By Erica Walters. Photo by Chris Hope.
Most plans to jumpstart healthy behaviors begin with joining a gym or seeing a dietitian, not signing up for a statewide beauty pageant. But most plans aren’t what Dawn Keenum Gaines, 41, had in mind. Going for the gold is what Gaines did, and she lost in the process.
“I didn’t decide until a month before the contest to do the Mrs. Mississippi pageant,” Gaines said. “I was forced to really get the ball rolling on my physical fitness journey without hesitation.”
Gaines is wife to Tony Gaines and mother to Savanna, 16, and Larissa, 8. She is also an assistant teacher for the Lewisburg Area School District in Mississippi. She’s no stranger to the pageant world, as she began competing at the age of 10 and continued throughout her time in college. Fast forward 17 years later, and she’s back in the game.
“I proved to myself that I could set a goal and accomplish a dream.”
Gaines took the approach of “go big or go home”. She hired a personal trainer, adjusted her eating habits, and did physical activity
every day. As a result she took first place and became Mrs. Mississippi with only one month of preparation.
While the pageant is labeled Mrs., contestants had to compete in events expected in pageants with younger contestants. Gaines had to compete in interview, swimwear and evening gown competitions, and field an onstage question, all of which she hadn’t done in 17 years.
“There I was the oldest contestant on the stage,” Gaines said. “I proved to myself that I could set a goal and accomplish a dream.”
Within the last 10 months, Gaines lost 50 pounds through healthy eating and consistent physical activity. But, a little help from Dr. Kishore Arcot contributed to her success.
“I was having excruciating leg pain,” Gaines said. “It was keeping me from getting active and in shape.”
Gaines opted to have vein removal surgery from the Memphis Vein Center.
“Within a month of the procedure, I was able to start walking again without having to stop for a rest. This led to the possibility that I could actually get back in shape and improve my health by losing weight,” Gaines said. “I would highly recommend that surgery to anyone experiencing leg pain. It was a true life saver for me.”
As she continues to work on her wellness, Gaines maintains her weight loss and healthy behaviors.
“This whole journey began as a way to lose weight I had been holding onto for too long. Turning forty also aided in my decision to get healthy once again,” Gaines said. “I decided to put that goal in front of me as motivation to strive for a better life.”