Veganism Through the Eyes of an Omnivore

***Disclaimer - I am not a registered dietitian or health care professional. This blog post is my opinion based on my personal experiences. Always consults a doctor or dietitian before making drastic changes to your lifestyle or diet.*** As some of you may know, on March 8th I decided to try going vegan. I want to first start off by saying I am not still vegan. I lasted about a week, and boy, was it hard work! The first day I was eating dinner with the judges at Miss Meridian, and I realized I couldn't have the bread because it had milk, butter, and eggs, and then when I went for the ranch dip for my vegetables I realized it contained some kind of milk product. There are animal products in so many food items and we never stop to think about it. The breaking point for me was heading to the Portland Roaster Show. If you think being vegan is hard at home, it is 10X harder when you're on the road. When someone says we are having hotdogs for lunch and they ask you what you want on yours, your answer should be, "Ketchup please!", especially when you are trying to please sponsors! I'm not saying it cannot be done. I'm just saying it's definitely not easy and I have a new respect for people who have any type of restrictive diet. Monitoring food is a 24/7 job. My trip to Portland was one I will never forget, and I do not regret eating meat on my trip. Here is some insight on why I wanted to try a vegan lifestyle in the first place. Like most people in Idaho, I grew up in a family that hunts and eats meat everyday. My diet up to this point in my life has always included animal products; even more so when I was preparing for pageants (1/2 of my diet was chicken!) I care about nutrition, and I couldn't help but see the pattern of recommendations to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and raw foods. Apparently consuming too many meat and dairy products can promote inflammation. Let me explain this in a little more detail...this might be valuable information! You know the Omega 6's and Omega 3's you always hear about? The approximate healthy ratio in our diet should be 4:1, but the average American's ratio is around 16:1. Omega 6's promote blood clotting and inflammation, and Omega 3's are anti-inflammatory. Both of these functions are necessary for your survival, but you can see how cardiovascular, autoimmune, and inflammatory diseases can arise from such a skewed ratio of the two. Some Omega 6 rich foods are corn-fed meat sources, corn oil, most vegetable oils. Omega 3 rich foods include seafood, almonds, edamame, wild rice, pasture-raised animal products, flax seeds, beans and walnuts. (Many foods, like nuts and oils, have both.) You can see why I was interested in the health benefits of a vegan diet! Not only did I want to live healthier, I wanted to understand what it meant to live a different lifestyle. I teach nutrition courses and talk to hundreds of people about the importance of what you eat; how can I preach to vegetarians or vegans if I have never experienced it for myself? For now, I will introduce animal products back into my diet with the goal of minimizing them to 1-2 per day total. I plan to encourage a "vegetarian" night for my family once a week. I think its fun to get creative with recipes, plus I LOVE beans and whole grains. I've tried couscous, quinoa, and lentils and they are amazing! Look for more "food talk" on the Miss Idaho Facebook page!

Locals Season

It's that time of year...time to round out the Miss Idaho Class of 2014! In case you're wondering, here are our titleholders so far:

1. Kim Ford - Miss Gem County
2. Paige Jensen - Miss Western Idaho 
3. Laura Haun - Miss Three Rivers 
4. Cynthia Huntsman - Miss Idaho Falls
 5. Kayla Jepson - Miss Southeastern Idaho 
6. Sierra Sandison - Miss Magic Valley 
7. Emma Humphires - Miss Canyon Rim 
8. Megan Wilson - Miss Canyon County 
9. Katelyn Strobel - Miss Pocatello 
10. Kalie Wright - Miss Gate City 
11. Carolyn Pace - Miss Boise 
12. Kristen Tatilian - Miss Capitol City 
13. Morgan Hill - Miss Tri-Counties 
14. Emily Hosman - Miss Nampa

Titles Still to Come: 
1. Miss Meridian 
2. Miss Treasure Valley
 3. Miss Syringa 
4. Miss Rexberg 
5. Miss Upper Valley 
6. Miss Riverview
*If you're interested in competing email*

We only have three local pageants left, and I cannot wait to see what ladies will be competing at Miss Idaho this year. Being able to spend time with the contestants at local pageants as Miss Idaho instead of a fellow competitor has been amazing. I get to relax and get everyone pumped up for each area of competition. One of my favorite parts is helping run the show from backstage...there's just a special feeling you get when you see everything come together as each girl goes from being nervous and shaky to rocking their area of competition. There is no doubt that the Miss America Organization is a launching pad for women's confidence!

Outside of local pageants, I have been busy with appearances. Now that the weather is warming up, I will have the chance to visit farmers' markets around the state and help get people starting on their personal gardens, including my own! The 11-week St. Luke's YEAH (Youth Engaged in Activities for Health) Program is only a few weeks from ending, and I have just started the 6-week Cooking Matters Program with the Idaho Food Bank. I will also be speaking to a class at Boise State on Nutrition, participating in the Speed to Feed Idaho 5K, continuing my nutrition series with the YMCA, starting a 30 day hot yoga challenge, getting some amazing photos taken, making school visits, touring the State Capitol, judging National History Day, attending the Miss New Hampshire pageant, visiting Philadelphia, and much more! Although my year is on the downhill slope, I can go full throttle until the very last day! If any of you have suggestions for appearances or you would like me to speak at your event, please contact me by emailing!

Life Lessons from the Crown 158

158. That is the number of days as of tomorrow until I pass my crown on. I know time flies when your having fun, but time goes Mach 5 when you're a titleholder. Since my year is more than halfway over, I've had time to think about what I've learned so far. I thought it would be appropriate to share these lessons as I begin to push my reign into high gear! I'm jumping back on my Miss America workout and eating plan, recruiting local contestants, and making some big plans for the end of the year! So, here are a few things being Miss Idaho has taught me.

1. Nothing is ever accomplished by just one person. Having my friends and family surrounding me has been invaluable, and the generosity of our sponsors has been amazing. Whenever anyone congratulates me on my accomplishments, I thank them right back for being part of the team that helped me get there.

2. You can never please everyone. There will always be that one person who just doesn't like you. The best thing you can do is love yourself and love that person anyway.

3. Always try to get to know someone. As a titleholder, you meet every kind of person. Children, homeless people, wealthy business people, Asians, nursing home residents, Africans, veterans, Americans, Jews, parents, Muslims, Christians, people with mental disabilities, people struggling with eating disorders, models, musicians, artists...I think you get the picture. EVERYONE. Listening to someone's story will always teach you something new, and it helps to give a new outlook on the world. It seems to hold true that the people who think that they don't make an impact actually make the biggest one in my heart.

4. "Titleholder" is synonymous with "Role Model". I used to say that the job of a titleholder is to be a spokesperson, which is true. But the most important job, above being a talented performer or being an advocate for your platform, is being a role model. Working to be your best, accepting others, and always staying positive in your endeavors creates a far-reaching impact that many titleholders never know about. Never forget that.

5. There is no definition of what "Miss America" should be. Every young woman in America should know that she can grow up to be Miss America. I am so proud of my Miss America class for breaking false stereotypes. Miss America can have tattoos, dark skin, blonde short hair, Asian heritage, one arm, Autism, or any mix of those traits and many other traits. Each contestant is very different, but that is the beauty of the organization.

6. Always make yourself available to help. This one seems like a no-brainer, but it is easy to get wrapped up on your own life instead of seeing how you can help others. I am grateful for those people who have given me their help expecting nothing in return. I hope to be that kind of person.

7. Say what's on your mind. If you really like someone, you should tell them; you never know if you will see them again. Send a thank you to someone who went out of their way to do something nice for you; it might just make their day. When your exhausted and your feet hurt, say so; people like to see a real, down to earth person underneath all the makeup and bling.

Miss Idaho in Orlando || Part One

Hello Orlando! We are now halfway through our week to watch Abby compete at Miss America's Outstanding Teen and to meet all the Miss America contestants at Orientation. Here is a rundown of events that have happened so far...

Monday: Travel day! I managed to pack all of my clothes into one suitcase with my purse and crown box as my carry on items. Tami and Jaylee were great to travel with; they had all of the rentals and tickets in line and ready to go so there wasn't much for me to worry about. I even slept the entire way! We reached our destination and got to bed by about 2:30am.

Tuesday: After sleeping in Tuesday morning, we went to the grocery store to get food supplies. (We have access to a working kitchen because we are staying in an apartment-style condo.) I forgot to alert my bank that I was traveling, so I had to have a hold removed on my card. I'll be sure to not forget that the next time!! The rest of the day was spent getting settled in, taking naps, browsing Miss America wardrobe options, cooking chicken, and watching Abby compete in fitness at the first night of prelims. I was able to meet other Miss America contestants for the first time, and they are all SO sweet! Being able to talk with them really put me at ease for the upcoming events this week. Having Mallory Hagan and Laura Kaeppeler in the same room was the cherry on top!

Wednesday: I had my appointment with Regalia to search for an evening gown. Not only did I find an evening gown, but I got my talent outfit at the same time! Tami was so relieved to have those items checked off our list. Carry and David, the owners of Regalia, were phenomenal. I have to say that this was one of the highlights of my week. We shopped at the trade show afterwards, and then went back to the apartment to get ready for night two of preliminaries. Abby's talent was the best I've ever seen it, and all of the Miss contestants were seriously amazed by her...I'm SO PROUD!!

Overall, this week has been a lot less stressful and scary than I thought it would be. I'm so excited for the next half of the trip, and I want to thank everyone who has helped me by letting me borrow clothes, by donating to CMN (I reached my goal today!), and by sending me best wishes. I can't believe how fast time flies!

Miss Idaho 2013 || Week Three

It is now officially less than one month until I leave for Miss America! My time has been spent making appearances, preparing my interview, talent, and walking, and shopping! I feel so lucky to have the help of so many people. The saying "It takes a village to raise a child" is true, only it makes more sense for me as "It takes a community to prepare a contestant for Miss America." Thank you to all of the sponsors and individuals who have already done so much for me!

A belated congratulations is in order for our new titleholders! Miss Idaho Falls Cynthia Huntsman, Miss Southeastern Idaho Kayla Jepson, Miss Idaho Falls' Outstanding Teen Jackie Andreason, Miss Southeastern Idaho's Outstanding Teen Heidi Schwicht, and Miss Snake River Valley's Outstanding Teen Marissa McKinney. They put on a lovely show and it was definitely worth the drive.

I love attending local pageants and I LOVE appearances! I got to help with the Gem/Boise County 4-H Fashion Show with Miss Gem County Kim Ford, was a taste judge for two Cooking Matters classes through the Idaho Food Bank, attended a Rotary meeting in Emmett, was a video narrator for a grant application for community health equipment, and helped out at the Nampa Farmers Market with the University of Idaho extension program; we made seed bombs with the kids! Keeping up with a blog and social media is harder than I thought it would be, but I'm getting the hang of it. Be sure to "like" the Miss Idaho Organization Facebook page for all of the updates, including the Miss America Judges! This year there will be a separate panel for preliminary competition and finals night. CRAZY! Well, I'm off to a mock interview. 

Until next time...
Sarah Downs
Miss Idaho 2013