Haley El Mahassni ’18 and Nathan Forman ’15 Reflect on Their Participation in the #GrinWell Challenge

We're taking the #GrinWell Challenge because wellness should be simple.

We’re taking the #GrinWell Challenge because wellness should be simple. (All screenshots from the #GrinWell iPhone app.)

Haley El Mahassni ’18: I was so busy in high school trying to join clubs and sports–which I hardly even liked–because I thought it would get me into college. I guess I did a good job, since I ended up at Grinnell.

But I never thought I would be that busy again. I didn’t think there would be any more all-nighters and skipped lunches to finish an assignment by noon. How do I even begin to think about sleep when I have pages of biology to read AND understand for tomorrow?

The #GrinWell challenge encourages health through rest, meals, physical activity, and restoration, measured by a phone application that compares students’ stats to President Raynard Kington’s. The challenge starts today. Along with GUM editor Nathan Forman ’15, I’ll be blogging about my progress here for the entire campus to read.

The first question I asked myself after signing up was, “How do I fall asleep at a normal time when I live in Norris, where the people can hardly handle their liquor or keep it in their pants?”

As a basketball player who loves to work out, it is motivating to do schoolwork after a good run or lift, but my body is so run down that it demands sleep—sleep that I have deprived it of for years. As a self-proclaimed insomniac and a professional procrastinator, it is my goal to learn how to do something as simple as sleep in the next few weeks.

My second question was, “How do I eat healthy foods with a full meal plan?”

If anyone can tell me how I can eat five servings of fruits and vegetables in the D-Hall, they have incredibly good eyesight and scavenging skills. If the D-Hall made this task more approachable, maybe this goal would feel more attainable.

Despite these questions, I love the idea of this challenge. I am so ready to force myself to get on a better schedule that will keep me more alert in class, on the basketball court, and even on the weekends when I don’t feel like doing anything because of the exhaustion from the week.

I am looking forward to picking myself up from the sluggish routine I have been stuck in since high school, as it will help me in years to come.

As for now, I’m off to the gym.


Nathan Forman ’15: What is #Wellness? The #GrinWell challenge simplifies it into four categories: movement, fruits & vegetables, sleeping, and restoration. By these criteria, I bet I can win the #GrinWell challenge and beat Pres. Kington without changing very much about my daily routine (although I might be biased in making that assertion).

I try to eat a fair number of fruits and vegetables, I try to run an hour every day (or at least 2 out of every 3 days) and hey, I’m “journaling” right now, which means I’m already on the path to restoration. I could probably work on getting to bed earlier so that I sleep the full 7-9 hours, but otherwise this shouldn’t be that much of a challenge.

Is that the point? Is wellness supposed to be easy? Am I being a douchebag?

There’s a larger issue I want to explore through this process: While I may be able to check the boxes satisfying the #GrinWell challenge, and while on some days I might actually “beat Kington,” I’m not totally sure that I’m well.

But I digress. Let’s talk about the actual challenge.

Everyone knows that there are four aspects to wellness:

1) Exercise

GrinWell Exercise

Are all of these activities the same? Is that the point?


2) Eating Fruits & Vegetables

5 apples a day keeps Kington at bay! But actually, what if I ate an entire casserole that had 5 servings of vegetables in it? Would that be “wellness?”


3) Sleeping

GrinWell Sleep

If I went to bed at 3 AM is it really wellness? If I went to bed drunk, is it really wellness? (The math is a bit weird… 3:23 AM – 12:40 PM does not equal 9 hours and 6 minutes…?) Also, what if I did this during the weekdays? Would it still be #wellness if I skipped class?


4) Restoration

GrinWell Restore What have you done today to #restore?


I’ve grown a lot at Grinnell. Unlike Haley, I’m not an athlete, but since my first year I’ve lost a lot of weight and (hopefully) set in place eating and exercise habits that can help me create and sustain healthy living. But even if I get 8 hours of sleep, is it “wellness” if I’m sleeping from 4:30 AM to 12:30 PM? I don’t know. Maybe we’ll find out together.