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MINDSET – Road Less Traveled

Hannah Bronfman Does the Work and It Feels Good

By Melinda Fulmer

A decade ago, Hannah Bronfman seemed to have it all. As one of New York’s only black female DJs, she was spinning and partying at some of the city’s top clubs. But inside, she says she felt like a mess: tired, burned out and out of touch with what made her happy. She typically didn’t eat more than one meal a day, never worked out, and smoked and drank too much during her late-night gigs.

“I woke up one day … and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. Something’s got to give,’” she says.

Bronfman made a decision to cultivate a healthier lifestyle, taking on more corporate DJ jobs and fashion events rather than late-night club bookings. She also began posting photos and video of her journey to better health on social media—from the healthy meals she was learning to cook in her kitchen to the workouts she was trying each week—with the hashtag #HBFIT.

In the years since, HBFIT not only became a nickname for Bronfman, but it also has become a website community and now a new book, “Do What Feels Good” (Harper Wave, 2019), that she hopes will inspire other women to take better care of themselves and find new recipes, habits and remedies that make them glow.

Tired of women constantly beating themselves up for not meeting some perfect standard of health and fitness, Bronfman says she wanted to write a book that was more of a manual for self-care than a diet plan. Part of that, she says, is finding the enjoyment in the journey to better health—not just the destination—and being thankful for what you are able to accomplish each day.

“Health and wellness for me is really about listening to my body and being really mindful about everything I’m doing.” Bronfman explains. “Did I say thank you to myself for moving today? Do I need to sleep an extra hour?”

While she’s all about #goals, she knows that just because she skips a workout, it doesn’t mean she’s not getting anywhere.

“I remind myself that results take time,” Bronfman says. “People are constantly looking for a quick fix … but health and wellness is about being patient, consistent and having fun.”

Learning to love her body

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Bronfman’s relationship with her body wasn’t always so positive. She chronicles her past struggles with body image in her book, from never feeling thin enough during her childhood ballet years to having family that constantly monitored and commented on what she ate, making her enjoyment of food feel dangerous and shameful.

“I always felt uncomfortable participating in those kinds of conversations [about food],” Bronfman says.

Surrounded by this negativity, she says, it took her a long time to learn to enjoy food and see it as nourishment rather than a threat to her goals in life. The change began to happen when she moved out of ballet training and into team sports where the focus was on teamwork and leadership more than the number on a scale.

But the real motivator was seeing the toll anorexia took on her socialite grandmother Ann Loeb Bronfman, which whom she was very close.

As Bronfman spent more time with her grandmother at the end of her life, watching her deteriorate and get increasingly fragile as a result of the disease, she was struck by the steep consequences of adopting other people’s standards of beauty rather than loving and accepting your body as is.

“It was eye-opening for me,” Bronfman says. Ultimately, reflecting on her grandmother’s struggle helped her to make better choices for her own health in her mid-20s. It also has made her more vocal about the importance of healthy body image and listening to what your body needs rather than what size or shape it is.

Finding what feels good

2-book-cover-do-what-feels-goodFive years ago, after several years of paying better attention to her body and sharing her health journey on Instagram and other social media platforms, she launched her website, HBFIT.com. for sharing her favorite health tips, tricks and discoveries–and expanding a community that already numbers nearly 600,000 followers on Instagram between her @hbfit and @hannahbronfman accounts.

There, Bronfman has shared stories about her diagnosis of leaky gut, as well as her decision to avoid dairy, gluten and other inflammatory foods to try to get rid of the headaches, stomachaches, bloating and lethargy that came with it. Along the way, she began cooking more at home, eating more fruits, vegetables and lean meats, and experimenting with recipes that didn’t make her feel deprived even though they were healthy, such as the Moroccan braised chicken with olives and lemon in her book.

“I had to figure out what worked and didn’t work,” says Bronfman, including eating more probiotic and prebiotic foods and avoiding sugar, until eventually, her gut issues cleared up. The difference, she says, was startling.

“I saw a huge improvement in my skin and my energy,” Bronfman says. “My body was really telling me something. … I was shocked that I had been ignoring all the signs for so long and realized how good I felt without all those things.

Now, she says, her idea of an ideal date night is not a late night with friends at a club but an early evening cooking and sharing a glass of wine with her DJ husband Brendan Fallis, who also shares her passion for an active, healthy lifestyle.

And their vacations now revolve around active pursuits such as hiking in South Africa or skiing in Montana.

Creating a career as an influencer

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The couple’s active lifestyle and impeccable sense of style plays a large part in their social media feeds, with corporate sponsors paying them to wear their clothes or promote their products in posts, including Adidas, for whom Bronfman has been a brand ambassador for three years.

While her brands and her community expect her to post frequently, showing many aspects of her personal life and routine, she says she does maintain a private life and carves out plenty of off-camera time with friends and family.

Indeed, her career as a health and fashion influencer got a big boost from her search for a more sane and sustainable lifestyle. Working less late nights and more evening fashion events helped her catch the eye of designers such as Dior and Dolce & Gabbana who wanted to dress her, which led to appearances, collaborations and paid social media posts with an array of apparel and cosmetics companies.

“My husband and I both look at using [our gigs] as corporate DJs as a door into the marketing department of brands,” Bronfman says.

Becoming a role model

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Aside from posting for brands and showing off her trademark nail art, Bronfman says her biggest responsibility on social media is trying to motivate others to lead a healthy lifestyle. And this pressure helps keep her on top of her fitness goals.

“On days when I don’t feel like working out, I’ll get a message saying, ‘You inspired me to go to the gym.’”

That, she says, keeps her from getting distracted by headlines and attention to her lifestyle and status as a fashion “it” girl and keeps the focus on being true to herself and her social media community.

Increasingly, that message includes her health tips and tricks but also her feelings on politics and issues of social justice and equality. The wage gap and the thigh gap are related, she opines in her book, with all the media pressure to achieve the perfect body distracting women from more important issues such as salary.

That’s why she says she encourages would-be influencers to stop trying to post only things that look perfect.

“I think we have reached a limit with that,” Bronfman says. “It’s important for young women to have realistic ideals. And we can contribute to that.”

Indeed, while social media has gotten a reputation for making many women feel more insecure about their bodies, Bronfman asserts that it also plays an important role in serving them up positivity and inspiration.

“So many amazing movements have come out of social media that have helped women through difficult times,” she says.

Through the #hbfit community and the new book—a sort of choose-your-own-health-adventure—Bronfman says she hopes to inspire women to go deeper, listen to their body and mind, and find what feels good.

“I want people who read this book to have a deeper understanding of themselves and what they bring to the table—their strengths and weaknesses, their truths and habits. So many women mask what’s really happening or going on,” she says, whether it’s mindless eating or overexercising. “These are all things that need to be dealt with. My book evokes a lot of questions that are hard to lie about.”

Video by: Mark Kuroda, kurodastudios.com
Photo by: Mark Kuroda, kurodastudios.com
Hair: Coree, thevisionariesagency.com
Make-up: Joanna Simkin, thewallgroup.com

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Author

Melinda Fulmer

Melinda Fulmer is a veteran writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience writing about health, food, and fitness. Her work has been featured in major media channels such as the Los Angeles Times, MSN, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Los Angeles magazine, Entrepreneur, HGTV.com, Prevention.com, and Details magazine.

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