The AU Healthy Weigh Challenge is a new program on campus whose mission is to empower students, faculty and staff to achieve a lifestyle change in 2013. The 12-week challenge begins on Feb. 4 and will run through April 22. The challenge is a collaborative effort between AU Campus Recreation, Tiger Dining and the Office of Health and Wellness Promotion.
Jessica Lauren-Newby, registered dietitian for Campus Recreation, said she, and Eric Smith, director of Health Promotion and Wellness Services, and Emil Topel, executive chef at Auburn University, and Gina Wells, who oversees Tiger Dining, began discussing the idea for the challenge in August 2012. Newby said they wanted to encourage and empower students to live a lifestyle that benefits them.
“The healthiest version of you is different than the healthiest version of me, and empowering students to have the tools to reach the healthiest version of themselves is important to us,” Newby said.
When creating the challenge, Newby said it was important the challenge went beyond Spring Break.
“This isn’t something we’re doing for nine weeks, 12 weeks or 16 weeks,” Newby said. “The participants are doing it for a 12-week period with our support and when the challenge is over they can continue to do it without our help.”
Adam Sardinha, assistant director of marketing for Campus Recreation, said the ideal reason for the challenge is to inspire students.
“The unofficial slogan of the challenge is ‘ready for change’ because it’s a new year and everyone wants to start over and have a blank slate,” Sardinha said.
The cost of the challenge is $100 per participant and includes cooking classes, health workshops, personal training sessions and nutrition and fitness workshops.
“We want to raise awareness of the resources available to students on campus and encourage utilization of them,” Sardinha said. “The challenge is essentially a gate-way to all of the resources we provide.”
Twenty-five participants will be chosen for the spring 2013 challenge.
“We wanted to make sure the first challenge was a success and do everything right the first time around,” Newby said. “We hope to do it annually and expand on the number of participants in the future.”
Requirements for the program include a physician clearance, a challenge questionnaire, a complete physical fitness and nutrition assessment along with the registration fee. Participants must also have a body mass index, or BMI, of more than 25 and must be classified as overweight.
“Students beyond a BMI of 25 need a little more accountability and education,” Newby said. “Creating a fitness class open only to those participants, catering to their specific needs and making them feel more comfortable in a fitness setting was important to us.”
Both Newby and Sardinha have high expectations for the challenge.
“I expect at least 25 individuals to be changed and enlightened about the resources at their fingertips, to be motivated to actually use those resources and to maintain a different set of behaviors long term,” Newby said. “On the prevention side of things, my desire for college students is that we can teach them here at Auburn to live a healthy lifestyle, so they don’t need intervention later on.”
Sardinha said he hopes to change students’ lives and also educate them on prevention.
“We’re really excited for the opportunity that we can impact students’ lives in such a positive way,” Sardinha said. “We want this program to be the pinnacle and benchmark on how other schools and universities conduct similar programs. You always hear about ‘Biggest Loser’ programs around the country, but we want to set the bar.”