Interview with Mrs. United States, Shannon Ford: Celiac Disease, Gluten-Free, and the Paleo Diet

In today’s show, we’re privileged to be with the reigning Mrs. United States, Shannon Ford. After she was diagnosed with Celiac disease three years ago, Shannon went gluten-free, then grain-free, and now has transitioned to a Paleo diet.

Yes, even beauty queens eat like cavewomen.

Actually, after being a pageant girl and in the public eye for most of her life (she won Ms. Florida and was a Miami Dolphins cheerleader, as well), Shannon remarked how she used a low-carb diet to help her slim down before competitions and events.

Long before Paleo was in vogue, celebrities, fitness models, bodybuilders and others have known that limiting carbs increases the rate of fat loss. In Shannon’s case, controlling carbs automatically limited her intake of grains – doubly effective for a Celiac.

These days, Shannon is an outspoken advocate for the Celiac Foundation and uses her celebrity status to raise awareness about Celiac disease and a gluten-free and grain-free way of life. It is her goal throughout her year as Mrs. USA to bring more attention to the illness and advocate for better labeling of our nation’s food supply. A worthy cause, indeed.

Robb Wolf recently spoke about Shannon on his blog, “I think it’s great that Shannon is using her platform as Mrs. USA to educate folks about Celiac and the benefits of a Paleo diet. I’d love to have a 1000 more high-profile people who were willing to do the same.” You betcha, Robb.

In today’s show, Shannon and I discuss:

  • How pasta, pizza, and bread can make you look 3 months pregnant
  • How bacon is like dessert
  • Why even beauty queens, bodybuilders, and magazine cover celebrities cannot (and should not) maintain a “perfect” body 100% of the time
  • Why Jillian Michaels was right about eliminating processed food but completely wrong about “healthy” whole grains
  • Weight lifting and exercise tips for women (forget the treadmill and Barbie weights)
  • Why you should be concerned that foods can say that they are gluten free when they are not
  • How gluten sensitivity is far more common than you might expect
  • How Shannon “accidentally” ran the New York marathon
  • Why a low-fat Paleo diet doesn’t really work
  • How six-packs are carved by spoons
  • Hidden sources of gluten that you need to avoid
  • Why “skinny” doesn’t mean “healthy”
  • How life is too short NOT to eat cupcakes

Here’s the show.


Listen to the Show by pressing the PLAY BUTTON below on the right.[audio:|titles=14: Interview with Shannon Ford, Mrs. United States](download link)

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You can hear more from Shannon on her website, Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

And here’s the shortened YouTube slideshow (it’s only the first 15 minutes). If you want to hear the full show, listen above or click here.



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  1. Martin Levac says:

    Shannon’s story is so typical. From the long time it took to diagnose celiac, to the mistake of avoiding fat, she’s basically telling the story of most people who end up eating low carb. Good interview.

    • Thanks Martin! It’s a shame more MD’s aren’t picking up on how common of an issue gluten intolerance is – but it seems like it’s changing for the better. Cheers!

  2. Abel,

    You frequently ask how you can take over the top podcast spot from Jillian Michaels. Here’s my idea. Women, and especially moms, are the primary health guardians in the home, unless Dad’s an MD. Women already love your program (yeah, your voice is sexy). So, create a “busy mom” contest for 4 of your motherly listeners: Take another mom who’s interested in your paleo success but hasn’t started on the path under your wing for 90 days, and report the results every three weeks on the show for 15 minutes per pair of moms. Ask other paleo luminaries who are also moms to offer support once a week by phone to help the newbie and her mentor.

    If this succeeds, repeat the contest.

    Normally, there’d be a grand prize, but paleo-quality health and vitality ought to be prize enough. If not, how about a web page devoted to the participants that has a permanent home on your site. You could also hold a lottery among the participants for an all-expense-paid trip to the next Paleo FX gathering as an incentive.

    • Hi Jake,
      Thanks for the feedback! I’ll definitely think on that – I’d love to give busy moms a few pointers. And an all-expenses-paid trip to PaleoFX certainly sounds nice… 🙂 Cheers, Abel

      • Hi Abel,

        I don’t think I was clear about who would be coaching whom. I’m suggesting that an experienced paleo mom mentor an inexperienced one, with only one hour total of professional coaching for each pair of moms per week in a conference call. That reduces the time commitment on your part, keeping you more available for paid consulting.

        You can contact me privately about getting some free skilled labor for the website end of this idea.


  3. Great interview. I wish everyone was told right away that gluten free doesn’t mean healthy. When I first went gluten free eight years ago, I started off eating really well because at the time there wasn’t much on the market that was gluten free. My health improved. However, as the gluten free products became available, I indulged and my health suffered. Finding Paleo has made living gluten free so much easier. I don’t try to find gluten free alternatives any longer. Instead, I focus on delicious food that comes as it was meant to be.

    • Thanks Cathy – that’s great insight. Too often people look for gluten-free/sugar-free/whatever-free “alternatives.” But they’re still just products. If it comes in a box, it’s probably an indulgence, not health food. So glad you’re on the right track!

  4. The gluten-free industry and products comment is so true – it mimics the “fat free” debacle. Oh, I can eat as many Snackwells as I want!!!

    I think it would be a great service BY nutritionists/dieticians or anyone talking about a celiac-friendly lifestyle if they could coach the new gluten-averse this way:
    While they transition they should treat processed and packaged gluten free foods in the same way you’d treat Ensure if you are recovering from surgery or something that required liquid food.

    It’s a BRIDGE, and a temporary one at that, meant to keep you functioning but just barely until you are ready for the next step.

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