If you thought hitting the beach in a bathing suit was intimidating, try strutting your stuff on a stage in front of the entire country—in heels, no less! Who would subject themselves to such a formidable experience? Miss America pageant contestants, that's who. (Psst! Take a peek at our list of 33 Tips for Total Confidence to channel your own self-esteem.)
During the Prohibition Era, Miss America was nothing more than a bathing suit competition. But since then, it's vastly evolved. Since its inaugural year, Talent and Intellect & Personality have both been added as official competition categories.The organization has also slowly but surely become the country's leading provider of educational scholarships for women. While many additional positive evolutions have occurred over the years, there's one thing that's remained consistent since 1921. And that's the expectation that the contestants should make their health a priority.
In the decades prior to the pageant's creation, women's roles in society began to transform. The ideal 19th-century woman was delicate and fragile, but according to leading magazines published in the 1920's, the modern woman was vigorous; she exercised and ate a healthy diet. And these ideals still hold true. "[We] love to show how physically fit our contestants are. It's part of the tradition of the organization," Sam Haskell, Executive Chairman of Miss America recently said of the bathing suit portion of the competition.
With the organization's emphasis on tradition in mind, those vying for the Miss America title hit the gym and eat right year round. And to make sure they're truly in top form before they hit the stage, many of them have last-minute tricks that help them to look and feel their best. How do we know this? Because they told us themselves! While it's true that they also have age on their side (this year's winner was just 21 years-old), there is plenty you can learn from the savvy women who hit the stage each year—whether you're 20, 30, 40 or 50 years-old. Read on to discover their last-minute tips for looking and feeling their best. And after you're done skimming through their suggestions, click on over to these 50 Best-Ever Weight Loss Tips for even more ways to get the body you've always been after!
Miss New York 2015, Jamie Lynn Macchia
"There is nothing worse than allowing bloating to undo your healthy habits. So, in the days leading up to a competition, natural diuretics are key," Miss New York 2015 tells us. "Asparagus and dandelion root have always been my go-to choices. Be sure to take in an increased amount of water, too, so your body knows it can safely rid itself of any water retention!" For even more ways to rid your belly of puffiness, don't miss our report, 24 Ways to Flatten Your Belly in 24 Hours.
Miss Idaho 2015, Kalie Wright
Another big proponent of natural diuretics is Miss Idaho 2015. "[During the week leading up to a competition,] I increase my intake of spinach on a daily basis. Spinach helps to naturally release the water retention in your body, allowing your muscle tone to show through," the 23-year-old tells us. Not into the idea of eating big bowls of greens? Consider sneaking the leafy veggie into your morning smoothies. As long as you pair it with some flavorful fruits, you won't even know it's in your cup. Promise!
Miss North Dakota 2016, Macy Christianson
"If I want to look fit the next day, I always do an ab workout the night before. Nothing too difficult—just enough to activate the muscles," Miss North Dakota 2016 tells us. Not sure which exercises to do? These 7 Best Ab Exercises for Women are sure to do the trick!
Miss Maryland 2016, Hannah Brewer
According to Miss Maryland 2016, looking lean isn't about shedding extra pounds overnight—it's about contouring. "When I need to look more toned, I use Sally Hansen Airbrush legs spray. I always put it on right before the competition because it helps even out my skin tone and helps me appear tan and sculpted," Brewer tells us. For even more ways to look trim and fit in a hurry, don't miss these 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 Days.
Miss Maine 2016, Marybeth Noonan
Other contestants, like Miss Maine 2016, tweak their diet in the weeks leading up to a big event. "When I'm trying to cut weight fast, I'll lower my carbs and pump up the protein," she notes. "I'll eat lots of veggies, egg whites, and packets of tuna in water. It's amazing how quickly you'll see a difference in how you look."
Miss Texas 2016, Caroline Carothers
"In the hours leading up to the competition, I like to stretch my legs, arms, back, and shoulders. This helps me feel taller, longer, leaner, and even more relaxed on competition day," says Miss Texas 2016, whose competition talent is baton twirling. "And because I am very fair skinned, I like to enhance my spray tan with a little extra bronzer right before I step on stage, which [highlights my muscles and] gives me that last-minute confidence boost!"
Miss Wisconsin 2016, Courtney Pelot
"To banish bloat in the days leading up to a competition or major event, I sip on dandelion root tea," Miss Wisconsin 2016 reveals. The tea is made from dried roots and leaves of the lawn pest, and it's thought to help cleanse the liver, promote healthy digestion, and encourage detoxification, nutritionist Isabel Smith explains. If you can't get your hands on the brew, consider deflating with the help of one of these other detox teas, instead.
Miss Delaware 2016, Amanda Debus
"Leading up to Miss America, I ate a high protein diet that was low in refined carbs and sugar," Miss Delaware 2016 explains. If you want to try a similar tactic, be careful not to replace real sugar with sugar alternatives. Things like erythritol and sorbitol have been linked to bloat. To learn more about everything from Splenda to simple syrup, don't miss our report on Every Popular Added Sweetener—Ranked!
Miss Massachusetts 2016, Alissa Musto
"A few days before a competition, I cut out all salt from my diet," Miss Massachusetts 2016 says—which we have to agree is a smart move. Too much of the mineral can cause water retention and bloat! She also gets a spray tan. "It makes everything look a little more toned," she explains.
Miss Iowa 2016, Kelly Koch
While you may already know that eating more veggies is a great move for overall health, you may be surprised to learn that loading up on cucumbers and carrots, is a go-to beauty queen weight loss hack. "Eating vegetables with every meal and weight training five days a week is a very effective way to get fit quick," Miss Iowa 2016 notes. While hitting the weight room can help rev your metabolism, adding more veggies to your plate can help increase your overall intake of water and fiber—two nutrients deeply connected to weight loss and maintenance. Even if you haven't been able to follow this strategy on the regular, adding more veggies and weight training into your routine in the days leading up to a special event can help you look and feel slimmer.
Miss Oregon 2016, Alexis Mather
"In the days leading up to a show, I stay away from sugar like it is the plague. I not only look better without sugar, but I also feel better," Miss Oregon 2016 notes. For some easy ways to follow in Mather's footsteps, don't miss our report, 30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar.
Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields
And last but not least, we spoke with Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields, who says she's "…a firm believer in you are what you ate four weeks ago." So, if you happen to have the luxury of knowing you'll need to look and feel your best for an event that's a few weeks away, start watching your diet ASAP. Don't wait until a few days before to start filling your plate with lean meats, healthy fats, veggies, or these 26 Foods That Melt Love Handles.
Photo credit: Miss America Organization/Bruce V. Boyajian, Matt Boyd Photography