On the latest episode of Chasing Glory, Lilian Garcia discussed Bianca Belair’s pre-WWE career as a track star during her high school and college years. Garcia was impressed with Belair’s college career (more specifically, her track career at each university). When asked to elaborate on her track career in college, Belair told a haunting story about one of her darkest moments at that time, which began way before she went to college and how much pressure she was under to have the ideal weight to get a full-ride scholarship to the first college that she went to, the University of South Carolina.
“(On the first college she went to) I got a full-ride scholarship to the University of South Carolina for track. I went there – I was only there for one year, then I transferred out. The reason was because, in high school, I struggled with weight a lot,” Belair noted. “So, running track, I was a hurdler, I was a sprinter. I was always considered one of the bigger girls and they always used to tell me, you know, you could run faster if you lose weight. I think I weighed 150 pounds in the eighth grade. I was the height that I am now. They wanted me to be like in the 130s as a sprinter. In high school, I was probably 155 – I wanted to run fast and get a scholarship, so, it was drilled in me that if you lose weight, you’ll run faster.
“So, I went on a diet – I did lose weight, but then I hit a plateau where I couldn’t lose any more weight. So, I started throwing my food up, so I became bulimic. I lost weight and I actually ran faster, which is crazy, but I ended up getting hurt because I didn’t have the right nutrients and I wasn’t keeping the vitamins down. I got my scholarship from South Carolina. I went to South Carolina my freshman year, and I decided I didn’t want to do this anymore (with bulimia). I’m starting over, I’m starting fresh. I got what I wanted, which was to get a scholarship, and I got it.”
Garcia asked Belair when was it the turning point for her when she realized she needed help with her eating disorder. Belair stated it wasn’t until she was hospitalized that she had to learn how to redo her life, for the better.
“It didn’t end (on trying to stop her eating disorder when she went to college her first year),” Belair began. “I ended up having this obsession with food, where I was binge eating at night. I wasn’t eating in front of people, but I would go binge eating at night and I started gaining all of this weight. Then, I had my coaches telling me, ‘What happened to the Bianca from high school? We need the same Bianca from high school.’ So, instead of seeking help and figuring out a healthy way to get back there, I went back to throwing my food up again. So now, I’m binge eating and throwing it up. I’m not going to perform well, and mentally, I wasn’t there.
“I got depressed and I ended up being prescribed medication, and things just didn’t work out. I was young, it was the first time I was on my own, and I was blaming everyone else. It’s the coaches fault, it’s the program’s fault, I’m not running fast because of this, when really, it was because of the things that I was doing to myself. I wasn’t being honest with myself. I wasn’t able to get help or seek help because I wasn’t being honest with myself.
“So, I transferred out to Texas A&M University (second college) and tried to do the same thing, where I’m going to start new, again. This time, I stopped throwing my food up for the most part, but then, I stopped my medication, cold turkey, which you’re not supposed to do. You’re supposed to wean off of it. I was taking it and my parents didn’t know, my friends didn’t know, because I was embarrassed about it and I didn’t understand depression. Things were going ok at A&M, until all of a sudden, I just felt like I was losing a grip on everything. I couldn’t catch up and I didn’t know why. I started getting emotional and started isolating myself. I didn’t understand… It got to a point where I was out of it.
“I felt like I wasn’t being heard. I was trying to tell people that I needed help. I felt like no one was listening. I ended up taking – wow, I’ve never really talked about this- I ended taking a bunch of pills and my roommate took me to the emergency room. It wasn’t super like life-threatening bad, but the fact that I did take that action, they sent me to a mental like overnight hospital. They tried to get me together, I was trying to get myself together. I spent a week there getting therapy and afterward, I had to make the decision if I wanted to go home or try to go back and finish out my semester. I decided to finish out my semester and I didn’t do very well. Then, that was when I made my decision to go back home to Tennessee.”
Belair explained that when she took all of her medication at once, she never wanted to end her life, instead, she saw it as a cry for help so others could see the pain she was dealing with on a daily basis.
“I remember I started isolating myself. I stopped going to church and believing in God,” Belair stated. “People would say to me ‘Be happy,’ and I was like that’s easier said than done. I didn’t understand why I was feeling the way that I was feeling, I think I was frustrated. I was starting to do weird things-like if I wasn’t isolating myself, I would be around my group of friends and I wouldn’t even talk. I wouldn’t say anything. I felt like if I wasn’t here, it wouldn’t matter because they weren’t even realizing that I wasn’t joining in on the conversation. I can’t explain it – you relapse and you can’t even control it.
“I honestly don’t believe I wanted to end my life, I don’t. I think it was more of a cry for help and attention because I was trying to tell people to listen to me and no one was. So, I think it was more of a ‘Hey, now you see the issue. Now you’re seeing the issue.’ I wasn’t at the point where I really, really wanted to end my life.”
Even though Belair felt like a failure going back home, she realized it was the best decision she made for herself and her well-being. After getting the helped she needed, she earned a scholarship with the University of Tennessee, competed in track and graduated there with full honors.
“I don’t believe in having regrets,” Belair said about her tough journey. “I think it was a huge learning lesson for me. It made me grow up a whole lot… I don’t have any regrets. It definitely made me tougher and wiser.”
You can view Belair’s full interview above. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chasing Glory- Lilian Garcia with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.