HBCUstory: How did your personal fitness journey begin?
Kaleb J. Hill: My family has a history of chronic illness and I was determined to exclude it from my legacy. At my heaviest, 360lbs, I was miserable. I held the pain of Hurricane Katrina and the loss of family members in those pounds. During this time, I was medicating my depression, anxiety, and stress with food, liquor, and smoking.
I was reintroduced to fitness after I was laid off. This tough time proved to be a gift in disguise. I had time to reflect and re-evaluate the steps needed to reach my personal goals. During this time, rather than letting my time fall to the wayside, I decided to volunteer.
While traveling to my first assignment, I got lost and ended up in one of the city’s fitness facilities. That day, I met the facility director and I offered to clean the facility in exchange for help in my wellness journey. Each evening, after leaving the facility, I returned home to research new exercises or nutrition topics. Fitness became my new habit, this habit lead to me shedding 100lbs.
HBCUstory: Who are your fitness inspirations?
Kaleb J. Hill: My son, my muse and my nouna (grandmother in Greek). My nouna, Fotini Foukas, had a work ethic that continues to inspire me. She was a Greek immigrant, who arrived to the US unable to speak English. She conquered the language barrier and participated in the Civil Rights Movement and started her own business. She always encouraged and supported me, even as her health declined. I am a diabetes advocate in her honor.
HBCUstory: What words of encouragement would you offer to someone beginning their fitness journey?
Kaleb J. Hill: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your health is a team effort and you are the majority partner in your healthcare. Your health is a journey, don’t give up! For example, if you make a poor meal selection or overeat, remember you can start over with your next meal. Find an accountability partner and be sure they have a similar schedule.
HBCUstory: Tell us about FitnessFleet.
Kaleb Hill: FitnessFleet began as a community service project. Its mission is to bridge the gap between healthcare providers, health coaches, and patients. Working as a nursing assistant for 8 years has offered me a unique perspective on community health needs. Health is practical and should be presented as such. Using #hoodhealth and #shipshape hashtags on Twitter, I am sharing practical steps to create healthy habits. For example, I encourage my followers to drink water or replace a sugary a snack with a serving of fruit.
HBCUstory: Where does Coach KJ see himself in the future?
Kaleb J. Hill: I began my education at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA), but Hurricane Katrina forced me to leave. Seven years later, this fall, I am returning to XULA. My career experience and my XULA education will allow me to be a great physician and health coach.
HBCUstory: What is your vision for the health of Black America?
Kaleb J. Hill: I would like to change the language of defeat when it comes to our health and our bodies. We can have good health but we must first change our minds and then our bodies.
Kaleb “Coach KJ” Hill will share his story via poetry in upcoming book, titled, Pick Me Up & Hold Me, scheduled to be released this fall. You can find more of his poetry in the Word Connections I publication. Be on the lookout for Word Connections II scheduled to be released February 2013.