Dressed in black yoga pants and a matching top, along with sleek runners and wearing black headphones around her neck, Briana Chandler fits in seamlessly with the Camps Bay crowd – until you hear her Minnesota accent. Her sculpted shoulders were framed with shiny ebony locks hanging loose down her back. Wearing no make-up, she is fresh-faced and smiling, despite attending back-to-back meetings all afternoon.
I lift my hand in greeting, and she joins me in the booth.
I am her last appointment for this busy day, she informs me. We are having coffee at the Bootleggers in Bakhoven, Camps Bay, where she moved a couple of months ago. At the age of 23, Briana is a fitness icon, major Instagram influencer, consultant, and businesswoman – and she credits her success to how she used exercise as a way to overcome depression.
What is Briana’s secret?
For one thing, she really understands her body and what it needs. She has mastered the art of listening to it and making sure she provides for her body’s needs. “Knowing myself is key,” Briana explains. “I always tell people to do something that excites you. So if staying active – to you – means going for a walk on the beach or running outside, hiking, going swimming, whether that’s in the gym, do that. Because that means you’re going to get that workout in, versus you going, “Oh no, I’m not going to make it to the gym today.”
She also surrounds herself with right-minded people, knowing that when you are around people with the same mission, you are most likely to feed off of their energy. Briana is also profoundly kind – a characteristic that can be hard to find in today’s fast-paced, individualistic world – and she really cares about her audience, taking the time to interact with her 284 K followers on Instagram at @bribabee.
Breathing in Bootlegger’s tantalizing coffee aromas, I picked her brain for tips on fitness, eating well, and living your best life. Here is our conversation.
L: How did you get into fitness in the first place?
B: It all started when I was in college. I didn’t look into it that much. I was looking at fitness girls on the internet, at that time IG wasn’t really that big a thing, so I saw bodybuilders, people doing bikini competitions, and I didn’t understand how someone could look so fit. [This may sound shallow] but I really admired how they looked. I thought it was really beautiful, how they sculpted their bodies. So that’s how I became more passionate about it (fitness) and started researching, reading up on it, and that’s what was the catalyst for my fitness journey.
L: How has exercise helped you to overcome negative emotions?
B: When it comes to my overall mood, I feel so much better when I go to the gym. More laughter, less stress. It helps me with moodiness, but even more with the uncertainty of my future (at that time), depression and anxiety. I realized that, okay, I could literally be fit and happy, or unfit and depressed.
I decided to take the positive option and grow as a person. Even though a lot of people think that, in the gym, you’re only changing physically, your mentality also grows. The gym was the one place where I could really think about my goals in life and, you know, reflect on my day and meditate. That was a very encouraging part of my day, and it still helps me.
L: What does a day in the life of Briana look like?
B: I’ve learned to incorporate fitness and eating healthily, especially since my lifestyle has now changed, and I need to balance a lot of meetings in a day. I have to be flexible with how I eat and learn how to make healthy choices in restaurants and while I’m out and about. When I get home, that’s when I get a chance to cook and make a warm-cooked meal. In the morning I usually have eggs for breakfast, chicken sausage, warm toast, and organic jam. This is also when I like to go the gym, because that’s when I have the most energy. If you have the option to decide when you exercise, it’s always best to go when you are the most energized, because that’s how you get the best results.
After breakfast I get to work, creating content for my social media platforms, spend some time on my new programs. I will soon be releasing a tone your core program, so I am still finalizing some things with our videographers and graphic designers, prepping my whole team essentially, so that we can move forward each day. I am also moving into business and consulting, so this is another goal that I have. I also need to stay connected with friends and family abroad and back home, so this is my time to do that.
L: How do you motivate yourself on off-days?
B: One trick I like these days is to do a class, especially when I don’t feel like I have the energy or enthusiasm. Putting on my headphones and turning on my motivational playlist also helps. For others, it could be their favourite inspiring video on YouTube that can energize you and help you refocus your goals. I think being honest with yourself is important too. You [may] have goals for yourself, but you need to ask yourself what you’re doing to get to those goals. And you might not be motivated, but you need to say to yourself, okay, here’s Point A. Here’s Point B. How am I going to get from one to the other? And remember, every day counts.
L: What are your favorite meals?
I love Nigerian food – my boyfriend is great at making Nigerian meals. I love smoothies – I find them so easy to make, and you can add so many things to them, fruits, nuts, collagen for your skin and hair, protein powder if you’re on the go.
Lately, I’ve been digging green juices – really good for you – and peri-peri chicken. I love spicy food, and since I’ve moved to South Africa I’ve gotten into that. It’s something we don’t have in the States. Pre-prepared cups of pomegranates or coconut are also great, especially if you’re on the go.
L: Your best tips on healthy eating and living?
B: Portion control is important. I don’t look at food as good or bad, because there are wholesome foods and not-so-wholesome foods. Once it’s processed, it’s a no-go. [I also like using on-the-go-cups], because fitness and health are about convenience, and if you’re making unwise decisions, it’s usually because you’re on the go, and you don’t have time to cook.[Knowing where to spend the extra money and save time is important.] And drink your water. A lot of people are not drinking enough water, and it’s affecting them badly – they’re confusing dehydration with hunger – causing them to overeat.
Team up with an accountability partner when it comes to your fitness and enjoy better results – whether that’s a friend, a trainer, an app – and a lot of my girls who do my program say they print out the workout and afterward they will snap me. If I respond, they are more motivated to go back the next day and keep going.
L: Your approach to coffee and alcohol?
B: So, caffeine hits me very hard, and this is where knowing your body is important. Some people have tolerance, they can have three or four cups, and they’re fine, but I perform worse with caffeine because, after a certain amount, I get anxious. When it comes to alcohol, I don’t do hard liquors, and I prefer to stick to a little wine if I want to treat myself.
Briana shares her favorite protein smoothie with us
If you’re a fitfluencer, you’re likely to have some great healthy recipes up your sleeve. This is Briana’s go-to protein smoothie recipe – one that she says fuels her morning properly and keeps her going through butt-kicking workouts.