October 25th, 2011
11:32 AM ET
In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week Miss South Carolina Bree Boyce shares her story of going from obese, self-conscious teen to beauty pageant winner.
Growing up as an overweight and eventually morbidly obese young girl, I faced many obstacles that some would think impossible to overcome. But not only did I lose over 110 pounds, I went on to win Miss South Carolina and the Lifestyle and Fitness preliminary award.
At 234 pounds, I never thought that within a few short years, after a lot of dedication, sweat, and tears, I'd be close to living what was my secret dream as a young girl.
On January 14, 2012, I will compete for the Miss America title at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. My struggles and triumphs over obesity have helped me inspire many across the world to believe in the power of their dreams.
I want others to know that obstacles are just challenges to better ourselves. We are thrown curveballs in our lives, but how we handle them is what counts the most. I could have given up and never changed, but I wanted to believe in myself and my dreams, so one day at a time I worked on myself not only physically, but mentally.
The biggest lesson I have had to learn through this whole experience is that most people don't understand the physical and mental torment of having a weight issue. Most people think that I snapped my fingers and voila! I was thin! (If only that were the case!) I had to completely change everything about my life, and that was the hardest thing I have ever done.
I went from depending on food to comfort me and to bring me a sense of peace, to relying on food as a fuel source. I worked hard to improve myself every day. If one day I failed, the next day I would be back on track. Life isn't always going to be picture-perfect and I had to learn that it is OK to fail sometimes, because that only makes us stronger.
The biggest misconception is that you lose weight and you're done. Not the case at all. I challenge myself daily to better myself not only by working out and eating healthy, but by working on my inside as well.
Losing weight can play such a pivotal role in your mind. One day you feel amazing, the next you may feel like you're headed back to the dreaded place you once were. You have to focus on the important things such as eating healthy and getting physical exercise, but the mental aspect was most important to me.
I stopped caring about what others thought of me and I found self-worth. I had to learn to love myself and my body. I am completely confident in the woman I am today. It took time to settle into my new "skin" but by having struggles in my life, I can be a relatable role model to others. I'm reaching out to people from all walks of life to show them that you may have once been in a dark place in your life, but if you make the decision to change things for the better, you are unstoppable.
I wouldn't change anything about myself because regardless of whether I am as thin or as toned as the next person, I know the time and dedication I put into becoming the healthy person I am. I always tell people that the number on the scale or the size printed in your jeans should never matter.
What matters most is that you are living a healthy life. You are working out and eating the right nutritious foods to fuel your body, but most importantly, you are looking into the mirror knowing and loving your personal and professional self.
Never compare yourself to others. We are all unique and different and that is what makes each of us so special. Regardless of whether I capture the title in January, I know that my story is being told and that I can make a difference in the lives of others. Even if it is just one person, it is completely worth it to me. I look forward to competing and being one step closer to my ultimate dream of becoming Miss America.
I'm going into the experience with the same attitude I took into my weight loss journey. "I will accomplish this, I will be successful regardless, I will love and be myself, and I will do anything and everything to see my goal through."
The lessons I've learned from overcoming obesity will help me in anything I decide to do in life, and for that I know I will always be successful.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.