The Bachelors Maurissa Gunn: I Gained—Then Lost!—80 Pounds After Pageants Destroyed My Self-Image

My name is Maurissa Gunn (@maurissagunn). I’m 23 and I live in Atlanta. I work as a patient care coordinator at a plastic surgeon's office and I recently appeared as a contestant on season 24 of The Bachelor with Peter Weber. I've been through a whirlwind of events since competing in Miss Teen USA that caused me to lose weight, gain weight, and lose even more weight, but I've finally found a routine that has made me the healthiest and happiest I've ever been.

Growing up, I was one of the heavier kids. When I grew into my body more in high school, I still had a very athletic, muscular build, and I accepted that. I would tell my mom, “I’m just big boned—I’m not meant to be skinny.” I was about 120 pounds, and I felt pretty average.

I started doing pageants my sophomore year of high school, and I won Miss Montana Teen USA in 2013. I would read all the blogs and comments about me, even though I knew I shouldn’t. People would say things like, “Montana has the face to win, but her body might ruin it for her.”

After that, I developed an eating disorder, restricting calories and over-exercising. I was underweight when I competed in Miss Teen USA.

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When I left the pageant world and went to college, I let myself go.

When I stopped competing and exited that world, I finally felt like I wasn’t being judged anymore—and I wanted nothing to do with being healthy. I hated going to the gym, and I hated eating healthy foods, because those things had such negative connotations for me after trying to fulfill a certain ideal for the pageant world. I gained about 80 pounds, and I didn’t even realize it at first because I was just so unhappy with myself.

But the cycle of weight ups and downs didn't stop there. I had gone to college with my high school sweetheart, and we eventually broke up. After we split, I noticed that he started going to the gym all the time and got this amazing body. I was like, “this is my time! It’s my turn to step it up.” I definitely felt fueled by that so-called "revenge body" mindset, which also wasn't healthy.

I moved home and started working out twice a day while working three jobs. I was so busy running around all the time that I wasn’t making sure I was eating the nutrients I needed. I was just so set on losing all the weight I had gained and getting super fit that I didn’t do it in a healthy or sustainable way. In six months, I lost everything I had gained—and more.

One night, at dinner with my family, my grandfather asked me if I was sick and said I didn’t look well. That was when I reevaluated *everything.*

All I wanted to do was start over. I’m from a small town, and at that point, I felt like everyone was talking about me—I was bigger, then I was smaller, then I was bigger again, then I was smaller again. I was over it. I decided to move to Atlanta for a new beginning.

Since then, I’ve finally found my happy medium.

When I first started to lose weight, I had a goal that I was working towards, and if I had to work out twice a day to reach that goal, then I would. But once I moved to Atlanta and hit the reset button on my mindset, I had a new goal: to focus on doing what makes me happiest.

So now, I just try to hit the gym three to five times per week and do workouts I enjoy. I fell in love with group fitness classes like 9Round kickboxing and Orangetheory because they’re quick, but intense. 9Round is only 30 minutes, and it’s a great burn. I love cardio, so I’ll sometimes go to the gym in my apartment and run or do HIIT.

I used to hate fruits and vegetables because I thought there was only one way to eat things, but now I love looking for new recipes. For example, I replaced my go-to chips and dip for carrot chips and hummus—it’s so good!

Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:

  • Breakfast: Avocado toast and coffee
  • Lunch: I like to eat lots of small meals throughout the day
  • Dinner: Chicken with lots of veggies or sweet potatoes
  • Dessert: Toasted coconut-flavored Greek yogurt with dark chocolate flakes

When I was chosen to be a contestant on season 24 of The Bachelor, I knew I wanted to open up about my body-image struggles in my intro package.

I wanted to help other women feel their best, too. TV always projects a particular image of what the perfect woman should look like, but I wanted everyone to know that it’s not about the size you are. It’s about being happy with where you’re at.

I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the messages I’ve been getting from people saying my story inspired them. It’s crazy. I’m working on developing my own bootcamp program with fun, high-intensity workouts that boss women can fit into a busy schedule. I want to help others achieve their goals in a healthy way.

I still work as a patient care coordinator for a plastic surgeon, which may sound strange after what I’ve been through, but I just want to make people happy. Women come in to the office all the time and say they’re worried about appearing vain because they want to make some physical changes to their appearance, but I’m like, “If you’re happy and you’re doing what you want, nobody can stop you.” I absolutely love my job for that reason.

In the past, I was so fixated on everyone else’s judgment that I forgot to realize my own happiness. But now I’m at a point in my life where my happiness is all that matters. It doesn’t matter what size I am as long as I’m happy and healthy where I’m at right now. And I can honestly say that I’m at the happiest point in my life that I’ve ever been.

—As told to Amanda Lucci


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