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Miss South Carolina explained how she lost 110 pounds and gained a crown during a press conference Wednesday at a Bluffton-based boarding program for overweight teens.
Bree Boyce, 22, of Florence said she knows what it's like to be the fattest kid in class. At 17, she weighed 234 pounds. She decided to shed the weight after developing knee problems and realizing she wouldn't be able to accomplish all her goals.
"I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to be Miss America," Boyce said. "I knew I would need stamina to accomplish all of those things."
Boyce said she got off the couch, hired a personal trainer and learned to eat healthy with the help of a nutritionist. Three years later, she had shed more than 100 pounds.
As she prepares for the Miss America pageant in January, she said she is excited to wear her swimsuit in what she called the "lifestyle and fitness" category.
"I look forward to that portion of the competition because I live those two things daily," said Boyce, who won the preliminary swimsuit competition in the Miss South Carolina pageant.
Boyce said it also is important to love yourself and avoid falling back into unhealthy patterns after a slip-up.
Ray Travaglione, founder of weight-loss academy MindStream, where Wednesday's press conference was held, said he couldn't have invented a more inspirational story than the one the new Miss South Carolina shared. Travaglione said it's a message MindStream students need when they arrive at the program.
"When the kids show up, they lack self-esteem. Their heads are down," he said. "Then they realize this is a process that is going to change their lives. Their shoulders get pushed back. They start to make eye contact, and they become this young, confident person."
No students were present at Wednesday's event -- the program's second class arrives Aug. 29 -- but Travaglione said Boyce will return to share her message of self-esteem, hard work and healthy eating.
Boyce isn't the only weight-loss success story Travaglione has brought in to inspire students in the four-month program. Patrick House, winner of the "Biggest Loser" TV show's 10th season, is on staff.
The program uses a nontraditional approach for dropping pounds. Instead of working out in a gym, students ride horses, swim in lakes and play on equipment around the 43-acre property. They also grow their own vegetables, and a chef teaches them recipes that use fresh food.
"These people are so inspirational, and they tie in perfectly with what our mission is all about," Travaglione said.
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.