I haven’t always been this way. Like most people, I have been on quite a journey to get where I am today. I always enjoyed being active, but different seasons of my life have brought unique challenges for me to live balanced, healthy, and truly happy.
I started dance and playing on a sports team at the age of 3, which continued through high school, playing soccer, field hockey, and doing competitive cheerleading. Ask anyone who knew me growing up—I was into competition, even when it came to food. I was always known for my crazy eating habits. Besides growing up in an “on the go” life where I frequently ate in the drive-through or microwaved meals, I would eat a row of Oreos or several bowls of ice-cream each night before bed. And of course, my favorite food was the easy-make powdered mashed potatoes or eating an entire loaf of white bread… I kid you not!
I had no clue that I had a sugar addiction and was way overeating for someone of my proportions. There was a strange dichotomy in my life of an active lifestyle with very poor eating habits. Although I always had an appreciation of myself as a child of God and my body as His dwelling place, I certainly didn’t always treat myself that way.
Starting my Senior of High School year, the road bumps began: a serious concussion which forced me to quit running for several years, a struggle with finding my identity, dysfunctional dating relationships, a rough transition to college, and a battle with disordered eating. In the back of my mind I also faced the fear that I would develop the same difficult health issues of my family genetics, but didn’t quite know how to go about combating them, or if I could.
My freshman year of College, I hit an all-time low figuring out a new environment, challenging classes, having no friends, gaining weight, and wondering how to exercise without running (the only kind of exercise I really knew at the time). Desperate to get a good nights sleep and my “Rosemary” spunk back, I went to the school gym in search of group fitness class that would teach me to lift weights and to find lower impact options after my injury. Often times people think people involved in fitness are scary or judgmental, but I found nothing but support and caring people who helped me find my passion again. They believed I was worth it, so I did too.
My mindset began to change, and so did my body. I was empowered and challenged by this Body Pump Class. I decided to become a certified Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer to pay forward the motivation and education that had been given to me. I no longer wanted to take this life and my health for granted. I wanted to bring the joy of exercise to others and help them overcome whatever obstacles they might have to becoming their best, healthiest self.
After losing some of the weight and baggage, I entered my first Miss America local preliminary pageant in an attempt to gain scholarship money for school. I realized that through the crown and sash, I could have a voice; an opportunity to serve my community and promote my cause. I could be a leader for my generation. That journey to becoming Miss Virginia was transformative in developing my professional life skills, but was not without times where people still said I wasn’t good enough in the ever-dreaded swimsuit competition (despite all the progress I felt like I had made physically). But becoming my own worst body critic did nothing but drag down my confidence and leave me confused why I wasn’t placing well.
By the third time around, I had finally let go of all the expectations and criticisms from others that are sometimes involved in pageantry. It was MY journey, not anyone else’s. I needed to run this race of life with endurance because it was a gift from above. I worked out harder than I had before, I ate healthier than I had before, but most importantly, I developed my heart and intellect more than I had before. I battled mentally and spiritually in prayer every day to shift my mind away from my appearance and perfectionism toward truly positive, guilt-free living; forgetting myself and trying to put others first.
On my third try competing for Miss Virginia, I won the job of a lifetime. For that year, I traveled around Virginia speaking to school children, civic clubs, and businesses about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. It was through meeting thousands of people from every walk of life, hearing their stories and sharing mine, that I began to really put together the concept of being healthy in totality: HEART, SOUL, MIND, and STRENGTH. I fell in love with helping people love themselves, and find peace in taking care of their earthly bodies. My platform from Miss America is something I continue to live out today, but it has shifted more and more away from improving “self”, and integrating a perspective of preparing our entire lives for the life to come.
The discipline of the mind continued to be a lot harder for me than the discipline of the body. My change was gradual, but something I had to work at training for nearly everyday in fighting my temptation to over indulge, or under eat; workout too hard or be lazy and lethargic. It is a constant fight to properly order our cravings where they belong. There is a proper balance to not neglect any part of your entire mind and body. It starts from the inside out. Each time I fell, I learned how to grow through it and pray through it, and got closer to a more complete view of what wellness should be. I now ENJOY respecting and cherishing my body by giving it what it needs to function in tip top shape, and wish that for each and every person.
Since pairing simple healthier eating with my home workouts, and taking time for personal spiritual development, I have never felt stronger, or more energetic about my purpose in this life. Now, as a mom, it is only more challenging to stay in a healthy state of body and soul. It’s an adventure… and I’m using this blog to chronicle it!