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Then: While still a teen, Boyce shot up to 234 lbs. "I never disliked any kind of food, which was a big problem," she admitted.
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Now: After dropping 114 lbs. by eating lean proteins, veggies and healthy carbs, the South Carolina native represented her state in the 2012 Miss America pageant. "I learned that if I became a healthy person, I could achieve all the goals I wanted to in life," she said. Boyce, 25, is now working as a news anchor and often speaks to schoolchildren about loving their bodies.
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Then: "I went on a roller coaster at a theme park [and] it took two people to try and fit me in the seat," remembered Neal, who weighed 426 lbs. at the time. "I was laughing but I was hurting inside."
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Now: He became devoted to P90X workout videos and a healthy diet – and shed 226 lbs. Social media also played a role: "I posted sweaty photos of myself after every workout and before every meal to stay accountable." Now a fitness coach, Neal, 29, is committed to helping others. "I don't want this journey to be all about me," he said. "I want to be about helping other people."
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Then: After attending a friend's wake and suffering a panic attack fueled by a pizza/soda/cigarette binge, the former healthcare worker, who weighed 250 lbs., "looked in the mirror and said, 'You've got to change.'"
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Now: By eating leftover dinner foods like roast chicken and vegetables for breakfast, and oatmeal and berries for dinner, Cunningham stumbled upon a new eating plan and shed 100 lbs. in just four months. "Eating my largest meal in the morning revved up my metabolism," the 41-year-old explained. Now she's a weight-loss coach: "I've walked in the shoes of my clients; now I help them fit into my pants size."
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Then: As a little girl who thought of herself as fat, Ekstrom started hiding food in her room. Then she hit puberty early which, she said, caused her to put on about 10 lbs. each year for a decade, ultimately reaching 263 lbs.
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Now: When Ekstrom's mom was diagnosed with cancer, it set in motion a major lifestyle change for the whole family. They eliminated foods with white flour and refined sugar, as well as packaged goods; before long, Ekstrom had dropped 136 lbs. Adopting a dog was also key. "I walked him eight times a day [and] lost 30 lbs. in a month," she shared. Today the 31-year-old works as a certified fitness instructor at a retirement community, and still calls her mom her inspiration.
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Then: With a diet centered mostly on fast food, chips and cookies, the kindergarten teacher tipped the scales at 449 lbs. "I couldn't even get down on the floor with my [students], because I couldn't get back up," she recalled.
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Now: Joint aches, heartburn and chest pains finally convinced McConkey to change her unhealthy lifestyle. She joined Weight Watchers, lost 100 lbs. then took her first Zumba class. "I was grinning from ear to ear," she remembered. "I couldn't believe this is exercise." Still an enthusiast, McConkey, 40 – who went on to lose a total of 302 lbs. – now teaches four Zumba classes a week.
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Then: He weighed 308 lbs. at age 17 due, in part, to a Twinkies and Ho Hos habit. His aha moment came at the doctor's office when, seeing "obese" written on his file, Starks vowed to change his ways.
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Now: As a high school senior he joined the cross-country team, then took up kickboxing. His diet got a makeover, too: Instead of pastries, he snacked on fruits and veggies. As he got more and more into wellness, Starks took up weight training and ran six miles a day. Now a personal trainer and boot camp instructor who's lost a total of 108 lbs., Starks, 32, said, "I'm constantly pushing myself to new levels."
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HALF THEIR SIZE SPECIAL
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