Maddy Moon was like many 20 or 30-something women you see in the gym.
She was fit, super healthy, and seemed like she had it all together on the outside: Confidence. Hard-earned muscle. Rocking a bikini body. The ability to say “no” to sugar cravings, and “yes” to chicken and broccoli.
In fact, she was so healthy and fit that she competed on stage in body building and fitness competitions—finding her happiness and accomplishment in working out for a purpose: sport (so she thought).
However, on the inside, she’d tell you that looks can be deceiving…and she was anything BU healthy.
“Bodybuilding and fitness competitions led me to develop orthorexia, an eating disorder where one is obsessed with what they consider to be healthy or “pure” eating,” Maddy said, looking back on the chapter of her life, during college, where she fell into the trap of the (never-ending) pursuit of perfection.
And so the story goes for hundreds and thousands of others—particularly girls and women. Us girls and women who have pure desires to be “healthy”, “fit”, “lean” and confident—and do whatever it takes to get it (often times to the detriment of our own holistic well-being).
Eating disorders are NOT just confined to the “classic” labels of “anorexia” and “bulimia”, eating disorders, or rather disordered eating, come in other shapes and sizes—often times overlooked, shoved under the rug or not given a second thought (after all, what’s so bad about being healthy?!).
NOTHING is wrong with being healthy…but the issue that presents with these sneaky cases of disordered eating and exercise is when the definition of “healthy” becomes twisted.
What is healthy? What does thriving REALLY mean in your life?
- Is it obsession with hitting your macros every day, or feeling boxed in to eat ONLY X-Y-Z, or else…?
- Is it showing up to the gym every day like it is your job—something you have to do to be healthy?
- Is it running or elliptizicing until you’ve burned the 500 calories you needed to burn to make up for the piece of pizza you ate last night?
- Is it saving up all your calories for Friday night when you allow yourself your one “cheat” meal?
- Is it bringing your own food to the restaurant because you can’t touch anything on the menu or from the kitchen in the back?
- Is it an extreme anxiety over vacations, eating out, social functions, holidays, and any other gathering involving food?
- Is it packing your own sweet potatoes and chicken breast in your suit case on your travels for a long weekend?
- Is it not feeling complete UNLESS you get your workout—or two—in for the day?
Whatever the case…many do experience these thoughts, feelings or behaviors at one time or another…
But when does being healthy go overboard?
The answer to that question is really up to every individual to personally answer for themselves.
Like myself, my sister in recovery, Maddy, found her own answer…Check out her interview below and allow yourself to explore what a genuine healthy relationship with food, your body and fitness could look like too.
Up Close & Personal with Madelyn Moon
Q. First things first, give us a little background on your struggle with the eating disorder…how did it start?
Maddy: When I was young, I started to realize that there was a difference between the way I was treated, and the way my skinny tall friends were treated. I wanted to be admired and recognized for my body as well, so I came to the conclusion that I should control the way others saw me by controlling my weight. From there, I became obsessed with eating less and exercising for unhealthy amounts of time. As time went on, I began to purge until I started to conceal my eating disorder with bodybuilding…something that outsiders saw as a “disciplined” sport. In reality, I was obsessively controlling every gram of food, weighing every blueberry, and fearing every food item that wasn’t on my meal plan.
Q. What did your daily life look like with your eating disorder? How did it impact your daily function?
Maddy: I would stay indoors as much as I could, hidden away with my “safe” and special meals. I would hit the gym twice in a day, once for fasted cardio and once for weight lifting. I would take protein powder, amino acids, and about three different other powder supplements plus at least six different vitamins. I was lacking in nutrition, so I would try to get what I could from supplements.
I didn’t hang out with friends, go on dates, or socialize with my classmates. I rarely went out on the town, or even out to a birthday gathering. B
Q. How and when did you realize you had a problem?
Maddy: After my second competition, I was so depressed with my body and my ranking at the show. It was a day that most people were jumping for joy, excited that they accomplished what they set out to do. Even so, I was depressed because it still wasn’t enough. I hated the way I was feeling and I was disappointed in myself for being so upset over something as trivial as a bodybuilding competition. I realized I needed to get out of that industry or else I would be lost in this pit of self-loathing forever
Q. What did you do about it initially?
Maddy: I did some pretty drastic things. First, I got a puppy (I intuitively realized I needed something to take care of) and secondly, I moved out of the state I was living in. That’s not the recipe for recovery for most people, but it was extremely helpful for me. From there, I started the real work- the work that took place in the mind. I sought guidance and counsel from coaches I admired, and I distanced myself from the fitness industry as I broke away from my label as being the “fit chick.”
Q. What made this time different—arealjourney in recovery?
Maddy: I had finally hit rock bottom and I was ready to make the changes. My life depending on it.
Q. What were some of the bigger obstacles or challenges in pursuing wellness?
Maddy: The two biggest obstacles on my journey were other people and the media. The media will constantly tell you that you’re not enough, that you need their products and services, but you have to accept the fact that the media will always do this. And the same goes with people…many people on this planet are not on a self-acceptance journey, and there is nothing you can do to change that. All you can do is work on what happens on the inside of your own body and mind.
Q. What are some things you NEVER believed could happen (in recovery/your life) with the eating disorder?
Maddy: I never saw myself being enough. No matter how small I was, it was never enough for me to be happy. For a while I came to terms with this fact, and just accepted it…until the happiness became too much to bear. I knew that I was truly the only one in control of the amount of joy I allowed myself to experience and I was the only person holding myself back from it.
Q. Share your toptips you have for others in recovery, thinking about recovery or maybe unsure if they can or really want to recover?
- Purge yourself from negative social media accounts
- Share your story (with a journal, a coach, a friend, a family member)
- Train your gratitude muscle, and concentrate on what you DO have!
Q. What does THRIVING in your life look like for you today?
Maddy: Feeling free in my body every second of every day, and choosing to not fall back into the trap of thinking “If only I looked like blah blah, I would have blah blah.” Whatever it is that I want right now, whether it’s more happiness, excitement, adventure, I can have it and I don’t have to be anyone else in order to receive it.
When you’re thriving, you allow yourself to change on a moment-to-moment basis, and there’s no judgment in that! Some days I do nothing but watch Netflix. Other days I’m busy, running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Some days I crave fruit from morning until night. Other days, I want a piece of cake…and then some more!
No matter which type of day I have, I have compassion towards myself through it all.
Q. What does a day in the life of you look like today?
Maddy: I work for myself so I’m either making a podcast, writing a new book, coaching a client, working at a coffee shop, writing a new article, watching a movie, drinking some tea, hanging with friends or family members, or taking my pup on a walk!
Q. Any impactful books, podcasts, mentors, or people/professionals you worked with in your recovery or anyone you looked up to who inspired you?
Maddy: I really enjoy everything by Matt Stone (start with his book Diet Recovery), who is now one of my personal mentors. I would also recommend readers look into the books It Was Me all Along, Big Girl, Intuitive Eating, Mindful Eating and Dietland. All of those books are wonderful!
You can find out more about Maddy on her website.
While you’re at it, check out her podcast: Mind Body Musings hosted by Madelyn Moon.