Ashley Baudouin reached a fork in the road in summer of 2013. She had finished graduate school and moved to Bethlehem to work at Lehigh in Fraternity and Sorority Affairs the year before. She was starting her life as a professional adult. For her, that meant a more sedentary lifestyle, less energy, and a future that might be less healthy than she would like.
“I saw myself potentially going down the path as I got older of carrying extra weight and not doing anything about it until it would be a much bigger struggle,” Ashley said. “I knew I needed to do something.”
So, Ashley gave herself a gym membership for her birthday. “I’ve never been a gym fitness person. I’d kind of walk in and get panicked,” she said. “But I found a gym with a great community, and I committed to going regularly.”
A few months later, Ashley heard a colleague excitedly exclaim from her office that her paycheck went up. She found out her co-worker had started participating in the Be Well wellness program and she was getting the monthly credit.
“That made me pay attention,” Ashley said. She signed up and started picking challenges. And she started racking up the points. So many points, in fact, that Ashley finished the first year of Be Well along with 14 others at the top level of the program, the Soar Club.
Reinforcing A ‘Kick in the Butt’
John Santamaria from Distance Education reached the Soar Club, too. Like Ashley, he had begun to commit to a healthier lifestyle shortly before Be Well launched.
“My schedule is all over the place, it all depends. We have classes going on from 8:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night,” John said. “A few years ago, I was up to almost 300 pounds. It was a combination of not eating well and not being able to get exercise in because of my weird work shifts.”
John gave himself “a kick in the butt,” and started working on his eating habits. He dropped nearly 100 pounds. When Be Well started, he saw it as a great opportunity to reinforce his efforts.
“It’s hard to keep the habits up, and once you get out of it it’s hard to get back in,” John said. “Be Well gives me different challenges and goals to work toward. It keeps me honest, focused and makes sure I’m not slipping.”
Ashley agrees. “Getting credit for things I was already doing, like going to the gym several days a week, was great. But it also added another layer of accountability to ensure I keep going,” she said.
Small Changes and Big Challenges
For Ashley, Be Well has offered support in making small changes to her lifestyle. “There are little learning nuggets in each challenge,” she said. “If you can put one of those in your pocket, you move another step forward in terms of your well-being.”
While she skipped some challenges (“I knew the ‘Unplug at Dinner’ challenge just wasn’t going to work for me!” she said), she also picked a few that would be tougher for her. “Dropping caffeine after noon was rough at first,” she noted. “But I knew it would be good for me. I definitely sleep better now.”
After reaching Level Two and earning a Fitbit, both Ashley and John have become more aware of staying active during the work week.
“A lot of us in the Dean of Students office have Fitbits now,” Ashley said. “It spurs us to get up and move around during the day.”
John says the Fitbit has changed his evening routine. “At the end of the day, I used to get home and sit down to watch TV,” he noted. “Now I look at my Fitbit. If I see I’m a thousand steps short of my goal, instead of sitting down, I’ll jog in the living room or do laps around the sofa.”
Just Get Started
Both John and Ashley think Be Well is truly for everyone.
“The program is what you make of it. It’s easy to earn the first level, at the very least, and then you get that $20 monthly wellness credit,” John said. “As long as you’re doing something – changing your habits or getting yourself moving – you’re making improvements.”