Feelin’ Myself

Last night, I got to show off the body I’ve worked so hard for. It meant so much for me to get to rock a swimsuit on stage. It is so important to take care of the body God gave you. By putting healthy foods in and taking the time to stay active, we can all look and feel better. We can all be more confident! Any girl can wear a swimsuit on stage and feel great; it’s all about putting good in to get good out. #APerfectFit

  

Love Thy Neighbor

Growing up, I often felt out of place in church.  I was raised in the heart of the Bible belt.  I lived in a small southern town in Georgia where there was a church on every street corner, with every denomination represented at least once – but most of them in multiples.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like the worship service itself; I have always found comfort in the Bible and a good sermon.  My issue was with the congregation.

Sitting on my pew, I saw self-righteous man after self-righteous man with head held high.  It was the kind of church where nobody admitted to sin, nobody admitted they led a less than Christian life, but everybody was ready was to point out any lapse in someone else’s lifestyle.  I took fault with that; it didn’t seem the Christian thing to do.  Kids in my youth group would belittle me because my family had missed a service and theirs had perfect attendance, but those same kids were the ones doing drugs behind the school.  Church down south was a place to act like you had your life completely together, even if yours was falling apart and you really needed people to pray for you.

When my parents gave me a choice, I stopped attending, and although I’m sure people talked badly behind my back, I did not care because I was kind to people in real life not just fake kind at the service.  In college, I gave some thought to attending a church, but I never had anyone to go with.  I’m sure that wouldn’t stop a kid who grew up going, but I was still in a place where I didn’t feel at home in front of a pastor.  Finally, Easter of my sophomore year, I attended Newspring church with a group of friends.  I fell in love with church again.

Newspring might get a bad rap for being a megachurch, but I’ve never felt like I’m just another person there.  Everyone is welcomed with open arms despite their appearance, background, race, etc.  It’s a place where sinners sit with sinners and love each other despite any differences.  When someone has a problem, be it marital issues or drug addiction, they are given council and love from their fellow man, not disdain.

He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.
John 8:7

Our church recognizes we are all sinners, and our congregation cares for each other despite that.  To me, that’s how a church should be.

I shared all of this with you to say that I feel at home in my church.  I feel safe, accepted, and loved in my church.  The shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has robbed the world of this sense of safety.  My heart is so full for that congregation, and I cannot imagine the pain and disbelief those who were there are experiencing.  They did what good Christians should.  They opened their doors to others for worship, and they did not cast anyone out because of his race or his strangeness.  They shared their safe and loving place with anyone who chose to walk through their doors, and this man took advantage of their kindness.  He robbed them, and the rest of our nation, of the sense of security we feel going to worship.

From cursory glance, this crime seems racially loaded, and it very well might be.  My prayer for this nation is that we will not continue to let the hate of some create hatred for many.  I pray America’s Christian community can come together in light of this event.  Instead of letting it push races further apart like police violence has, imagine if we could let this bring us together.  This crime might have been against a traditionally “black church” like the press keeps pointing out, but I view it as an attack against the Christian community at large.

Do not let this crime do what its agitator intended.  Do not let this crime become a battle of races where black churches hate white churches.  Let this crime unite every church against those who would tear us down.  Let it inspire us to love more deeply our neighbors, to cherish our time on this earth together, and to openly pray for each other.  We are one nation under God, and I think it’s time people start remembering that.

#PrayforCharleston

Food is NOT the Enemy

There is no diet that will do what eating healthy does.  Skip the diet.  Just eat healthy.

As we have started getting closer to Miss South Carolina, people have begun to ask me about my diet.  Diet is a huge part of cutting fat and building muscle, but some of the questions I’ve gotten have been hard not to laugh at.  Some of my favorites have included:

1.  Will you be taking water pills to ensure you lose your water weight?
No.  2/3 of my body is water because my body needs water.  I have no intentions of dehydrating myself to win a pageant.  In fact, I won’t even be turning down water on swimsuit day.  Why?  The human body (including mine) needs water.  I think this is especially true considering I plan on dancing for my talent, which tends to lead to me sweating out at least a gallon.

2.  Do you intend to start replacing meals with baby food?
No.  I have seen people do this, and I think you could do it safely if you were really careful.  However, intaking a 90 calorie can of pureed banana (containing just 1g of protein with 19g of sugar) seems like a waste of those calories to me.  I would much rather drink a protein shake or eat a piece of chicken.  Low calories, less carbs, less sugar, plus I’m full and feel like I have energy to stay active.  Also note that I got my calorie information off of My Fitness Pal, so it seems clear that plenty of people do use this method.  To each their own.

3.  So you cut out carbs, right?
No.  Carbohydrates are an essential fuel source for any high energy routine, and in case you didn’t know, I like high energy workouts.  Our body enters ketosis (burning fat as fuel) once we run out of carbohydrates.  The problem with fat as an energy source is the amount of time it takes to break it down.  I’ve tried lowering my carbohydrate intake, and it leaves me feeling sluggish and beat down.  I tend to eat high protein and low carbohydrates naturally, but I could never cut carbs out entirely.  Carbohydrates are not the enemy.

There are healthy ways to lose weight.  To some extent, I rank decreasing carb intake among them, but it’s all about balance.  No food is “evil” or a “miracle”.  It’s about balancing intake and exertion in a way that keeps you energized but doesn’t leave a ton of leftovers.

What is my diet plan for Miss South Carolina?  I can honestly say I haven’t changed my eating habits much.  I eat around every 3 hours (not only is this good for your metabolism, it’s also the only way I’m not hungry) but try to intake small portions each time.  I eat a lot of high protein foods (which goes back to decreased carbohydrates) like eggs and chicken or even protein bars.  I also try to incorporate a protein shake as a snack or sometimes even as a meal each day.  I don’t let my body get hungry, though.  The minute I get too hungry, I’m going to go running to the nearest Clemson bar for a quesadilla and french fries.

Figure out a way to incorporate healthy eating into your daily life.  Don’t jump on the latest diet trend.  I can promise its results won’t have a lasting impact on your life, and your body probably won’t feel its best.  Keep a watchful eye on eating suggestions that involve cutting water.  Although losing water weight makes the number of the scale go down, it does not decrease your fat percentage or actually make you healthier.  Find foods you love that also love your body, and exercise portion control.  I hate the American clean plate mentality, and I promise it won’t kill you to have leftovers for tomorrow.

Create a sustainable diet plan for yourself.  Incorporate foods you enjoy; eating shouldn’t become a painful chore.  Remember to limit your portion size.  Accompany your healthy eating with an active lifestyle.  Try things like biking or even walking in a local park.  30 minutes a day will change your life.  Plus, if you have a sustainable healthy life, you will be completely prepared to walk on a stage in a swimsuit and heels if the occasion ever arises.  You won’t even have to make drastic changes to get ready!

Happy eating!  #APerfectFit

Crunch Time

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17

I’m a week away from Miss South Carolina check-in, and I feel as though I was crowned Miss Greater Easley last night.  Time has certainly flown by in the most surreal manner as I’ve undergone my competition preparations.  From the perfect evening gown to just the right talent selection, it’s been a much more elaborate process than I anticipated, but I wouldn’t change anything that has happened.  I’m grateful for the doors opened to me by the crown as well as the stressors put on me through it.  I truly believe both the good and the bad of the pageant realm is preparing me to be a well-rounded adult.

Here’s my bit of advice about preparing for anything in life: you can always do more.  I don’t care how many times I practice my dance or go to the gym or watch the news; I could always have done more.  I use to be very bothered by this.  I felt like if I could do more, I should, and to some extent, I still feel that way.  I believe in giving my gifts and talents back.  I believe in using up what God gave me while I’m here.  I’ve also learned that just because you can do more doesn’t mean you should.

What I’m trying to say is, I feel completely prepared for this competition.  Yes, I could tone up a little more, or I could tap a little clearer.  The fact of the matter is, I like my body, and dancing is fun.  I don’t want to give up Zaxbys on Sunday to ensure my abs pop, and I don’t want to give up having a social life to ensure perfect tap sounds.  I wake up happy, knowing I’ve done what I can and leaving the rest up to God.  Maybe I can’t practice until I’m perfect, and I’m learning that that’s OK.  Sure, I could have done more, but I don’t think I could have done more and maintained my positive vibes.  Here’s to one more week to put in work before I get to leave it all in God’s hands!

Memorial Day 2015

We live in the land of the free because of the brave.

Is there a greater country to inspire patriotism?  America rose from oppression with the guidance of her Founding Fathers, and she embarked on a mission of democracy.  The American dream was born.  No matter where you come from, with hard work you can achieve.

Although sometimes I question how far we have come from original intent, I will always believe in America.  With the right leadership in the next election, we can get back on the original path where opportunities are equal but reward is based on effort.  We can return to a smaller federal government with more right to govern given to each state, more individual rights returned to each person.  We can respect and utilize our military once more.

Even without the recognition they deserve, over the past few years men and women have continued to make the ultimate sacrifice for this country.  Countless lives have been laid down so I can sit and have a cup of coffee while writing this blog post.  I thank each and every person who gave without question to preserve the America they believed in, and I thank the families of these individuals.  Without your loved ones’ sacrifices, we would not have our freedom.

I will pray for an America whose leader thanks the men and women in service.  In the meantime, I am grateful they continue to do such an under-appreciated job, and I’m grateful they do it so well.  God bless America, and God bless our troops.

Finding Time for Fitness

We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work
-Thomas A. Edison

Whenever I tell people how I strive to lead a healthy lifestyle, one of the most common questions is, “How do you have the time?”  I totally get that.  It’s a lot easier to go through a drive through after a long day instead of prepare a meal, and the drive through comes with the added benefit of disposability whereas the kitchen requires clean-up.  After a day of hard work, it’s a lot easier to flop on the couch instead of continue being productive by making the trek to the gym.  We can justify being lazy after a long day because we all deserve a break, right?

Trust me, I understand the feeling of wanting a break.  Between my employment as a college student and my “big girl” job, I often want nothing more than to curl up and watch my latest favorite TV show in binge-like fashion.  Add on the stress of competing in the Miss South Carolina system (think paper work deadlines, appearances, and people needing you often) and mentally I tend to be done toward the end of the day.

I’ve learned there are ways to combat being lazy.  If you don’t set yourself up for success, you will settle into a habit of failure.  That’s why I want to share some of the ways I handle stress and time commitments in conjuncture with my lifestyle choices.

There was a time in my life when I would wake up at 5:00am to go to the gym.  When I was in high school, that worked for me.  When I got to college, it didn’t.  I had to stay up a lot later to complete assignments and have a social life, so getting up early was no longer an option.  My workout habits suddenly shifted later in the day, but I found that the further I pushed working out back in my schedule, the less likely it was to happen.  Sure, I’d have every intention of going to the gym at 11:00pm, until a friend called or I got settled down in my apartment.

What works best for me is to keep my gym bag in my car.  If I have to go back to my apartment after work/class, there’s a good chance I’ll end up deciding to skip the day’s workout.  If I go straight from one to the other, I give my lazy half no time to convince my better half that the day’s workout is unnecessary.  Find a plan that works for you, but I highly recommend not taking a break in between the grind of your regular day and the grind of your fitness plans.  Lump them all together, then reward yourself with relaxation when all the work is done!

As far as sustainable healthy eating, it all comes down to meal prep.  I use to hate the idea of meal prep.  It’s intimidating to prepare food for a whole week all at once, but once you start, I can almost guarantee you will love it.  For me, the key has been to prepare only a few things, but to make sure those things can be used in many ways.  My favorite staple is chicken.  At the start of every week, I throw some chicken into the crock pot with a little chicken broth, salt, pepper, and maybe some of whatever seasoning is in the cabinet.  I take it out, shred it, and store it in the fridge.  I can now eat it plain, throw it in a salad, or make a sandwich.  There’s no end to what I can put something so simple in, but it eliminates a huge part of the preparation since the time-consuming cooking part is done!

Another key point when it comes to eating healthy is staying full.  I know we all try to cut down on portion size, and I think some aspects of that are great!  The serving at the average American restaurant contains enough calories for the whole day, not just one meal.  I like the idea of smaller portions, but I also encourage multiple meals each day.  I try to eat every 3 to 4 hours.  I might have eggs and toast for breakfast, then I’ll have a banana at 10, then chicken for lunch, then a protein shake around 3, etc.  If you eat all day, you boost your metabolism.  You also have the benefit of not getting hungry.

When I neglect a snack or meal, I don’t just get hungry; I get mean.  My dad is the same way, and I guess we are just really sensitive to our blood sugar.  I also reach a point of hunger where I am going to gorge myself the minute opportunity presents itself, and in that state, I’m probably not going to select the most healthy option.  In fact, I’m probably looking for something deep fried and served in massive portions.  I’m probably going to Zaxbys.  Don’t let yourself get to that point!

Another note, I eat Zaxbys almost every Sunday.  I find that it’s much easier to eat healthy most of the time if I know I’m going to treat myself some of the time.  Some people have a more “cold turkey” approach to bad food and believe in cutting it out entirely.  This approach would never work for me.  I would be miserable.  A little fried chicken each Sunday hasn’t killed me yet, and if it does, well, I had to go somehow.

I hope these little tips and tricks from my life can help you say no to your lazy half at the end of each long day.  If eating well and being more active is a new change for you, I want to say first that I applaud your efforts, and you have made a great decision.  Second, this is going to be hard at first, but it does get easier.  Your energy level will increase.  Your happiness will increase.  It doesn’t happen all at once, but it will change your life for the better.

Please send me your healthy lifestyle questions!  Tag your fitness efforts and link them to my platform with: #APerfectFit

My Miss South Carolina Headshot

Headshot

I would like to thank AJ Day and Kristen White for sharing their talent with me.  I would like to thank my parents for footing the bill and continuously supporting my journey.  I would like to thank God for this and so many other opportunities that have come my way as Miss Greater Easley.  Last but never least, I would like to thank every friend who has taken the time to support me through this incredible experience.

Time Flies (Even when you aren’t having fun…)

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.
-Winnie the Pooh

I know it’s a cliche, but it really does seem like just yesterday my parents were helping me move into my freshmen dorm at Clemson.  Everyone told me to enjoy my days in college, but at the time, 4 years seemed so long.  Here we are at senior year.  With graduate school applications staring me down, the thing I’ve feared since the day I got here is starting to seem like a reality: I will actually have to leave Clemson.

I’ve considered every possible alternative.  I could change my career plans and obtain a Masters degree in something Clemson offers, thus securing my stay for 3 or more years.  I could apply for student loans and take 12 hours of leisure skills for 2 semesters, thus securing one more precious year.  I could take a year off before grad school and work in Clemson.  Or a few years off.  It’s true that there is something in these hills, and I will absolutely hate leaving.

Unfortunately, I’m set on occupational therapy, which means I have to leave my beloved Tiger Town behind.  That being said, I am determined to make the most of the one year I have left.  I don’t know how it can outshine the others, but somehow it just will.  I refuse to let life get in the way of me making memories.

The most important thing I’ve learned in college is that life is incredibly unpredictable.  It can change in an instant; it can even end in an instant.  That’s why every instant is so important, each second more precious than the one before.  That’s why you have to make sure you prioritize and put the important things first.

There’s so much pressure to perform well in college.  Your GPA is important; your job is important; your participation in clubs is important.  College students are constantly bombarded with, “This will look good on your resume,” and we start to forget that life is more than what you can list on a piece of paper and hand over at an interview.  Don’t get me wrong, you are here to learn.  Having a good GPA and resume will open doors.  Just don’t let it be at the expense of your happiness.

I recently re-prioritized in my life.  I try to put God first.  Second, I think about the people I care about.  Third, I put school and my job.  The list goes on, but just realize that what you prioritize will completely change how you live each day of your life.

Another piece of advice is to be present.  I think a curse of social media and the age of technology is how scattered it can make our thoughts.  I might be talking to a friend at lunch, but her mind might be more on the text conversation she’s having with someone else.  She might be more engaged in Facebook posts or CandyCrush or any other number of electronic distractions.  Sometimes, you just need to put your phone on “do not disturb” and really be with the people next to you.  It all goes back to how important each moment is.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was in high school from a friend’s mom.  Her daughter and I were baking cookies in the kitchen, upset about some drama or another, and as she walked by all she said was, “Every day is a good day; some days are just better than others.”  It’s stuck with me, and whenever something upsets me, that’s what I tell myself.  That’s why my last piece of advice is to persist.

Life is full of ups and downs, and, as this title reads, time will fly even when you aren’t having fun.  Don’t give up on yourself and don’t give up on the people you care about.  Appreciate the little things as much as the big ones.  Make choices that keep your heart full, actively participate in life instead of watching it through a screen, and never give up on the things you believe in.

Here’s to growing up and trying to love every minute of it!

Big/Little Reveal
A special shout-out to my big sister, Ashley.  I’m so proud of you for graduating, and I don’t know what these past few years would have been like without you.  Thanks for believing in me!