By Karnivore Kayla
Her name is Hillie. Don’t call her Hillary. I learned that one from experience. I remember meeting Hillie for the first time when she dropped in to my CrossFit class back in 2014. My general impression of her was that she was a slender, soft-spoken, curly headed young lady (about my age), with flawless and I mean beyoncé status FLAWLESS milk chocolate skin (or how Erica says “chocolate vanillie Hillie), and a mix of blue and green eyes dark as the sea. She seemed scepticle to me at the time which I initially assumed came from the whole idea of the CrossFit-circus vibe, but I now I’m almost certain she just was unsure of my overall weirdness. Hillie became a regular at the gym, sporting many bracelets, colorful shorts and usually a tank top that just barely exposed a tattoo on her right shoulder. I saw her frustrations while she ran through the movements next to her lil energizer bunny girlfriend, and my adjective slangin’ sista, Erica. I became friends with these ladies (probably at the point when I started remembering their names) and would always be so excited to see them walking into my class. Chit chatting with Hillie in between her lifts, we got to talking about our “doughy” teenage years. Something I feel that many people probably can relate to. But I didn’t quit e understand Hillie at the point where she told me that she use to be obese. I chuckled and said “Yeah right!! Same.” And she said “No really, I was.” Again, I don’t recall being totally convinced, I mean, she just glowed to me and I couldn’t imagine her at a significantly bigger size. Eventually Hillie posted a side by side “throwback thursday” on Instagram of herself in high school and a more recent photo. She was being serious. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It wasn’t the same person. And when I told Hillie that, she said it’s not. Her story intrigues me because it’s everything I never expected. In all honesty, y’all are going to have to wait until her autobiography comes out because I couldn’t possibly fit every detail I wanted to into this blog. It’s a story that begins very bubbly, and radiates with confidence, aspirations, and intent, but develops into a heavy-hearted journey filled with contemplation and turmoil and turns out, the grass is not always greener on the other side.
I was privileged enough to hear Hillie’s story first hand and interview her! She has allowed me to share bits of her story for which I am grateful. This young lady fascinates me in the way that she seems to take the path less traveled, yearning for the spirit and soul she once had.
Describe yourself before you went through some changes?
Very loud. If I was in a room I always had attention on me, the room lit up! People constantly talking to me, and I liked the attention. It didn’t scare me. I had the best laugh, the craziest laugh…it was so loud! I was voted class clown in high school.
Did you have any enemies or were you aware of bullies?
No bullies, no enemies. Maybe one or two instances that I can look back on, but never the outcast. I had friends in all groups in high school.
What was the turning point for you?
The fall after graduation I had just turned 18. I moved down south for school, and had started getting chest pain. And along with the chest pain I started getting anxiety, which led to even more chest pain. One day I was in L.A. traffic and I started getting chest pains and ended up having a panic attack in traffic! It was awful because there was nothing I could do. Eventually the feeling went away and the next day I drove home quiet, scared, and timid. This is what I like to call my “A-ha moment”. This was when I started to realize what could potentially happen to my insides if I didn’t change something.
How did your attitude change?
At age 18 I felt invincible. And then at this point I realized I AM going to die one day. I realized my body is a living, functioning thing and was not immune to health issues and problems that happen to normal people, like me.
What did you change?
I gave up caffeine, soda, and fried food. And I honestly felt like if I had any of those things, I would immediately die. It’s like I started to develop a phobia. One bite of a chicken nugget and it was over for me.
Were you still in school at the time?
I had dropped out a week after Thanksgiving because I couldn’t leave my house for classes due to the anxiety. For two weeks I hadn’t left my bed, just laying there in the dark trying to sleep away the pain, anxiety, and fear. I was scared to move, and all I ate was frosted flakes because I was too scared to go buy more food or eat anything else.
What did it feel like?
I felt like a balloon in a room full of needles.
Were you eventually motivated to get healthy?
I moved home for christmas and had gone to the doctor for a checkup, and for the first time in my life, I had seen the scale go down. Having been at my highest weight at 266 pounds just in that past summer, 244 pounds was now display ed on the scale and I could not believe it. It ignited a hope in me I didn’t know existed. Losing weight WAS possible and slowly, but surely, I was doing it.
Was it odd to see the scale go down?
YES. You have to understand, that had NEVER happened before.Even when my parents put me in nurtition classes or tried to influence me to eat healthier. I did not think losing weight was a “thing”. I thought you needed guided, professional help. Which is why I wanted Biggest Loser so bad. That’s why I had applied that past Thanksgiving.
That’s crazy!! But in the midst of this all, you’re putting in work to educate yourself a bit about nutrition…
Yeah so Netflix was my savior because I could watch as many documentaries on health and food as I could find. I read articles, and finally learned how to read a nutrition label. I had no idea what a calorie was, or fat percentage, or anything like that. Keep in mind I did little exercise. Food and nutrition was my main focus.
What happened with The Biggest Loser?
I had a final interview in March and I remember eating a huge cheeseburger and fries, mind you, I had lost 30 pounds since my first audition tape by changing my eating habits. I told myself I had to try to be big to be on the show, and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time–down a cheeseburger and fries.
What was your incentive to be on the show besides losing weight?
It has always been a dream of mine to have my own TV show, and I felt like that was my ‘in’. I’m the kind of person where if I tell myself I’m going to do something, I’ll do it.
And the outcome?
I ended up not getting the spot, and cried all through the night. My friends and I wound up going to taco bell that night and I remember cursing Jillian Michaels, kind of between laughing and crying about the whole thing. I didn’t make me feel good though, eating in spite of someone. That wasn’t who I wanted to be.
What was your motive now?
To prove to myself I could. Im stubborn that way. When I want to do/accomplish something…I set out to prove nothing is impossible. I knew I could. I knew I had too. I wanted to prove to the Bigget Loser, and myself, and my peers…that I could do it. I wanted them to know they could do it too–whatever it is.
Could you see your progress?
For the first time in my life I could see how big I was in photos and that made me want to push more. At this point it had been about 10 months since my initial weight loss, and I was down 55 pounds. I did start to plateau though. I can recall sitting in car and looking in the side view mirror and seeing how round my face was. I told myself I was not done. I started lifting weights, bodybuilding, and ran maybe a couple times a week. After a few months the weight fell off. I went from 210 pounds to 160 pounds incorporating strength and conditioning into my regiment. I would swap active things with sedentary things. Like instead of watching TV I would go shoot some hoops.
How were people reacting to these changes?
Constant praise and admiration. But there was a difference in some of the reactions I got from friends or family. I would hear sincere statements like “So good to see you, you look great, and you still have the spirit you always had” but sometimes I would receive comments like “I always knew you had such a pretty face”. And it was reactions like that that made me wonder how that person really felt about me. This was when I started physically judging myself. Being pretty, was hard. Being skinny brought a whole different person into the world. A world I was not aware of. A world of jealously, competitiveness, judgement. What I found is that being pretty, really, really, hurts. I hated it. I hated the assumptions people made. I hated feeling like I had to wear a dress now. I hated the fact that I could no long er make my funny jokes without someone being offended. One person in particular had told me “You’re not as jolly as you were before.” I was being judged by my physical appearance and experiencing what I feel most everyone goes through when they’re teenagers.
Were you becoming obsessive?
Definitely. I was constantly looking in mirrors. Any I passed. I also become obsessed with the scale. Making it decrease.
I was in search of perfection. I had to keep loosing. That was my “normal” for the last 2 years. That was my “identity” now. No longer the fat, funny girl.
Did this start to take over your life?
I definitely developed an eating disorder. I was not eating much…maybe one meal at night, and my spirit was gone. I never had energy, barely left my house, didn’t hang out with anyone because I did not want to be tempted by food, and on top of that I was grumpy. You can’t function as a human being with an eating disorder. I didn’t want to have this addiction but it was there. There was a point when I wish I had never started this journey.
What was the extent of your eating disorder?
Fast forward to the next summer. Laxatives were now an everyday part of my life. I could eat, and binge, on whatever I wanted, take chocolate laxatives before bed, wake up, clean out, and do it again. After being so strict on what I was eating, being able to indulge on the bad and get it out right a way became such a pleasure. But also, an addiction. The worst addiction. That summer became so intense, I can only describe it as the darkest months of my life. I had reached a weight of 120 pounds. I was barely eating, and still using laxatives. I was drained, fragile, tired, depressed, and hopeless. I kept dreaming of the 136 pound me and wishing I could have her back. I was also wishing for the 266 pound me. The one that was happy. Content, confident, proud, loud, funny, beautiful, smart. Everything I was not.
How did you heal from this?
I will never forget laying on my bedroom floor thinking, “This is it. I am going to die. This addiction is going to consume me.” I cried. I stared at a quote I wrote on my wall, “ Each day you are born again. What you do today is what matters most. -Ghandi”. From that day forward I took it one day at a time. Slowly, I ate healthy meals again. Slowly, I controlled the urge to binge and flush out. That November I had finally overcome my addiction, but my body was nowhere near recovered. I lost all my muscle, all my nutrients, and my body no longer knew how to accept and use the nutrients it was receiving. For months my body would fight me, leaving me lethargic and frail. I took time off from school and had to leave my job to stay home and let my body build itself back up. Eventually, it started to.
Were you able to find yourself again?
Once I recovered, I realized a lot of that addiction had to do with the Post Traumatic Stress I never dealt with once losing all my weight. As great as it is to be healthy and a normal size, there is still a part of being big that is a comfort and will greatly be missed. Especially when you love yourself as much as I did. I had never taken the time to mourn the loss of the 266 pound Hill, I no longer had the addiction or the weight loss to distract me, and now I had to learn how to do life with this new Hill.
When you look back at this time in your life with your eating disorder, what emotions does it give you?
I have a lot of shame. I was going through those changes at 20, it was as if I was falling backwards…it’s like I was born at 20 years old. Where as before, attention was brought to me when I wanted it, now it was there even when I didn’t want it. The small imperfections weighed heavier than my big imperfect ions and I found myself seeking a love that died and isn’t there. I hope people can respect me sharing my truths enough to also respect my biggest fear…which is that people will discredit the 150 pounds I lost naturally, healthily. I don’t want people to take away my 2 and a half years of hard work for an addiction and disorder so many struggle with. I am currently at my weight prior to my addiction and disorder. I want to be fully credited in the time, effort, and hard work that took. My fear is I’ll be considered a cheater.
If you look back on a photo or video of you back when you were 18, do you recognize that person?
I hear that laugh and recognize it, it brings me joy, and I crave and miss that feeling. I look at her and feel like I know her, like she’s a friend. Someone I cared about. But, the pictures I see of her are not how I saw myself at the time. So, it doesn’t really resonate with me that it’s “me”. It makes me sad…because now all I hear are the comments people said once I lost weight. I also just want her to hug me. And tell me I am beautiful and everything is going to be okay. She’s a dear friend.
What are your fears?
Not living to my fullest potential, and dying with regrets.
What are some of your goals?
Write a book maybe about the story of my weight loss, trauma, or memoir of things from a young age. I want to travel, have an exciting career, and learn to love myself.
Favorite clean meal?
Sweet potato hash. With bacon and eggs :).
It’s a tie between two things…cereal. Reese’s Puffs or Golden Grahams.
What would the name of your talk show be?
The Hillie B. Show
What would your mascot be?
A bee. A queen bee.*
*: I may or may not have put words in Hill’s mouth on this one. It was between this or a lemur.
Of all the photos Hillie shared with me, these were my favorite….From top to bottom, a younger Hill looking peppy and excited, in the middle a healthy 145# Hillie “All natural. All healthy. All good.” And on the bottom , the Hillie I met and how she describes looking “like a dweeb” standing in her old favorite shorts. I’m proud of this dweeb and grateful that our paths crossed.