(Editor's Note: Part 1/3 in a series of stories looking into the lives of Soldiers participating in the Army Reserve's Performance Triad)
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Army Reserve Pfc. Kayla Fillyaw has struggled with her weight on both extremes.
The 26-year-old military police Soldier said her entire life has been dealing with her weight gains and losses, and now she battles to maintain a healthy weight to stay in the Army.
The Macclenny, Florida-native, now living in Port Wentworth, Georgia is assigned to the 351st Military Police Detachment, said she hopes a pilot program sponsored by the 200th Military Police Command will help her learn to live a healthier lifestyle.
Standing 5 foot 2 inches, Fillyaw said she used to weigh more than 160 pounds.
"People kept telling me to eat, eat and eat again," she said when she was told she needed to gain weight because she was too skinny. "Before I knew it, I looked down at my body, and I changed for the worse. I eventually lost the weight; too much weight."
Fillyaw admits she has the opposite problem of most Soldiers struggling with weight.
"I constantly struggle to maintain or even gain weight," she said. "I am borderline being underweight in the Army standards."
Now just over 100 pounds, Fillyaw recently participated in a two-week Performance Triad with more than 350 other Army Reserve Soldiers to learn how to gain healthy weight safely.
"It's frustrating when people look at me and say that they wish they could eat anything they want like me but the truth is no one can eat anything without facing the consequences, good or bad, for what they put in their body," she said.
Fillyaw said it's important that everyone is educated on the value of good, balanced nutrition no matter what his or her size is.
"The consequences you may face won't always show in your size but as medical problems that can and will arise," she added.
She is hopeful that this program will give people the knowledge that good nutrition doesn't only apply to the individuals hoping to lose weight but to everyone.
The program, which is new to the Army Reserve, is a comprehensive plan to improve resilience through public health initiatives and leadership engagement and focuses on sleep, activity and nutrition, which are key actions that influence health in the "Lifespace" of time that isn't spent with a health care provider.
Fillyaw said the program is built for Soldiers to succeed by using structured, overlapping training opportunities.
"My favorite part of the whole ordeal is they taught us one lesson, like how to set goals," she said. "The next day, we are learning about nutrition and they say, 'now that we taught you how to set goals, we are going to apply your goals to nutrition.'"
Fillyaw said the program taught one lesson to apply to another lesson, and a third lesson to reinforce the first lesson.
"I am walking away from here learning to take care of myself and to live a better, healthier life," she said. "This is an annual training where, after two weeks, I know I'm a better person than when I started the training. It's an amazing feeling to notice change within myself and others will notice the change too."
After only four days into the program, Fillyaw learned to gain weight can be a healthy path that doesn't consist of large sodas and fast-food menu items.
"There is a healthy way to gain weight that does not include eating a bunch of fatty foods," she said. "I have learned I can eat lots of nuts, avocados, and peanut butter to gain and maintain my weight in a healthy manner."
Fillyaw said after the two-weeks, training won't stop and she intends to take the newly learned skills and information and help others.
"I always try to reach out to Soldiers to help them with their weight," she said. "Now, I have additional tools and information to help my Solders, family and friends. What a great way to give back to those who have taken care of me."