A Pageant Dropout’s Guide to Love

I’m a Pageant Dropout.

By that, I mean – I competed in an international beauty pageant, and it was a disaster. It felt like the end of the world…but it wasn’t. My mistakes taught me a lot about love. So here’s what I learned the hard way, in the hopes that you don’t have to.

Like any doomed love affair, this one started with the best intentions.

On paper, it looked like just another casting call. I showed up at the gate, expecting to enter a studio and read a few lines. Instead, a maid buzzed me into a fancy mansion. It was filled with fine china, gilded chairs, and giant antique lamps that probably cost more than my college tuition. Before I knew it, I was sitting in front of a glamorous woman. She looked beautiful, rich. Famous. I wanted to know everything about her.

Instead, she wanted to know all about me.

I stumbled through the conversation, heart pounding like a middle school crush.

“You’re so interesting!” the woman said. “I’d love to have you.”

My heart glowed. Never mind that she was putting me in a beauty pageant I knew nothing about…there was an Emmy award on the desk behind her. This must be it.

I had never really liked pageants. In fact, I remember loathing them on a deep level for…pretty much my whole life. But this might be my only chance at a happy ending. Who was I to refuse?

There would be dozens of graceful bikini models competing for the crown. I was a nerdy, awkward comedian from Alaska. I was not pageant material, by any means. The odds were against me. But I would do anything to make the judges love me most.

I spent the next few months changing everything about myself. I changed what I ate, how I dressed, how I did my hair and makeup. I altered the way I spoke, moved, and laughed. I practically killed myself at the gym for 3+ hours a day, and consumed no more than a thousand calories daily. I became unrecognizable.

What Losing 14 Pounds In 8 Weeks Taught Me About Self-Love

I didn’t have a problem with food, I had a problem with myself.

A few months ago I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw.

I tugged and pulled at my skin. I found new stretch marks emerging in new places. I cried a lot and more than anything because I started hating myself. I started hating my body, hating who I became, hating everything in my life. I became miserable and I let it completely consume and destroy me.

I had gained 14 pounds in under a year. In that year I stopped exercising and I stopped caring about what I was eating, and that lead me to stop caring about most things in general.

I became the unhappiest I’ve ever been and I knew I couldn’t keep living like this. I decided it was time to drastically change my life.

It became an obsession.

I signed up for an eight-week challenge and I started spending an hour and a half to two hours in the gym each day. I started turning down foods and going to eat with my friends.

I started getting excited every time I saw the number on the scale drop and I started standing on that scale several times each day. It became an obsession. In eight weeks I lost all the weight I gained and was back down to where I usually was.

Then I quit.

I wasn’t me.

I quit because I still wasn’t happy. I was saying no to things I wanted to say yes to. I was cranky and miserable. I didn’t go out with my friends, I’d turn down going to eat because I didn’t want to be faced with temptations.

I started weighing my chicken and drinking protein shakes religiously.  I started counting calories like it was no one’s business.

I wasn’t me.

I wasn’t happy, even when those 14 pounds were gone.

I went from one extreme to the other. I went from eating everything to eating restrictively. I went from miserable to a new form of miserable.

And that’s when it hit me. I spent all that time hating myself and for what?

Losing those 14 pounds didn’t make me happier.

Sure, I felt good every time I stepped on the scale, but I felt bad every time I mentally fought with myself over what to eat for dinner because nothing sounded good.

It felt good when I saw my rolls shrink, but it didn’t feel good when all my friends went out and I stayed home because I didn’t want to risk consuming extra calories.

I can’t hate myself into someone I love.

At the end of those eight weeks plus or minus those 14 pounds the same people still loved me.

No one loved me any more or less because the weight I gained or lost. They loved me and enjoyed me no matter how much the number on the scale reads.

They love me for who I am beneath my skin, my fat and my muscle.

It was important for me to realize that the only love I could change with my habits was my love for my own body.

I couldn’t hate myself into someone I loved – it doesn’t work that way.

I am still the same person I always have been. I am still me, and weight gain and loss doesn’t change that.

But finding a happy medium changes that. I stopped counting calories and started living. I stay active but not restrictive and now I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

Life is all about balance and that balance is key to help you live your best life, whatever that means for you.

If you liked this piece, we think you’ll also enjoy this story about loving yourself after extreme weight loss.

Vegan: An Expert Guide to Plant-Based Dating

If you’ve avoided dating a vegan because you’re worried that they are high maintenance, fear no more.

Are you afraid of vegans? Suspicious? In other words, do you see them as somehow different than you in a way that makes you nervous about vegan dating altogether? Well, you’re right that a vegan is in some ways different than you, a non-vegan.

Before fear overcomes you, let me reassure you that vegans, in many ways, are just like you. In all likelihood you love animals, so do vegans. You also probably love food, so do vegans.

The main difference between you and the vegan you might date is that they have decided to make a conscious effort not to hurt animals, or perhaps boost their health (a whole foods, plant-based diet has been proven to be ideal for good health), or help the planet (animal agriculture has a disastrous impact on the environment) by cutting animal products out of their diet and lifestyle.

That’s not so bad, is it?

Ask out that vegan

A vegan has the strong potential to offer some very attractive qualities. The fact that they are vegan means that they walk the walk (and don’t just talk the talk).

If they are an ethical vegan (vegan in the interest in reducing animals’ suffering), then you know that they are not only standing up for what they believe in, but that they are opposed to cruelty.

Probably the most attractive trait of a vegan is that they are living the love that is in their heart by acting on their love for animals, love for themselves, and love for the planet. And relationships are all about love, right?

Plan a great vegan date

Loving Couple Having Breakfast.

So what happens when you’re going out on a date with a vegan and you start shaking in your leather boots because you’re nervous about being criticized, saying something wrong, or how you will break it to your parents that your someday fiancé won’t eat their Thanksgiving meal?

First, don’t be nervous. They’ve already said they will go out with you, so they have indicated that they accept how you eat. Give them a chance to say yes to you before you convince yourself they will reject you. You can worry about Thanksgiving later.

You’ll want to pick a place to meet that works for both you and your date. Your vegan isn’t only a vegan, they are a whole person with a spectrum of interests. Maybe they also enjoy botanical gardens, or seeing bands perform, or that French film that’s playing in the cute movie house downtown.

When it comes to restaurants, or cafés, or other food-oriented outings, a vegan will generally appreciate your thoughtfulness if you suggest a plant-based establishment. However, there are also frequently vegan options at non-vegan restaurants. There’s a good chance you’ll still be able to go to your favorite place, even if it isn’t vegan.

This could also be a fantastic opportunity for you to try a new cuisine. Your date will likely be in the know about the best vegan restaurants, and you could follow their guidance to delicious gourmet plant-based food unlike any you’ve tasted before.

Although your vegan date may seem a bit alien to you for their lifestyle choices, remember that they’re a human, like you. Vegans aren’t only interested in vegan things. We have all different topics we can talk about.

You should feel free to speak to your vegan about topics that interest you, but you’ll want to avoid interrogating them about their veganism, just as you wouldn’t want to be challenged about your own eating habits by a new potential love.

Also, you may want to avoid sensitive subject matter such as: 1) Your love of hunting, 2) Your last fishing trip, and 3) Your passion for eating bacon.

Get to know your vegan

Couple With Healthy Food

Though incessant prodding about one’s veganism is not fun on a date, as a vegan I can tell you that I always welcome the gentle asking of questions. It’s perfectly OK to be curious. Go ahead and ask your date how they came to be vegan, what they eat for breakfast, and what they wear on their feet. They will probably welcome your interest in their life.

On one of my first dates with my now-partner, Dietrich, he gently asked me why I didn’t drink milk, or eat other dairy products. I took no offense, and happily filled him in on why I had decided not to consume them, without pressuring him to change.

However, I should warn you, he has been happily vegan since that very day.

Ready for your first date with a vegan? Read on to tell if it’s going well.