Growing up, Bri Blank Alexander knew she was overweight, but she didn’t have a problem with that. “I was happy. I had so many friends, and a loving family,” she told TODAY. But because of her weight, she steered clear of any physical activity as much as she could.
TODAY first connected with Alexander in 2018, when she shared how she had stepped on a scale in January 2012 at age 19 and the number she saw shocked her — 306 pounds. “I knew I needed to make a change,” she said.
She researched healthy eating, taught herself to cook, started exercising and began logging her calories with the MyFitnessPal app, averaging 1,200 to 1,300 calories per day. After almost two years of slow, steady progress, she lost 150 pounds. Along the way, she built a business — Bri Healthy — and an Instagram platform where she inspires other people to make healthy changes.
At first, maintaining her weight came easy. She added 300 calories to her daily average plus a treat meal with dessert on the weekends. For years, that worked just fine.
It would be nice if the story ended there. But the truth is that Alexander didn’t just hit her goal weight and settle there happily ever after. It’s been an ongoing challenge for her to maintain her weight, but her self-love has kept her grounded through the ups and downs.
Falling in love proves to be a weight-maintenance challenge
In 2016 she met her now-husband. “He’s one of those people who can eat whatever he wants and stay skinny,” she said. He would eat things like processed foods and packaged cookies — things that are engineered to be delicious. Alexander would eat them too.
“Once I started to eat them, I felt like I had been missing them for a long time. Feelings of, ‘I can have things like this again’ popped into my mind. Anything in moderation is good. But I got a little too comfortable,” she said. Eating what worked for her husband rather than what worked for her led to weight gain.
“I really started looking at myself like a failure,” she said. “My whole journey has been ‘Bri Healthy.’ I’m this girl who lost all this weight and I show people that. I started to feel so disconnected from myself. I was asking, ‘Who did I become? How did I let myself get here?’”
She tried to lose weight again and her earlier strategies weren’t working. So she asked herself what was different. “And it came to me — I was being nice to myself back then. I loved myself. I wasn’t tearing myself down,” she said. “Once I started to love myself more and put energy into that, the weight started to come off.”
She settled into a weight that was higher than her lowest weight but felt comfortable to her and healthy for her body, and maintained that weight for a long time.
Enter 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic
Alexander had been following the idea of intuitive eating and “all foods fit,” where you honor what your body wants and feed yourself what you need. She supports the idea for a lot of people, but found that it didn’t work so well for her. If she wanted a muffin, she had a muffin, but she started to want a muffin every day. Or, she would choose healthy foods during the day and then eat snacks in the evening.
Her less-healthy food choices escalated during the pandemic. Plus, she started to eat a lot more takeout. And she was missing out on a lot of movement — not only the group exercise classes she liked, but the day-to-day activity of walking and climbing stairs in New York City.
A few months ago she stepped on a scale and saw that, even though her weight was under 200 pounds, it was the highest it had been since her original weight-loss success. “I wasn’t upset with myself. But I’m trying to keep in my mind my intention for being healthy,” she said.
Loving herself through her weight-loss journey
She refocused her weight-loss efforts. “I’m trying to keep myself in the mindset of knowing that I can do it and that it’s for my health,” she said. “I’m still figuring it out. And I think that there’s power in admitting that vulnerability, in the fact that we’re always all figuring it out. Life is a journey. It’s not static.”
She’s tracking her calorie intake again, aiming for 1,700 calories a day. “That feels very freeing for me. The progress is happening slower, but I don’t feel like I’m restricting myself,” she said. She’s striking a balance between freedom and accountability.
Alexander is aiming to return to her favorite weight, not her lowest weight. It’s a weight she maintained for a long time, where her clothes fit and where she feels comfortable. “It’s where I feel nice and light and free,” she said. “I’m about 12 pounds away. It feels attainable.”
“In this journey, I’ve been loving myself where I’m at and appreciating my body where I’m at, at every level,” she said. “I am so proud that I am allowing myself to enjoy this journey, to trust the process, and to stick with it even through all of the challenges. I love learning more about myself and I know that I will find the balance I desire. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.”