Fitness Fridays: Brittnie Henderson Went From Blood Pressure Meds And Sleep Apnea In Her 20s To Down 200 Pounds In Her 30s
If you talk to Brittnie Henderson, within minutes you’ll learn that the 30-year-old Greenville, North Carolina native is hilarious. She has a lot of wit and personality, and as you will find out, can throw a “Yes, honey” with a distinct Southern drawl in any kind of conversation and make you smile. So you can probably understand my shock when she told me that at one point in her life, not too long ago in fact, she woke up every day crying.
“I just felt lost,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t control my own body.”
Henderson has been battling with her weight for as far back as she can remember, trying to find the solution that would finally stick in teas, weight-loss programs and all of the infomercial products you can find when you’re up late watching TV. At her highest, she was over 400 pounds. Weight loss seemed impossible, and she was on the brink of getting surgery to change things. But Henderson decided to bet on herself one last time.
“I kind of got to the point where enough is enough,” she said. “After finding exercise methods and meal plans that stuck, she’s now down to 193 pounds. She’s lost more than 200 pounds and is still going, and she’s done it all the natural way.
We chatted with her about how she went from blood pressure medication and sleep apnea in her twenties, to finally being on the way to living her best and healthiest life in her thirties.
MadameNoire: Would you say growing up that you were active?
Brittnie Henderson: Not really. I used to dance and stuff like that, but it was never serious. I did try out for cheerleading but didn’t make it. You know, growing up as a marvel, life is really hard for the little fat girl.
So you would in fact say that weight is something you have struggled with all of your life?
Yes. Weight has been a never-ending cycle for me, being that I would use food as a coping mechanism. I would be upset because I’m bigger, so I would eat because I’m upset, which would make me bigger. Never-ending cycle.
That partly answers my next question about your eating habits in the past. What was the most extreme way you were eating at one point, and how has your diet changed for the better now?
I used to eat like a full large thin-crust pizza from Pizza Hut. This is real life. I would eat that in one sitting with a Jersey Mike’s sub on the side. Listen, life was hard. But now I’ve changed as to where I eat low carbs. I started low-carb when I first stared on this journey. I cut out bread, pasta, sodas, basically I eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day. I haven’t had a soda since like 2016.
You stared your journey in 2016. What made you decide that it was time to make a change?
I hit rock bottom, basically. What happened was, I’m a serial quitter. I’d been trying to lose weight and doing it half-a–edly for God knows how long. What happened was, I was kind of on a journey, but I hurt myself. I ruptured my achilles tendon back in June 2014. When I did that, it was just a downward spiral. I was so heavy because I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t use crutches because I couldn’t hold the weight up. So basically, all I did was lay in bed and eat. I gained 60, 70 pounds just sitting in the house. I wasn’t working. I was going through a bad breakup. I was displaced from work. I was unhappy with how I felt every day. I would wake up crying. Something I should be able to control is my own weight. At the time I was 28. I’m on blood pressure medication, medication for headaches, I have sleep apnea and all these medical issues going on and I’m in my twenties. I got to the point where enough is enough.
I had actually scheduled a surgical consultation to actually have gastric done, but I told myself to try it one more time. I wanted to bet on myself to see if I could do it one more time by myself. If not, I could just choose gastric and do it that way. So I told myself I would dedicate a year to myself. If I can eat horribly and do all of this other stuff to my body, I can at least try to treat myself well for a year and do what I’m supposed to do to see if there are any changes. It kind of stuck.
What was it about this time around? I know you hurt yourself previously, but what about this last opportunity kept you on track and committed?
This was my very last effort. This was it. I told myself, “If it don’t work this time, baby, let it go.” I found this lady named Lakeitha. She was doing a low-carb challenge and I read up on it. I was trying to find diets that might work better for me because I’d tried Jenny Craig, I’ve tried the Iaso Tea, I’ve tried the shakes, Slim Fast shakes, and they worked for a little bit. But what happens is, I couldn’t stick to it. I needed to find something that I could stick to and actually make a life change and not just a diet. So I said, “Well, this is not as difficult as I thought it would be.” I had to give up the bread, pasta and stuff like that. So I tried it when she had a challenge. I was in this group with like-minded women and we’re all going through the same struggle. We’re helping each other and keeping each other accountable as far as our food is concerned. It just kind of took. It was a big change for me but it was something I could stick to.
Being held accountable with your food definitely helps, but what kind of workouts did you also do?
So basically, when I first started my journey, all I did was walk. At least for the first eight months, that was it. I walked to 100 pounds. I literally would just crack the incline up on the treadmill and walk for 60 minutes. I did that five to six days a week every week. That’s it. I didn’t do weights, I didn’t do anything else. I just strictly did cardio. After I lost the first 70, I incorporated a trainer and then we trained twice a week. Then later I upped it to three times a week with weights and stuff like that. But I literally would just walk on the treadmill to 100 pounds.
I see you use a Fitbit. How has wearable tracking technology aided you in this journey?
With my Fitbit, the fact that it tracks my steps is great, but it’s the challenges they have on Fitbit where you can challenge other people with workweek or week-long challenges to see who can get the most steps. Me and the girls on the challenges, those girls used to keep me on my toes. Yes, honey. They used to keep me moving. It made it competitive. Because you know, working out, it’s hard, and if you don’t make it fun you’ll burn out. That’s why you have to find some joy in it.
I saw that your goal weight is 175.
That’s my first goal weight, yes.
Ok. So once you reach 175, it sounds like you’re going to keep going? What’s the long-term plan? Because for many, that’s what helps people stay on track and maintain in the long run.
When I first started, I thought 175 would be the most attainable. At the time, when I put 175, I was 321 pounds. Honey, I was out here thicking it up. So 175 seemed the most attainable, but to be honest, I didn’t even think I would make it out of the 200s. I was like, hopefully, I can just touch the hem of this 175 and get there. But I’d like to be between 150 and 160. I just don’t want to look like a lollipop with the giant head and the small body. But I understand, through this journey, that I had to learn how to look at food differently. I used to think of food as an emotional outlet. I ate if I was sad, I ate if I was happy, I ate if I was bored. But now I understand that food is not meant to be a treat. I’m not a dog. You need to use it to fuel your body but you shouldn’t use it as therapy. You have to think of it differently.
At your highest weight, how big were you?
Ooooh, baby. At my highest weight, at one point I was 412 pounds. I was the heaviest at 25, 26 maybe. I went to East Carolina University, so I was going to class having to have specialty desks put in. I used to be so embarrassed.
Knowing that you were able to get down so much weight, what advice would you give to others who are over doing diets and going it alone and think they’ll take the bariatric surgery route?
You really just need to bet on yourself. You need to figure out what the root cause of why you eat the way that you do is. Why you react to food the way that you do. Because what I learned was, you have to change the way that you think to change the way that you live. At the end of the day, losing weight is mental. It is 110 percent mental. Whatever you tell your body to do is what it’s going to do. If you’re hungry, you have a choice. You can either eat something that’s unhealthy or you can eat something that is healthy. It’s how bad do you want it? I know a lot of people want to quit if they don’t get the results they think they want to get overnight. But you’ve got to remember, you gained this weight over time. You didn’t gain 60 pounds in a week. So you’re not going to lose 60 pounds in a week. It takes time, but you just have to trust the process. Give yourself a year. A year! And if you don’t see the results that you want after giving it 110 percent of your effort, then go to Plan B. But you have to at least try to go in just one time for yourself and for your own health.