Mrs. USA 2011 Shannon Ford: Raising Awareness about Celiac Disease

Robb Wolf and Shannon Ford

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.

Mrs. USA 2011 Shannon Ford

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.”

Mrs. USA 2011 loves 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.

You can keep track of Shannon at her blog Contemporary Cavegirl,  website, on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

For related information you can read Sarah’s Coming Back from Celiac with a Paleo Diet and this post on Autoimmune Diseases.

Categories: Celiac and Gluten-Free, Digestion (UC, IBS, GERD, Celiac)


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. Katie says

    This is great news that someone with such a high profile is promoting real foods and a grain-free diet. The spelling in the article really needs to be corrected though: ouch!

  2. Tracy says

    I am curious about any feedback on Shakecology strawberry shake. It’s vegan however doesn’t list gluten free. My husband is on The Beach Body and wants me to join him. I have celiac disiese. Have been following a paleo diet for almost a year now. Curious.

  3. says

    You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation however I find this topic to be really one thing that I believe I’d by no means understand. It kind of feels too complex and very vast for me. I am having a look ahead on your next submit, I will try to get the dangle of it!

  4. trudy fennell says

    Hi Shannon,
    I have not heard from you and have been waiting. The Celiac conference is coming up here and I was expecting to hear from you by now. Please contact me by email or call me.


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