Miss South Texas Keli Kryfko - from "fat Girl to Beauty Queen...
Nine years ago, Keli Kryfko could barely do push-ups.
Now, the Miss South Texas pageant queen is dreaming about becoming Miss America.
The 23-year-old Houston woman says her 100-pound transformation wasn't the result of a trendy diet or expensive fitness classes. Instead, she says, she used a bully's taunts to stay motivated to make small changes to her lifestyle.
Kryfko weighed in at about 230 pounds and wore a size 24 back in the eighth grade. She remembers feeling left out in middle school. It was hard to make close friends. At one point, she asked someone to a school dance and was rejected right away. She was also unable to do things other middle school kids dream about, like becoming a cheerleader or starring in the school musical.
"I wasn't in the right body for that," Kryfko told The News. "And I definitely wasn't in the right mindset. I didn't treat myself well."
She isn't alone. According to a 2010 study published in the journal Pediatrics, obese children are 63% more likely to be bullied than their peers who are of a healthy weight. And obese children are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or loneliness.
Kryfko remembers taking a fitness test for gym class and failing all the requirements. She couldn't do sit-ups or push-ups, and she couldn't finish running a mile.
"I wasn't able to do any of it and it was so embarrassing," Kryfko said. "So I went back into the locker room hoping no one would notice and I overheard these girls saying, 'Can you believe the fat girl couldn't do any of it?'
"And I realized, oh my gosh, they're talking about me," she continued. "I didn't want that to be my definition. I'm much more than those names that people are calling me."
She started out small: first cutting out her favorite sugary drink, Dr. Pepper.
"That is still my toughest breakup to date," Kryfko said.
Then, she took aim at fatty foods. She started ordering Taco Bell tacos without the cheese. From there, she started cutting out fried foods and made sure to stick to healthy portions. Then, she added in exercise.
"It was small, incremental changes," Kryfko said. "That's the most important thing — not fighting it."
In a year and a half, she lost about 70 pounds. Now, she weighs about 129 pounds.
"It's an ongoing transformation," Kryfko said. "I'm still trying to get that six pack."
She tries to prepare meals by herself whenever possible, but she makes sure to eat healthy whenever she goes out. She likes trying to eat out at Chinese food restaurants and asking for simple clean foods, like steamed chicken and broccoli.
"People need to be comfortable enough to know that it's okay to be picky when you order your food," Kryfko said. "To ask for meals to be prepared without butter, for example."