Miss America contestant Bree Boyce’s 112-pound weight loss has inspired her to spread the message about the real meaning of beauty—and how to get fit the healthy way.
"It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest,” says Bree Boyce, 22, in her soothing Southern accent. The reigning Miss South Carolina is talking about how she felt at just 17, when, at 5 foot 7, she weighed 234 pounds and wore a size 18. Not only was Bree uncomfortable in her own skin, she says, but the extra pounds were taking a toll on her body. “I had to use an inhaler for a while because it was hard for me to breathe,” she recalls. “The weight was hindering my airways.” She also experienced painful knee problems.
Bree tried to lose weight by experimenting with carb-free and soup diets, but she always regained the pounds. Then, in the summer of 2007, right before her senior year of high school, Bree decided to give it one final shot. Her healthcare provider had told her the weight needed to go. Plus, “I was tired of getting out of breath doing the simplest of tasks—and not being able to go shopping with my friends or to pool parties and social outings because I wasn’t confident in myself,” she says. So she decided to cut out soda and processed foods and started taking a daily walk through her neighborhood.
By the spring of 2008, she was 54 pounds lighter and more confident. A teacher who worked with Bree on the pep squad suggested she compete in her school pageant, Miss West Florence High School. Bree thought, I may not be as thin as the other girls, but I have a personality and I deserve a chance. She competed and beat out 37 other girls. “I was shocked!” she says. “It was the moment I started to really believe in myself.”
When Bree lost 75 pounds, a family friend urged her to participate in the local Miss Florence pageant, which offered scholarship awards and the chance to spread the word about a healthy lifestyle. She won again. Then, she won the Miss South Carolina crown, more than $20,000 of scholarship money, and a spot on the Miss America stage.
Today Bree weighs 122 pounds and wears a size 0 or 2, and she couldn’t be happier. Not because she’s skinnier, but because she’s healthier. To Bree, that’s a big distinction—and why she competes in pageants in the first place. “I think when people look at Miss America they think about beauty, but my platform is about inspiring people and showing them anything in life is possible,” she says.
To that end, Bree wants to work with First Lady Michelle Obama on the “Let’s Move” program, an initiative to fight childhood obesity. “You don’t have to be a size 00 or weigh 100 pounds to be happy and feel good about yourself,” she says. “It’s all about being healthy.” Read on to find out how Bree dropped the pounds.
Bree’s road to weight loss
Cut out one thing. Ease into a new eating plan by eliminating one problem food. For Bree, it was soda. “I was drinking maybe 10 cans a day,” she says. “Once I stopped, I felt a huge difference in my body.”
Screen-save your old self. Instead of motivating yourself with photos of how you want to look, remind yourself of how you don’t. “I have pictures of how I used to look on my phone,” says Bree. “So if I’m tempted to skip a workout, I’ll look at my picture and tell myself, You’ve come this far; you need to go to the gym.”
Chart a route to health—literally. Bree mapped out a one-mile route through her neighborhood. “The first week I couldn’t walk the mile, but I made it about 10 minutes,” she says. Today, she walks five miles every day, which takes her about an hour. “It’s the best stress reliever.”
Put your sneakers in your path. If you trip over your sneakers, you’ll be more likely to put them on. “I keep my sneakers by my door,” says Bree.
Fill your iPod with new music and podcasts. Getting excited about a new song or podcast might motivate you to head outside for a workout, so download something new every week.
Billboard a “You can do it” attitude. Remind yourself that your goal is within your reach. “I write motivational quotes on sticky notes and put them on my steering wheel,” says Bree. “I read the quotes to myself all day long, and they stick.”
Eat like your great-grandma. Bree cut processed foods out of her diet and focused on whole foods: protein, grains, beans, vegetables and fruit.