I have officially typed about 5 half sentences, stopped, backspaced, and now here I am. I simply do not know where to begin explaining my relationship with food/diets/fitness. I grew up watching my mom try every diet under the sun. As I entered junior high and my brother graduated high school, she was one diet away from getting lap band surgery. Thankfully, she did not have to go down that road. She joined a program where she learned to eat nutritious foods in healthy portions. For whatever reason, this program just clicked for her. She also began walking the stairs at my dads office, about 80 flights! She worked hard and proved to our family and most importantly, herself that she could do it. She lost about 75 pounds. As her daughter, it was sweet to see her excited about trying on sizes she was finally proud of, shopping in stores she otherwise couldn’t. I think this is where the diet culture began for me, watching it my entire childhood. My family slowly went from eating frosted flakes or ice cream as bedtime snacks to withholding all together or eating a protein bar instead.

In 2011, I competed in my first pageant with a swimsuit portion. For the first time in my life I began a ‘diet.’ I was bringing my lunch to high school and packing healthy snacks. I not only had dance team practices but I also joined a gym, because I thought that was the thing you had to do. I had a few personal training sessions, took some cycling classes, and tried the dreaded elliptical for the first time, I was a junior in high school. To my surprise I won Miss Nebraska Teen USA and the swimsuit competition. To prepare for Miss Teen USA, I had a sponsor who provided workout plans and a very strict diet plan (not particularly tailored for me as an individual). I can still recite it to you today…that’s how dedicated I became at just 16-years-old. I didn’t know flexibility or substitution were an option. No one told me I didn’t have to follow it, or if they did, I didn’t hear it because I knew it had been provided for me in order for me to succeed. Nearing the pageant, I surpassed dedicated to the point of obsession. For example, if I ate 15 instead of my allotted 12 almonds, I would fall asleep thinking about those three almonds. I got to Miss Teen USA wanting to win. I had plans to graduate early in order to commit to being Miss Teen USA. No surprise, I didn’t win - I didn’t even place. The dream I had transformed my life for (unnecessarily because I was already a happy, healthy, physically active teenager) was no longer possible. Just like that, it was over. I had never faced a large disappointment before, I didn’t know how, so I simply didn’t. I coved up my subconscious hurt with big smiles and binge eating. A few months after the pageant, and many added pounds later (isn’t it annoying when you restrict yourself then try to go back to how you used to eat, your body no longer responds how it used to??) my mother asked me what was wrong. Sometimes those closest to us know us even better than ourselves. Teenage Sarah Rose didn’t realize she was struggling. After this realization I regained control of my eating and tried to figure out how to ‘maintain.’ 

Fast forward a few years, I always dreamt of competing at Miss USA as Miss Nebraska USA and knew that I must have a healthy relationship with food and fitness before that day came. In college, I also wanted to have a strong established group of friends prior to competing. Heck, I also wanted to be a typical college student - we all know most social gatherings are around food or drinks. I competed in Miss Nebraska USA for the first time my junior year of college. I was already teaching Lagree Fitness, a reformer pilates class, and loved taking classes at a new cycling studio in town. I did not pause my social life, nor did I change my workouts or diet until about a week prior, I also got my dress the week of the pageant (you could say I knew it was a trial run). But you know what, I felt confident in my body on that stage and was proud I did not completely restrict myself. 

Two years later, I knew I wanted to fulfill my dream to Nebraska at Miss USA. I had met the man I wanted to marry and knew I would need a full-time job soon. Therefore, I had to try to accomplish my dream while I still could. I found workouts that worked for my body (shout out to John Benton Model Fitness) that did not bulk my muscular arms or quads. I committed to these workouts before or after my Child Life Internship clinical rotations during the week. I switched up what I ate, meal prepped nutrient dense items I actually enjoyed, and wow - that is when I won! I had fun with the process and in the outcome.

It has not been not a simple journey for me. Remember, our bodies are all unique, so one black and white plan cannot work for everyone. My biggest advice for others seeking a healthier lifestyle or to ‘lose weight’ is to find what healthful foods you truly like, plan portions, and mix in some super fun workouts! Your journey will not be the same as mine, but I hope this message can be an encouragement to you that is it not easy for everyone - no matter how picture perfect bodies may appear on our Instagram explorer pages.