Social media has a way of bringing people together. I met Nicole Hill through Instagram and have had the opportunity to learn about her journey to find self love and help others. She truly is one remarkable woman and that is why she is part of our Women Empowerment series.

After months of chatting on IG, Nikki and I chatted on the phone and let’s just say I had a blast, She is so sweet, down to earth and a very driven person.

Check out my interview with her below!

Can you tell me a little more about your background (college, experience, etc)

I grew up in Sacramento, CA and when I was 17 I moved to Ames, IA for college. I completed a Bachelors of Science at Iowa State University. I applied for pharmacy school in my final year of undergrad and did not get in the first time around. I took a year off and gained experience in a pharmacy. I reapplied to pharmacy school the following year and was accepted. From there I moved to Pittsburgh, PA and I am a pharmacy student at Duquesne University. I am getting ready to graduate with my PharmD in May. So never give up on your goals!

When we talked on the phone you were currently in pharmacy school. First off congrats! Why did you decide to go into this field?

Originally I started off wanting to study veterinary medicine, which is why my undergrad was in Animal Science. Midway through undergrad, I figured out I just LOVE animals (but not scientifically). I did some volunteer work in a pharmacy and fell in love with the aspect of learning how drugs work within the body. As I have gone through pharmacy school, my passion has expanded and I want to utilize my degree to educate health care professionals and communicate with others about their medication. With my passion for fitness and medical communication, there can be HUGE change.

You have a great following on Instagram, why did you decide to start one?

In 2014, I decided I wanted to compete in a figure competition. I started an Instagram to find like-minded individuals. In July, 2015 I competed and after my show was over I had a rough time. This is what began my journey towards self-love.

What has your journey to self-love been like?

In my teen years, I was overweight. At my highest, I weighed 250lbs on my 5’10” frame. I endured a lot of ridicule from classmates and even family members during those years. I’ll never forget being eight years old and having my grandma tell me to step on the scale and bringing me to tears about my weight.

This is where my disordered eating started. In high school, I would live off energy drinks and protein bars. When I moved away for college, I gained the freshman fifteen and hated my body more than ever. My sophomore year, I moved off campus and had to buy my own food. I remember putting myself on a low calorie diet and I began watching the pounds shed off. At one point I was maybe eating 600 calories a day and doing hours of cardio. My grades really suffered during this period and I could hardly attend social functions. I joined a sorority my junior year, and I remember the thinner I got, the more girls would tell me how ‘good’ I looked.

By the end of my junior year I weighed 139lbs and my boyfriend at the time told me I looked emaciated. This was my turning point. I knew I needed to get my grades up if I wanted a bright future. I began eating more (at least 1400 calories) and I started to feel better.

After moving to Pittsburgh for pharmacy school, I joined a gym. This is where I was introduced to bodybuilding. I became hungrier and started researching about proper nutrition. I finally reached a point where I was eating a good amount of calories and not restricting my body of the proper nutrients it needed. Bodybuilding is truly what saved my life.

After my show, I had a wake-up call. I had constantly been on one diet after another, and was NEVER happy with my body. I realized even after achieving this lean physique I never dreamed I would have, it still was never ‘enough’ for me. So this is where my journey to self-love started. I quit dieting and starting eating intuitively. I stopped focusing on my pants size, and started complimenting myself in the mirror. I stopped beating myself up for having a bad day, and started letting myself feel.

I am continually inspired by your IG, why do you feel lifting weights helped with your journey?

I kind of mentioned this above, but lifting weights saved my life. It opened my eyes to proper nutrition and made me feel strong. It gave me something to focus on other than my own self-loathing. It made me want to better myself as a person.

I believe self-love often gets misrepresented sometimes in the fitness industry. Wanting to be fit and healthy does not mean you cannot love your body at the same time. I take pride in wanting to be healthier because it is what makes me feel good. I spent years abusing my body and beating myself up. So lifting weights allowed me to turn my self-deprecating thoughts into a positive and enlightening journey.

Do you have advice for any girl out there trying to understand health and what works for her?

My most important piece of advice is do what works for YOU. By this, I mean stop scrolling through Instagram and feeling the need to do something because everyone else is doing it. Do not go on a diet because you see it worked for someone else. Do not do a fitness competition because you think it will give you the body of your dreams.

Find something fitness related that you love. For me that is lifting weights and doing spin classes. But for you that may be yoga or zumba class!

I personally no longer believe in ‘diets’. You have to find a way to incorporate nutritious foods into your daily life, while still allowing yourself to enjoy foods that you crave. Everyone has a method that works for them. That is why it is important you find your own niche.

Thank you for reading!

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