Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BarreAmped

For the past few months I've been making an effort to be healthyish by actually spending time being physically active.
I hate sweating. I hate working out. I hate gyms.
Hating these three things can make fitness a challenge. 
The result is that I most enjoy group fitness classes as the lesser of the fitness evils.
In Vermont, that meant Pilates and Bikram Yoga with the occasional Spin Class thrown in. 
Here in Little Rock, there are no Bikram studios, there are no dedicated Pilates studios (well, there's one, but they don't have Mat Pilates), and when I went hunting for Spin options I only found one place that sounded promising.
Luckily, that place was ZenStudio
They offer all kinds of group fitness classes, including the best Mat Pilates class I've found in a long time (with Kerri on Saturdays at 8:30AM. Get up and come, it's worth it.) and a cool Barre style class that I've been very into called BarreAmped
I like it because unlike other Barre classes, it's less dancey and more Pilates based...and it is a KILLER workout. 
Since I'm pretty inflexible, I have scoliosis, and I've been lazy about fitness for the past three years or so, BarreAmped classes are a challenge for me, but they're a challenge for everyone in the class no matter their level of fitness. Even the instructors admit to shaking and pushing through it because the maneuvers the technique employs are designed to use your body weight to exhaust your muscles. It's hard, man.
I've been doing my best to make it to at least 2-3 Barre classes a week, but since typically the only classes that fit in my schedule are at 5:30 AM it can sometimes be hard. It's always worth it afterwards because I feel so accomplished that I've survived another hour of stretching and shaking - plus I can practically do a plank again! 
If you're in Little Rock, I highly encourage you to hit up ZenStudio for some fitness action. They're great, the instructors know what they're doing, and the locations are convenient. Plus, they even gave me a present for my birthday! That definitely made showing up for class at 5:30 in the morning worthwhile 
If you're not in Little Rock, see if there's a BarreAmped class near you and give it a shot. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Our Wedding Readings

We had two readings as part of our marriage ceremony. One presented a biblical perspective on loyalty and marriage, the other a secular perspective. Both were read by people very near and dear to us. 

My godfather, Bryant, is a former theatre professor and he read one of my favorite Bible verses:
"Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Ruth 1:16  
I love this verse because the Book of Ruth is so focused on loyalty and friendship between women (I told my mothers-in-law they have nothing to worry about!) and this verse in particular is so relevant and important to our relationship, since so much of it has centered around choosing to be together in spite of missing our homes and families.  


Our second reading was secular and much longer, but very important to both of us. Dillon and I are both passionate about marriage equality and we couldn't let our wedding day go by without acknowledging it. My dear friend, Abby, read from "Goodridge vs. The Department of Health" the Massachusetts Supreme Count decision that legalized marriage equality in that state. The formality and "legalese" of the reading made a few of us chuckle in the moment, but I was so glad we included it. I just love the message it has about marriage from a secular perspective on top of the symbolism of the important decision it came from. 

FROM GOODRIDGE V DEPT OF HEALTH (Mass. 2003):
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.” It is central to the way the Commonwealth identifies individuals, provides for the orderly distribution of property, ensures that children and adults are cared for and supported whenever possible from private rather than public funds, and tracks important epidemiological and demographic data….Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition….It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a “civil right.”


 


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Getting Married Young

Five things about being married before you hit 25:

1. Your unmarried friends will think it's kind of weird you're MARRIED, and then they'll realize it's pretty much the same as when you guys were dating, but now you wear rings...and they'll think that's weird. 
Heck, it weirds me out when I see a ring on his finger, but he can't NOT wear one because then he looks super sketchy.

2. Your friends will all be using Tinder and you will have no idea what that is because you're married. 
And you shall feel like the grandma your mother fears becoming. 

3. You'll suddenly realize that it's kind of hard to hang out with a bunch of single people.
Where are all of our couple friends and why aren't we double dating with them???

4. Your parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends will be simultaneously hopeful you'll suddenly decide to have kids and terrified you'll suddenly decide to have kids. 
"I'm too young to be a grandma!" is a frequent comment that comes right after admiring a stranger's baby.

5. Be prepared for the weird comments from older people that imply getting married is the pinnacle of your accomplishments.
Wait....is this 1956?

One thing that really struck me when we got engaged was that while there are innumerable wedding resources to be found online, there were very few blogs that spoke to people getting married before they were 25 and the blogs I could find by people in that situation inevitably focused on the fact that the couple in question was getting married for religious reasons. Which is totally wonderful, but Dillon and I weren't getting married after a Duggar-style courtship, or because we think marriage is a necessary sacrament, or even because we wanted to create a family. 

We got married because we're a life team and we wanted in in writing. Oh, and love and stuff. 

That said, we were married in a religious ceremony with religious traditions and Biblical readings but our faith wasn't the only reason we got married. 

For us being married at 23 has produced security and weirdly awkward situations and it's been pretty cool so far. Let's see how the next nine months go...

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pageant Weekend as a Former...er, "Forever"

On June 5th, 2010 my life changed forever the moment I was announced as the new Miss Vermont.

It sounds like a cliche - "It was just LIFE CHANGING."

But seriously, it was. 

It wasn't the instant fame (LOLZ) or the new life of glitz and glam (I was Miss Vermont... I had to wear mud boots to a lot of appearances) it was the year of transformative experiences that began on that night.

When you're Miss State, you're afforded opportunities to speak, perform, travel, and to spend every single day representing what you're most passionate about. It's pretty incredible. In what other circumstance does a young woman between 17 and 25 get to do that?

It is hard to articulate just how important being Miss Vermont was in making me the person I am today because it's so all encompassing. 

Because I was Miss Vermont 2010, I wake up next to my husband every day.
Because I was Miss Vermont 2010, I know how to do superfast hair and makeup every day.
Because I was Miss Vermont 2010, I understand how to give a presentation of any length on absolutely any topic at a moment's notice.
And on and on. 

Being Miss Vermont won't be the pinnacle of my existence on this planet, but it will always be an extremely important part of who I am and what I can do. 

This weekend is Miss Vermont Pageant Weekend in the Green Mountain State, and the girls are competing on the same exact stage at the Barre Opera House where my life changed four years ago. 
I am excited to see who will join our sisterhood and beyond sad I won't be there in person, but mostly I am filled with gratitude that I had the gift of being a forever Miss Vermont. 




P.S.
Happy National Pageant Day!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pageants and Body Image and Real Life

Over the past few months, former titleholders, Miss Americas and Miss States, have been speaking out about body image in their post-pageant lives.
It is awesome.
If you're not already familiar with these posts, you can check them out here and here. Other formers I know and love have been speaking out too, but their posts aren't publicly linkable.

 When it comes to the whole pageant thing, the one piece I've always had a bit of an issue with has been the swimsuit competition. I respect that it's a part of Miss America's history, I appreciate that titleholders need to be physically fit, and I love that it motivated me to become healthier. 

But that's just it - when I was competing, I worked really hard to make sure that I wasn't changing the way I was eating or working out just because of how I wanted to look in a bikini on stage. What motivated me to go to the gym or to make healthy choices was the idea that Miss Vermont is a role model of a healthy lifestyle. I made healthy food choices (lean meats, lots of greens, little to no sugar), I worked out regularly three to five days a week, and I drank lots of water.

While that's an idea everyone in pageantland is in favor of, there's a lot of disagreement about what a "healthy lifestyle" looks like and how you need to look on stage in that bathing suit to have a shot at being a titleholder.
Almost without exception, the way to get to how you need to look involves working out for hours every day and limiting your food intake before and during competition. While I don't want to disparage women who made the choice to do those things, those were not healthy choices for me. I flat out refused to do them and it made people mad.
(Much to the endless credit of my fitness trainers, they accepted my approach.)

I took a lot of flack and pressure about how my body should look during my year as Miss Vermont. From online message board posters, volunteers, and board members, the message was the same - 
"Miss Vermont is fat!"
 "Caroline, if you'd just tone up a bit more you'd really have a chance at Miss America."
"Vermont looks so heavy."

Guys, the whole time I was a size 2/4.
Not even a *gasp* size 6 or 8 as people online speculated. 
I was a size FOUR. Size four is not fat.

(Heck, I know women who wear a size 12 who aren't "fat", but that's another conversation)

There was a (brief) period during the lead up to Miss America where I listened to what people were saying and I changed the way I was eating so that I could look a certain way on stage. But then a day came when a mother of a little girl asked me what I was doing to get ready for swimsuit... and I couldn't bring myself to tell her (in front of her elementary school aged daughter) that I was substituting meal shakes for regular balanced meals. 
I realized that I wasn't being true to myself and what I believed in, so I decided to stop listening to the criticism and to return to making healthy choices. I even wrote about it in what would become a very controversial blog post. 

At Miss America I was easily one of the "heaviest" girls there, and believe me, people talked about it. They posted online about how "HUGE" Vermont looked and about how sad it was that Vermont just couldn't get it together to prepare for Miss America correctly.
Luckily, during Miss America I was able to block it all out and really did have a wonderful time. While in Vegas I barely thought about the swimsuit competition and when I did I just thought "Whatever. It is what it is, so I'm going to do it my way and be myself." It was awesome.
But later, it hurt. I felt self conscious about it. I was healthy and strong, but I had trouble feeling good about that because of how cruel and judgmental people online (and sometimes in real life) were about how my body looked in a bikini. To this day, I feel weird about my Miss America swimsuit pictures. My boyfriend (now husband) thought they looked great  but I didn't feel like I looked great because compared to the women around me, I looked short and dumpy and pale. Sure, getting ready for swimsuit had made me fitter, it had made me stronger, and it had helped me embrace my body... but it still left me very confused about my own body image.

After Miss America was over, my appearance schedule picked up and the obvious pressure of wearing a bikini on stage was gone (I would never have to do it again!) I relaxed my workout schedule.
After I was done being Miss Vermont, the pressure of being a role model with a crown on was alleviated, so I gleefully rebelled against the expectations of pageantland and worked out less...or not at all.
After finishing college I immediately ran for office, an endeavor that leads to weight gain for pretty much everyone who does it - all of those community chicken dinners you have to eat are not low calorie.
Eventually I weighed 25 pounds more than I had at Miss America... and it bothered me that I didn't look my best... but it bothered me more that I thought I had to be 25lbs lighter to "look my best".

I had to force myself to remember that just as being a size 4 is not shameful, neither is being a size 6/8.

I was talking about this with a non pageant friend of mine during the campaign at one point, and she made an interesting comment. She pointed out to me that there were probably a lot of people who found me more relateable and appealing at my heavier (and still healthy) weight.

Then I was getting ready for my wedding and I thought about losing weight so I could be thinner in the photos. Then I realized that was the only reason I wanted to lose weight, and that wasn't good enough for me, so I kept doing what I was doing and could not have cared less about a number on a scale on my wedding day.
(Actually, it turned out to be a very good thing I hadn't lost weight. Two days before the wedding I fell down a set of stairs and was later told by a medical professional that if I'd weighed any less that fall probably would have broken my tailbone and I likely wouldn't have been able to walk down the aisle. Vindication!)

Over the years of being a "former", it's become more and more clear to me that once you're a role model, you're always and forever a role model. You may be a former Miss Vermont, but you're never a former role model. Weight is not what makes someone a role model, character is.

That said, here's where I am in my personal journey now:
I'm going to fitness classes (BarreAmped, Spin, Pilates) 4-6 days a week as of three weeks ago because I want to be more physically fit than I am - I miss being able to do push-ups!
I'm 23, and I feel like I should be healthy and fit enough to run a whole 5k if I want to. I don't want to, but I want to be able to if the need arises.
Even though I hate exercising I can't deny the endorphins that come with it, and recent studies have shown being physically active improves your brain function later in life. I like my brain. I want to keep using it for a long time.
So I'm sweating way more often than I enjoy because I want to be healthy as I get older... but I wouldn't hate fitting more comfortably in my clothes too. If that happens, awesome. If not, I'll live.
I'm trying hard not to make this working out thing about losing weight that I don't need to be ashamed of.
I struggle every single day with my feelings about my body and my weight. Even though I worked very hard to not let the pressures of pageantry mess up my body image, it still got messed up.
Every day I feel like people are silently judging me when they find out I was a Miss America contestant and then they see that I am clearly not in the same shape today.
I know that whenever I'm around pageant people they're silently judging me for my weight gain - they're probably the same people who judged me for being so shamefully "fat" during my year of service.
Those people are wrong. They have always been wrong. If weight is what they chose to judge me on, then they aren't people I would like anyway. 
I'm doing my best to sort it out now, because I really hope to have a daughter some day... and she'll be the most important person I can ever model healthy body image for.

But for now, pageant people, stop being jerks. Stop putting pressure on young women that drives them to make unhealthy choices and to have unrealistic expectations for themselves.
Pageant contestants, make choices that are the healthiest for you and try to keep it all in perspective.
Fellow formers, we're all in this together. I feel you girls.
Most of all, let's stop shaming and judging each other as much as possible. I've done it, we've all done it... let's try not to.
Ok?