"I ate it all within an hour," Strobel said. "Hip Pocket is my favorite pizza in all the world, and it was so good to have one again. You've been so hungry so long, that you can't get over that feeling for a long time."
Missing family and friends
For Strobel, being away from her family and friends was one of the most difficult things about competing on the show.
"I had my 24th birthday while I was there, and spent Thanksgiving in the Amazon," Strobel said. "To not hear my mom's voice on the other end of the phone on those days was really hard. Right then, I would have given anything to hear her voice and see her."
But a little later, Strobel did get to see her mother, Kathy Dugas of Buffalo, when each player received a visit from a loved one in a reward challenge.
"That was the best time on the island," Strobel said. "That was the best day of my entire life when I saw my mom heading toward me across that beach. There's nothing to compare that feeling or emotion to. Most people who don't see each other can at least talk on the phone, and you could at least hear their voice, but there were times I wasn't sure if I'd ever get to see my mom again. She said when she saw me, she wanted to put me in her pocket and take me home."
Road to recovery
"When I left (for the Amazon) I could run fifteen miles a day and was working out almost four hours a day. I was in good shape, but I didn't realize how hard it would be on my health."
In addition to an aranha (tarantula) bite, Strobel is still recovering from stomach and intestinal parasites.
"Now, when I run about five miles, my knee fills with fluid where the bite was. My hair didn't fall out, but it actually snapped off. Poor nutrition causes a lot of problems it takes time to get over. I've actually only been well for about a month." Strobel returned from the Amazon in December.
"I tried my hardest in every challenge," Strobel said. "In the beginning, it was a plus to be strong physically, but in the game you want to keep the stronger links at the beginning and keep the weaker links at the end of the game. It was actually in my favor to get weaker physically.
"It doesn't take long for the body to begin to deteriorate, and then you have no strength left. Dealing with reactions
"I had 300 kids in my classes at Eldon, and three-fourths of them reacted with open arms and a posi tive attitude to the show," Strobel said. "I've had a thousand letters from kids all over the United States.
"I told my students don't do what I do, but believe what I do. Mentally, always try to be a better person than the day before. Every day we would start class by saying what are we going to do today, and they'd know the answer, we're going to be a better person than yesterday. The kids start believing that and that's what I want them to believe. I want them to be people that believe in themselves and won't give up. People who say I'm not a role model don't really know me.
"Actors get to portray whoever they want, and they aren't judged by it. They can play a psychotic killer, but they are still known as the actor. But when you're Heidi Strobel, every little movement is criticized. They don't realize that to some degree, we were playing characters, too. There's little connection to who I am and who I was on the show.
"Some of the media wanted to paint me as a terrible person, and sometimes its hard to grasp where I stand with people."
Strobel recently returned from New York, and said everywhere she goes, people have a pre-conceived notion of who she is. She believes that some people forgot "Survivor" was a game. "It was reality TV, not real life. What people saw on the show is not what you get with me," Strobel said. "That's been the frustrating part. It was a real learning experience, and I don't want to take anything negative from the experience. I shut my mind to 95 percent of the negativity and focus on the positive.
"My mom would tell me when we watched the show if she was proud of me, or if I did OK, or if I needed to work on something. People that know me well know I'm full of life and enthusiasm, but I'm humble, and I want to help people.
"I've worked hard," Strobel said. "I've run eight marathons, but I know I'm still just a kid. I'm more than willing to keep learning, but I don't want to discount what I've accomplished so far. I'm certified to teach in three areas. It's been very hurtful that some people are mean to me without even knowing me because they think they know me from the show. A lot of people don't like giving credit to other people for anything, and some people love to hate me. But twenty million people watching the show don't know me like my friends and family."
Friends and foes
"There were real conflicts among the tribe members," Strobel said. "But it wasn't really older versus younger even though it was made to look that way on the show. People don't realize how much a sense of humor everyone had because that didn't really come out in the show.
"Christy (another player) is one of the strongest people I've ever met, not physically, but otherwise, and I spent the first week trying to be her friend. She dismissed me from the beginning, and after a week, I had to give up on it (becoming friends).
"The best part about "Survivor" was how many times do you get to document making one of your best friendships? The whole show documents the developing friendship between me and Jenna, and we're still very good friends.
"You see the strength of the friendship, and it's a cutthroat game, but it's a game. Our friendship shows that. I have two best friends and Jenna is one of them. When she won, I cried more than she did."
Over the weekend, Strobel hit the road on a new adventure. She has signed with a variety of agents and right now CBS is still working for Strobel. "I've gotten some offers through CBS for modeling. It's amazing how many people I have to pay now to make a living myself. It takes multiple agents and multiple attorneys. My mom is a great contributor to all that's going on now, and like me, she appreciates all the local support.
"I'm going to ride this road as long as it lasts and reap the rewards," Strobel said. "I'm going to do some commercials and a couple of magazine covers, which will put me in a position to help a lot more people. There's a reason why I do everything. People don't always understand that I'm doing things for the greater good, not for selfishness.
"I'll be able to help raise money for kids, and get to help people. That makes me feel good about myself, but I intend to quit while the quitting is good. I'm anticipating that the attention will end, and I know my time is limited.
"I have awesome offers to help people, and that's why I'm leaving teaching for now." Strobel completed her first year of teaching at Eldon last week. "I hope to impact the lives of as many people as possible. Later, I plan to get my master's in nursing or go to medical school."
Would Heidi Strobel compete on "Survivor" again? "No, I wouldn't because of the health problems," she answers. But then, she adds that if she has the opportunity to compete on the "Survivor All-star Show" in 2004, she might consider it.
"I couldn't believe how proud some people were of me," Strobel said. "It's been amazing to see the reactions of people. There's been so much support, and this town has been so much a part of my life that the support of the people here means so much. People ask for my autograph, and I still don't get it. I don't think I ever will.
"If you play like you live your real life, you'll lose," Strobel said. "If you really want to play to win, you have to have a strategy. I played the game to the best of my ability, and it was truly an incredible experience."
Even though there's no way to gauge how long her celebrity status will last, Heidi Strobel knows some of her experiences will. "I know now, and will know the rest of my life, what I am made of. I know how much farther I can push myself than I thought. That's been a positive thing for me, and that will last."