Q & A with Dawn Bryant

Today we are talking with the one and only, Dawn Bryant.

Dawn and Jason

If you’ve been around here (or lurking on social media!), you know the highs and lows Dawn openly shares from her life. Yes, she lost a lot of weight in 2012, a remarkable amount of weight, but this is not what defines the totality of her life. While her weight loss journey was perhaps the path to finding a stronger version of herself, the beauty of her story then, and the story she continues to live and tell about, might be her great capacity and unending efforts to give away every bit of hope she has found. This girl does NOT give up.

Read on for more on what her current daily life looks like and where she's headed from here!

Dawn Bryant and Bodies by Burgoon

Give us a picture of your life before 2012?

Like many others…busy...busy...busy. I loved being busy. I was on-the-go, constantly entertaining, constantly giving, constantly doing, and barely had time to cook, let alone exercise. I was very tired, and I was frustrated with myself for not being able to do all of the things I wanted to do. I tried every possible diet. I even ate vegan for three months (totally didn’t work for me...I became a pasta freak).  After my husband lost 80 pounds on his own doing P90X in the basement and changing his eating habits, I desperately wanted to be the wife who could keep up with him...and adventure with him. I didn’t want anything I could control be what held me back and that meant taking back my health and losing weight in a way that would work for me.

Describe your morning routine, what does it look like, and what is the first thing you eat and do?

  • Wake up at 4:30 am and hit snooze 1-4 times (4:30am is early! Don’t judge!).  If I don’t hit snooze, I’ll actually make fresh juice before I leave the house.
  • Pack my gym bag…which can be obnoxious because some days require up to four clothing changes (TRUTH)
  • Grab prepared food/berries/juice to eat for the day
  • Down 20 oz water before I leave the house
  • Grab a Quest Bar (chocolate chip cookie dough) and some coffee to eat/drink on the way to the gym (this would be breakfast #1)
  • Open up the gym at 6am
  • Proceed to breakfast #2 of ½ c oatmeal, 1 scoop Isopure protein powder, 1 tbsp PB2 and berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries….whatever looks good when I grocery shop on Sundays!) with another 20 oz of water (I make myself drink, at least 40oz of water before 8am).

What’s your favorite way to get cardio into your week?

I HAVE to move, at least a little, every day–it is the only time each day when I’m able to completely turn off my brain and let it go into a fog. With the cycling studio, I try to jump in several times a week, if there is an open bike. On Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays, I LOOOOOOOOVE cycling first thing in the morning at the 6:30am class; it gets my day off to a much better start. Boxing is my very favorite thing to do, but it’s harder to fit in on days I’m not training. When the weather cooperates, I run stairs by the river…there is actually nothing more relaxing to me than the water and not much more physically and mentally rewarding than climbing to the top of something repeatedly (there’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere). On my rest days, I’ve finally learned to truly rest…no crazy cardio and no lifting, BUT I do try to make sure I get 8000-10000 steps in those days…maybe climb the stairs in the gym a few more times than normal, or walk the hallways of the building for a break from the computer.

Dawn at Torque Cycling

What's your favorite exercise to do downstairs with the trainers?

I’ve really learned to love becoming strong. I say “becoming” because I don’t ever think anyone arrives; we just find new ways to be strong (physically, mentally, and emotionally). I can’t pick one part of the body I love training more than another…what I love is being challenged and pushed. That said, I love working my back and shoulders! And, as odd as it sounds, I love the challenge of push-ups, in or out of the gym…and the triumph that comes from doing a pull-up (although I haven’t done any of those since my surgery last summer).

Dawn doing push-ups

What’s your food strategy and prepping style?

I love cooking. If food could be a love language, it would be the way I show it most. When I first started watching my food intake, I was afraid I would be bored and that things would become flavorless. Soon after I realized the biggest bang for the caloric “buck” was found in all whole and natural foods. I started experimenting. A ton. I’ve always liked produce. I’ve always loved oils, vinegars, herbs, nuts, and spices. I quickly became a cooking machine again. But this time around, it wasn’t about sticks of butter and cups of sugar. It became a game for me to make things that were packed with both flavor and nutrients AND would make me feel full. Since then, I’ve found some staples that I stick with a lot. I have to plan ahead, or I’ll be eating tuna out of a foil bag all week. I almost always prep on Fridays or Saturdays. I’ll make staples (eggs, chicken, pork) and maybe something new. I roast a ton of veggies. I always make sure I am stocked with fresh cold-pressed juices (or ingredients for making them myself), spinach or kale for egg add-ins or salads, tons of berries, almonds, and hard-boiled eggs. It ALL has to be grab-and-go for me because I eat almost every meal at the gym. On the weekends when I don’t have time or energy to make food, I have a go-to grab-and-go grocery list that can keep me going for a week.

Dawn's Best Green Juice
Author: Dawn Bryant
Serves: 2
  • 1 bunch dinosaur kale (it’s the juiciest stuff!)
  • 2 handfuls arugula
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 big cucumber
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 pear
  • 2 apples
  • 1/2 lemon (peeled)
  • 1 knob ginger
  1. Juice according to your juicer's directions. I use an [url href="http://www.omegajuicers.com/"]Omega Juicer.[/url]
  2. Depending on the freshness of your produce and your juicer, these quantities make about 2 servings.

Dawn's Best Green Juice

Do you keep track of the food you eat in a day?

I do keep track of my food. But what I track evolves as I try to learn new things about how my body responds to different foods. For almost a year, I have been really focusing on the quality of food that I eat–maximizing my whole foods intake. I also toy with food combinations and how the combinations best make me feel full, or how much energy I get. When I focus like this, I pretty consistently eat 1500-1800 calories daily, but calories are not my main focus. With that said, if I feel my clothes aren’t fitting properly, or if I’m feeling very tired, I reign everything in very quickly. I love the energy I get from starting my days with proteins and complex carbs. I love the mid-morning jolt I get from the natural sugars in cold-pressed green juices. I love the satisfaction I get from having a giant lunch of lean proteins and TONS of vegetables. And eggs for dinner is my ultimate comfort food, I never want a late-night snack afterward. On the rare occasion that I get “snacky” at night, I try to go for hot tea.

A day in the life of Dawn's food journal

Is there anything you would say about the work of losing weight compared to now, the work of staying healthy and being your strong self?

I love this question...because it IS different. It’s not different because one was a diet and one is not. It’s different because my goals are different, and I if I’m not pushing myself toward something, then I’m complacent. And complacency is never the answer. When my goal was getting healthy and losing weight, I had to focus on making lifelong, realistic, and sustainable changes. Those changes were CHOICES. I either did it, or made an excuse. And excuses would only make me feel worse about myself. Once that switch flipped for me, there was no turning back. I loved the way my body felt when I ate healthy foods and I craved the endorphin rush of hard workouts. I know that first step was successful because those two things are still foundational to my approach now. The difference now is it can be more challenging to find goals. It’s hard to out-do a 140-pound weight loss. After the weight loss, I really focused on building strength. Then I focused a bit on endurance and some hard cardio.

After last summer when I found myself experiencing complications after two spinal surgeries in two days, my goal was simply to use the healthy foundation I had built to be able to walk again without a walker, and to challenge myself to do the things I’d come to love (boxing, cycling, lifting, running stairs).

Dawn after surgery

It was this experience that really served as a lightbulb for me. My focus on health had kept me alive. My focus on strength made it possible to come back. I want to help people discover their reasons for being healthy, and to help them see they are already strong. I want people to feel confident and valuable. So my goals now are to live as loudly as possible as an inspiration to others. The other day I did side-to-sides on a box, four risers high. Two years ago, I probably could have done the same move on six risers. But this particular four-riser day was a huge win for me, it was the first time I’d done that since my surgery last June WITHOUT falling because of my numb feet and ankles. Now, strong and health are about living fully...not just wearing a certain size or lifting twice my body’s weight.

In order to take care of yourself, is there anything in life you have had to let go of in order to be healthy, strong, and your best self?

Two things:

1- I had to let go of my self-obligation to be everything to everyone. The reality is it wasn’t possible anyway, but my internal drive to try was taxing every part of my being -- physically, mentally, and emotionally. I think that is common with the caretaker type.

2- I had to be OK with letting relationships go that were not helping me be who I knew I needed to be. I realized my time was valuable and limited, and moving, eating healthy and being around people who understood and were cheering me on (and maybe even living similarly) was key.

Bodies by Burgoon Team

Can you tell us one thing you are currently working on and learning about as it relates to fitness and/or food?

I just started working toward two fitness nutrition certifications. This is something I’ve wanted to do for almost three years. I love food. I love cooking. I believe good nutrition is the best medicine. The thought of combining the science of nutrition with the art of cooking is very exciting to me.

“Courage comes before confidence.” -- Shari Ballard, Best Buy Corporate Executive

Dawn Bryant at Torque Cycling

Thank you, Dawn, for sharing your life and giving us a peek into what you do and why.

Last month we had our first Q & A with Brianna. For more on her story, see here and here. Stay tuned for more Team Burgoon stories coming soon, including that guy in the middle.

Brianna, Aldon, and Dawn

To hear more from both ladies, live and in person, joins us at Fit Fest this coming Saturday. There will be workouts from our team at Bodies by Burgoon and many others, lunch from Agra Culture, and at 12 pm, Dawn and Brianna will be speaking on Ditching Diets for Long-Term Transformations and Newfound StrengthTickets sold here at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. See you there!