Today on, Take Five we chat work-life balance with Leilani Carter. An inspiring lawyer from Australia who balances work along with pursuing her passions in Nutrition, and managing her Ulcerative Colitis. I stumbled across Leilani’s blog, The Healthy Lawyer, and was immediately in love with the healthy lifestyle she was promoting. All while in a high-stress job! From finding her career path to learning how to support her health and well-being. Today, Leilani dishes on everything that keeps her going. Plus, five books she loves and a link to her Bliss Ball recipe. Yum! So many great tips and advice!
Did you always know you wanted to be a Lawyer? How did you end up in your role?
I always loved reading books as a child and began writing all through my school years. I wrote short stories, chapters of books, poetry, anything, and everything! When I was finishing school I wanted to be a writer or journalist. I was accepted into the journalism program at the University of Queensland. However I wasn’t certain that this was what I wanted to do, so I deferred a year and worked casually.
Someone suggested that they thought I would make a good lawyer with my skills. I applied for a double degree in Laws and Criminology/Criminal Justice which I got accepted into early. Then, I changed my mind again at the last minute to go into a Laws and Science (Environment) double.
I created the Healthy Lawyer blog in 2019 as a place where I could get back into writing. Here I post more about my personal health journey and it’s become a little passion/side project. It has continued to grow and has helped me to realize my true passion for food, fitness, and health.
What do your responsibilities look like as a Lawyer?
As a lawyer, my daily responsibilities are centered around client work and legal drafting/research. I’m currently working for a non-profit community legal center in the fields of criminal, family, domestic violence, and civil law. My days can be really varied. Some days I’ll be in court doing criminal defense work. Other days I’ll be helping clients draft applications for domestic violence orders or parenting orders.
What do you love most about your job?
For me, it’s about the people. The clients, my colleagues, and people I get to work with like other lawyers, prosecutors, magistrates. I also love being able to make a difference for my clients. Many of whom are experiencing real hardship and vulnerability. It’s a high-stress, high-stakes field of work but is also rewarding and challenging every day!
How did you get your first career break?
I was lucky enough to nab some work experience in my final year of University working one day a week at a local firm. In my final semester, they offered me a full-time job. I had a pretty crazy final semester working and studying full time!
Do you have advice for anyone trying to break into your industry?
While you’re at University get any sort of work experience you can. Volunteer at local community legal centers, apply for unpaid internships, and even just approach places that aren’t necessarily hiring. You never know where that work could lead you. The best part is it’s all experience that will set you apart from everyone else.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t worry that you don’t have it all figured out or if you’re not quite sure what you want to do. It’s okay that you don’t know what field of law you want to go into, it’s going to change many times over the years. Don’t rush your decisions. While you should take into consideration what other people tell you, it’s important to follow what truly lights you up.
What do you aspire to do and how are you working towards that goal?
I’ve actually just started part-time study. I am in my first year of a Health Science (Nutrition and Dietetic Medicine) degree! It was a huge leap to make but I knew that I wanted to learn more about food, health, and wellness. This is what my true passion is. I am hoping to eventually become a degree qualified nutritionist. Part of why I was drawn to law was to help people. My goal is to be able to transfer this into a nutrition setting.
How do you support your health in-between work?
Healthy and happy is going to mean different things to everyone. Moving my body is part of my daily habit. Also, sticking to a mostly whole foods diet, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. I make sure I work this around my work and study schedule.
Some days, work and responsibilities are going to get in the way of your goals, and that’s okay. For me, forming good habits is the foundation of my healthy living. I try to make this a priority most of the time.
I also swear religiously by having some sort of schedule and lists. It helps me to make sure I don’t forget things. It’s a great way to take the mental load out of my mind onto paper (or in my phone).
Any advice for balancing work/life with a chronic illness?
Managing to work full time, especially in a typically high-stress, emotionally-taxing career such as law while staying fit and eating healthy, when you also battle a chronic illness, is hard. It’s something I struggle to find the balance with daily. The answer is: I don’t! Not perfectly anyway.
Some days I feel amazing, on top of the world, and full of energy. Other days I’m so lethargic that my whole body feels like I’ve been hit by a truck, and no amount of sleep can fix that. But nothing is as important to me as living my healthiest and happiest life. I’m constantly working to make sure I’m doing what I can each day to show up for myself.
Throwing a chronic illness into the mix has literally forced me to put the brakes on. I’ve taken a step back to make some changes to my routine and approach to life. I’ve had to learn when I can keep pushing, and when I need time to rest. Especially with working and studying, and also with food and exercise. Some days it’s getting up early for some movement and eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Other days it’s sleeping in or doing some yoga, and eating bland/plain food that’s kind on my tummy.
Another thing is to learn is how to say no sometimes. Having a chronic illness has meant that I can burn out and tire a lot more easily than most people. It’s hard when you might have a big goal you’re chasing or work you want to do. My advice is to try to listen to your body and be okay with maybe not doing as much as other ‘normal’ people. Being able to adapt based on how you’re feeling day-to-day is key. One of the hardest things about living with a chronic illness is that no two days are the same.
Favorite fitness regimens?
I love nothing more than a sweaty, intense weight, or HIIT session at the gym. However, I am currently taking a step back and trying to manage my hormones and stress better. At the moment I’m loving yoga and anything Barre Body online. They have some killer Pilates classes and fun Barre workouts that have really brought back my love for movement.
Do you have a favorite healthy snack?
It always changes, but some snacks on high rotation at the moment are Bliss Balls. Rice cakes or toast with either peanut butter and banana or avocado/hummus. Or crispy chickpeas made in the air-fryer (so easy, cheap, and tasty!)
What’s your go-to easy meal?
When I need something simple or I’m low on ingredients I love stir-fries or curries. You can throw in whatever vegetables you have on hand (including frozen), use microwaveable rice if you’re in a hurry, and can make a simple sauce at home (using coconut milk or tinned tomato, spices, and herbs). Add some protein like chicken breast, beef strips, tofu/tempeh, or even a couple of eggs. It makes for a complete, balanced, and still delicious easy meal.
Another favorite is to throw some protein on the BBQ and air fry some vegetables. Potato, pumpkin, capsicum, and zucchini are my favorite.
Beauty product you cannot live without?
Are there alternative health treatments you enjoy?
I see a functional/holistic GP who has been incredible in helping to treat my gut and hormone issues. She was the first medical practitioner to take a look at my health holistically. Including food, exercise, and lifestyle.
How do you take 5?
I have a few non-negotiables that have become part of my morning and night routines. This includes meditation (I did an MBSR course last year and it honestly changed my life and attitude towards meditation). Also, a gratitude journal, and reading books (fiction or non-fiction). I also love to take the dogs for a walk to clear my head. When I’m at work I will also try to take a break by having my lunch outside in the sun. When I’m sitting at my desk, I take some deep, mindful breaths to get grounded.
A book that has had the biggest impact on your life?
There’s no way I can choose just one so I’ve narrowed it down to my top 5 I’ve read recently. Plus a lifelong favorite.
- The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer
- Daring Greatly, Brené Brown
- Extreme Ownership, Leif Babin & Jocko Willink
- You are the Placebo, Dr. Joe Dispenza
- Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis
Plus, the Harry Potter Series – I’ve been a huge Harry Potter nerd my whole life!
Favorite place to vacation?
I have so many! I spent most of my holidays growing up at Evans Head, NSW. It will always be a place so special and close to my heart that I still visit to this day. Also, camping at Double Island, QLD. I’ve had some amazing overseas trips, but my recent trip to Japan was incredible! We explored Tokyo and Kyoto, followed by a couple of weeks snowboarding in Niseko (MAGIC).
Do you have hobbies, activities, or creative outlets that help keep you balanced?
I’m a huge book nerd/worm. I love nothing more than settling in with a good fiction book to binge-read all day. To many people’s surprise, I also love camping. I just think there’s no better way than to get back to basics, get back in touch with nature, and enjoy the simple things. When I can’t go camping I try to do this with walking or hiking. Being in nature really grounds me in such a profound way. It goes without saying that I love to bake and cook! Being in the kitchen trying new meals and creating new recipes is my happy place.
Who inspires you?
In my personal life, I’m constantly inspired by my family and my partner. They are the reason I’m the person I am today. Professionally, I’ve been a huge fan of Clarissa Rayward (also known as The Happy Family Lawyer). In the nutrition space, I really admire Jessica Sepel, Monique Cormack, and Jessica Cox.
Do you have a favorite playlist to listen to for motivation?
I don’t have a set playlist as it always changes. However, I can’t pass up old school hits and R&B Fridays for feel-good motivation!
Who would you take 5 with?
My favorite person to take 5 with is my boyfriend, Morgan.