Humans of UK: Lilly Whitley works it out


Lilly Whitley poses for a portrait on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Charlotte Hauck

College students have much to balance; school, jobs, extracurriculars and social activities add up to create hectic schedules for students, sometimes causing physical fitness and mental wellness to be put on the back burner.

University of Kentucky student Lilly Whitley is defying the odds by not only prioritizing her physical and mental wellbeing but also by documenting the journey on social media.

Whitley is studying dietetics at UK. While she is a sophomore, she will be graduating early in December 2022, as she graduated high school with college credits that allowed her to accelerate quickly through her program.

“I’ve always just been a very driven individual my whole life,” Whitley said. “You can probably tell from my social media, but I’ve always been goal oriented.”

Whitley creates motivational content on TikTok (@lillydawnn) and Instagram, where she has a combined 10,000 followers. On her social media, followers can find motivational content including daily vlogs and workout videos.

“I really started making social media a priority,” she said. “I realized it is truly impacting other people’s lives and motivating others.”

What inspired Whitley’s passion for dietetics was a realization that came to her in high school. She was a competitive cheerleader, and in high school, the busyness of being a student-athlete did not leave much time for prioritizing her diet.

“I was always on the go,” she said. “Fast food was very much an everyday thing for me.”

Whitley noticed that she was consistently low on energy, and that’s when she took the plunge and went “all in” with healthy eating and researching its benefits.

“My first experience going to the gym was a hot mess,” Whitley said. “I walked in so scared – I didn’t know what to do.”

Whitley empathizes with students who feel intimidated entering the gym. Not long after that first gym experience, she found herself working in gyms and coaching spin classes while taking an accelerating course load at UK.

She said that because she is so self-motivated, it’s great that she has supportive staff and faculty at UK to help her build connections and guide her entrance into the workforce at such a young age.

Whitley also had some words of encouragement for UK students who are looking to improve both their physical and mental health.

“Everything happens for you and not to you,” she said. “This obstacle in your life is there for a reason and you need to push to overcome that.”