Bridging the Gap
Lawrence Biscontini, MA, talks about the importance of simplifying nutrition guidance and developing networks that support people’s efforts to lose weight.
Mindful movement specialist Lawrence Biscontini, MA, has won awards from ACE, IDEA, Inner IDEA®, Can-Fit-Pro and ECA World Fitness. He has created programming for international clubs and spas, including Equinox®, 24 Hour Fitness®, Gold’s Gym® International, Bally Total Fitness™, and Golden Door® Spas, where his work received a Condé Nast Traveler Award. He has been a consultant and trainer for leading spas in Europe, Asia and the United States and has served as a contributing author to IDEA Fitness Journal, AFAA’s American Fitness and AsiaSpa.
Biscontini is an ACE-certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, a registered Yoga Alliance teacher, a member of the BOSU® Development Team and an AFAA certification specialist. In an effort to inspire career wellness development, he has instituted several Biscontini Scholarships as well as “Yo-Global,” a program aimed at making yoga more accessible to the underprivileged.
ACE: In your day-to-day life, how do you see the impact of the obesity epidemic in the lives of your clients, friends and family members, or just people you pass on the street?
Lawrence Biscontini: Because I’m often traveling, I see a greater cross-section of the population than people whose jobs keep them in one place most of the time. In airports, train stations, restaurants and large and small cities, I notice that people in general seem to be getting larger and larger. My personal goal to reduce the impact of that epidemic has included trying to do my part—starting with those closest to me—to help everyone understand that movement is essential and exercise is optional. Making healthy choices regarding nutrition has to become a simpler process.
ACE: What misconceptions (if any) do you believe fitness professionals have about people who struggle with their weight? And why is it important for fitness professionals to overcome those misconceptions before they can truly help clients meet their goals?
Lawrence Biscontini: Sometimes fitness professionals believe that people struggling with their weight need education and information, when the truth is that most often they need support. Being able to simplify nutritional goals is key. Instead of asking, “What diet are you following?” ask, “How can you create a network that supports your nourishment plan?” That approach does two things—first, it emphasizes that networks have to be created; and second, it uses the phrase “nourishment plan,” a far more positive term than “diet.” We need to help people think about food as giving energy and nourishment.
It is important for fitness professionals to overcome misconceptions because we are already out there teaching about numbers that are far too complicated: fats, grams and nutrition labels. At the end of our talks, many people are so confused that they often say, “Just tell me what to buy when I go to the grocery store or when I eat at a restaurant.” The system clearly isn’t working, and if we continue on the same path, we’ll continue enabling the epidemic instead of extinguishing it. We have to provide education and empowerment ideas that will help everyone build support systems geared toward healthy lifestyle behaviors.
ACE: What information do you feel we need to communicate to aspiring fitness professionals so they can effectively connect with overweight and obese clients?
Lawrence Biscontini: I believe that our message needs to focus on empowering, educating and explaining the importance of support to both young and experienced fitness professionals working with clients who are struggling with their weight. We must start communicating that people need to answer three simple questions before anything passes through their mouths:
- Is it healthy?
- Am I in a state of physical hunger?
- How much is prudent for me to eat or drink at this time?
ACE: How do you feel your life experience and work in the mind-body field have helped you better serve your overweight and obese clients?
Lawrence Biscontini: The overall goal of mindful disciplines should be to decrease future suffering through a compassionate mindset toward all. Because some clients feel like outcasts in the gym, and even in society in general, a particularly large amount of compassion proves key in helping them know they really do possess all of the power needed to unite brain, body and breath to achieve their goals. To be sure, a strong support system is paramount to success, but mindful disciplines help all people unite their inner trilogy (brain, body and breath) [by making] a positive change in perception first (the mind), [and connecting] through life force (breath) to achieve what they want in their bodies (body).
Mindful work helps people connect to themselves through meditation and learning to listen. In silence, we can know by listening to our bodies that the truth is oftentimes not about what we are eating, but about what is eating at us.
ACE: What advice would you give to people who may not know where to start when it comes to losing weight and changing the way they live?
Lawrence Biscontini: I always tell my own clients and people I meet to consult free food applications and websites that assist with record keeping and food journaling, a proven key to long-term fitness success. Sites like EatRight.org, FitDay.com, ChooseMyPlate.gov and MyFitnessPal.com are examples of sites with proven track records of simplifying the vast amount of fitness and nutritional information into terms almost everyone can understand. People with specific dietary needs, such as those with diabetes or heart disease, should consider hiring a registered dietitian.