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Miss Florida Lissette Garcia: Being healthy is 'who I am'

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South Florida's Lissette Garcia represented the Sunshine State in the 2011 Miss USA pageant this month. A medical student in addition to a beauty queen, she eats lots of vegetables (and chocolate) and exercises up to six days a week, sometimes twice a day. Garcia said she was born with spina bifida and scoliosis, so exercise also helps eliminate pain.

Why do you keep fit?

For health. I enjoy 100 percent eating healthy and working out. It's who I am. If I'm not building muscle, then I'm leaning out for onstage competition.

What's your workout routine?

It varies from month to month. A lot of walking on the treadmill — I don't do the StairMaster — plyometric exercises on the mat. Vinyasa yoga — it's yoga but keeping the heart rate up by constantly moving. I do Pilates. I do circuit training and swimming.

I work out five days per week for an hour and 20 minutes each time, and a week out of a month, I go twice a day. Sometimes up to six days a week if I want to do some extra yoga.

I do have a pageant trainer that's helping me. I used to do a lot of weight training with heavy weights and my body was muscular. But the trainer did a complete 180 on my routine, and now I do more plyometrics and Pilates to keep long, lean muscle.

Are any of your routines for Miss USA or other pageants physically demanding?

Not really, except you have to balance your energy because you're getting little sleep and have to keep it up all day. As well as wearing 6-inch heels. That is atomic!

Do you have a personal fitness motto or philosophy?

In it to win it!

Have you ever considered cosmetic surgery?

Yeah, later when gravity hits!

Do you ever take extended breaks from working out?

It depends. In competition mode, there's no break except on Sunday. I never really work out on Sundays. [Two months ago], I took a week off just to keep the body guessing.

Have you played competitive sports now or in school?

Mostly recreational volleyball and basketball. And I was a dancer in high school.

Does your family keep fit?

My mom tries to keep fit when she sees me working out and getting ready for pageantry. My dad sees the benefits of keeping fit, but like a good Cuban family you can't keep away the Cuban food.

Do you have any physical problems that hinder exercise?

I fractured my ankle about four years ago, but it's OK now. I was born with spina bifida and scoliosis, so it's important for me to keep my physical fitness up because it eliminates that pain.

What's your typical daily diet?

My diet doesn't really vary. I try to eat healthy, organic, low-sodium, no red meat, making sure everything is going to help my body rather than put a strain on it.

Breakfast would be a green smoothie with kale, spinach, celery, romaine lettuce, and just with water. It's awesome. You put an apple in to help [the taste]. Breakfast might also be organic oatmeal.

I always have snacks, every three hours: carrot sticks or rice cakes or a low-caloric protein bar.

For lunch, I might eat a vegetable sandwich, a big bowl of brown rice and stir-fried vegetables, vegetable soup. Dinner is a lean meat — chicken breast — and I load up on vegetables and greens and vegetable soup.

And then three hours after dinner, I'll have some kind of low-fat yogurt.

What do you drink typically?

A lot of water and chamomile tea. No juice, soda or alcohol. Sometimes some fresh-squeezed juice.

Do you take any vitamins or sports nutrition products?

Yes, I take a B complex; vitamin C; hair vitamins; hair, skin and nails vitamins.

Where did you acquire your fitness and nutrition knowledge?

I'm a medical student, so I always paid attention to it, read a lot of books, and recently bought this book called "The Beauty Detox Solution" by Kimberly Snyder. She has modernized everything that is in the "Fit for Life" book written in the '80s. I got Kimberly's book about a month ago.

Do you have any advice for South Florida residents looking to get fit?

You got to look into the future, and what you put into your body will be there for the rest of your life. How you treat your life doesn't take willpower, just a lifestyle change. It's not about picking away food, getting rid of your foods, it's about moderation. I still eat chocolate every day.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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