How Sydney fitness model recovered from deadly anorexia
Hattie Boydle's greatest gifts grew from out of her darkest depths.
It's easy to see the evidence of this in Hattie's photographs, although it can be hard to reconcile between the old and new. There is the Hattie of today, a strong and radiant world champion fitness model from Sydney's Bondi beach, and the emaciated teenage version of herself some ten years ago.
Gripped by anorexia in her teenage years, Hattie weighed just 26 kilograms.
Then, the outlook for Hattie was bleak. Of all the psychiatric disorders, anorexia is the biggest killer. Anorexics don't necessarily die by starvation. Associated health problems linked to under-feeding can be fatal, and suicide is a constant risk. Once established, anorexia nervosa is notoriously difficult to treat.
Speaking on the telephone from Tulum in Mexico, a beautiful laidback town on the Caribbean coast where she has been living this year, Hattie's voice is upbeat, positive and full of life. Her cheery tone underlines her remarkable recovery from anorexia – not that the journey was easy. Far from it.
"It was years of work, really deep and hard work," Hattie says.
"Just because you make a decision to try and get well, life doesn't just change straightaway. You have to be willing to go to the dark corners of your mind. There are things you don't want to find, things that are confronting, things that make you feel vulnerable. But that is how you change and how you grow."
Transformation is at the core of Hattie's business, The Sports Model Project, where she coaches other women on health, fitness and wellbeing.
Throughout our interview, Hattie repeatedly refers to the women who come to her seeking help as "her girls". Many arrive struggling with emotional pain, and suffering from body issues. Hattie's goal is to mentor and inspire her girls into "a full transformation of the body, soul and mind."
"I think of it as a metamorphosis, a cocoon and butterfly situation," Hattie says.
"I'm a really big believer that to truly transform yourself it actually starts from the inside out. It is something I teach my girls. The ability to learn to love yourself starts with how you treat yourself and the relationship you have with yourself. That sets the tone for the rest of your relationships."
It was Hattie's own tight relationship with her mum, dad and sister which played such a crucial role in her recovery and helped pulled her back from the brink. There were times when she wanted to die.
Persistently hungry, anorexics are known to be incredibly mentally strong and armed with an iron will. In treatment, Hattie's view slowly began to shift.
"I didn't like the person I was becoming," Hattie says.
"In order to change that I knew I had to change myself. That was a really big eyeopener.
"I also really hated people telling me what to do. [At rehab and while I was sick], everyone was telling me what I could and couldn't do. So that forced me to go. 'how can I get myself out of this?'"
Pain motivated Hattie to alter the direction of her life. In 2016, just five years after she began training, Hattie was crowned World Beauty Fitness and Fashion (WBFF) champion, the first Australian to achieve win this hotly contested global title.
As well as coaching other women, Hattie works as inspirational speaker and also delivers fitness and wellbeing seminars in the US and Europe.
A disciplined daily spiritual program of meditation and journaling helps keep Hattie free from her eating disorder. While in Tulum, she fell in love with the slow pace of life in Mexico. She based herself there while training for the 2018 WBFF in Las Vegas, where she placed runner-up.
"I bought a really crap bike for just $40 and I ride it everywhere, to the beach, to the gym and shops." Hattie says she's hardly been inside a car at all this year. "I've really, really enjoyed that."
Hattie can look back at old photos now and is at peace with herself. But she still feels pain over what her family went through while she was struggling so severely.
"I think, 'How the hell did that happen?' But the worst moments of my life have actually been my biggest gifts. I feel I wouldn't be the person I am today without those experiences."
FOLLOW: Mark Saunokonoko on Twitter