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Miss Idaho bares all in a bikini — including her insulin pump

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Add Miss Idaho to list of women shedding shame

Sierra Sandison recently strutted her stuff on stage in a glittering black bikini as she competed in the Miss Idaho pageant. The gorgeous brunette won the crown but it was her unusual choice of accessory that really had people applauding. Sandison, a Type 1 diabetic, wore her insulin pump proudly during the swimsuit competition.

Sierra Sandison wears an insulin pump

Photo credit: Susan Hessing Photography

Not only is she proud of her body exactly as it is, but she wants other sufferers with chronic illnesses to know they don't need to be ashamed of their bodies either.

"Honestly, it is terrifying walking out on stage in a swimsuit, let alone attached to a medical device," she wrote on her Facebook. "My message to everyone, diabetic or not, is that we all have something that doesn't 'measure up' to the beauty standards set by the media — and that is okay! It does not make you any less beautiful. We also all have obstacles, challenges, and trials. Diabetes turned my life upside down when I was first diagnosed. Don't let your challenge hold you back or slow you down."

Sandison follows in the footsteps of Bethany Townsend, a young woman with Crohn's disease who bared all — including her colostomy bags — in a bikini photo. The picture went viral and now she is realizing her dream of becoming a model.

"If I can inspire or help other people in my position to feel a little more comfortable in their own skin," she told the Daily Mail, "then I'm really happy."

It's working. Both Sandison and Townsend inspired a huge social media response, prompting others to share pictures of themselves showing off their medical devices. Chronic illnesses can be devastating in so many ways so it's amazing to see these women not just not hiding their medical devices but wearing them with pride.

"Isn't it amazing that we can have most of our guts removed and still show more 'guts' than everyone else combined," tweeted another Crohn's sufferer to Townsend.

Add this to the models with disabilities featured by JC Penney and Nordstrom and it feels like for the first time in a long time, a fashion trend is emerging that could really help and empower women to feel happier with our bodies and embrace all the quirks and "flaws" that make us who we are. The fashion industry isn't exactly known for being kind to women, especially those that differ from the norm (whatever that is).

I'll admit to feeling less than after looking at glossy magazine spreads or runway shows. Even though I know the pictures aren't totally real, they still remind me of the huge gap between my body and those set as the ideal (and I'm not talking about a thigh gap). Granted, both women are still tall, thin and white but just knowing they're dealing with chronic and sometimes life-threatening illnesses makes them beautiful beyond their bodies — something we all need to be reminded about.

However, just the fact that Sandison and Townsend made such big news shows that this trend isn't as mainstream as we'd like but I applaud them for being pioneers and showing that you cannot just survive but thrive with a chronic illness. Not to mention this really puts cellulite, freckles or wobbly bits in perspective.

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