Ex-Miss NI Tiffany Brien: My new online fitness 'bible' is for normal people who just want to look and feel good
She calls herself 'the girl next door' but is a top sailor, won Miss Northern Ireland, has sold homes in Dubai, and is also a beauty blogger. Lee Henry meets the indefatigable Tiffany Brien
At just 26 years old, Holywood-born Tiffany Brien has lived a full and, at times, frantic, life to date. From competing at Olympic level sailing in RS400 and RS Elite class and winning Miss Northern Ireland in 2012, to selling million dollar houses in Dubai and running a successful commercial beauty blog, Tiffany has dipped her toe in many ponds and she's not finished exploring just yet.
Last week, in collaboration with a select group of health specialists and other bloggers, Tiffany launched the Fitness Body Bible, a comprehensive online fitness suite that gives "normal girls aiming to get fit and live healthy" access to a raft of informative exercise videos, nutrition plans, low calorie recipes and more.
It's a holistic, well-produced and relatively affordable (at £49.99) online product built around an eBook written by Tiffany that could potentially see her attract the kinds of online audiences that Joe Wicks, aka the Body Coach, currently boasts.
Tiffany - who created the Fitness Body Bible over the past year while working full-time, 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, as a valuer for her father's real estate business - is pleased as punch with the results.
"I'm knackered," Tiffany laughs, between client meetings and radio interviews about her fledgling career as a fitness guru.
"But that's a good thing. It's been an incredibly busy year, but I've loved every minute, of filming, writing, meeting like-minded people and interacting with my followers."
At present, Tiffany has no less that 95,000 on Facebook and 40,000 on Instagram - an incredibly impressive haul for a Northern Irish beauty blogger. In 2016, after rebranding her Peanut Butter Girl blog Tiffany Brien Blog, Tiffany tweaked her social media posts to focus more on health, as well as beauty, and set about the business of fitness.
At the time of our interview, with the Fitness Body Bible launched and online for just 36 hours, Tiffany had already sold 400 memberships - all that hard work was certainly paying off. But with so much health and fitness content available online today, what makes the Fitness Body Bible stand out from the crowd?
"I'm not trying to sell something that's unrealistic, unachievable," says Tiffany. "Ultimately, I'm the girl next door who happens, over the past 12 years or so, to have been lucky enough to work with a range of personal trainers and fitness coaches, provided by Sports NI when I was sailing, and I wanted to put all of that knowledge to good use.
"The Fitness Body Bible is really for beginners. It's not for those who want to enter bikini competitions, it's for normal people who want to look and feel good, girls like me. It's not overkill.
"I can bring a friend along with me, during one of my daily workouts, who may never have been in a gym before, or attempted a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, and they get it. It's a manageable guide to fitness and healthy living that anyone can access on their smartphone, tablet or desktop."
Inevitably, given that Tiffany 's output is focused online, trolls have raised their ugly heads, questioning Tiffany 's credentials. She does not feel the need to bite back, however, and is grateful that the vast majority of her followers appreciate her efforts and regularly get in contact to ask for help.
"Jeepers, the trolls are out there. No one can get away from them. Everyone has an opinion. But I'd say that the majority of my followers don't know anything about my sailing history, and everything that came with that - training 24/7 to reach Olympic Games, working out in the gym, eating smart - so I can't criticise them.
"What I can say is that the Fitness Body Bible was created in collaboration with the likes of Maria Rafferty, the [County Down-based] fertility and women's health specialist, who has written an unbelievably helpful and relatable chapter in the book all about hormones, bloating, all those girl problems that my followers are concerned with."
If the Fitness Body Bible does gain international popularity, Tiffany is well placed to cope with the response. After all, back in summer 2016, a post she put out on her Facebook page about the common effects of bloating went viral. The post, entitled Reality Check - I'm Not Six Months Pregnant, showed a before and after picture of Brien's stomach.
In the evening, after going out for dinner, Tiffany's bloating was evident, uncomfortably so. Just eight hours later, however, the transformation is obvious. "Don't worry girls," she wrote. "It happens to the best of us, all part and parcel of being a female!"
Tiffany adds: "I think, what with social media and everything these days, there is a massive pressure on everyone to look good.
"I get messages from followers all the time asking about how to get fit, how to tone their arms, how to get a bigger bum. They generally don't know what to do, so I'm happy to help where I can.
"The post about bloating really hit home with many women. The New York Post, Elle Magazine and Cosmopolitan picked it up. The response was just crazy. My followers shot up by 20k in one day.
"But it showed that so many girls go through the same thing, they just don't necessarily know how to treat them."
Tiffany was brought up in Holywood with her sister Jess (25) and brother Jack (20). Her parents, Simon (53) and Juanita, encouraged her get-up-and-go approach to life, buying her a wooden boat when she was six. She took to sailing immediately, learning from her dad initially and soon graduating to amateur and finally professional level.
"I've raced for Ireland from aged 14 to 22," Tiffany explains. "I was ranked number one in Ireland in the 2011/12 season, ahead of all the boys, and on the international circuit I was doing all the Olympics stuff for several seasons. I was in Beijing and competed to race in London 2012, but unfortunately I missed out. After dedicating eight years of my life to that one goal, I was devastated.
"But that disappointment led me to enter Miss Ireland. I was a tomboy at the time. Never got my hair done, never got my nails done. But a friend recommended I enter, just for a change of scenery, and I won. It was amazing. I got to travel to China to compete in Miss World, and when I got back I decided to start my Peanut Butter Girl blog."
In 2015, with the aim of further spreading her wings and living away from home for a time, Tiffany relocated to Dubai, selling property to the super rich. It was "a funny year" in her life, Tiffany admits, but helped with focus. Today, she still works "flat out" in real estate, but is happy that her hobby is becoming something that she can get her teeth into from a business point of view in the very limited free time she enjoys during the week.
As for her fitness schedule, you will find Tiffany at the gym every weekday morning from 6am before she starts work at 8am.
Keeping fit is, of course, important to her, but after the stressful years of sailing competitively, her mantra is now all about "fitness, food and fun".
"If you're stressed and unhappy, chances are you won't make a success of your fitness. I've been there, done that, counted every calorie and got myself in a tizzy, and I've learned that it's all about balance. These days, I don't put myself under pressure.
"Monday to Friday is my working week, and that's when I stick to my fitness and healthy eating plan. I know what I need to eat and when I need to eat it, and I try not to overeat. At the weekends, though, I do what I want. I enjoy myself and get back on it Monday morning. You can go hard during the week and still have a brilliant weekend. It's sustainable."
Tiffany's favourite cheat meal is pizza, and her favourite place to eat out is Slim's Kitchen, the owners of which helped her to write the recipe section of the Fitness Body Bible eBook.
"I'm really not much of a party girl," Tiffany contends. "The older you get, your priorities change, and I'm happy to make life about work at the minute. I can't always keep on top of food prep, so a few nights a week I'll eat out of Slim's. I love it.
"If I do manage to get out for a drink with friends, I'll either stay in Holywood or venture into Ballyhackamore, which is really up and coming, or the Newtownards Road." Boyfriend Olly Loughhead (24) will, of course, be in tow. The couple originally dated when they were at school and recently got back together.
Tiffany met Loughhead, who currently works at CitiBank, while the two were sailing, and she describes him as "unbelievably supportive".
She adds: "I wouldn't have been able to have done the Fitness Body Bible without him. After all the long days and longer nights, he's always there."
The future certainly looks bright for Tiffany, who is open and optimistic about her plans going forward. "I'm just going with the flow," she concludes.
"I never know what's around the corner. From going sailing, to Miss Northern Ireland, to blogging, to Fitness Body Bible, I'm just taking it all as it comes. I never say no, and if I do something, I do it 100%.
"It's all about enjoying the moment right now."
For details and to sign up to Tiffany's Fitness Body Bible, visit www.fitbodybible.com