Brianna Caceres recently accomplished something remarkable. Through rare determination — expressed in regular workouts and consistently healthier eating — the 33-year-old TV producer lost 101 pounds.
Then the novel coronavirus pandemic descended, and with it, orders to stay at home. While lockdown measures have, thankfully, kept many of us from contracting the virus, they've also demolished countless good eating and exercise habits, as people nap, nibble and imbibe their way to what has been dubbed the #Quarantine15.
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But Brianna continues to defy the odds. She's stabilized her mental and physical health in the midst of an unprecedented challenge, and she hopes to inspire others with what she's learned.
Here, she shares the details of her quarantine success story in her own words.
Get tips on how to stay healthy, safe and sane during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
My Weight Has Been a Lifelong Battle
I've been overweight for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, the adults in my life noticed — and worried about — my size, but I didn't. That is, until I entered high school.
I went on my first diet in 10th grade — a low-carb plan. I dropped 40 pounds pretty quickly and then promptly quit because it wasn't really sustainable. (I'm not a big meat-eater; I don't even like bacon!) But as a teen, I didn't fully understand how permanent lifestyle changes, not quick-fix diets, are needed to succeed.
So, of course, the 40 pounds came right back, plus a few more.
After I graduated high school, I never weighed less than 250 pounds, but somehow, I no longer thought about my weight at all.
Finally, in the summer of 2017, I realized that my weight was preventing me from living my life to the fullest. I made a commitment to myself to start living healthier, but not necessarily to simply lose weight. I felt sure that if I took better care of my body, the weight loss would naturally follow. And I was right. For nearly three years, my overall health was my focus, and I lost 101 pounds.
Lockdown Threatened the New Me...
Every journey like mine has ups and downs, but I never expected to have to face a down like the coronavirus pandemic. My life was upended. Whose wasn't?
Quarantine certainly came with its challenges. I was stuck in my small Los Angeles apartment. All the gyms, parks and beaches were closing. I didn't even have work to distract me, as my job is not one that can be done remotely. So I was bored. And I was stressed, facing a future without any familiar form. I was able to snack whenever I wanted. Overall, the situation was a recipe for disaster.
...but I Figured Out How to Stay on Track
What bothered me the most about the stay-at-home order was my routine being totally thrown off. I'm the kind of person who thrives with a regular schedule. While some people might think unlimited free time at home is great, to me it's daunting. I was determined not to wind up lazing on the couch all day, every day, watching TV and mindlessly snacking.
My first step was accepting the fact that my days could not look the same as they had. Yes, life was very different. But a new set of circumstances could not be an excuse to backslide.
I gave myself two days to decompress from the craziness of the world. Then I got to work creating a schedule. The key parts of it are:
- A consistent wake-up time. For me, that's around 8:00 a.m., but definitely no later than 9:00.
- Fixed times for exercise. Long walks around my neighborhood and workouts on Instagram Live replaced my trips to the gym.
- Strategic cleaning. If I left cleaning my entire apartment for one day, I'd be tempted to cut corners or put it off altogether. Instead, I slotted in one job (whether scrubbing the bathroom or vacuuming or dusting) per day. That kept me moving for a few extra minutes each day.
- Relaxation. A little me-time every day recharged my resolve. So I caught up on my reading. I read novels I've been meaning to get to forever, as well as non-fiction on topics that had always interested me.
- Cooking. Rather than relying on takeout, I found ideas for healthy meals that I not only enjoyed eating, but that were enjoyable to cook, too.
- A calorie check-in. When I track my food consistently, I'm incredibly successful. Whenever I think I have it all down and don't need to track anymore, I wind up gaining weight. So I counted calories with the Lose It! app. I love that the app automatically adjusts how many calories I should be eating as I lose weight. It makes it super simple to stay honest.
- Motion mindfulness. Being aware of how much I'm moving (or not) is essential. I use FitBit, and it keeps my activity level up.
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As the days turned into weeks, my attitude became more and more positive.
I admit my motivation would start to slip once in a while. At those times, I reminded myself that yes, many things are going on right now that I can't control, but there is one thing I can always control: how I treat my body. I was set on not letting all my hard work over the past few years go to waste. And it didn't.
My Best Advice for Others
This is a weird time. Being stuck at home, away from our friends and loved ones, is really hard. If you're struggling to hold onto your health gains, or just to avoid gaining weight, the one thing to remember is that taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do. Come up with a game plan, even if it's as simple as doing one healthy thing for yourself every day without fail. Never give up!
The marvelous thing is that taking care of yourself physically also helps your mental health. It's a win-win. If you're feeling down, go for a walk and get some fresh air and sunshine. Try to find a silver lining.
I have social anxiety, so I've never tried any of the workout classes at my gym. Lockdown has given me the opportunity to try out different kinds of workouts by myself and figure out what I like. When the world opens up again, I'm thinking I might actually join a class!
I've become quite fond of my new routine, so I'm not sure what's going to happen when life goes back to normal. Regardless, I now know that I can adapt to anything. That's an incredibly empowering feeling.
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