Collaborating for Meaningful, Lasting Change
ACE president and CEO Scott Goudeseune urges the fitness industry to intensify its compassion for people with obesity, step up education and advocacy, and create more-welcoming facilities.
As ACE president and CEO, Scott Goudeseune leads the senior management team and provides vision and direction for the organization’s strategic plans. He sees the number of health and fitness professionals increasing and their impact expanding through a growing number of partnerships within and outside the fitness industry and across the healthcare and workplace wellness spectrum. He is committed to working with policymakers to promote changes that lead to a healthier America.
Goudeseune is the vice chair for the Campaign to End Obesity; past president of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity; and a member of the board of directors for the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance.
ACE: In your role as president and CEO of a leading health and fitness certification, education and training organization, what would you say is the biggest challenge our society faces in overcoming the obesity epidemic?
Scott Goudeseune: I think the biggest challenge the country faces is accepting and understanding that the obesity epidemic didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be solved overnight. Solutions will take some time to figure out; in the meantime we need to be compassionate and understanding, because people affected by overweight and obesity are not there by
choice. Obesity is something that has happened to them. Many people in the medical community have stated that obesity is a disease, but I don’t think our country has embraced that yet. If we’re going to make any meaningful progress, we really need to.
ACE: In your day-to-day life, how do you see the impact of the obesity epidemic in the materials and services you provide constituents, the lives of your friends and family, or the people you pass on the street?
Scott Goudeseune: My day-to-day life is spent researching and trying to understand the severity of the problem, which unfortunately is getting worse. I sometimes find the statistics overwhelming, but I take pride in helping to create tools that can positively influence the problem. That’s why I feel it’s so important that ACE’s educational materials prepare professionals to understand the full scope of the challenges our nation faces.
ACE: What individual roles do you feel certification, education and training organizations, members of the fitness industry, and families themselves play in reversing this epidemic?
Scott Goudeseune: Clearly, proper education can better equip fitness professionals to understand and be empathetic with the people they coach and train. Most individuals impacted by obesity have some level of chronic disease, often associated with obesity. The fitness industry is setting itself up in many instances to address these individuals, but the challenge our industry faces is that we’re often not very welcoming.
By that I mean the industry needs to continue to get better at making our facilities inviting and accessible to individuals affected by overweight or obesity. People often feel they don’t have the right body type, or they’re embarrassed about how they look, and that makes it difficult to get them into a facility where they can be helped. A lot of facilities out there are making real inroads and developing great programs; we just need to continue down that path.
When it comes to families, obviously all parents want to empower their children to be successful and happy, but I think today’s parents are afraid to say no when a child wants something—whether it’s processed food, sugary drinks or whatever else—because that’s just how we are as parents. We want our kids to be happy. But I believe parents have to make difficult decisions sometimes. That may mean monitoring a child’s food choices and activity level, and keeping both as healthy as possible. Really, it all starts with parents. If parents model healthy eating and are consistently active, then there’s a good chance their children will follow their positive example.
ACE: In what ways do you feel collaboration among like-minded organizations can meaningfully impact the obesity epidemic?
Scott Goudeseune: There is a lot of collaboration already going on, including the Campaign to End Obesity, which I’m proud to be a part of. There is also the work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals, and the National Academy of Medicine. I don’t think any one organization, or even a small handful of organizations, is going to be able to tackle this complex problem alone. It takes a large amount of collaboration among many like-minded organizations.
I encourage all facilities and providers to get engaged. There is enough activity happening on a high level that if we really put our efforts together, we should start seeing some movement toward a solution and a healthier America.
ACE: What information do you feel we need to start communicating to aspiring fitness professionals so they can accurately connect with clients affected by overweight and obesity?
Scott Goudeseune: The industry is gaining an understanding that behavior change is a critical component of this long process. Fitness professionals need to understand the real-life situations of these clients. Pros need to recognize that as people start to move, there are unique stages of progress for each individual. Finally, fitness professionals need to grasp that most people affected by overweight and obesity have not chosen this path. Obesity is something that happened to them—life happened to them—and they’re no different than we are.
Empathy is key. We’re fortunate to be in an industry and in a position where we have tools available to help people live better lives, which is ultimately what we all want—to live longer, free of disease, and to be able to play with our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.
Editor’s note: Bridging the Gap is a series of interviews conducted by ACE with professionals throughout the fitness and allied health industries, as well as our partners in the corporate world. ACE hopes this column will start a conversation among those entities about the impact of the obesity epidemic and how we can all work together to eliminate it by 2035.
Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, FACSM, is chief science officer for ACE and represents it as a national and international lecturer, writer and expert source. Dr. Bryant is a member of the National Academy of Medicine’s Roundtable on Obesity Solutions and vice chair of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance Physical Activity Working Group. He has written more than 250 articles or columns in fitness trade magazines, as well as sports medicine and exercise science journals, and has written, co-written or edited more than 30 books.