Four years ago I had the amazing honor to be crowned Miss Florida 2006. Throughout my year of service I traveled the state extensively, providing a wide array of causes, but especially my own charity, which is H.O.P.E., Helping Other People Eat. We focus on the prevention, and awareness of eating disorders. After my year as Miss Florida, I've had a lot of opportunities that came my way. I always focused on giving back to my community. When I was in high school, I was a competitive athlete. I really didn't know how to vocalize the fact that at that point I wasn't really content with staying in that atmosphere. I had trained for 8 years in a competitive sport. I always wanted to live up to everybody's expectations. One day I had gotten really worked up at the gym, and as a result I got sick. Something in my mind was triggered that told me I felt better. I didn't mean to wake up one day and say, "Hey, I want to be a bulimic." That's in turn, what happened. It wasn't something that started every day. It was something that I did once a month at first, and then once a week, and then once a day, and then any time I got upset. Some days, five or ten times a day I would get sick. Because of that, because I suffered in silence for over three and a half years with bulimia, my weight fluctuation was undetected. There weren't those really apparent warning signs. As a result I suffered a lot of internal damage. I hurt my heart. I've had heart issues since then. I had torn up my throat because of the constant binging and purging. I had a small tear in my stomach, a lot of acid damage to the back of my teeth, I always had popped blood vessels, and I lost half the hair on my head. As you can imagine as a seventeen year old it's pretty scary to face the reality that you might not make it. That was something that was a harsh reality. Eating disorders are the leading cause among mental illnesses. That was something that I didn't want. I wanted to live. By the time I made that choice, yes, I had a lot of work to do. Treatment was absolutely necessary. I was able to go away to college. I was able to start my life over again. I was able to have the opportunity to become Miss Florida, and to travel the states spreading this message. I don't want to see anybody walk down that same path. I've made a commitment to live a healthy lifestyle. I'm involved in a lot of activities which demand a lot from me. I've made a commitment to start really paying attention to the amount of exercise that I get, living a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy, taking care of myself because I do want a long life. I want the longevity. I want to be a great mom. I want to be a great mother, and hopefully grandmother, and great grandmother from here on out. I really want to take care of myself so I can give back to my children eventually, whenever they may come, also to be able to live that lifestyle where I can participate in all the activities that I want to participate in. I'm in law school now, so that's going to demand a lot of me. If I take the time, and I exercise, and I eat healthy, I'm going to be giving myself a great gift. I noticed that when I got married to my husband, one of the best things was that he was really good friends with my family. Because of that, we've started spending even more time with them. I've noticed that not only has it helped me, but it's helped my mom, my dad, my husband relax. I do think that surrounding yourself by people that care about you, and allowing yourself that downtime, and to refresh and re-energize, it's going to help you make it through that week. We have stress, a lot of stress in our lives, between making sure we can pay the bills, and making sure we can perform at work. We have to take care of ourselves. I think being around your family and the friends, the people that know you the best and the most, it's going to help you with that long life. I think what Florida Hospital is doing is a wonderful thing. Not only is it calling attention to our own lifestyles, and what we're doing, and what could be doing a little bit better, but it's encouraging us. It's providing the tips, it's providing the knowledge that sometimes we forget about. It's those daily basic things that we can do to help ourselves to live that long live, and to be healthy the whole time. By providing the tips, by providing the email updates on what you can do to help yourself, to help your family, everybody, it's a really good thing. It's a really positive campaign that they're doing. I hope that it does increase all of our lives in a very healthy way.