The best part about being a law professor? You get to be around bright young people and the positive energy they bring to most things. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship: you teach and mentor them, and if you do it right, some of them will be your life long friends. Mariah was a student in my Federal Indian Law I class at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and later, a research assistant.
In the best law school movie of all times, Elle Woods said of the experience: “what, like it’s hard?” It IS hard under normal circumstances. A mental, physical, emotional grind. The law students of the COVID-era deserve extra commendation. Mariah will graduate this May, with nearly half of her law school career impacted by this extraordinary time. I’ll be ESPECIALLY proud of this group and how they have carried the stress of it all.
I asked Mariah to be the featured health story today for her relatability and for her ability to inspire others, especially current and future law students. She shines extra bright on a blog that was trending “old” with Gen X’ers (and over) and somewhat overrun with Oklahoma Indians. (Smile).
Here’s her journey from childhood asthma, to finding her physical and mental health through fitness, to a soon-to-be-J.D. with all sorts of hacks on how to stay in shape.
“My journey to being healthy has emerged throughout my life with trial and error. But primarily to balance/cope with stress. Now, healthy is a lifestyle and I am never going back. Coming into law school, I had told myself “it’s okay if you gain weight” but I did exactly the opposite.
Currently, I am a third-year law student at ASU and I am now more than ever, a health and fitness nut! I lost a lot of weight (and counting) in law school. Surprising right!? But I’ve struggled with my weight all my life. But to my surprise, I have reaped the benefit of weight loss during the most stressful part of my educational journey thus far.
My weight struggle started when I was young. I had severe asthma induced allergies which led tome being on steroids to breathe and it made me really hungry, very often. I had a love for McDonald’s chicken nuggets, little debbies and pizza rolls! I had a love for all food, and seconds too! But creeping up, was also a risk for diabetes and that always scared me.
Recently, I was talking to my best friend about diabetes on our reservation and in Indigenous communities in general. Food deserts! High prices to already ripe fruits! And Comods! Ahh! I love the cheese though! BRICK OF GOLD! People sell it, but you always have to check the box because sometimes people put 2×4 in there!
My relationship with eating has never been the best, I used to eat a lot – stressed, happy, bored, no reason at all. Today, I do intermittent fasting 8/16 and my meals are leans and greens packed to fuel me through the day. Occasionally, I fall off the horse, breaking my fast with some Cheez-Its at 1 a.m. Overall, I enjoy eating much more because I eat with purpose.
My shift to health unbeknownst started when I was 11. I took myself off all my medication, without telling my mom. I had felt that my body just didn’t need the asthma medication anymore and I have been great since! But, from years of eating seconds, I had a lot of excess weight to lose. Naturally, I started to get conscious about what I ate and drank. I lost a lot of weight as a teen but gained a lot of it back in undergrad.
People often talk about fitness, but not the mental benefits of it. The first time I really felt the value of fitness was when I was 14. My dad had passed away and to cope with my emotions, I hit the gym every day. Sometimes, twice a day. It made me feel better. I am not sure where I learned to cope with stress this way, but now naturally, when my stress level increases, my workout regimen does too! However, with law school, I often found myself limited on time and with the pandemic, I am inside a lot.
With the gyms closed (recently opened), I started to powwow dance in my living room. I’ve powwowed most of my younger life with my family on weekends. Let me tell you, it is GREAT cardio and you will use muscles you never knew you had trying to stay on beat! Also, with weights being sold out everywhere, I bought a cinder brick to lift with. I figured why not? Crazy times call for creative measures. Above all else though, fitness regardless of how it is achieved, provides me a sense of clarity and grounding. Life is tough, but you have to be mentally tougher and sometimes that mental toughness is developed through you whispering to yourself “one more song!”
My highest weight was in undergrad at 225lbs, getting down to 196lbs my senior year and started law school in 2018. My first semester, I let go of what I knew that worked for me in dealing with stress, fitness. I didn’t do intermittent fasting and I ate a lot of fast food and pizza for lunch! In the Spring of 2019, I was super excited when ASU’s Indian Legal Program had a weight loss challenge. I started out at 203 lbs. and won the challenge at 167 lbs. 4 months later.
During the challenge, I went back to intermittent fasting, gallon of water a day, high protein and low carb meals and daily working out with my secret weapon! A gallon size trash bag with holes cut in the sides for my arms and a hole for my head! I felt amazing. My mind was sharper, my confidence was higher, and I was back to working out daily. Most importantly, my stress was lower, and I had really begun to enjoy law school. I still get looks in the gym from the sound of my trash bag under my sweatshirt, but who cares? I feel great.
I currently sit at 177 lbs. and arguably in the best shape of my life thus far. And oddly, that is perhaps due to the stress of law school because it forced me to do what I know – utilize fitness for stress control. I am often driven by how I feel. I used to want to be skinny but now I just want to feel strong and good. I don’t have a target weight goal, just a daily target feeling. I am to the point where I cannot function without a morning workout and 1 gallon of water a day. Somewhat of a workout junkie. My life goal is to live a healthy lifestyle, coping with stress through fitnessand an occasional pack of cheese its. Life is always going to have some major stressors, what matters is how you choose to cope with it.
Pilamiye (Thank you).”