Wellness Journey

Read how ACC employees are improving their lives by adopting healthier habits. We hope you’ll be inspired by the changes they’ve made. Share YOUR own success story here.

Richard Anderson
Service Center
System Administrator for Academic Computer Support
What health behavior did you change?
I have been on a multi-year health journey that began with a significant change in diet and losing 45lbs about 5 years ago. Since then I had been much healthier overall, but skinny. Probably too skinny. I realized that my at-home workout routine wasn’t enough to get the results I wanted so I started ACC Wellness classes about a year ago with Beginners Yoga. I have now moved up to the Yoga Flow class and this was my first semester in the PiYo class.
Why did you decide to make this change?
I had been actively working to improve my overall health for a while and I felt like I had plateaued. I had made all the dietary adjustments to reach my healthy goal weight, but had lost a lot of muscle in the process and was having trouble building more. This spring it finally clicked that if I wanted more results, I had to do more work. So I signed up for what ended up being the single most challenging workout class since Marine Corps Bootcamp.
How did you make this change?
I took the first step. I signed up for the class and went! I have made sure to re-evaluate my expectations of both myself and the class; keeping in mind that the results I want are not achieved overnight. We are what we do, and if we want to change something about who we are, we have to change something about what we do.
What goals and obstacles did you have?
I have struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life. This has been the single most difficult obstacle I have had to overcome with respect to my physical health and wellness. There are a number of other obstacles that I could sheepishly place above those two but that would be a lie. Our mind has the ability to stop us dead in our tracks. The next most challenging obstacle I have faced in my wellness journey has been a (treatable) cancer diagnosis in early June. This, like the first two, is more a mental obstacle than a physical one. I will very likely not have any long term physical restrictions. But I have that word in my head that I could easily let bring everything to a screeching halt. This is my goal. I’m not going to stop. I’m not even going to slow down.
Who supported you during this experience? 
The instructors, both Kim and Teresa, have been nothing but positive and encouraging. And of course I’ve got my family and friends on my side. My biggest source of support and motivation this semester has been my PiYo classmates. Not everyone made it to the end, and that’s okay. I know that every Friday there will be others with a completely different story than me, with their own set of challenges and setbacks in life. And it comforts me to know that we are all there for our own unique purpose. In that way, we support each other.
What advice do you have for others who want make to make this change?
At any point in life we can decide to change who we are. It’s a choice we are blessed to have as living breathing Human Beings. Yet we are extremely adept at convincing ourselves that it isn’t a choice at all – that we’re stuck this way and there’s nothing we can do about it. We all have the ability to decide to change who we are. The first step is deciding to change what we do. And no matter how challenging it may seem, success is so much sweeter when it’s a choice we make for ourselves. Never-the-less, sometimes life forces our hand. Sometimes we have to redefine who we are even though we weren’t ready to. I don’t want to be a cancer survivor. I want to be a cancer destroyer.
What inspires you to continue on your wellness journey?
It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, And if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over. -F. Scott Fitzgerald
Favorite Food(s) –Sushi, Tacos, and BBQ
Favorite fruit and veggie: Grapes, Bananas, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Jalapenos, Spinach, Kale, most everything that is edible and grows on a plant of some sort.
Favorite exercise PiYo and Mountain Biking
But you won’t catch me doing this for exercise…Running!
Favorite way to de-stress is…Yoga Flow
Favorite indulgence is…Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Meredith Ross-Chong

Adjunct Faculty and Character at Large
What health behavior did you change?
With the busy-ness of work, family commitments, and volunteer activities, I had not been in a class or regular exercise endeavor in mnmnmnmlong. I began taking Tai Chi with Mark Leidig more than 2 years ago and have been consistently active, engaged and committed to the class.
Why did you decide to make this change?
I have been interested in Tai Chi for many years and when the opportunity to take it as a Wellness class on my home campus arose, I jumped at the chance… well, perhaps I entered slowly, bowed and assumed the position, but I was in.
How did you make this change?
Sign-up, show up, engage, practice, rinse and repeat.
What goals and obstacles did you have?
Sometimes other commitments conflict, sometimes I am not on campus for Tai Chi class days and have to coordinate my schedule to get there at the right time.
Who supported you during this experience? 
It was a personal decision in the beginning, but since the class started, there is a cohort of us who are staying with the class. We are a team, a family, learning and experiencing together. It is a supportive group of fellow journeyers, herded and guided by our fearless leader and we are not only improving our physical wellbeing, but also our mental and emotional balance.
What advice do you have for others who want make to make this change?
Get a Nike shirt that says “Just Do It”… and follow those instructions
What inspires you to continue on your wellness journey?
Mark Leidig, our instructor is insanely knowledgeable about Martial Arts and specifically Tai Chi, having studied with too many Martial Arts Masters to count. He is always willing and eager to share that knowledge (read: pry open our thick skulls and cram in more info than we realize we want or can process). It has been a physically beneficial experience, but we have also grown in purpose, understanding, core strength, mental acuity, and community, as we continue down the path together. We have learned so much, but there is still so much to learn this is a great activity for the long haul of a healthy life.
Favorite Food(s): The ones other people cook
Favorite fruit and veggie: broccoli… no really
Favorite exercise:  Horse back riding
But you won’t catch me doing this for exercise…  Running in the Texas summer heat
Favorite way to de-stress is… Praying
Favorite indulgence is… Walk in the woods with my dogs


Mary Jo Stasiowski
Cypress Creek
TECE Coordinator
What health behavior did you change?
Trying to manage stress levels, increase my daily activity, and eat better
Why did you decide to make this change?
I have been under a lot of stress with family (older parents) and how to care for them long distance. Merging two departments and all that entails. I do not always eat breakfast or lunch or drink enough water. I was told a few months ago that I was borderline Type 2 diabetic. I am a bit stubborn so I decided to do something about all of the above.
How did you make this change?
I started trying to eat at least a piece of toast for breakfast and attempt to drink a gallon of water everyday. I also consciously made the decision that I needed to do something I thought I would enjoy. I have two partial knee replacements and running, jumping etc are things I can no longer do. Tai Chi (employee exercise class) fits the bill.
What goals and obstacles did you have?
Making time to attend during the work day.
Who supported you during this experience? 
My staff
What advice do you have for others who want make to make this change?
If you want to feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally you need to make time to do something that is good for your whole self. Work will still be there when you come back from class. I either come in early or stay later depends on what and where I am needed for that day
What inspires you to continue on your wellness journey?
I feel much better. It is good for my memory because there are so many things to remember. Tai Chi is something that I have been interested in for a very long time but, never had the opportunity to learn.
Favorite fruit and veggie: fried squash, cucumbers, watermelon, berries of any kind, cantaloupe, bell peppers tomatoes, mangoes, peaches, plums
Favorite exercise: Dance
But you won’t catch me doing this for exercise… running
Favorite way to de-stress is… cross stitch, photography, baking, gardening
Favorite indulgence is… homemade ice cream

Melissa Brown
Location: Hays
Job: I work in the Campus Manager’s Office as an Administrative Assistant.
How long have you worked for ACC? 26 years
What health behavior did you change?
I decided in November of 2016 to become a vegetarian. That decision was based on the numerous positive benefits I have read about.
Why did you decide to make this change?  With having Rheumatoid Arthritis, I am always looking for ways to help myself feel better and improve my RA symptoms. Yoga and becoming vegetarian have both helped.
How did you make this change?  Becoming vegetarian doesn’t happen overnight. You have to learn what to eat and new ways to prepare food.
What goals and obstacles did you have?  One of my main goals was to lose a few pounds, I have lost 15 pounds. One of the main obstacles I have faced is milk and milk products. I love cheese! There are now vegetarian options for lots of foods I was used to eating, so that helps.
Who supported you during this experience?  My husband and daughter have been my main support group. And, as more people learn about my life-style change, others have become very supportive too.
What advice do you have for others who want make to make this change? Take it slow! Make small changes and notice how you feel. You’ll be surprised how little changes make a big difference.
What inspires you to continue on your wellness journey? I am inspired by how good I feel. Even though I sometimes don’t want to attend my yoga class, I am always glad I did! Yoga makes me feel strong! I actually have defined muscles now in my arms and legs. It’s great!
Favorite Food(s):  SALSA
Favorite fruit and veggie:  watermelon; Favorite veggie – cucumbers
Favorite exercise (if you have one):  I love yoga, so, yoga is my favorite!
But you won’t catch me doing this for exercise… Running…not my favorite
Favorite way to de-stress is… Yoga
Favorite indulgence is… Chips and SALSA


Blanca Estela Lara

Campus: South Austin
Job: Science Technician
What health behavior did you change? I made exercise a regular activity (5-6 times/week) and I changed my eating habits (ate mostly home cooked meals)

Why did you decide to make this change? I had been very active up until my son became involved in many after school and weekend activities. I was spending most of my time, after work and on weekends, driving him to his classes and events that I did not have time to exercise or cook. I became sedentary for many years and I felt miserable and tired. I did not feel good about myself. I hated feeling this way, so I decided to look at what the Wellness program had to offer and noticed that they offered classes on campus and during lunch hour.
How did you make this change? The Wellness program has helped me by offering effective classes (Barre and Piyo) at a time that is perfect for my schedule. As a result, I have dropped 12lbs and gained more muscle which is very important for bone density as we age. I also feel better…I feel good (body and mind). I love that the Wellness program offers classes during lunch hour because this allows me to get the workout done so I can still be present at my son’s after school activities and have time to cook a nice meal in the evenings.
What goals and obstacles did you have? My goals were to drop a few pounds (I dropped 12), to gain muscle (the muscle tone shows), to reduce stress (I feel more positive and energetic) and to make new friends (I have built friendships with some of the instructors and other employees attending the Wellness classes). I had one obstacle. I injured my knee and became bummed. I was very worried about gaining weight and loosing the muscle tone. With the encouragement of one of my instructors, Erika, I was able to be patient and wait until my knee healed. During this mostly sedentary period, I monitored very closely what I ate
Who supported you during this experience? My greatest support system came from ACC because they make this program available to us. ACC seems truly interested in developing healthy, active, and happy employees. I have also received a lot of support from the instructors, Erika (Barre) and Kim (Piyo)…they are very encouraging.
What advice do you have for others who want make to make this change? My advice to others is to look at what the program has to offer. They will find that classes are offered at every campus, every day, and at different times so they can fit any schedule. I found something for me and the classes are giving me the results I want and I feel great.
What inspires you to continue on your wellness journey?  My inspiration to continue on this wellness journey is my son. He is a teen and very athletic. He also loves the outdoors, so I want to have the energy and strength to keep up with him doing some of the activities he enjoys such as swimming, hiking, and working out. I also want to lead by example, so that he can see that exercise and healthy eating habits are essential at every stage of our lives. He has noticed the change and is very proud of me…especially proud that I now have biceps. He is motivated to do the same.
Favorite Food(s): Quinoa (eat it every day with tomato zucchini, pumpkin seeds, garlic, olive oil) salmon, crab cakes with avocado salsa, sardines in pico de gallo, anchovy’s (for cooking steak and spaghetti sauce), red snapper (steamed), skirt steak, stuffed chicken breast, lentils, goat milk, walnuts
Favorite exercise: Two: Piyo, Barre (best results for muscle tone), Stretch and Flow (for recovery and injury prevention) and Zumba (just for fun…won’t do much for muscle tone)
Favorite way to de-stress is… Cooking, gardening, nature, yoga, vacationing with the family
Favorite indulgence is..Dark chocolate and home baked cherry tart