target
  • The importance of making the best choices for one’s individual needs

Links & Resources Mentioned…

Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to the Get Unstuck and On-Target podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and with leadership coaching and people skills training, we help companies solve the people problems that are slowing their growth. Joining me today is Lisa Dahl. Lisa is a certified health and wellness coach who helps people make peace with their plates, discover how delicious real food can be, and build mindful and intuitive practices that support whole body wellness.

Welcome, Lisa.

Lisa Dahl: Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to see where our conversation goes today.

Mike O'Neill: Well, I am too. And Lisa, I don't know if I shared with you, you're the first person that I've invited on the podcast, we're gonna talk about what we're gonna discuss here. I'm as a topic, I've kind of said, I'd love to learn how you help your clients achieve that whole body wellness.

And it kind of starts with understanding what, for those who are watching they see, below you, Lisa Dahl: intuitive eating and body image health coach. I know that's a mouthful, but can we kind of unpack that? What does intuitive eating refer to?

Lisa Dahl: So intuitive eating is the antithesis of dieting. We are all taught that we should eat this way, we should eat so much, we should eat this food, we should follow this diet.

And we all wonder why we are, quote unquote, failing our diets. My belief and the practice of intuitive eating and the philosophy of health at every size is that diets don't work. The statistics, the scientific studies show that 95% of people that are on diets fail. So it's really not, they have failed the diets, the diets have failed us.

We are all born intuitive eaters. So if you have ever been a caregiver or had a baby, the baby will suck on their fingers. They'll smack their lips, they'll cry. That is our way, their way of saying, I'm hungry. Then when they are fed, they will close their lips, they'll turn away, they'll push the bottle or the breast away, and they intuitively know their hunger and their fullness cues.

As caregivers or parents, we think we know better, and I know, I was super guilty of this. My kids never slept through the night, and I would always think, well, if, you know, if I topped them off, they would, you know, eat a little bit more. They'd be more satisfied. They'd sleep better. Not true. The only thing that I was really unknowingly teaching them was not to trust their natural instincts, their own intuitiveness.

So about 27, 27 years ago, there was two dieticians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and they had a traditional dietetics practice. And what they noticed was that their clients were successful, and that they weren't. So they would lose weight and then they were coming back and they would feel terrible about themselves and they decided to reframe the framework.

And intuitive eating is based on instinct, emotion, and rational thought. They took away the food rules and they created these 10 principles based on intuitive eating. So the 10 principles are reject diet culture, which is all that information that I just talked about that tells you what and how you should look and eat and all those things.

Where is that information coming from? Is it really true? Who's telling you that information? Learning to get curious, to question it. Honoring your hunger. When we honor our hunger, we learn to feed ourselves naturally, and we don't have to go through that starvation and that re-feed process because we're starving.

Permission to eat food. How, you know, many people will say, I can't have this, I don't eat that. And then their quote unquote, willpower breaks and they eat through a bucket of ice cream. And when you have permission to eat food, if you need, you know, if you want a little bit each night, You don't have to have that last supper, that big major re-feed.

So learning to have, give yourself permission with those foods that are, you know, the bad foods. Quieting, challenging the voices in your head, challenging the food police, the rhetoric. So an example is like, there's the quote unquote nutrition informant. That was one of my biggest nemesis, is that I would go into a food, into a supermarket.

I wouldn't see food as food. I would see food as labels. Calories, carbohydrates, fats, proteins. Do the mental math. And instantly I could say if I could or I couldn't have that food. Food has no moral value. How do we get rid of the judgment and the voices in our head? Understanding what makes a meal or a food satisfying.

It's not just about the food. It's about understanding your emotions, coping with your emotions, with kindness. What is your environment? Who are you with? All of those things create satisfaction, and we're not gonna have satisfaction in every meal. It's just impossible. Knowing though how to create satisfaction as often as you can, will make a difference.

Feeling your fullness. We are so distracted that we live in our heads that we don't even pay attention to our fullness. We're, you know, we kind of think, well, I can have X ounces of a chicken breast and I can have four ounces of this, and doesn't really matter if I'm full or not. This is what I'm allowed to eat. Learning to connect your mind and your body.

Respecting your body. When we respect our bodies, we take much greater care for our bodies, coping with our emotions. Movement that makes us feel good because often people will go on an exercise kick and their gain, you know, their goal is to shrink their body to lose weight, and when that doesn't happen, they stop with that exercise plan because they have forgotten to focus on the intrinsic motivation.

How does it feel when I move my body or discovering what movement feels best? And nutrition comes in last so that we don't turn this practice into another diet, that we spend more time focusing on connecting our mind, our body, our heart, and our food.

Mike O'Neill: You know, as you listed those, obviously we're not gonna have the opportunity to go through each and every one of those.

But one that just kind of spoke to me is respect our bodies. And I look at the back end of what you have as your title, intuitive Eating and Body Image Health Coach. What is it about body image that really plays such a vital role in this discussion?

Lisa Dahl: Many of us think that, you know, we are the value of what our body looks like we are, this is just the vessel we landed in.

How do we shift our thoughts about our bodies and being in our bodies? Because what happens is that when we're unhappy with our bodies, that's when we get into that diet cycle. Everything could be great, and then all of a sudden you step on the scale and you're like, oh no, I need to fix this.

And the diet cycle starts. What people don't understand is that we have the false belief that diets keep us safe. It's the diet that creates that out of control feeling. When we, quote unquote, break our diets, we don't know how to trust ourselves. So then we feel out of control when we take away all the rules and we start to practice the connection with our mind and our body and how we're feeling and be able to build that trust up, that our bodies believe us, that we can be fed on a regular schedule and that we will feel full and satisfied.

That is when we start to gain control, if that's the right word, within our bodies, we can shift our thoughts. Just the way that we have been taught that a fat body is bad. That's not really true. Fat bodies are not any better or worse than thin bodies. We have only been taught to think that way. So it's also about understanding where those thoughts come from.

Are they true? Creating new thoughts, believable thoughts. You can't go from, I hate my body, to I love my body, but you can start with I believe, or I am practicing, that I can accept my body. So it's really focusing on your language, focusing on the actions and the behaviors that make you feel good. Getting rid of that number on the scale that determines your self worth.

Health and wellness is a moving target, and we all have different opportunities and needs on ways to improve it. So learning how to make the best choice with the information that you have right now, is your path to peace and freedom. We need to be present, flexible and resilient.

Mike O'Neill: You know, as I'm listening to you, there's nothing that you've shared thus far that strikes me as being gender specific, but I think you work primarily with women.

Is that correct?

Lisa Dahl: I do work primarily with women, but, and it is not gender specific. It is not just women who suffer with their relationship to food and body. We just talk about more with the women and the men. Women suffer out, you know, we all suffer. I think the men suffer silently. It is, there are plenty of men in this world who are suffering with their relationship with food and body.

That it is not just a female thing. And it is absolutely something that happens in childhood. We don't just wake up and have this disconnected, horrible relationship. I talk about unpacking your bags, who helped pack your bags along the way. It could be a parent, it could be a caregiver, it could be a doctor.

You might have gone to the doctor's office and overheard them talking to your mother, and all of a sudden it's like, you know, somebody says, well, "She should be watching, you know, she shouldn't be having these things," and then that gets internalized and shifts your entire relationship with your, with food and body.

Mike O'Neill: You know, you mentioned that this starts typically at a very, very early age, and therefore ...

Lisa Dahl: For many people, yes.

Mike O'Neill: To rewire one's thinking about that. I imagine it can be somewhat challenging just because society tends to reinforce these things that you just shared over and over again. When you begin working with a client, what do you find is the first thing that helps them most to kind of get on the path that they're seeking?

Lisa Dahl: I really spend time talking with my clients about, what is creating a, a health and wellness vision plan? What is their vision of their best future self? It's not about my vision for them. It is about them going inward and looking about what is their thought for their best future self. And then from there we talk about three month goals and we break that down to weekly goals.

What's important to you right now? I have no idea. When I get on a call with somebody, we could be on a path going forward, but something could have happened in their life. What's important to them right now? What is that small next step? How do we set up that goal for them to feel that they are making a shift?

Because we could have this big plan. And it could take, you know, it could be encompassing 10 different things. One thing they may be ready to change today, but something else they could be thinking about, well, I'm not there yet. Like it could be six months to a year before I wanna address that. So we wanna take those low hanging fruits on.

What's important to them? What is that smallest step that they can take, that they're going to build self-efficacy and confidence as they move through their health and wellness journey? So it's not, this is what we're gonna work on today. It is about meeting my clients, where they're at and what they're ready to do.

My job is to help identify what's important to them and what step they're ready to take.

Mike O'Neill: You know, what kind of intrigues me about what you just shared? As you know, I've worked with organizations in helping them gain clarity on where they want to take the organization. So I'm working with the key leadership team and usually that first step is getting clarity as to, where do we want to go.

And you start with your clients, you're working individually whereas I may be working with organizations, but you're asking where would you like to go? And you describe in terms of where do they want to be, but that could be a physical dimension. But do you help them or do, is the emotional component of that?

I can't help but think that is And do you try to marry that visual image of where they want to go with how that would make them feel?

Lisa Dahl: When I talk about their best future self, We are talking about mental, emotional, physical. We are, there's so many different aspects of health. It is not about I wanna be X size.

We don't. I take that off the table. That, that to me is not what I do. That's a weight loss coach or a bodybuilder coach we are talking about all the different aspects of health, you know, how does your occupation fall into your stress level? What is your social nourishment? A lot of people that, a lot of people that I, I work with I have a couple of elderly women and they're, you know, they've been struggling with their relationship with food, but they're a part, they're either living alone or their partner has passed.

And their social circle is getting smaller and smaller, and their relationship with food is getting large, you know, more and more challenging. Their relationship with food is not the problem. It's their social nourishment, their social enrichment, you know, their isolation. That's where we need to focus on.

So I had one client where her practice was, she meets once a month with a book club and a couple of other things, and she was gonna go pick out somebody who she really thought she would enjoy their company and invite them for lunch to enrich her social circle. And what she noticed was the day that she went out for lunch with this person, her afternoon was so much more fulfilled that she wasn't going back and forth to the refrigerator a dozen times.

Food is just the messenger. We talk, I talk about all the different things that impact their health and wellness. I have another client who has a teenager who's struggling with their mental health and how their struggle with their mental health has a direct impact on how she shows up every day, and her mental health and her relationship with food and body.

So it is not about calories in, calories out and what you're eating. It is about all the things that impact our choices. We all have to eat. It's non-negotiable. How do we understand the relationship that food plays with all the different aspects of health?

Mike O'Neill: You shared that you start with clients, for them to kind of gain a clarity as to what is it they want to accomplish. And you've kind of described, that's not the word you used, but what kind of went through my mind is that you have to look at this issue holistically.

Lisa Dahl: Absolutely.

Mike O'Neill: And that there are so many things that go into this. But then as you begin working with clients, you said that you typically start with those things that get, you get them kind of moving in that direction.

You mentioned that most, if not all diets fail. Eventually.

Lisa Dahl: Yes. Yes.

Mike O'Neill: How is what you're doing for your clients, how does that break that failure cycle? What is going on that, that leads to success?

Lisa Dahl: So when we talk about diets and, you know, people advertise, oh, you know, so, and you know, statistics of this person, you know, percentage of people lost X amount of weight.

That's a snip, a short period of time. Most diets can be super successful for six weeks, 12 weeks. The failure rate really upticks between two and five years, myself included. When we get off of that diet cycle, so when a diet cycle, you are on a rollercoaster. It's got, the highs are super high, the lows are super low.

With the practice of intuitive eating, when you stop dieting, when you shift your relationship with food, there's something called set point theory. We have no idea what somebody's set point is going to be, especially if they have been chronic dieters because our bodies go through restriction deprivation. So a kind of a pendulum swing, like restrict, restrict, restrict.

All of a sudden you break your diet and then you go, you swing all the way over here and you refeed, refeed. With the practice of intuitive eating, we are looking to stop the swing, stop the rollercoaster, and kind of just have that natural ebb and flow. Our bodies are gonna change. We are aging every day.

Our stress level changes every day. We, you know, as I said, health and wellness is a moving target, but how do we kind of keep it in a natural flow versus these big, huge swings? And I, again, I have no idea if somebody's gonna gain weight, lose weight, or stay the same. If somebody has been binging for 25 years and we start working together, their relationship with food is gonna shift and they may lose weight.

If I am working with somebody who was like me, who restricted for many, many years, there's a good chance that you may gain weight. And which was my experience in learning to be more comfortable in a body that wasn't this, but it is now that.

And I have so much more peace in my head and I eat and I can socialize. It's understanding the difference of being a prisoner in your own body with food and experiencing what that peace feels like and understanding that when you give yourself freedom, you can enjoy food and that you're not gonna go have these huge swings.

You're gonna learn to accept. You're here and now body because you're fueling it based on your needs. You're coping with your emotions. You're doing movement that makes you feel good. You're creating all these actions and behaviors that improve your mental, physical, and emotional health.

Mike O'Neill: I'd love to come back to this body image topic for a moment because I know that if I watch television and I pay particular attention to commercials, there are the classic uber thin people who are living a perfect life.

But then I've begun seeing, I guess, what's what referred to as plus models, but it almost feels like patronage and I guess what I would say is, when you are working with a client and you know, God made them the way they are. And if they're comfortable with kind of where they are from a health standpoint, that body image part strikes me as being a real challenge, and that is coming to terms with who they are and how they are.

How do you help your clients grow in their acceptance of their body image?

Lisa Dahl: And it's, and grow is the right word. I can't magically say, oh, you know, six weeks with me, all of a sudden you're gonna love your body. That is not true. Simple steps that we can start to take. Noticing what are you looking at on social media?

Are you only looking at bodies that are super thin? My social media feed. That stuff is all gone. Like I've curated we naturally curate our feeds. We can also recurate our feeds so that we see bodies that are diverse. We see bodies that look like us. We have been taught to think that is what the best body looks like.

We can change our thoughts. Neuroplasticity, we can retrain our brain to create that acceptance. And I, you know, and I say this time and time again, time, practice, patience, and self-compassion. Creating new thoughts. You don't just magically wake up loving your body. It is understanding and questioning where did those thoughts come from?

How do we shift those thoughts? How do we look at what we're seeing, catching that language? I just got off a call with another client and, who struggles a lot with body image, and we talk about, she says, yeah, I noticed the voice, the voice is back. Separating it out, noticing that's not her. It's just the voice.

And she said, yeah, that voice is really nasty. I don't want her anymore. How are we gonna talk to that voice? How do we, so just the fact that she created awareness that she heard that voice again, and it's not like she's got multiple personalities. We're not talking about anything like that, but we're talking about how do we, she, it was the reminder that she needs to bring back in that self-compassion piece.

That she's not alone. That common humanity, when you really take a good look, everyone is different. Everybody's body is different. And we may look at these, you know, uber thin people, they suffer too. We don't think that they do. They suffer too. Body image is not just for larger fat bodies. How do we normalize the word fat?

That it is just a natural descriptor, just like thin is. So, it has a lot to do with our mindset and our mentality on being willing to accept and change. We cannot be closed-minded that, I could never accept my fat body. So it's not easy. It's, you know, here's the process and it's not easy and compassion goes a long way in knowing that you are not broken.

You don't need to be fixed. You need that time and patience to work through it and create acceptance.

Mike O'Neill: You mentioned time, patience and self-compassion. Could you think of an an example by which perhaps one of your clients got stuck because they lacked self-compassion. Could you maybe share how you help them regain that?

Lisa Dahl: And it's, it is helping them understand where they are right now. Again, it goes back to meeting them where they're at, taking them through the process of that generative moment. What's important to them. Focusing on their strengths, focusing on helping them notice a time when they were in a good spot, where their sweet spot was.

What strengths can they pull from so that they can bring those strengths back into this moment in time? Helping my clients understand that they have the self-efficacy they have within themselves. They're the experts on themselves, letting them know what tools. Digging deep into who they are and that they have the skills that they have used those skills at other times, how do we bring them out and put them in and to use them today?

Mike O'Neill: There are so many ideas floating out there, and I suspect you have to spend a lot of your time debunking. What is perhaps the most common myth that you find yourself dealing with your clients?

Lisa Dahl: Thin bodies are better bodies. You know, or that your value is based on the number on the scale. And it is something that I believe to be true to my absolute core until about five years ago, because I was in that mindset.

I was top of the diet food chain. And when I became, when I started coaching my clients, continuing to educate myself, I learned that those, that in, that's just simply not true. And that I, you know, our value is not a number on the scale, and thinner bodies are not healthier or happier bodies. We can create our own happiness and it's up for us to choose it.

It takes practice though. You can't just wake up and do it. You need support, guidance, unpack a lot of bags and create those new thoughts.

Mike O'Neill: When someone reaches out to you and says, I think, based on what I have read, I've listened to this podcast with Mike. I'd love to kind of learn more about how you work.

Can you kind of give us a kind of a big picture overview as, how does one work with you? What does that look like?

Lisa Dahl: We, the very first thing that we do is hop on a discovery call to see if we're a good fit. You know, I have to, you know, you have to believe that I can help you and I have to believe that you are, you know, even if you are just thinking about the change, but you're willing to take that first step.

But we have to really have that trust that we are going to be a right fit. And knowing that I'm not here to fix you and knowing that I'm not going to help you lose weight, I'm gonna help you be the best that you can be in every other metrics. The next thing we do is that we spend about 75 minutes on a health and wellness vision plan.

We dig deep into what that future self looks like. What is that crystal ball? When you close your eyes, what is your dream of how you want to be? And it is not just about being a size X, it is who are you with, how are you feeling, what are you doing? And turning that into an I am, I am doing this, I am here. I am feeling this.

So that we can really embody what that vision looks like. And then from there we set three month goals, and then we meet either weekly or every other week. And we kind of unpack what was successful, best things about your week, what's important, review your goals and setting new goals to continue to move in that forward trajectory.

Mike O'Neill: I love that. You know, we've talked about a quite a wide variety of things, but if you were to kind of reflect on what we've discussed, what do you really want our viewers and listeners to have as major takeaways?

Lisa Dahl: The major takeaway is that health and wellness is a moving target, and we all have different needs and opportunities, and it's important to be able to understand that you are making the best choice for you at this moment in time.

And we don't just arrive at health and wellness. It's a continuing ebbing and flowing, and that you have the capacity to be the best version of you.

Mike O'Neill: Gotcha. I've been talking to Lisa Dahl, but you may be thinking, well, how do you spell it, last name? It's D A H L. Lisa, if folks wanna reach out to you, what's the best way for them to do so?

Lisa Dahl: Go to my website,, and you can find me in all different spaces from there.

Mike O'Neill: We will include that in the show notes. It was your website that I went back. Actually I watched this morning. Before we record this podcast, I watched one of your things and I just got a great preview of the conversation that that we hopefully we're going to have and you really did live up to expectation.

Lisa, thank you for sharing your knowledge, your expertise, and how you help, kind of help demystify this whole notion here. So thanks for sharing that with us.

Lisa Dahl: Thank you, and I loved your questions and really exploring what it is about and not just leaving it on the surface level. So thank you for your conversation.

Mike O'Neill: So many of our topics are very business driven and there is business applications here. As you know, I work with leaders, and sometimes this notion of body image, how they think about themselves. It's so critical. So that's why I really wanted to bring you on. So again, thank you. And I also wanna thank our listeners for joining us today.

If you'd like to subscribe to this podcast, you can just go to your browser and type But while you're there, you can also subscribe to our weekly management blog called The Bottom Line. So if you're a business leader and you're trying to grow your business, but people problems have slowed you down, let's talk. Head over to to schedule a call.

So I wanna thank you for joining us, and I hope you have picked up on some tips from Lisa that'll help you get unstuck and on target. Until next time.

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