'I Didn't Realize How Much I Snacked Mindlessly Until I Started Using A Calorie Tracker—And I Lost 150 Lbs.'

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

From Women's Health

My name is Bri Blank Alexander (@bri.healthy) and I'm 27 years old. I live in Brooklyn, New York, and I'm a television personality and host, as well as a health and wellness influencer (though I prefer to call myself an inspirer!).

Ever since I was a toddler, I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. There were no real food-related limits or rules in my household. Neither of my parents ate healthy, and neither of them really liked to cook. Large, greasy takeout meals were the norm. I ended up developing an emotional relationship and connection with food that I don't entirely understand to this day, but food was definitely a source of comfort for me.

I continued to gain weight throughout my life but I didn't let it bother me. I had a bunch of friends and a loving family. I was happy, so I didn't see a reason to change. But there were struggles: not fitting into booths at restaurants, being kicked off of an amusement park ride at Six Flags in front of my classmates on a school trip, squeezing into school desks, struggling to keep up with my friends while walking, and so much more.

One day in January 2012, as a 19-year-old college sophomore, I decided to step on a scale.

I consider this divine intervention, because I used to avoid the scale at all costs, even refusing to learn my weight at doctor appointments. When I stepped on the scale, I saw a number that I never thought I'd see: I weighed 306 pounds. At that moment, I knew that I could not keep living the way I was. I knew that I needed to make a change, for no other reason than improving my health.

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Smiling before and smiling even more after. 150 pounds later! 💗 My body shrunk, but my life expanded. I was always a happy girl, but my size used to hold me back from enjoying so many things in life. . Public seating was always a gamble - would I fit or would I be squished for however long I had to be there? Walking for more than a few minutes was exhausting (and sweaty, no matter the weather). Sitting in the back seat of my friends’ cars and knowing that everyone was squished because of my size. I stopped trying to go on amusement park rides after being kicked off of one due to the seatbelt not fastening around my body. I had never experienced the joy that physical activity brings. People would judge me on first glance without wanting to get to know me. These are just a few examples of how my body held me back from experiencing so many beautiful things in life. . I am body positive. I loved myself at every size. But I wasn’t healthy back then. I’ve had people online tell me I shouldn’t have lost weight - that I could have been healthy then. But that just simply is not true. I think that now, more than ever, it’s so important to respect everyone’s journey, because there is so much more to them than may meet the eye. . Many anti-weight loss folks may see this picture and think, “wow, she hated herself so much that she lost all that weight. She was fine.” But they were never there. They are not me. I loved myself SO much that I decided to make a healthy change for myself. My life is a million times better for it. The freedom I have within this beautiful body is empowering. It was always about #HealthNotLooks. . Please do not judge others for their journeys. Shaming weight loss may prevent someone from making the healthiest change of their life and can literally endanger their health. I welcome all thoughts on this post and we can have a respectful conversation about this. Sending love to you all today and every day. 💗 #BriHealthy #HealthNotLooks

A post shared by Bri Blank Alexander 🍓 (@bri.healthy) on Oct 9, 2019 at 9:36am PDT

I was living on campus at the University of Rhode Island (URI), so my first step was immediately researching healthier foods I could eat in URI's dining halls. I found that turkey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, onion, and brown mustard was a staple that I could rely on (and I ate it almost every day for lunch and dinner—and never got sick of it!). I'd usually pair it with a piece of fruit or a cup of chicken noodle soup).

I also started a private Tumblr blog to repost healthy lifestyle graphics and recipes as motivation, and to track my progress and food intake.

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Let’s talk about being comfortable. 💗 As humans, we tend to live our lives to get to or maintain a place where we feel comfortable. We tend to love our comfort zones and we don’t always like the idea of the unknown. Comfort is definitely a luxury, but I want to talk about living your life beyond your comfort zone with self-love. 💕 . There are different perspectives on what self-love is, and it’s different for every person. My particular view of self-love is one of growth from comfort, while loving myself the whole way. 💫 When I weighed 306 pounds, I was comfortable. I was content, super happy with who I was and with my life. But when I realized my actual weight, I knew that I had to leave that comfort zone. When I did, my whole entire life changed for the better in SO many ways. ☺️ . I was happy and I loved myself at 306 pounds, but because I loved myself so much, I knew that leaving my comfort zone was necessary. I took a leap of faith and turned my life around, never having eaten healthily and barely exercised in my entire life. Less than 2 years later, I officially lost 150 pounds and now, there is so much more for me in this life. ❤️ . I can run, jump, dance, and even sit in ways that I couldn’t before. You see the way I’m sitting in this photo? That wasn’t possible with 150 extra pounds on me! These are just a few of the countless positive changes that came from trading my life of comfort for the seeking of change and improvement. It was the best decision I ever made. ⭐️ . What’s your view on comfort zones? They aren’t easy to move out of, but you could be experiencing extraordinary things if you try. 💗 I want you to think deeply about what may hold you back from venturing outside of your comfort zone. This is a safe space to share your viewpoints - a totally #judgmentfreezone! 💕 #BriHealthy #HealthNotLooks . 📸: @daphneyoureephotography

A post shared by Bri Blank Alexander 🍓 (@bri.healthy) on Aug 20, 2019 at 12:32pm PDT

About a week later, I discovered MyFitnessPal, which revolutionized the food-tracking game for me.

It became fun for me to track my food intake, especially because I started to see results quickly. The numbers didn't stress me out, but rather they showed me the truth about what I was actually consuming. Calorie counting kept me accountable and gave me a written food diary, complete with all of each food's nutrients. I continued to count my calories all the way through my weight-loss journey, even after I moved off campus and taught myself how to cook healthier foods.

Now, my meals vary each day and are often different than they were during my weight-loss journey. Recently, I've been trying to eat more intuitively and to eat (pretty much) only when I'm actually hungry, which changed the way I eat, too. I try not to snack too much because I recently realized that, many of the times I was snacking, I wasn't actually hungry.

My eating style is constantly evolving. I eat differently now than I did last year, and the year before that. I believe that change is the only constant in life, so I continue to experiment with my eating style as my life gets busier as well, and I try to have fun with it, too.

Here’s an example of what I eat in a day now:

  • Breakfast: A slice of whole-wheat sourdough bread toasted and topped with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter or almond butter, as well as two eggs and berries.

  • Lunch: I usually have a big breakfast and dinner, so my lunches are usually pretty light. It's usually a salad, an oatmeal bowl, or plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, depending on how hungry I am.

  • Snacks: I'll eat Lesser Evil coconut oil popcorn, or From the Ground Up cauliflower crackers or their butternut squash pretzels. I also try to incorporate fruits and veggies as snacks, so hummus and carrots is a favorite of mine as well. Also, granola with non-dairy milk.

  • Dinner: Lean protein (grilled chicken or chicken sausage, usually) with roasted vegetables and/or sweet potatoes. I do a CSA now, so I roast so many different types of veggies. It's such a quick-and-easy way to prepare healthy food with my busy lifestyle.

  • Dessert: Usually granola with non-dairy milk or some sort of fruit (an apple, a handful of blueberries, etc.), or a few pieces of a Hu chocolate bar.

Now that I'm used to calorie counting, I don't have to do it every day. When first starting out, it was important for me to develop an understanding of the foods I was eating. For example, nuts are super healthy, but it's important to portion them out, because their calorie counts can rack up really quickly. I don't believe in eliminating foods, but I believe in eating in moderation.

So yes, I would track my slice of pizza, but I'd still enjoy the pizza and then I'd eat a bit healthier the rest of the day. After doing the research and getting the hang of calorie counting, it became second nature.

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Sitting then vs. sitting now. 💗 Would you believe me if I said that sitting is better now after losing 150 pounds? 🧐 Back then, I always felt like I took up too much space. When riding in backseats of cars with my friends, I always felt the need to apologize that everyone else was squished. On airplanes, I would take up more than a single seat. My mom and I may have had to pay for an extra seat one time - @maryannblank correct me if I’m wrong!). I had to squeeze myself into desks at school and in booths at restaurants, my body feeling constrained and folding over the hard tables. I was kicked off a ride at Six Flags in front of my classmates because the seatbelt wouldn’t fasten. Despite all of that, sitting was one of my favorite activities. I loved not moving. I think about this now and it shocks me. I feel so proud of where I am now and how much I absolutely love to move my body now. 💪🏽 . Some people say “don’t ever lose weight, you’re perfect the way you are,” and I think that that’s a toxic statement. I feel that it guilts people into staying at a potentially (usually) unhealthy state and an (pretty much always) uncomfortable state, all while not challenging themselves to be better. Growth is one of the most important parts of life. If we stay stagnant and comfortable, how are we improving? It should be acceptable to want to improve your health. Point blank, period. . It’s not about body image. It’s about #HealthNotLooks. Many people that preach these anti-weight loss messages have never actually experienced life at a very large size to know that there are many smaller inconveniences and struggles than may meet the eye. If they knew, I’m sure they’d be advising everyone to DO WHAT IS BEST FOR THEIR BODIES. Which is genuinely the best thing anyone can do, ever. Let’s stop telling other people what to do and instead, supporting everyone no matter where they’re at. 💗 . Side note: I was thinking existentially the other day about how humans love to sit. We just love to spend time on our butts. We create different surfaces to place our butts on. We really love resting our butts on stuff, and it cracks me up to think of it that way. 😂 #BriHealthy

A post shared by Bri Blank Alexander 🍓 (@bri.healthy) on Aug 7, 2019 at 9:39am PDT

I aim to get to the gym at least three to five times per week.

My schedule is very busy now, so I have to make time for my workouts. I first started exercising about four months into my journey, when I had already lost about 50 pounds. I didn't want to jump into exercise without knowing if my heart could handle it. When I started, I got a gym membership in my hometown during summer break between sophomore and junior year.

I began to teach myself how to work out using the little bit of experience I had using gym machines in high-school gym class. I would ask trainers for advice on things like proper form, but I never had a trainer myself. I also researched workouts that I could do and found ones that I liked. I also fell in love with Zumba classes, which taught me how to dance and showed me how fun working out can be.

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Favorite moment of 2019 #3 is something that I don’t often celebrate. It’s the fact that I officially completed a full season of my own self-produced YouTube talk show! 🥰 I produced, wrote, filmed, and edited every part of it by myself. Swipe through to see some clips of the show! ❤️ . This project was a TON of work, but it always felt so rewarding when I dropped a new episode. Doing everything on my own was a bit much at times, which is why I’m so incredibly grateful for my interns now that help me with my current video projects. I often look back at these shows and cringe because I feel like I’ve grown so much more as a host and on air personality, but then I remember that it’s BECAUSE I did all of this that I am where I am now. I gave myself a full season’s worth of experience: interviews, cooking segments, audience giveaways, fitness segments, and SO much more. I look back on it now and I feel so proud of myself for sticking with this, even through the challenges. Special shoutout to my friend Errol for teaching me the basics of video production in the beginning, this would’ve been much harder without you! . I will definitely be bringing a show like this back in the future, except WAY bigger and WAY better. 😉 There’s a message in this for you all: to borrow from @Nike, JUST DO IT. If you have a passion or a desire, create your own opportunity for it. Want to start a podcast? Just do it. Want to start an Etsy shop? Just do it! If you wait for the “right” time, you’ll keep waiting forever. Even if it’s not the world’s best quality (I literally used $15 microphones that plugged into my old iPhones and iMovie to edit for this show), just do it anyway, because you’re giving yourself invaluable experience that will help you to continue to grow.🌻 . And look at me now! Who knows if I’d be as comfortable on camera now if I didn’t practice on this platform for a year. I feel confident in my craft knowing that I CAN do it, having done it for so long. Even though the views weren’t as high as I’d have liked them to be, that doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is that I just did it. And I’m better because of it. 💗 #BriHealthy #FavoriteMomentsof2019 #BriHealthyShow

A post shared by Bri Blank Alexander 🍓 (@bri.healthy) on Dec 30, 2019 at 9:10am PST

Nowadays, I do lots of strength training and group fitness classes. I like to try all of the different boutique fitness studios here New York City. Fitness has become much more than a weight-loss tool for me; it gives me energy, it makes me feel happier, and it makes me feel so strong and so empowered. And every time I work out, I know I'm doing something amazing for my health. The looks are just an extra bonus. (I created a hashtag called #HealthNotLooks because I feel that it's so important to start any health journey with the intention of improving your health, and not doing it simply for appearance.)

With a ton of determination, dedication, and self-love, I lost 150 pounds in one year and 10 months.

I went from a size 24 to a size 10. But more importantly, losing weight changed my quality of life. I'm able to walk freely, even run, without strain or immediately sweating profusely. I'm able to perform normal daily tasks with ease and energy. I can live a healthy, abundant life that is not limited by my size.

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“Relationship weight.” 🤪 I use this term to describe the 20 pounds I gained while experiencing a happy relationship with VJ. When we got together, my whole relationship with food changed. As someone who had counted my calories daily for years, maintaining 150 lb weight loss, I started to go out to eat more and enjoy more “comfort foods” with my then new love. VJ is a skinny guy with a fast metabolism, and I started to feel like my body worked like his. Well... it doesn’t. 😫 (But I’m grateful for that, I’ll talk about that another day). . I slowly started to gain weight for the first real time since my original weight loss journey. I didn’t realize it, but I did for the first time after seeing these pictures of me from our Disney World trip in 2017. I felt SO upset at myself. My whole life/career is based on my weight loss, and here I was, gaining 20 pounds back?! I felt like a failure. . I tried to lose weight, knowing that I’m a pro at weight loss, and to my shock, nothing was happening. I’d look at myself in the mirror every day and feel disappointed at what I saw. . One day, I thought about it. What made this weight loss journey SO much harder? Then, it dawned on me. . During my original weight loss journey, I FULLY LOVED MYSELF. During this 2nd round, I was coming at it from a place of self-disappointment and frustration. That’s when I realized that I needed to change my mindset. . I started to treat myself kindly again. I began to play on my own team. I told myself that I was beautiful no matter what, & reminded myself that I’m doing this for #HealthNotLooks. I reminded myself that I am strong, capable, and that I would make it happen with self-love. ❤️ . Now, I’ve lost 12.5 of those 20 pounds, & I’m okay with taking it super slowly. Actively loving myself gave me my confidence back and I’ve felt beautiful and amazing every single step of the way. Now, I’m only 7.5 pounds from my goal weight - the weight I maintained for years. Most of my clothes fit me again. I have more energy. I feel happier. It’s all for #HealthNotLooks. 💗 . I’m loving every step of this journey. I know I can do this. & I know that you can do anything you set your mind to, too! 💗

A post shared by Bri Blank Alexander 🍓 (@bri.healthy) on Oct 28, 2019 at 9:49am PDT

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