By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — U.S. Olympic gymnast and cancer survivor Shannon Miller said her fitness philosophy can be best described as practicing “healthy moderation.”
The important thing, she said, is to make your health a priority and not put those concerns on the back-burner.
“I think it's something that we just have to have as part of our lifestyle,” Miller said. “It's part of our culture, it's the foods we eat, it's the activity that we have throughout the day. It doesn't mean don't ever eat chocolate, it doesn't mean don't ever have a slice of pizza, it just means think about your health.”
Miller was the keynote speaker at the eighth annual Healthy Woman celebration held Tuesday night at the Mt. Vernon Holiday Inn.
The event drew a crowd of 230 people to the Holiday Inn ballroom. It was presented by the Crossroads Community Hospital chapter of Healthy Woman, a program that seeks to empower women to make informed health and well-being decisions.
Miller said the Healthy Woman celebration was an ideal forum to speak about the importance of women's health.
“There just isn't much more of a perfect fit,” Miller said prior to her keynote speech. “Just by virtue of coming to this event, you know they're receptive, they just need that little push in the right direction.”
Too often, Miller said, women say they don't have time to worry about their own health because they're busy taking care of family and work obligations.
“My message is, 'yes girls you've been taking care of everybody else and that's a good thing but what about yourself?'” Miller said. “Because frankly if we don't take care of our own health, then we may not be here to take care of all of those who depend on us. So don't forget about those doctor's appointments.”
During her athletic career, Miller won 59 international and 49 national competition medals.
She won five medals — two silver and three bronze — at the 1992 Olympics. She also captured team and individual gold medals during the 1996 Olympics. She was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame twice — as an individual in 2006 and as part of a team in 2008.
Miller said her background as a gymnast, as well as her religious faith, helped her greatly in her fight against cancer.
She was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer in January 2011, at the age of 32. However, she had the tumor removed, underwent chemotherapy and is now cancer free.
“Sports teaches you so many wonderful life lessons — the goal-setting skills, the idea that if I could dream it I could be it,” Miller said, adding that her faith was the most important recovery tool. “If I was going through this, there was a reason. I may not know what it is, but I knew that there was a reason and I knew that I wasn't in this battle alone.”
In July 2010, Miller launched a health and fitness company geared toward women. Then in 2011, she started the Shannon Miller Walk-Fit program, an online tracking and incentive program.
Debi Richardson, director of marketing and public relations at Crossroads Community Hospital, said Miller is the best kind of speaker to have at a Healthy Woman event.
“Healthy Woman's mission is to empower women to make decisions for themselves and their families, not just health care decisions but all decisions,” Richardson said. “So when we saw Shannon's mission statement, I mean it was almost like we had written each other's, so I think it's a wonderful fit.”
In addition to the dinner and keynote address, Tuesday's celebration also included a vendor exposition featuring many local businesses.