Our Health-Conscious Community

Posted on February 25, 2016

Health Conscious Community

Members and staff share how fitness, nutrition, and healthy habits have become part of the Fountain House culture.


Since joining Fountain House I have been much more aware of the physical aspects of life such as exercising in the state of the art gym on the fifth floor above the Wellness Center.  I have also been through physical therapy at Weill Cornell Medical College and have learned a lot about stretching exercises and how to deal with my scoliosis, which I have on the left side of my body. I believe it’s important to get a lot of natural exercise such as walking or swimming. I try to walk as much as possible and stand a lot to make up for sitting during the day by the computer.  So I always try to take breaks and walk around a lot. I always walk home from the train rather than taking a bus if it is possible weather wise.

Over the past several years, I have seen many changes around the Fountain House Community. I have noticed the Culinary Unit stop serving or selling sodas, and Snapple.  I have seen Culinary amend their menus by serving and cooking healthier food, eliminating sugary deserts, and having group meetings on how to prepare healthier foods. The Wellness Center as well has started a wellness cart in the afternoon that they send around to our various Units (they have fresh fruit, soups and other trail mix, and other healthy snacks). They also now have seminars regarding healthy living such as groups about diabetes, they’ve started the wellness challenge, and they have a One-in-Four 5K at Riverside Park the second Saturday in April. The Unit also runs a Breathe Free Meeting in the evenings once a week (which I help facilitate with Joe Shaffer and Steven Byrne).

I think it’s important to understand that not everyone is on the same page when it comes to one’s health. Some people smoke, constantly eat the wrong things or binge eat, and don’t exercise like they should (being couch potatoes). I believe it’s important for members and staff to be exposed enough to a healthy environment and lifestyle, sooner or later they will pick up on it. It’s the old proverbial saying “You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him or her drink!”


I recently lost around 40 pounds over a period of about a year and a half, but most of the time was spent not losing weight but achieving really small goals. I started out replacing sugar with Splenda one month, then I moved onto replacing rice with vegetables another month. This led to my current diet, which is low carb and avoids grains, starches, and sugar in favor of healthy fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates. It’s a diet that I never would have been able to do if I hadn’t made a bunch of really small choices over a longer period. My suggestion is if you want to achieve a big (or even lofty) goal, make a very small change that you can maintain each month; you will eventually reach your goal and with the least amount of stress possible.

I think that Fountain House offers a lot of really great opportunities to begin working on your health. One thing I would really like to see in the future at Fountain House is an opportunity for members to receive health and fitness scholarships; there are many fitness classes I know members would love to take, but cannot realistically afford. Ideally, once members start taking classes, they would be encouraged to continue their fitness goals and would inspire others’ efforts. I’m not certain what exactly future health initiatives will look like at Fountain House, but I know that they will continue to find new ways to make health and wellbeing accessible to the community.


I believe health in general pertains to being physically fit and having your mind at peace. It also involves having healthy relationships. I walk every weekend at the Fountain House Farm approximately four miles a day with my dog the famous Ella). I also cross-country ski in High Point State Park and on the Appalachian Trail. I’m going to the gym on the fifth floor in the morning to get ready for the One-in-Four 5K in April.

In my mind, health at Fountain House became a priority when we saw a number of members dying very young (in their 40s and up). In my time doing this work I have noticed a tremendous weight gain in the members of our community and I think this weight gain really impacts their health. The Wellness Center was created to help all of our members and staff with their health. I feel that since the birth of our new Wellness center there has been a definite change in the way the overall community views their individual health; but I think we have a long way to go. I would like to see more members and staff using the gym, going to the farm, and generally being more active.


I have worked at Fountain House for many years and in that time I have seen immense changes in terms of wellness. The days of burgers and soda are no longer. The Snack Bar became the Wellness Center and helped members to be more mindful of what they eat and to exercise more. The One-in-Four 5K has been extremely important in this endeavor, pulling the community together and focusing on our health. I feel the conversation has changed regarding the importance of healthy eating and exercise. I think many factors have contributed to this.

The Wellness Center has made working out accessible to more people and it is free. The center also has had a lot of workshops on diabetes, dental health, etc. promoting awareness. They have also created different wellness challenges that have gotten the whole community involved, motivating and energizing different units.

My advice to anyone who finds the idea of exercising too overwhelming is to just start small, walk a block every day and slowly build on it. The important point is to be consistent and to take baby steps in the beginning.