How Brianna Went from Giving up to Giving it Her All

Elizabeth Millard
by Elizabeth Millard
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How Brianna Went from Giving up to Giving it Her All

Sometimes, an incredible transformation begins with a simple, everyday kind of moment. For Brianna Bernard, this moment came when she was paging through a magazine and felt like a switch inside her flipped from “indifferent” to “motivated.”

“I was looking at an article about people who’d lost 100 pounds, and one of the women profiled was in Minneapolis, where I am,” she recalls. “She mentioned a trainer who was actually close to where I lived. That’s when I thought: If she can do it, why not me?”

At that point, Bernard was 245 pounds and had given up. Although she hadn’t been overweight while growing up, she saw her weight creeping up in her late 20s, and then her first pregnancy added another 70 pounds.

“Even though I didn’t like carrying that much weight, I just thought this was how it was going to be,” she says. “I resigned myself to it, in many ways. I thought that once I had the baby, the weight was supposed to magically fall off. When it didn’t, I figured this was my new normal.”

That new normal didn’t feel like a fit, though. As a stay-at-home mom, she loved taking care of her son, but she recalls, “I didn’t feel like ‘me’ anymore. I wanted to be a better mom, to be a better everything.”

She booked a session with the local trainer she’d read about, curious whether she could find even a small portion of the success others had described. She didn’t know that major change was just over the horizon.

After asking the trainer what diet she should try, he told her to skip the trendy eating plans and to just start logging her food on MyFitnessPal. He also suggested cutting things she didn’t need in her diet but seemed to like — such as bread and other baked goods — and then adding them back in after a couple weeks, to see how her body reacted.

Before long, those small tweaks became an overhaul. She added a significant amount of fruit and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. She also started drinking much more water, and she logged every bite and sip.

“By logging my food, it held me accountable,” she says. “Even though I was the only one who saw it, my food log made me take a hard look at what I was eating. I didn’t want to put unhealthy things in there, so I ended up not eating those.”

One of the most notable features for Bernard was the small message on the bottom of the screen that read, “If every day were similar to today, in 5 weeks you will weigh ‘X.’” That became her race, she says, as she buckled down to hit her numbers every month — and she did, consistently, sometimes beating it by a pound or two, but never weighing more than it predicted.

“Whoever MyFitnessPal has working on the math, that person is a genius,” she says, with a laugh. “It was the math keeping me on track, because I wanted that number. That made it fun.”

After a decade of trying different diets and always giving up, the MyFitnessPal habit stuck. Beyond helping her shift toward physical transformation, logging her food also changed Bernard’s understanding about nutrient density, sugar intake, sodium amount and other food components. That led toward expanding her education in nutrition, and she now holds a certification in the field.

Today, at 136 pounds, Bernard has become a personal trainer as a way to help others define what strong means to them. She loves showing her clients the value of small changes and big transformations.

“What I loved was that I never felt like I was on a diet,” she says. “I just kept eating better and making healthier choices. Consistency and dedication, that’s the key.”

Originally published July 2018

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About the Author

Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth Millard

Elizabeth is a freelance journalist specializing in health and fitness, as well as an ACE certified personal trainer and Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in SELF, Runner’s World, Women’s Health and CNN.


44 responses to “How Brianna Went from Giving up to Giving it Her All”

  1. Avatar Debbie says:

    I’d like to know more about her certification. I majored in Dietetics in college. I have used MFP for about 1090 days and so far, I’ve lost 116 lbs. by applying my knowledge, logging my food/exercise/water in MFP, and completely transforming my lifestyle. I cut out sugar and eat clean (whole foods), not processed foods. I’m 62, and I’ve got more muscles now than ever. I also know that it takes motivation, a reason to change, and a transformation in thinking to be successful. I’d enjoy helping people attain their goals, which is why I’m asking for more info re: her cert.

    • Avatar Patty Deters says:

      I’m interested too for very similar reasons. I’m 56. Thanks.

    • Avatar Michele says:

      Debbie or Patty,
      Would either of you happen to be near the Lehigh Valley of PA? I sure could use your help! Facing double knee replacements and really need to get into better shape.

  2. Avatar Estranged says:


  3. Avatar DeDe says:

    @briannabernard any advice on how to kickstart my weight loss journey?

  4. Avatar Andrius Naruševičius says:

    Where is that message feature in the app? I cannot find it.

    • Avatar Lears2016 says:

      When you have completed your food entries for the day, hit “Complete Diary” at the bottom and the message will appear in a matter of seconds.

      • Avatar Andrius Naruševičius says:

        Ah, thanks! Never clicked that button before 🙂

      • Avatar Holly N Shawn Murphy says:

        I love this feature in fitness pal. This and stories like Brianas motivate me. I have MS and have had a terrible time losing the weight put on when I was prescribed steroids for relapses. You look amazing and while I doubt my old body can do that, I really just want to be active and safe and mobile!!! Thanks so much for your inspiration!!!

  5. Avatar Carrie says:

    Holy crap, she is shredded. I want to know about her exercise regimen! Inspiring story, especially the down-to-earth attitude about food.

  6. Avatar S Vale says:

    Thank you, I thought I was the only one who thought this.

    • Avatar Anne says:

      The only reason that would be a problem is if she were doing it for you. It appears that she was not. (Also, lighting and posing can do much to manipulate how one’s muscles look in a photo.)

      • Avatar Andrew Y says:

        She looks incredible. If she is freakishly muscled, its in a good way. As far as John suggesting she doesn’t look feminine, well that is just your opinion. I guarantee when she goes to the gym she is turning heads.

        • Avatar MarieK says:

          Wow! Jealous much?? She looks amazing either way. It’s the way that you feel about yourself that’s important. Usually when someone says something negative to another person it’s just the way they see themselves. If you can’t say something nice, just be quiet.

  7. Avatar Paula Wells says:

    This is so motivational. I am at my highest weight ever – 230 lbs. I started logging food on MFP 4 days ago and I’ve already lost 8 lbs. I had given up, but I’m my daughter’s only parent and I have been warned that if I don’t change my lifestyle, I could have a stroke. I don’t want to burden my daughter or live that way. So, I just decided to start. That was the hardest part. Now, four days in, I’m doing it. And I’m happy about that.

  8. Avatar Lori H. says:

    Wow…what an inspiration!! Your story sounds a lot like my own at the beginning. I love some of the little things you did to stay motivated and plan on using them for myself! I startred at 282, I’m down to 248 but seem to have hit a major plateau for several months now. Do you have any suggestions how to jump start things to get the weightloss moving again?

    • Avatar Ravi says:

      I have a similar problem, Lori. Dropped from 203 to 193 and stuck there. Need some suggestions, too.

    • Avatar MarieK says:

      I too have hit a plateau. My trainer keeps reminding me to focus on my clothes, not the number on the scale.

      • Avatar Lori H says:

        Thanks! I should do that too, but it is hard. I’ve even cut down on how frequently I weigh myself so I don’t get discouraged.

    • Avatar Golda Smith says:

      Nutrition is important yes! However, if you’ve hit a plateau look at other areas that may need attention such as…

      Rest. Are you getting quality rest or do you have difficulty sleeping? Quality sleep is more important (in my opinion) than hours of sleep.

      Stress. One a scale of 1-10 with 1 being not stressed at all to 10 being extremely stressed, how would you rate your stress at home and or at work?

      Exercise. Are you doing the same exercises day in day out or do you change it up? Add another set, or another rep, or change the tempo, or change your rest between sets, or increase the weight.

      It could be one or all the above or perhaps something I didn’t mention but it’s worth some investigation. Stay encouraged!!!

  9. Avatar Will Ernst says:

    That’s an amazing transformation and shows some real dedication and hard work. Great job!

  10. Avatar Ravi says:

    Very inspiring!!

    One of the best things about MFP for me – stop targeting the weight and focus on the bad habits that lead to excess weight. That way the loss is more sticky and you don’t gain it all back. Thanks for the inspiring article

  11. Avatar Andrew Y says:

    That is very impressive. It’s incredible to see that kind of a turnaround. Congratulations. I am sure you are an inspiration for so many people. Candidly, when it said you were 136 pounds that has to be all muscle. You look much leaner than that #.

    I’ve been on MFP for 5 years. It works. I haven’t missed a day of logging even if out of the country. I lost about 18 pounds in 3 months and have spent the past 4+ years just on maintenance. Even if the scale goes up a few pounds from sodium intake or eating something ‘bad’, I trust my #’s and a few days later I’m back in range. Your story just reinforces that dieting is not always the way to go. Just make better choices and use the technology available.

  12. Avatar MarieK says:

    This is a very encouraging article. You look amazing. I’ve been on MFP on and off for years, but I have been consistent with it for the last 115 days. I’m a cancer survivor. I have very weak bones which causes multiple fractures. I do not want this to stop me from becoming healthier. I have lost around 70 lbs in three years. According to my BMI I am still consider obese. I hate that word. But the truth is the truth. One thing for me is taking life one day at a time. I enter my foods into the MFP app and most days I do some kind of cardio and/or strength training. I’m babying a foot fracture now so it’s more strength training. Like you, I want to help someone else along the way. I’m going back to school after 30 years to become a physical therapist and then receive certification to help cancer patients once their treatments are over. Recovery for me has been long and tedious. If anything good can come from cancer maybe it would be that someone else can be encouraged to not give up. Your article has helped me with that today. We must help keep each other accountable. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  13. Avatar Teresa T says:

    First, let me say congratulations on the weight loss. I’ve lost 72.6kg since February 26th…With more to lose. I did this without MFP, I only started using it out of curiosity.

    While I admire your accomplishment, I would personally not want to lose my hourglass figure & curves. Not having curves, and being overly muscled just doesn’t look right to me.

    Some upper body/arm muscles is fine, but without hips & having that tummy & legs, makes for a very male body.

    Just saying that the road to weight loss doesn’t have to be a road to being a body builder.

    • Avatar Rosie says:

      Completely disagree. I think she looks feminine and fit. She’s pretty and looks like a woman. Your comment seems a bit bitter tbh. Hope you’re ok.

      • Avatar Hmmmm says:

        I agree with you, Rosie.

      • Avatar Nye79 says:

        Just because someone states an opinion doesn’t mean they’re bitter or jealous. She simply stated in a very nice way that she does not prefer that body shape, no need to belittle or be condescending.

        • Avatar Rosie says:

          Nah, she didn’t just say she “doesn’t prefer that body shape” though. She actually said that shape “makes for a very male body”.

    • Avatar Hmmmm says:

      Congrats on your weight loss.

      That’s the beauty of being your own person with your own fitness goals.

      She looks wonderful and still feminine. Fit. Congrats to her!

    • Avatar Andrew Y says:

      That is your opinion. Everyone has different views on what is attractive but I suspect she can wear any type of clothing and look great.

    • Avatar angfife says:

      I am mad impressed with this woman. I think body shaming can go both ways and the amount of perseverance we can see in the transformation is incredible. Kudos to you whether you lost 5 pounds or 100. Whether you have curves or are a competitive weightlifter! You go for it girl! It’s inspiring.

    • Avatar Tracy Radsvick says:

      I agree, you don’t need to go so far. A little bit of fat helps with skin elasticity anyway.

  14. Avatar PauperPrincess says:

    You didn’t say how long this took to do. One of the drawbacks I have for trying to lose weight is the fact that it takes so long to do.

    • Avatar USAFPhotog says:

      True and that is why there is dedication and determination. Many people expect instant results, that’s not going to happen. I might have taken her about 2-3 yrs to get into that type of shape. I have a friend that I have know since 2006, she had two children but continued to workout even it was just walking or on the treadmill and now in 2018 she is in fitness competitions so it does take time

  15. Avatar USAFPhotog says:

    WOW awesome

  16. Avatar impatient_undertaker says:

    Impressive as much as misleading. Counting your calories won’t make almost stage ready women’s physique competitor. It should be said that steroids were involved to achieve such a body, especially that many women may be discouraged to start a diet and resistance training to not become too bulky, which is impossible even for most men without exogenous help.

    • Avatar Timothy says:

      Wow what a nasty, baseless snipe. I personally believe a person who’s focused CAN achieve incredible results without “cheating”. Her results may not be typical, but it doesn’t make them impossible!

  17. Avatar Tracy Radsvick says:

    Glad she reached her own personal goal, however, I thought she looked nice before. If this goal feels too daunting, don’t worry people. Most women really can’t and shouldn’t aim for such low body fat. Just try to be healthy and happy, and you don’t need to achieve this for that.

  18. Avatar KGEd says:

    All the article talks about is her diet. What about the exercise she did? Your body doesn’t end up looking like that by just dieting.

    It is also amazing that there are no stretch marks or lose skin. Must be because of photo enhancement.

  19. Avatar Slr89 says:

    This article had a lot of great tips and obtainable goals. I’ve lost 75lbs over the last two years, and she is right about being consistent. Small goal-setting helps to perpetuate healthy choices into lifestyles. I want to know how she avoided excess skin? Do I need to be lifting weights regularly? Up my protein intake? I aim for 75g a day…

    Any advice for sagging skin after weight loss? Thanks.

    • Avatar Anonthrwy says:

      Yes you do have to lift weights regularly if you want to avoid saggy skin. Up your protein to gain some muscle then tone it out at whatever weight you feel comfortable at. Also moisturize your skin often with creams filled with vitamin A, C, and B for your skin.

  20. Avatar Danyell Smith says:

    Wonder ! How did you keep your skin from being soo lose ? How did you keep it tight/ from sagging! You look awesome!

  21. Avatar HarvestSquirrel says:

    What’s her workout routine? I’ve lost weight and look like a deflated balloon. Seems impossible to get toned. She looks great.

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