Shannon Ford, Mrs. USA 2011 is on a mission. That mission is simply to become healthy. After a 2009 diagnosis of Celiac disease, Shannon first went gluten-free, and then grain-free and has recently embraced a Paleo diet. And this year, as part of her responsibilities as Mrs. USA 2011, she is taking advantage of every opportunity to build awareness not only about Celiac, but positive steps to treat it.
Robb says, “I think it’s great that Shannon is using her platform as Mrs. USA to educate folks about Celiac and the benefits of a Paleo diet. I’d love to have a 1000 more high-profile people who were willing to do the same.”
Shannon recently spoke at Paleo FX in Austin, Texas where she of her discussed her path to a healthier way of living and eating.
According to Shannon, “I was always health conscious. I never ate a lot of bread, pasta, cake, cookies.” And from her days as a Miami Dolphin Cheerleader to a more recent interest in running and CrossFit, Shannon has focused on fitness and staying in shape.
“In 2007, I started running and did a half marathon. After that, I decided to take a chance and enter the lottery for the NYC marathon. In spite of the odds (about 8%) I got in.”
During that same period of time, Shannon began to take a closer look at the food she was putting into her body. “At the time, I was still eating a lot of Healthy Choice processed meals.” But after reading Jillian Michaels book Master Your Metabolism, Shannon started making changes. “Reading Jillian’s book led me to taking processed foods out of my diet. It sparked my journey.”
In 2009 Shannon was watching an interview with Elisabeth Hasselback who was promoting a new book on gluten-free diets. Shannon said, “I had some exposure to gluten-free foods in the grocery store, but I had never heard of Celiac.” But the more Elisabeth talked, the more the light bulbs started to go off. “Elisabeth talked about how she looked pregnant every time she ate gluten, and I had exactly that same issue although I didn’t realize it was specific to gluten. My husband and I used to joke about my “baby pasta”, my “baby nachos”, or my “baby whatever I had just eaten” due to the bloating.”
After listening to that interview, Shannon decided to see if she might have Celiac disease. Unfortunately, getting her Dr. to buy in and give her a test wasn’t that easy. “My gastroenterologist thought that I was crazy when I suggested that I might have Celiac.” He would not run the test. “It was only after consulting a fourth doctor that I finally was given the test to determine if I had Celiac. It came back positive.”
Shannon’s first step was to go gluten-free, and the benefits were immediate.
“I got better going gluten-free. But I got well going grain-free.”
And along the way she found her way to Robb’s book, The Paleo Solution. “For me Paleo represented the next step in a process of learning about how to eat and live a healthier life.” And living and eating well have paid off for Shannon, as she was crowned Mrs. USA 2011. And thankfully Shannon is using her celebrity status to raise awareness about Celiac and her diet.
For the remainder of this year, Shannon will travel around the country “bringing attention to Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and healthy living in general. I am finding that the message of eating whole foods and living a healthy life resonates very well with most people.”
Even though she has been eating Paleo for some time, Shannon is continuing to learn. In fact, she just took on a Paleo Whole 30 challenge. “I did see a lot of benefits, but what it really showed me was how non-compliant I was. It turns out I am extremely intolerant of corn, and a handful of tortilla chips as a “cheat” put me in bed for 8 hours.”
And when I asked her about fat in her diet, she said “I am definitely getting comfortable with more healthy fats in my diet. I love bacon.”
After she gives up her crown in July of this year (on her 36th birthday), Shannon has plans to stay in the public eye. For one thing she is already working as a host of a news program at CBS Miami, and she will continue to spread the gluten-free message as a columnist for Delight Gluten Free Magazine.