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'I Gained 70 Lbs. After A Personal Tragedy. I Started Strength Training To Cope And Got Stronger Than Ever'

Briana Shaffer, as told to Emily Shiffer
Photo credit: Briana Shaffer

From Women's Health

Hi! My name is Briana Shaffer (@brianakfitness), 25, and I'm from Carlsbad, California. I'm the CEO and owner of a fitness apparel corporation (check it out at @brianakcollection). A personal tragedy led to a period of weight gain for me, but after a wakeup call moment I decided to change my lifestyle and lost 70 pounds in the process.

After my best friend died in a car accident, it turned my world upside down. I gained 70 pounds and became depressed. My doctor told me if I didn’t make a lifestyle change, I could end up having even more serious health issues down the line.

So I finally said enough was enough. And in September of 2015, I start logging everything that I was eating, a suggestion from my doctor. I was 190 pounds at only 5-feet, 4-inches when my weight-loss journey began.

When I started trying to lose the weight I had gained, I did *not* go cold turkey with my old habits. I wanted to go a route that was sustainable.

I started meal prepping and followed the 80/20 rule with my diet: 80 percent of my diet was nutritious, healthy foods, and 20 percent was treats. The 80/20 style of eating has worked best for me because I am able to still enjoy the treats I love here and there, rather than only eating healthy all day every day, which isn't always sustainable. What didn’t work was trying to eat chicken and broccoli every single day.

The 80/20 rule has also helped keep me from binging over the weekend. If I let myself have a cookie or a decadent, special meal during the week, I'm not looking ahead at the weekend like this rare time I have to go crazy. It's all about balance.

The 80/20 diet (although you really don't even have to think of it as a diet at all!) is also more maintainable for my lifestyle. I am still able to go out with family and friends without feeling anxious about what to eat.

Here’s what I typically eat in a day now.

  • Breakfast: Avocado toast (two slices of bread, twp eggs, two tomatoes, and a half of an avocado)
  • Lunch: Chicken wrap (spinach tortilla, shredded chicken, tomato, lettuce)
  • Snacks: Popcorn, a protein shake, or apples and peanut butter
  • Dinner: A bowl with chicken, rice, and veggies
  • Dessert: Acai bowl

I also started to exercise, first by doing full body circuits at home.

Eventually, I got a gym membership and started lifting weights five times a week. Strength training helped me cope with the death of my best friend, and after every single workout, I felt stronger, happier, and more confident.

My workout schedule is currently: two full-body days, two leg days, and one arm day. I also decided that it’s not best for me to weigh myself. I’m all about non-scale victories. Instead, I go off progress photos and how my clothes fit.

My biggest tip for success is to take everything one step at a time.

Fitness is so overwhelming, and I think people complicate it. I’ve always taken it one step at a time with working out and my diet. I didn't just wake up one day able to work out five days a week—it took time and practice.

I also had to learn to let go of guilt. If you slack off one day, don’t beat yourself up. Start fresh the next day. Feeling guilty will only hurt you and your progress. It's important to be kind to yourself and appreciate even those small accomplishments. You should be doing this because you love your body and want to put it first. Be proud of those baby steps that will eventually add up to the bigger goal.

You don’t need supplements, weight loss teas, and pills. You don’t have to give up food that you love or miss out on functions. It’s all about finding that balance.

I started my weight loss journey in 2015, and I have maintained my 70-pound weight loss since 2017.

It took me two years to lose the weight. Starting my health and fitness journey changed my whole life. It helped my self-confidence in addition to my physical health. It has also helped me build a solid foundation to continue working out long term. And honestly. the biggest change has been on my mental health.

Fitness gave me a platform to help other women achieve the same self love that I now have. Fitness also opened up the doors to me now running my own company and doing what I love every single day.

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