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Wellness: What is it? Why is it important?

Wellness: What is it? Why is it important?
By: Amber Moore with Brooke Nissim-Sabat

To get us started on the right track in achieving wellness, I asked my friend Brooke Nissim-Sabat if she would be willing to tell us why wellness is so important and to share some tips & tricks for how to stay healthy while in law school. She graciously agreed. Brooke is a dietitian with a bachelors and masters of science, both in dietetics. She is also certified in adult weight management and is an Assistant Professor of Foods and Nutrition at Pierpont Community and Technical College. Beyond her training, she is married to a second-year law student, so she knows exactly what pressures and choices law students face each day.

1. As someone who is married to a law student and also clinically trained in achieving a healthy lifestyle, you have a very unique perspective on law students’ lifestyles and habits. What suggestions or observations would you make for maintaining a healthy body and mind amidst law school’s challenges?

Schedule “Wellness”: Plan Grocery Shopping & Exercise Times
“Wellness” encompasses more than just exercise; it also includes maintaining a balanced, healthy diet and getting adequate sleep. Just as law students schedule class, the time to prepare for class, and meetings with professors or study groups, they should schedule time for wellness. For example, schedule at least one time per week to go the grocery store. Sit down for a few minutes on a Sunday and map what you’d like to eat for the rest of the week. Then take an hour to go to the grocery store and pick up those items. Students should also schedule exercise for three or more times per week. It doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous—it can even just be a walk on the rail trail or around campus. But if you don’t carve out those times, then they just won’t happen.

Sleep! It’s necessary for cognitive function and for weight management!
Law students have so much to read and do throughout the day, so being alert is necessary. But being alert isn’t the only benefit of adequate sleep. Without enough sleep, a hunger hormone called ghrelin is released that makes a person feel hungry even if that person is adequately nourished. So, not getting adequate sleep leads to overeating, which leads to weight gain if not balanced out with physical activity. Therefore, sleep is not only important for cognitive function but also for weight management.

Prepare Food at Home: It saves you money and calories while increasing nutrients!
Preparing food at home as much as possible is beneficial for several reasons: (1) the food you prepare at home is likely healthier than the food you would buy otherwise, (2) it helps to limit impulse purchases (i.e., when you’re just so hungry that you don’t care anymore whether or not it’s healthy), and (3) it saves you money and calories! Americans spend approximately 50% of their food budget on food away from home, and the average restaurant meal provides 1,000 calories and has an abundance of sodium and unhealthy fats. If you buy nutrient-rich foods at the grocery store, the food you prepare at home is probably much healthier than what you’d pick up elsewhere. When preparing food at home and carrying it with you, you are in control of your circumstances.

2. What kind of roles do a balanced diet and an exercise regime play in maintaining a healthy body and mind? Do you think this achievable while one is in law school?

Absolutely, but it has to be a priority. The research is clear that nutrition and fitness are the cornerstones of wellness; a person can’t be healthy and fit without proper activity and nutrition. The importance of fruits and vegetables can’t be over-emphasized, but they are often overlooked. A high intake of fruits and vegetables is linked to a longer, healthier life. Fruits and veggies are great because they are low-calorie but nutrient-rich foods. “Nutrient-rich” just means that calorie-per-calorie, some foods can provide more nutrition than other foods. Choosing nutrient-rich foods, like fruits, vegetables, and beans reduces the risk of chronic diseases and promotes a healthy immune system.

Law school is such an endurance test; it’s amazing how much law students accomplish! Law students don’t have time for sick days; every second counts. You can create a healthy immune system with a healthful diet. The key to a strong immune system is having a healthy “gut,” or gastrointestinal tract. Your immune function depends on having a healthy gut, so if you can achieve that, the rest will follow. Build a strong gut with adequate hydration, plenty of fruits and veggies, and try including probiotics, which are found in yogurt and kefir. Exercise helps, too, as it promotes blood circulation and muscular strength – both essential for the gut as well as the rest of the body.

Making wellness a priority now has both short- and long-term benefits. The short-term benefits are reducing the risk of colds and illnesses while increasing daily energy. The long-term benefits are reducing the risk of chronic disease and living a longer, happier, and healthier life. Law students invest a lot of time, money, and effort into their education to create a better future, and it is important to also invest in wellness so that you can enjoy and make the most of that future!

3. We often hear that healthy food is also expensive food. Do you think it’s feasible for a student on a budget to afford a healthy lifestyle?

Yes. First, eating healthy foods “on the run” IS expensive, but simply planning ahead can cut the costs significantly. Second, consider the nutritional bang for your buck. You can buy a fast-food lunch for $5, but it will most likely be high in calories, sodium and refined grains. These are not foods that promote health or do your body any favors; normally, fast foods are not nutrient rich foods. Foods that are considered cheap are often cheap for a reason: they don’t offer high quality nutrients. Rather than buying cheap, fast-food meals, use that money at the beginning of the week to buy nutrient-rich foods. Your money is going a lot farther when you do this because you’re getting your money’s worth in nutrients. Those nutrients are giving you energy, managing your weight, and creating short- and long-term benefits. This leads to the third point: look at your food choices as an investment in your health. A strong immune system will also lead to saved time and money by not having to go to the doctor or purchase medications. A good trick to evaluate the way you’re eating every day is the 90/10 rule: eat healthfully 90% of the time, and then 10% of the time you can eat foods that you love that don’t necessarily qualify as “healthy” foods.


#1: Strategize: Bring fruits & veggies to school or work. Think of foods that both promote health and are portable. Fruit and veggies are perfect: they’re healthful, portable, and also naturally portion-sized. Grab whole fruits like bananas, apples, grapes, or oranges. Baby carrots and cherry tomatoes are very convenient; also, slice up peppers, cucumbers, or celery to pack along. Nuts are a great choice, too, and with their protein and healthy fats provide nutrients that fruits and veggies don’t.

#2: Eat breakfast every day. Breakfast is key: it makes you alert and manages weight—you’ll eat less throughout the day if you eat breakfast. It is also a great opportunity to get disease-fighters like vitamin C and fiber. A quick and easy (and portable!) breakfast option is protein-rich yogurt sprinkled with granola and topped with a sliced banana. Breakfast doesn’t even have to be traditional “breakfast” food – you can grab leftovers or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As long as you eat something, you will kick-start your metabolism for the day.

#3: Know & see the benefits. Living a healthy lifestyle creates energy and has short- and long-term benefits. Although can’t “create” more hours in the day, you can change how productive you make those hours by making healthy choices. The added energy you will get from your wellness behaviors will enable you to be more productive, and those nutritious choices will help you fight off illness (the short-tem benefit) and decrease the risk of chronic disease (the long-term benefit).

#4: Plan ahead. On Sunday, plan for what you’re going to eat that week. It only takes an hour plan and shop for your groceries, and it’s an hour well-spent because it will save you so much time and frustration later in the week. When you get home, prep vegetables that need to be sliced (think peppers and cucumbers) so they’re easier to grab later. Go ahead and throw away any expired food and pull from the freezer anything that needs to thaw. This will give you a fresh start for the week and make dinners seem more manageable.

#5: Understand that the future is now. The choices you make now are the habits of the future. Each day, you can work toward a habit of wellness and extending your lifespan. A way to encourage yourself to choose wellness each day is to ask yourself: Is this going to help me promote health? Is this habit going to help me to be successful?

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Brooke for taking the time to share her expertise with us! Check back every two weeks for more articles on ways to maintain wellness while in law school!

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