August 19, 2022

'Purdue Pursuits': Pivio — The Complete Health Improvement Program

Sara Thomas Sara Thomas, assistant director of integrated studies at Purdue University Fort Wayne, used the Pivio — The Complete Health Improvement Program to help prioritize healthy eating and exercise. (Photo provided)

After six years of working in sedentary office positions at Purdue Fort Wayne, Sara Thomas knew she needed to start making her health a priority. As a busy single mom, Thomas struggled to find time to make healthier food choices and exercise frequently until she received an email about Pivio — The Complete Health Improvement Program.

Formerly called CHIP, Pivio is a 12-week program offered by the Center for Healthy Living (CHL) in conjuction with the Lifestyle Medicine institute that focuses on whole-person health by integrating nutrition, exercise and behavioral psychology tools and principles. Facilitated in a virtual environment with dynamic group discussions and peer support, the program is designed to help participants make lifestyle changes through education, practical experience and reinforcement. Pivio supports all five pillars – physical health, behavioral health, social wellness, financial wellness and work-life integration – of the Healthy Boiler Program

About 'Purdue Pursuits'

A variety of programs, workshops, fellowships and trainings are offered to Purdue faculty and staff each semester. How can Purdue employees use these opportunities as small steps in reaching their personal and professional goals? Purdue Today's "Purdue Pursuits" series will share employees’ stories of growth and development during their experiences as active participants of their campus communities.

Suggestions for the "Purdue Pursuits" series may be emailed to

“I had a lot of bad habits, and I needed something to help kick-start myself back in the right direction,” says Thomas, assistant director of integrated studies at PFW. “I didn’t want to be out of energy and not be able to play with my son, so I knew I needed to lower my weight and boost my energy levels.”

The program is based on the six pillars of lifestyle medicine: regular exercise, plant-based eating, stress management, avoidance of harmful substances, proper sleeping habits and meaningful social connections. Pivio is co-led by Whitney Soto, an RN health coach, and Megan Shidler, a registered dietician.

Health risk assessments are provided at the beginning and end of the program to measure and track individuals’ A1c levels, lipid profiles and more. The assessments help reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

Pivio participants are also given a recipe book, a comprehensive tool kit and reading materials that provide information about food preparation and exercise. Thomas used these resources to gradually adapt to the lifestyle changes and began purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, cooking her favorite recipes and reminding herself to get up and move each day.

It didn’t take her long to notice how the program was affecting her body.

“It takes a while for your taste buds to adjust to eating more of those whole foods like grains and vegetables while eliminating sauces and salt, but I think pretty early on, I started to see the weight come back down,” Thomas says. “I felt my energy level come up almost immediately just by making better food choices and moving like I should. By the end of the program, I was down 22 pounds.”

Although she has little free time in her daily life, Thomas says adding the program to her busy schedule was not as overwhelming as she had expected.

“It can seem like a daunting task to take the time to take care of yourself when you’re a single mom and you are at work 50 hours a week and then you go home and take care of everything else,” I think being in the program made it much easier to focus my mind on those things,” Thomas says.

It has been over a year since she was enrolled in the program, but Thomas continues to use the knowledge she gained during each session. She says the experience has helped her develop a mindset that allows her to pursue a healthy lifestyle even after the completion of the program.

“If I make a misstep or choose to eat something I know I probably shouldn’t, I always keep in mind not to say, ‘Oh I can’t do this – I failed,’ but to really just take it in stride, have a little grace for myself and make a better choice next time,” Thomas says. “It doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming like other programs can.”

How you can participate

Onboarding for the next session of Pivio will begin May 4, with the first class set to meet May 12.

In the first six weeks of the program, the group will meet two times a week, once for a Core Session and once for a Support Session (Tuesdays and Thursdays). The last six weeks of the program, the group will meet once a week for a Core Session (Thursdays). The program's final session will be Aug. 3 All classes are from noon to 1 p.m. ET, via Teams.

Registration to participate is due by April 12. Interested individuals should register via the Healthy Boiler Portal. The registration link can be found under the “Healthy Boiler Workshops” section on the portal’s homepage. Hover over the “Pivio Health” square and hit “Submit” to register.

More Healthy Boiler opportunities

Healthy Boiler workshops and lifestyle programs are free to all benefits-eligible faculty and staff and dependents covered on a Purdue health plan.


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