URI journalism graduate appears on “Today” to talk about weight loss, healthy eating

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From left to right, Jenna Bush, Bri Blank, Joy Bauer and Kathie Lee Gifford. Photo courtesy of Bri Blank.

NEW YORK, N.Y.—Feb. 20, 2018—Brianna Blank dished out advice about weight loss and healthy eating on the “Today” show this morning in a spirited interview that put her on the national stage.

Blank’s appearance on the “Joy Fit Club” segment with nutritionist Joy Bauer was the latest stop on a weight-loss journey started years ago when she shed 150 pounds as a student at the University of Rhode Island.

Since then, the now 25-year-old Brooklyn resident has been on a mission to tell her story and help others lead the healthy lifestyle that has brought her happiness—and fame. “Today” has a viewership of 5 million.

“This is my passion,” she says. “This is my purpose.”

Through her blog, BRI Healthy; Instagram account, with a walloping 13,000 followers; write-up in “People” magazine; shout-out in “Cosmopolitan,” and new “Easy & Clean Steak Dinner eBook,” she’s doing just that. Her 3 minutes on “Today” is sure to bring her even more attention.

Blank struggled with her weight as a girl growing up in Westbrook, Conn., but it never dampened her joy for life. “I still felt beautiful,” she says.

But one day during her sophomore year at URI she stepped on a scale: 306 pounds. She knew she had to take action. Thousands of turkey sandwiches later she was down to 156 pounds and a size 10.

Energized, she started a talk show at URI about healthy eating and wellness for an independent study in journalism—her major—and a dream to become a talk-show host was born.

After graduating in 2014, she lived briefly at home, eventually landing a job as a script production assistant for “The Chew,” a cooking show on ABC in New York City.

Along the way, she created her blog, for which she is chief writer, photographer and blogger. It is chock-full of advice about healthy food choices, exercise, body image and more—as well as homemade recipes, including desserts like Mini Pumpkin Pie with Wonton Pie Crust.

“It doesn’t have to be all salad all the time,” Blank says.

Not long ago, she received an email from a producer at “Today” who had read the “People” story: Any interest in appearing on the “Joy of Fit” segment?

“It was wild,” she says. “I was at work at the time and couldn’t scream out with joy.”

She showed up at Rockefeller Plaza, the headquarters and New York studios of NBC, well before her appearance and actually knew where to go: Her father worked for years as an audio technician for NBC’s “New York Live.”

At precisely 10:48 a.m., a door in the studio swung open and Blank, in her pink sneakers and black leggings, charged down the steps into the arms of her hosts, Bauer, Jenna Bush and Kathie Lee Gifford. High-fives all around.

Food from her former life—pancakes, a bowl of Lucky Charms, a burger and fries—sat on one table, while another displayed what she eats now: wheat toast, blueberries, lean steak, veggies.

“My whole life is 100 percent different,” Blank told the hosts. The studio audience roared.

Blank and a fitness trainer did squats. At least a dozen.

“It was awesome,” she said, afterward. “Being able to feel the love from everybody and see my accomplishments bring me to the ‘Today’ show was incredible.”

She and her fiancé celebrated over lunch. Blank had a grilled chicken sandwich. “I’m so excited. The future looks bright. Everything has happened so fast. I’m soaking it all in.”

Her wedding date is “TBD.” Blank will select the fare—healthy eats, of course. “The menu,” she says, “is entirely up to me.”

Watch the full “Today” show clip featuring Brianna Blank: