After noticing that most of the Black people she saw on the news with COVID-19 were obese, Brianna Oyewo, who was nearly 300 pounds, transformed her body during the height of a global epidemic.
The covid-weight gain is real.
White Americans put on an extra 30 pounds, but Black Americans packed 35 more pounds on average during the pandemic, according to the American Psychology Association. Carrying extra weight around is not just annoying and bad on the knees and back, but it’s a major stressor and can be lethal. Since the pandemic began, researchers have found that some of the sickest COVID-19 patients were obese. Over time, new studies have confirmed the reports, further showing that people who are merely overweight are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
Brianna Oyewo, 33, who works as an employment counselor at New York State Department of Labor, and lives in New York City with her husband Adedayo and daughter Olivia, began to notice that Black folk who were dying of covid were also overweight. This scared her because Oyewo had been fighting weight issues her entire life. Just before the pandemic, she had given birth to her daughter and ballooned to 281 pounds. At 5 feet and 6 inches tall, this was the most she had ever weighed.
Not wanting to be a statistic, she decided in the middle of a global pandemic, when most people were home watching Netflix and getting too friendly with the fridge, that she’d change her lifestyle in order to live for her daughter. After a year, she lost 130 pounds, and now she is the healthiest she has ever been.
In an interview with The Root, Brianna Oyewo details how she transformed her health and life during the most inconvenient time, ever.
The Root: When did your struggles with weight start?
Brianna Oyewo; I have always been overweight or obese even as a child. I always struggled with overeating and emotional eating from a very young age and this caused me to get bullied a lot when I was growing up, and it was so bad that I had to speak to a school counselor about it.
TR: When was the exact moment that you decided to lose weight during the pandemic?
BO: During the pandemic, I saw many people, especially in the Black community, lose their lives, and when I realized that obesity was considered a high-risk factor for COVID-19, that changed everything for me. It also made me realize that life is really short and that I needed to make myself a priority.
TR: What did you do specifically to lose the weight? What were you eating and what types of exercise did you do to help you transform?
BO: I cut out carbs, and junk food, and focused on drinking plenty of water and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. I also started doing Hip Hop Tabata by Keaira LaShae on YouTube every day for 20 minutes, and eventually increased my workout intensity and duration. At the time, I did everything from home because that was when the pandemic was at its peak and I didn’t really have any equipment for the first eight months of my journey.
TR: How long did it take you to lose the weight?
BO: I lost 100 pounds in six months. I started my process in June of 2020, and then in December, I hit my goal. From January of 2021 to May, I lost 30 pounds.
TR: The pandemic was hard for everyone. Who were your biggest motivators?
BO: My husband has been a huge motivator for me because he is always pushing me to want better for myself. Although she passed away, my mother is a huge motivator. She taught me a lot of things growing up about the importance of mental health and self care. My grandmother has also been a huge motivator and help. She is in her 70s now and has helped a lot with caring for my child during the pandemic when my husband and I had to work, because daycare was not an option. I would not have been able to exercise as much as I did and lose all the weight had it not been for the help she gave me with my daughter.
TR: December of this year will mark one year since your journey began. You have lost 130 pounds. How do you feel about that?
BO: I feel really good, but it is so easy to get comfortable and lose focus, so I am in the process of motivating myself to keep going. Also, I became a certified personal trainer in February of 2021, and I have an LLC that I started back in June of 2021 called Beyond Capable Health and Wellness. I work out with clients six days a week. Making fitness my business has really helped me stay accountable even when I don’t feel like it.
TR: What words of advice would you give to Black women who are trying to lose weight and often don’t feel like they fit into the Eurocentric beauty standards?
BO: We were all made with hips and curves, and those are all natural, God-given things that we should embrace instead of trying to change and become somebody that we are not. I would also encourage Black women to always make themselves a priority, and show up for themselves first.