Hello, my friends!

Wow. I feel like I always start my posts with saying wow, but for this one I mean it. Double wow. The first wow is in reference to a recent development that occurred this past weekend...

I am so thrilled to be back in the pageant game this season. But my second wow is because I just realized that 20 minutes before this crowning moment took place, I walked my very last swimsuit walk.

Say what you want about the Miss America Swimsuit Competition. Your truth is your truth and that is yours to own. But as I think back to the day that Gretchen Carlson appeared on Good Morning America, killed the swimsuit competition, and I cried for 45 minutes, I am reminded of how absolutely instrumental the swimsuit competition was to my success in the Miss America Organization. So today, I hope to share a glimpse of that with you and to celebrate our long beloved tradition of channeling our inner Queen Savvy Shields Wolfe down the Miss America runway in bikinis and stilettos.

Wanna see something cringe-worthy? When I was 17 gearing up for my first pageant, I had literally no clue what I was doing. This is natural for any first timer- but just watch the way I pose in my first ever swim walk.

Granted, I was a born and bred dancer by default, so when someone tells you to "pose," what I heard was, "GIVE EM THE SASS."

But not a lot of people know that this period of my life was a rough, messy, teen hormone-filled, struggle bus ride. I had just gone through a breakup that, while it wasn't messy, threw my center in life completely off. I began to struggle with body image issues, was trying to find a new relationship that I could put my nervous energy into, and throughout several failed attempts at dating, I became a very anxious, emotional wreck behind closed doors.

As a result, I fell into cycle that many are familiar with.

I was anxious, and because I was anxious I felt nauseous,

and because I was nauseous, I wasn't eating.

I was virtually surviving on medium iced Dunkin' Donuts coconut caramel iced coffee with skim milk. All of my close friends had my order memorized. I had no understanding of how to fuel my body and both my physical and mental health suffered because of this.

Fast forward to 2016, I won my first local title and spent my year as Miss Collegiate Area figuring things out. My first experience competing at Miss Massachusetts was wonderful, fun, and positive. But it also made me realize that being healthy is an important part of being Miss America and I wanted to be that.

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In 2017, my eating habits improved. And by improved, I mean I was eating on a regular 3 times a day schedule. I also went to the gym for the first time. I wasn't dancing everyday and college began to make me realize that balancing health, wellness, and student life was going to be a commitment that I'd have to carve time out for.

After I was crowned Miss Central Massachusetts 2017, I made a commitment to commit to the gym. I got a membership, a trainer, and I followed a ton of Miss America state titleholders who posted workouts on Instagram. I found a love for squatting weight and rekindled my hate for running. But I remember looking at other titleholders in my state and asking myself "how do they look that good?" Some light social media stalking revealed that their workouts were very similar to mine. But sometimes kids, good genetics are a big factor.

I tried to mimic the workouts and lifestyles that others were living,   hoping to see the same results.

The only notable result? I was miserable.

At Miss Massachusetts that year, I felt better than I did the year before, but I wasn't satisfied with the gains I was, or better yet, wasn't making with my treadmill, weights, and pilates routine. 2017 was the year that taught me that fitness is not a one size fits all deal.

In November, I was crowned Miss Taunton 2018 and I was the heaviest I've ever been in my life. I knew that I needed to get my butt back in the gym and change my eating habits. But I had no idea how.

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Until...

I scrolled upon a post from one of my former dance teachers advertising a 6-week Transformation Series at her yoga studio in Dartmouth. The series included 6 weeks of unlimited yoga classes, a structured guide on what foods would be eliminated and what foods got the green light, and an accountability group that you would check into daily. I had no idea what the thing was, but something moved me to reach out to Tara about her intriguing series.

I was desperate for some guidance in my health and wellness. Tara turned out to be my saving grace.

I progressed quickly throughout the series, fell in love with the yoga classes at Ritual Sweat Society, learned that healthy food can also be incredibly tasty and still keep me happy and healthy (with the help of Duke's Bakery), and with the support from Tara, I found what wellness looks like for me. So by the time Miss Massachusetts was upon us...

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I felt comfortable in my own skin, more than I had ever felt before. I had finally found what worked for me.

Bottom line...

Without the swimsuit competition pushing me to try and figure out what my lifestyle needed to look like in order to change my habits and be healthy, I don't think I would have the same confidence I do today. I also think that I wouldn't have understood what Queen Savvy meant when she said,

"We should love our bodies for the way that they work, not just the way that they look."

So that's my take on all of the shenanigans. I love you swimsuit competition! You changed me for the better.

xx Meg

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