When health officials began warning that people with larger weights were dying at higher rates from the COVID-19 pandemic, Brianna Oyewo became concerned.
The 33-year-old mother, who is now morbidly obese, just reached her heaviest weight of 281.
Oyewo tells PEOPLE, “You’re hearing all this stuff on the news about COVID and how if you’re obese, it sets you at increased risk for major sickness.”
“Both my life and that of my daughter were in jeopardy. In order to avoid an untimely demise, I had to force myself to stop eating pizza. I’m here because I care about my wife and kid.”
The employment counselor from Buffalo, New York, calls herself a “emotional eater” who has battled her weight her whole life.
Oyewo says she has been “overweight for as long as I can remember,” and that she weighed 224 pounds her final year of high school due to being ridiculed for her size.
Her mother and grandmother had tried many diets on Oyewo over the years, and each one had shown temporary success. She could lose weight briefly, but it always returned.
However, after giving birth to her daughter Olivia in December 2019, she reached her heaviest.
Oyewo’s first trimester and a good chunk of her second were marred by intense nausea (hyperemesis) that left her unable to keep anything down.
“I dropped from 264 to 230 pounds and had to visit the hospital multiple times,” she explains. If I couldn’t keep anything down, including water, I would become dangerously dehydrated.
Finally, Oyewo was able to eat normally again after suffering through the terrifying early stages of pregnancy with hyperemesis.
“As if food owed me something, I gobbled it up. I consumed a large amount of food, “her words After everything was said and done, my weight had increased from 230 to 281.
Oyewo balanced her career and her personal life with raising and caring for her daughter Olivia when she was born.
However, after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, her concerns were justified. When Oyewo finally got serious about losing weight, she found a fresh source of inspiration that hadn’t been there before.
I wasn’t thinking only of myself,” she explains. I wanted to be there for my family, my husband and my daughter, so I thought about them.
Oyewo began by taking time for prayer and self-care, activities she had more time for because of the pandemic.
She reflects, “Life slowed down a bit for me.” “Thanks to working from home, I didn’t have to stress about making it to and from the office every day.
In order to take care of myself, I started taking my kid on long walks around the neighborhood, writing in a diary, and listening to inspirational podcasts.”
“That really inspired me and gave me a boost of confidence. When I started renewing my thinking in this way, when I started taking better care of myself in general, I found it much less of a struggle to also begin eating better and exercising regularly.”
Oyewo eliminated his regular fast food intake and instead made an effort to consume a plant-based diet low in processed foods and added sugars.
Oyewo’s typical day would begin with a serving of plain Greek yogurt topped with berries and walnuts, followed by a “big” salad and a bowl of chili loaded with beans and veggies for dinner.
I became an intuitive eater,” she explains. “I don’t starve myself or worry about calorie intake. I eat when I’m hungry and prefer a minimalist approach to my diet.”
Oyewo likewise begun her fitness routine by use of 20-minute dancing cardio lessons that she discovered on YouTube. She like them since “I didn’t feel like I was working out” while doing them.
She started doing high-intensity interval training and 45-minute weightlifting sessions, and her “weight came off very consistently” over the next few months.
Oyewo shed 100 pounds in six months, and he’s lost another 27 since then.
She reflects on her weight gain, saying, “There were periods where I gained a little bit of weight, but I learnt not to be frustrated by it.”
“Once upon a time, I would have given up as soon as I saw the numbers on the scale go higher. In the midst of the pandemic, though, all I wanted was to feel healthy, energized, and worry-free.”
Oyewo lost 127 pounds and now describes herself as “far freer.” She acquired such a passion for working out that she is a certified trainer with clients of her own.
She now feels more comfortable in her own flesh and has more stamina to spend with her daughter. “At 281 pounds, I have no idea how I would keep up with her if we had to go around chasing and dancing.”
Oyewo acknowledges that it is difficult to state that she wouldn’t have been able to shed the weight if not for the pandemic, but she is unsure whether or not she would have been able to do it otherwise.
She says, “It has been a horrible, challenging year for so many people, but then one of the most transforming years of my life.”