Bobbie Marie Gregg was named Miss Tennessee International in 2011, and was the 4th runner-up in the Miss International competition that year. Along the way, she became interested in food and nutrition, and decided that she wanted to become a registered dietitian. She is currently completing her internship at Lenoir-Rhyne University in western North Carolina, and we wanted to ask her some questions about how she fell in love with food. Starting today on Valentine’s Day, we are offering an exclusive photo print of Bobbie Marie with our mascot Frank N. Foode™ as part of our Kickstarter campaign, so you too can Fall in Love with Food!
Where are you from, originally? What kinds of early experiences have you had with community involvement?
I am originally from Jonesborough, TN, which is the oldest town in the state. Quite Mayberry-ish. I grew up with a mom who, as an RN, was very emphatic that we give back to others in any way that we could. I was very involved in our church, adopted Salvation Army angels each year, collected foods for needy families, and volunteered in soup kitchens. I created a community service organization at my high school that is still active today. I loved working within my small East TN community, so I found ways to be involved continuously throughout my life. I spent most of my time volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association and in long-term care facilities. My family watched my great-grandmother battle the terrible disease, so giving back to the organization became a burden on my heart. I’ve remained an active volunteer, advocate, and official Ambassador for 22 years now.
Can you tell us about your experience in the Miss International competition?
I competed within the Miss America Organization (MAO) for several years before being introduced to the Miss International Organization. The aspect that attracted me to both of these pageant systems is that they are very community-service oriented and I was able to use my titles to promote my personal platform of Alzheimer’s awareness. As cliché as it sounds, participating in pageants and being a titleholder really does help give a woman a larger audience to promote whatever cause she is passionate about. I have been really blessed with the opportunity to speak out on Alzheimer’s in a variety of formats – mostly thanks to pageants and the connections I made during my time as a titleholder.
My pageant experience has also given me an opportunity to reach out to other contestants and teach them about the importance of proper nutrition. I have been working with contestants preparing for the Miss Tennessee (MAO) pageant for a couple of years now, making sure they get ready for the swimsuit competition in a healthy way!
Growing up in an obese family, I was exposed to the good, bad and ugly of nutrition. Extreme dieting, emotional eating, co-morbidities and bariatric surgery are all part of my family’s journey with food. At six-years-old, I mimicked the nutritional frustrations conveyed by my obese adult family members by announcing I was dieting. I was bombarded with mixed messages on nutrition throughout my childhood, and although I was very active, the result of my misguided food choices was obvious on the scale. It wasn’t until my teenage years when I began searching for and applying my own nutritional knowledge, that I finally started to gain control of my health. Unfortunately, I continued to watch my older brother and every adult family member not only increase in size, but also develop the co-morbidities related to their obesity.
Nutrition was always something I was interested in, but I never realized it was a career option until I met my first RD at age 21. I was a senior at East TN State University and graduated later that year (2005) with a degree in public relations.
Fast forward to 2009 when I made the decision to challenge myself by training for and competing in my first National Physique Committee figure competition. This same year, both my mom and aunt made the very personal decision to gain control of their health by undergoing gastric bypass surgery. Witnessing these two important women make these dramatic changes intersected with the mental, physical, and nutritional transformation I was experiencing. I found myself discussing nutrition and wellness on a regular basis, not only with my family, but with co-workers, friends, and customers at work. People were noticing a change in my body and lifestyle, and I was more than willing to passionately share what I was learning. This was my “A-HA” moment. I determined that I needed to go back to college and pursue a second undergraduate degree in nutrition. Looking back, I believe that my path into dietetics was inevitable; it just took a few extra stops along the way to lead me where I am today as a dietetic intern/RD-to-be!
What is your favorite food?
I could honestly eat hummus every single day and never get sick of it! There is a really cool local company in Asheville called Roots and they make several different kinds of hummus – all of which are delicious! I currently have 4 containers in my fridge: black bean, spinach, oil-free, and edamame. Plus, I love supporting a local company! www.rootsfood.com
What do you wish everyone knew about their food, or changed about their diets?
There is so much! I wish people would take the time to really KNOW what they are putting into their bodies – even if it is simply just reading food labels. I wish people would understand the economic importance of eating seasonally and locally. I wish that our mentality about food would go back to health instead of convenience. I wish people would see the damage that our modern, processed diet has done to the health of our country and would go back to eating a nutrient-dense diet. I really wish that everyone knew how much food influences our health, our quality of life. It can literally take a body down a road of disease or it can be the medicine by which a body is cured.
New Kickstarter Reward
A lovable Frank plush and an exclusive glossy 5×7 glossy print of Frank N. Foode pictured with Bobbie Marie Gregg, who was Miss Tennessee International 2011 and is an aspiring dietitian! We will do a photo shoot complete with sash and tiara (with a sash for Frank as well) and send you the sweetest sweet corn photo you’ve ever seen. This will be available only for a limited time, so Fall in Love with Food while you still can!