77: Confessions of a Fitness Model
There have been some changes with the podcast over the last few weeks. Starting with this episode, I will be republishing some of the fan favorites from the earliest episodes of the podcast.
The first of a series of earlier NMP episodes is this classic from Madelyn Moon. Maddy is a former fitness model who shares her personal story of what it’s really like to prepare for a fitness competition and what the physical and mental side effects are to living that lifestyle. Madelyn shares personal details from why she was bloated constantly to why she lacked desire for connection with others and talks about how she found healing. She shares her message of why body positivity is something worth fighting for.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Madelyn’s website: www.maddymoon.com
Free gift for NMP listeners
Madelyn’s book: Confessions of a Fitness Model
Madelyn’s podcast: Mind Body Musings
Positive Nutrition online course coming soon!
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You’re listening to Nutrition Matters Podcast with Paige Smathers, Registered Dietician Nutritionist. Hey everyone! It’s Paige, your favorite nutrition podcaster and dietician. Nutrition Matters podcast explores what really matters in nutrition and health with a sensitive and realistic approach. This podcast relies on the support of listeners like you and needs donations to keep this project running. To help support the podcast, please consider making a donation at paigesmathersrd.com/podcast. If you find this episode interesting, engaging or helpful in your life, please consider donating, sharing with friends and family and leaving a review on itunes. YOu can leave a review from this podcast straight from your podcast app. Search Nutrition Matters Podcast, click Reviews and then write a review. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook @Paigesmathersrd if you’d like to have a little more food for thought. Thank you for listening.
Paige: Hey Everyone, welcome back to Nutrition Matters Podcast. As always, I’m glad you’re here and I’m so excited to share to republish this episode you are about to listen to. So I’ve told many of you before, but just in case you are not sure what’s going on here, what I’ve done recently is I have deleted a few of the first episodes for a variety of reasons, and some of them I’m just going to retire and say, “ we had a good run and I’m glad we had those episodes”, and then others I’m going to republish as a way to sort of get some of the most popular, earlier episodes back up into people’s queues so that more and more people can listen. Some of you who have followed the podcast for a long time might have already heard this episode in the past; it’s never a bad idea to relisten and see if you can learn something new or sometimes in a new context you hear new things. What I’m going to be doing is I’m going to release my typical three episodes per month and then in addition to that, I’m going to release and old episode once per month so that is what I am doing this month is releasing Confessions of a Fitness Model, which was a really really well received episode with Madelyn Moon. In case this is your first time listening, she is super awesome. [She] has this fantastic story about how she was a fitness model and what that world was like, she dives into kind of explaining what that did to her health and how that affected her mentally and physically and then talks about how she found a comfortable place to hone in on for her own health and in case you are not familiar with her work you can follow her on her website and other social media and she also has a podcast called, Mind Body Musings. If you are interested in learning more about her and her story, definitely take a listen to this episode and then check out her podcast as well. With that let’s go ahead and listen to this episode that I did about two years ago with Maddy Moon and I hope you enjoy! This is such interesting insight into what these people that we look at on the cover of magazines what they really go through and how and how healthy are they in reality. So, enjoy!
Paige: Maddy, thank you for being on Nutrition Matters Podcast!
Maddy: Absolutely! Thank you so much for having me! This is awesome.
Paige: I am just so excited to dive into what it’s really like to be a fitness model, I think a lot of people have some misconceptions about what that really entails so I’m really looking forward to what you have to say about this.
Maddy: Awesome! Me too.
Paige: Great! Well, let’s just get into this, let's talk a little bit about your history and how you got into the fitness world and kind of give us a little bit of an idea of what your initial ideas or expectations were about that world of fitness modeling.
Maddy: Absolutely. So, when I was younger, I was watching this show and it was talking about the dangers of eating disorders, basically. I mean the show was a very popular kid show and I was a huge fan of watching it and the main character’s best friend was feeling super stressed with life and she decided that the best way to control the way her life felt, which was out of control was to control the one thing that she could which was her weight; and to do that she stopped eating and for the show, the ending of the show, at least it was her fainting and sick and all of her friends rushed around and said, “We hope you are okay… never do that again… we love you.” and she said, “I never will, I love myself too.” And they lived happily ever after, but for me, being a child watching this show I just had this lightbulb moment of, “Whoa! You can control the way you feel about life? And control the way people see you? And get admiration and attention and all these things by controlling your weight?” That was one of those first moments I realized that controlling your weight was a way to cope with life stressors. And it goes beyond that, when I was as young as second grade I was told that I should always be sucking in, because when I get older it’s easier to suck in naturally if you’ve been training that muscle since you were a child, so I’m a second grader sucking in my stomach everywhere I go. So many different things were happening when I was a kid that were contributing to me realizing that I needed to be thinner, I needed to control my diet and it spiraled as I got older. I became a vegetarian that led to veganism even to a little bit of raw food-ism. Then I experimented with not eating at all, so spurts of, I would almost say anorexia and then I would have spurts of purging; never any binges, but purging food that I ate like a perfectly decent meal and I just felt guilty for it. That happened all the way until college until I came to bodybuilding and fitness competitions and I realized there was this nice and neat little way to pack up your disordered eating to this picturesque photo of discipline and willpower and motivation and fitspiration and all these things that were being so admired at the time and still are, obviously. But I felt like it was really coming about when I was being introduced to this; the whole clean eating craze and fitness competitions and I realized, “Wow! I can eat food, in fact I can eat lots of food for awhile and get muscular, I just have to be super in control and rigid and weigh everything and measure everything, weigh myself, know by body percentages, go to the gym twice a day.” It didn't matter to me if it was purging or restricting or controlling, they all had the same root issues and that was me looking for a way to cope with my fear of the unknown. So, I found this new way that I could have disordered eating, no one would know it and bonus I would look like a fitness model. I set down this path and I signed up for my first fitness competition and I restricted my food intake down to six different types of food, the calorie amount I was eating was absurdly low. My coach was almost degrading/ The comments, the atmosphere I was in, I was so use to it and I was so use to shaming my body and getting use to looking down on my body and feeling like I’m not enough and using quotes like, “No excuses” to motivate me to stick to this low calorie meal plan that I was prescribed and I found myself doing this for a couple years. I did two shows altogether.
Paige: And you had a pretty big following, is that right? Like a pretty big instagram following?
Maddy: Yeah, I had a decent instagram [following] I definitely had people following along this journey and followers with my blog, because I did have a different blog and a different at the time. Yeah, so people were asking me on a daily basis, “How do look that way? ...how do I get legs like that? Show us your meal plan... do a “what I ate in a day” blog post.” And it would always just end with me saying, “You have to be super committed and super disciplined like me, hello!” I felt so self righteous [and]ee high and mighty because my strict meal plan my ability to say, “no” to Sunday morning pancakes and Taco Tuesdays; that was below me. [This] is how I felt is, “I am above that, I’m better than that.” So, I started to mix my morality with my food choices. I felt like a good person based off of my “good eating” and I felt like a bad person, not by my bad eating because I never even gave myself a chance, but my thoughts of wanting to eat “bad foods”.
Paige: So, that idea of tying in who you are as a person based on the foods you were eating; you were getting really engrained in that type of thinking. Like,” I’m a good person if I eat this type of food, or I’m a bad person if I eat this other food”.
Maddy: Yeah, exactly.
Paige: Got it, and I love how you described it in your book, you really talked about how the perceptions of your followers were kind of driving this and making you feel accountable, but in sort of an unhealthy, scary way. What would you say… I’m curious; should we get into some of the down sides of the fitness craze and of the severe restriction you were doing to kind of paint a picture of what that looks like right now? Or do you want to talk about when you turned your corner? Which one should we do first?
Maddy: I’m down to talk about the downside of the fitness industry.
Paige: Sure, okay. So, this is one of the most interesting parts of your book, I really loved how you painted the picture of how you are suppose to be this model, truly, this model of fitness and health, yet in your real personal life and when the cameras are off and when you weren’t taking a picture of yourself or blogging or whatever with social media, you couldn’t do some of the most basic bodily functions on your own, so let’s just kind of go through some of those. I really really enjoyed that part of your book, I thought that painted a really interesting and truthful picture of that. So, let’s start with bloating. Let’s talk about what bloating was like and why did you have it and what was life like with the bloating aspect.
Maddy: Well, thank you first, for saying that you liked that section of the book. That was probably one of my favorite sections to write because it’s getting down to the nitty gritty.
Paige: Well, and people don’t realize that it’s a really missing piece of the puzzle and it’s a missing conversation. So, thank you for talking about it.
Maddy: No problem, my pleasure. It is so true because people see this super flat stomach [in] these photos and they think, “oh my gosh, I can’t believe it” but the truth is 99% of the time I did look like I was pregnant because the amount of protein I was consuming that I was told I had to consume. It’s embarrassing but at my second competition it got to a point where I was eating more than double my bodyweight in grams of protein. I was eating 237 grams of protein and even when I wasn’t eating that massive amount; even when I was eating my body weight which is around one hundred something I’ll just say [that]. There are foods that make you feel grounded and foods that make you feel light. I was extremely grounded to the point where I would consider myself to be a “meat head” it’s true! I was so focused, I was so determined no one was going to get me off of this path. It Made me very grumpy; but more than that, there was this bloating issue where my body couldn’t process all of the powders and concoctions I was putting down. I was having protein powder in my oatmeal and then I was having protein powder at night and try to trick myself into thinking it was pudding or a muffin by microwaving it. I was trying all of these different hacks of, “how can I make this taste good and eat more?” In truth, I was eating zero calorie syrups and zero calorie Walden Farms stuff that made me so gassy, so bloated; my stomach was in pain for a lot of the time and for someone who thrives off of feeling like they are perfect in the moments where you feel like, “Yes! I’m perfect. I’m there. Well, that is where I was, that was my constant state of my mind. I needed to feel like I was always on track to perfection and when I was bloated all the time, I was mad at myself, I felt like a failure because I couldn’t keep my stomach flat all the time.
Paige: Which just perpetuated the issue, right? It just led to feelings of, “I can’t trust myself around food… This food makes me bloated.” It almost leads to this suspicion about every food that you are eating, which then makes the disordered eating more intense and more orthorexic, right?
Maddy: It made me anxious because my coach would write me a meal plan and then I would stick to that meal plan but then I would second guess everything. I would [think], “Well, I know he said eat this much of this food, but maybe I accidently ate one gram more and that’s what is giving me this bloat and that means that my next meal I need to make sure I eat one gram less or I need to spend more time at the gym.” [I] was doing all this mental math to compensate.
Paige: [And it was] about grams! So, in your book you list some of the other reasons for that bloating is your weren’t eating enough, but at the same time you were also constantly eating and so you body just didn’t have a break from metabolism and it was trying to metabolize all of what you said that calorie free but also protein powder concoction of who knows what and your body was just like, “I’m so confused, what is even going on here.” And then I really like that you mentioned the idea of eating a lot of veggies, do you want to just comment about that?
Maddy: Which part in particular, the good side or the bad side?
Paige: The downside and the veggies leading to more bloating. I think that something that people don’t really connect sometimes.
Maddy:Yeah, and it’s true. That’s just kind of a fact like there are certain vegetables that are going to make certain people bloat or react in certain ways and when you are eating a ton of them you can expect that to happen. Nowadays I’m very relaxed with that, like when I bloat now because I ate a lot of broccoli, because I am still obsessed with broccoli; and I eat a ton of it and I bloat, it’s cool. I know that it’s going to go down, I know it’s going to go away. But during that time whenever I would bloat, and first of all, I was bloated all the time so anyone would be frustrated at that, but second of all it was also the [thought of] “I’m a failure, I shouldn’t even be eating this vegetables because it’s making me bloat.. What should I eat instead?” No food felt safe to me, no food felt like it was on my side, nothing felt like it was on my side because I, personally in my own little brain, felt like the world was out to get me off of this very strict path I needed to stay down on even as something as simple as vegetables would discourage me.
Paige: That’s interesting and I think that’s something that people don’t talk about very much. One other thing I wanted to mention on this topic of bloating is just the fact that you were eating in such a stressed state. What would you comment about the stress you were experiencing and the mental anguish you were going through day in and day out and the associated bloating?
Maddy: That is a great question, great point. So, I was constantly consuming food in a state of stress and that could be in different ways of being stressed: mentally, physically, emotionally; every way I was stressed. But let’s talk about physically. [Let’s] say I would go to the gym and I would do a workout [for] however long it was or whatever I did I would come home and I would still be super stressed because my body was in the fight or flight kind of mode because I was going crazy over there and I would come home, and I’d really quickly need to eat my food or microwave my food; I had no real connection I was not slowing down with the food, I was at a speedy, insane pace so I could get this food in a bowl in my stomach so I could move on with the rest of my day. There was no love or pleasure or enjoyment and, the whole mental turmoil was going on of “I’m going to be eating this meal, it’s got to be perfectly measured out and weighed, what if I accidentally have a gram too much, a gram too less, what is it going to do to my body? Is it going to make me bloated like all the other foods have? Is it going to make me gassy? If it does, what am I going to do later on in the day? Do I have to stay at home because I just can’t go out? I can’t be out in public because I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know, oh my gosh! What if my family wants to go out and eat this Sunday, (you know, seven days away), what am I going to do? I have to stick to my rigid meal plan….” Things like that, thinking about a meal that would happen a week away, maybe; which I would say no to anyways but it could potentially happen and I’d be anxious about it so I would eat in this tight, frustrated, anxious space where there was no room for flow and pleasure and relaxation
Paige: Or connection
Maddy: Connection, awareness, self love or compassion was out the window, it was just, “I have to keep this perfect body, I have to look this particular way, I have to be perfect, I have to be in control!”
Paige: Yeah, such a good point. So, some other downsides that you list in your book and this is getting into the nitty gritty; we’ve talked in depth about bloating and I want to also highlight some really really interesting points you brought up. Let’s first talk about [the] lack of desire for social engagements, you just didn’t want to connect with people. We’ve mentioned how that stressed out state made you not want to connect with your own body, but also with other people.
Maddy: Right, yep! Because people like to go with the flow, right? And I had none of that. I had no flow in my life. And I was also in college a lot during this time also after college I was still going through it, but when I was in college, of course, people want to go out, they want to go drinking they want to go get tapas they want to, I don’t know, hang out, have fun, be kids and I was not of that life, so I was telling myself. I could not be of that life. Sure, they can be of that life, but I can’t. If I have one sip of alcohol or one bite of food that’s not on my meal plan I will forever lose the shot of placing #1 and being #1 at this competition, but also it went beyond that. I thought, “I got to make sure I keep the body and if I slip up now by having a little bit of fun with my friends then, who knows what will happen to my body? Or who knows what will happen with my habits? Maybe I’ll start loosening up more and more” and God forbid that happens, so on friday nights I would stay inside with my special little food and watch my special TV show and hit the hay at like 9:00.[I would] wake up in the morning and hit the gym like the same old routine and I was very hesitant to invite anyone into my life, let’s talk friendship wise, or even dating, romantically. I was hesitant to invite anyone into my life because of the risk of getting me off this meal plan and this fitness path but also with my family. My mom is into being a mom and loving family members and eating good food and fashion and shopping and when I was around it was just depressing. I would just be talking about my food or my exercise or what have you and she was a gem she was so nice and supportive and she never once said, “I’m freaking sick of you talking about this stuff.” Like I would have wanted to say, very supportive. But she didn’t see as much as I was suffering as well because I wasn’t really letting people in on that. That was very secretive of how much I actually hated what was going on in my life. I made it look like, “yes, I love fitness, fitness is amazing, fitness is my life, eating clean is my life, it’s everything to me… I LOVE IT!” It was through gritted teeth and everyone else was like, “Okay, well I’m not going to push you.. Do your thing, you look amazing, you look fit, keep it up” The social life was non existent.
Paige: So along those lines of connection and obviously, one side of you wanted to connect to a person on a romantic level, but the other side of you was like, “What would that mean for my eating and my body and all of that.” Will you just talk a little bit about sex and sex drive when you’re restricting to that point? And [maybe] talk about what that does to your body on a sex drive level?
Maddy: Yeah, yeah that was interesting, so I was dating someone during that time and, bless his heart. He met me when I was training for a show and he admired my discipline and he would always tell me I was the most disciplined person he’d ever met. Now, looking back that was not discipline. I was the most shamed person, I was shaming myself on a daily basis into those actions and into those habits and it was not motivated out of love, I would not call it discipline. I would call it self shaming, but that is besides the point. He thought that those habits and that strict lifestyle I was living was temporary and would end when we were done with the show and I was always very fearful of that belief he had and I would [have] to remind him, “hey, this is how I am. When I’m done with the show I will probably sign up for another one to make sure I stay on track with this.” He kind of went with the flow and didn’t really believe me, I don’t think. Sexually, there was no desire on my part because the first thing that shuts off is your sex drive when you are nutritionally depleted so when you eat less calories than you are suppose to be eating, your body just says, “Okay, well I can’t take care of myself really, so I can’t take care of a baby so I’m going to protect the chances of that happening by turning off my sex drive and reducing the possibility of having a baby as well as taking away my period”, which is a whole other thing. But I lost a lot of motivation just to be with him, to be present with him mentally, to be there. I was always stressed and thinking about food or my workouts and I pretty much just drove him away, honestly. Looking back it’s sad for me to think about; I’m glad for everything because my story is what’s made me who I am now, but it is unfortunate because we did have something good and I do take responsibility for being the reason that it never worked out because I was so obsessed and consumed and anal about my food intake and he was very great and patient and it’s interesting because I could never date someone like that. I never would have been with someone [that was] the way I was and looking back I thought, “Wow! I can’t believe he was so supportive and helpful” through that time especially with the lack of sex drive on my part, So that’s about as deep as I go with that.
Paige: No, that is great, thanks. I think it’s just interesting to understand, sort of the ironic nature of the fact that here you are this specimen of health, yet in your book you make the point, “I can’t do anything on my own without medications” sleeping was difficult for you. Digestion lead to bloating and all kinds of stressed out feelings and stressed out states. Socializing, digesting food, sleep sex etc. So, you just kind of list how some of these core things that are just basic to being a human and you just mention how ironic it is that you couldn’t even do those.
--Maddy: Yeah, and my boyfriend at the time worked for a sleep center and he was a [pharmaceutical] sales rep and he always had sleep stuff and sleeping pills. And our nightly ritual was to break on in half and share it; a sleep pill so we could both sleep well. And I relied on that. I had to have that every night and he didn’t have to have it if he didn’t want to. [And] it wasn’t like a dangerous sleep pill, it was probably just a stronger version of advil PM, but still needing to take anything to fall asleep and I think, “what?” Like, you look at me, you look at me and you see someone that looks fit and that’s what our culture tells you is fit, it’s lean body, less body fat, muscular, toned, whatever you want to call it, but the truth is, I couldn’t digest food, I couldn’t sleep, I could have my period, I was isolated, I was lonely, I was depressed, I was anxious, I was easily upset. I was eating about six different types of food... What is healthy about that? There are so many different types of food on this planet for a reason and I was eating six of them, and I”ve got to tell you it was six of the least nutritionally valuable foods, whatever you want to call it. They had such few things about them that were nutritional, like really they didn’t do anything for me besides provide calories, even the way I cooked it was very bad for me; like microwaving it, cooking it then freezing it then thawing it then microwaving it again, having it go through all these temperature changes, eating quickly, there was nothing good about the way I was living, but yet on my following, everyone was telling me, “you look great. You look so good you are so fit, I so admire you, thank you for inspiring me to get healthy.”
Paige: So, that is a very interesting point. I would love to hear your insight into what it feels like to have this “perfect body” and all the positive reinforcement all of the “atta girl” type conversations. How did you internalize those messages?
Maddy: I became a prisoner to my body, a lot of it was because of myself and putting these pressures on myself, but also, feeling like others expected me to look a certain way. I became “the fit chick” and I felt like the entire world expected me to stay “the fit chick”. I allowed myself to live underneath that label and to not stray away from making changes I needed to make because of what other people thought.
Paige: Right. It was your identity, it was who you were.
Maddy: It was my identity. It was who I was. I was Madelyn the fitness competitor “the fit chick” the clean eater, that’s who I was and all of those labels were strung along with my name because I allowed it to be that way. And the more people told me “you look amazing” Or we would all go out to eat and they would said, “oh don’t look at what I’m going to eat, I”m going to eat a burger, you’re so healthy don’t judge me…” I'd almost feel special because they knew I wouldn’t be caught eating that. Or if [my family and I] were on a road trip, they would all be splitting candy and I would hear my mom say, “oh I don’t want to finish this, maybe my other daughter will want it because I know Madelyn won’t want it” and I would feel special and think, “oh yeah! I don’t want it. Everyone knows me as the girl who doesn’t want the leftover candy”
Paige: Yeah, or “I’m not weak like other people, I”m strong”
Maddy: Yeah. “I’m not weak, I’ve got discipline, something you wish you all had” That is how I felt. I felt so proud, high and mighty and my ego was trying to find something special about me and it latched onto food because that's our culture. Our culture puts so much on emphasis on physical appearance and eating habits these days, unfortunately, and it’s getting worse. It’s becoming more and more and more a thing to have a particular diet or have a label, but it’s people that spread this message that I do feel like there is a very strong community growing among body positive and anti dieting and those circles that are making a difference, thankfully.
Paige: Yeah, we are doing our part, all of us here. So, do you mind talking about the story in your book where you just finished your fitness competition and you go and eat a hamburger, do you mind sharing what happened in your head and physically when you did that?
Maddy: Oh my gosh, yes! So, this was after my first show and we went to this popular joint, this burger joint in Austin and I had not eaten anything besides theses select few foods for four months and then I was about to have dairy, gluten, red meat, oils all these different things like the cheeses the sauces the french fries, all of these different things all at once and I hadn’t had any of them.
Paige: And just a side; this is a very common post fitness competition ritual, am I right?
Maddy: Exactly, it’s a very big thing. After a show people are happy they are done with their fitness competition they want to go out. Some people have an entire pizza on their own, some people do what I did and have a burger and fries and a milkshake. So, for my first show I had been looking forward to this meal for so long. I was so obsessed with this meal, I could not wait. At this point I was right off the stage so I was the leanest I will ever be in my whole life, in my mind that’s what I was thinking, “This is the leanest you will ever be, do you really want this burger? Do I really want to eat this burger? Is it really going to be worth it? Yes! I’ve got to eat this burger” So, I got this milkshake; I devoured it in under 3 minutes; so fast and it was like my body [went] (gasp) “what is this? What is happening right now?” Then I devoured the burger, I devoured all the fries. I don’t know if I wrote about this in the book, but I had my family with me and my friend as well, and I remember them saying, “Wow! You ate that really fast.” and I was almost shamed and thought, “No! Did I really just… did I just eat that? Did I really just eat a burger and fries and a milkshake? And I ate it all so quickly, but I don’t do that stuff, I don’t eat like that.” And I almost wanted to defend myself because everyone was like, “Whoa you just ate all of that!” I was like, “No I didn’t! No, no take it back take it back.” It was a moment where I should have just been fully enjoying every second of that but I was upset. Yes, I was glad that I got to eat those things and I was finally eating something that wasn’t the same crappy food, but I felt guilty. I felt like a failure almost. And after that a lot of people do go out to the bars and celebrate and hang out in their crazy tans and my boyfriend at the time had invited me out and said, “Hey we're out at the bars, come on out. Celebrate!” I had the most massive stomach ache I had ever had in my life. It was awful and it hit me immediately. So, I was like, “No, I can’t. I gotta go home” So I went home and I showered and I remember watching off all of this tan come off me, looking at my belly that was so bloated with this crazy, delicious meal I had just had that I was feeling guilty about and I still ate in a very stressed state and then getting super sick and spending most of the night in the bathroom and upset and I wasn’t with my family I wasn’t having a good night after my competition just rejoicing instead I was thinking, “What should I have done to have placed number one. What should I do next time? Should I have eaten that meal?” It just kept going. It keeps going and going and going this guilt and shame.
Paige: Yeah. That is such a good picture you painted in the book abou thow that all felt and then physically just your stomach almost immediately was expanding and how your body was like, “I don’t even know what to do with this weird food…” and it’s an interesting parallel of how that feeds your fear of food and feeds your insecurity about, “can I trust myself with food? Should I be doing this? Should I not? And then it just perpetuates the cycle. It's just an interesting and real perspective of what that’s like, so thanks for sharing.
Maddy: Of course. That moment will always be with me.
Paige: I bet! So, will you just talk a little bit about how you turned the corner? How you went from that, what you just described, to where you are now?
Maddy: Well, I’ll say that after my second show, I had a very similar experience with the frustration and the prep and the sacrifices I made, but it was starting to wear on me. It was very slowly starting to wear on me where I was starting to realize, “ This is a little tougher than that first time. I don’t know if I really want to say “no” to all these events. I felt that moment of being on the stage and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, so, [I thought], “Do I really want to do this again? Yes, I do. I gotta keep doing it.” That was my mental chit-chat was this, “Come on you gotta do it.” ‘No, I don’t really want to do it. “ So, after that second show, I realized it wasn’t worth it anymore and if I continue to live like that, I would not be known for anything in my life other than clean eating and being “fit”. And that’s not what I wanted to be known for. I wanted to be known as a good human being, I wanted to serve the world, I wanted to be faithful to my God and be loyal to friends and I kind of wanted to start working on the other areas of my life that were actually important and to love myself, FINALLY. Respect my body, FINALLY. So, I made all these changes. One of the first things I did is intuitively I just thought, “I spent too much time on myself, I live alone, I’m constantly obsessing, I need something in my life to take care. I need more responsibility, I want something that's going to bring me joy.” So naturally, I got a dog.
Paige: I was going to say that sounds like a dog!
Maddy: Yup, I got a dog and it was very quick. I just really wanted a little dog and I saw Anina, at the time she was a doodlebug. I saw her on Craigslist, I went to go see her I picked her up immediately and I took her home. She’s brought so much joy into my life she was a great tool for me, honestly; like training wheels for relaxing and being more intuitive, because I have to take her out I have to take her on walks, I have to slow down. I have to play with her. She needs my love and my attention and I do have to be responsible for her. She helped me learn those valuable lessons. After that I took an even bigger step, and this is not mandatory to everyone; this is very specific to my journey, but I realized where I was living was not serving me anymore. It was keeping me down, keeping me to this label of being “the fit chick” and all of these labels were wearing on me, so I moved. I moved very spontaneously, like within 48 hours of thinking about moving.
Paige: Wow! That is spontaneous!
Maddy: Yeah, it was very fast. I didn’t tell anyone about it I just left. And that says a lot though because If I had made very good friendships that were true and strong I would have said, “goodbye”. But I didn’t. I spent so much time in my own head in my apartment that I really didn’t have those bonds; and I was ready to start them and create them, but not where I was living. So, I moved. And that’s when the real work began. Because once I moved, I moved to a place where I didn’t know anyone; not a single person I had nobody. All by myself; no family, no friends, just me and my dog. I took full advantage of that. I stopped introducing myself as the “nutritionist” or “the fit girl” or the “competition girl” I was just Madelyn. I started to meet new people and I took time away from what was no longer serving me: the meal plans, the diet coaches, the gym... for quite awhile. I listened to a lot of uplifting podcasts that taught me how to be intuitive and to stop thinking exercise was the end all be all. I took baby steps to eating new foods. I watched my weight increase. I was okay with it for awhile. I thought, “I’ve got to be okay with this because I’ve got these big life changes that I need to see through. I need to make them happen so that the rest of my life is set up for intuition, happiness [and] joy.” And that's exactly what I did.
Paige: So you did it on your own.
Maddy: I did. I did do it on my own.
Paige: Through sort of just, using logical steps and doing what felt right and good to you and it seems like a very logical progression.
Maddy: Yeah it was. And people always ask me, “How was your therapy or your coaching or your training?” And it’s interesting that I didn’t do any of that. I happen to be a coach and I think a lot of people do absolutely benefit from coaching and dare I say need coaching because it’s great to have that tool. Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t say “discipline” is what I would use for that word earlier in my life, but I think when it came to healing and recovery I did have more discipline to not do those dangerous things.
Paige: Well, from loving yourself.
Maddy: Right. LIke taking time off from the gym. I took logical steps. I took a couple days off and then went back and then eventually I took two weeks off and then I went back and then I could see that I wasn’t thriving in there so then I took another month off and then I went back, eventually and I realized, “nope. I’m just not happy here”. So, I said, “I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m not going to come in here anymore. I’m going to go do yoga or try out a crossfit class or try a community setting, but I’m not going to do this typical, bodybuilder, go into the gym, do your own thing anymore because it’s not serving me anymore it’s putting me back in a negative space mentally”
Paige: Good for you! That’s a beautiful story! So, tell us a little bit, just kind of summarize how you eat now. What are some of the guiding principles of your eating today?
Maddy: Today… it is very much whatever I feel like in the moment. I tend to eat a lot of the same foods, but I am becoming more of a foodie, especially since I've been traveling lately. So, I’m getting more adventurous, but I do LOVE my food, so I eat very whole foods and I love to stuff my face with whole foods. I eat as many as I want and I love it. There’s no good foods no bad foods. I certainly like to have sweets, I am a sweet tooth so I like to have something everyday that’s sweet, whether it’s dark chocolate or ice cream or froyo. I love cereal so I’ll find some kind of cereal I like to have and have a cup of it before bed, just random things like that. But normally throughout the day I eat big veggie rice bowls. I love to make those with some curry in it and I love having chia pudding and oatmeal and avocado on toast and all the different good, delicious foods: sweet potatoes, everything is amazing, but I never say no to something that I want. Say I want a burger or I want to go out and have tacos; I’m going to do that. It doesn’t matter if I went out yesterday, or the day before that too. I”ll still go out if I want it.
Paige: So, it sounds like some of your guiding principles are food neutrality where there isn’t this idea of “good food, bad food’ it’s just food. And also just another guiding principle sounds like you're aiming for finding pleasure and joy in the eating process and you're okay with that and you're comfortable with that, which is a huge step.
Maddy: Yeah, exactly. I just want to nourish my body. It has nothing to do with how I look anymore. I nourish my body because of how it makes me feel. And that was a huge shift for me. When I eat something now I don’t think, “ What is this going to do TO my body?” I think, “What is this going to do FOR my body.”
Paige: That’s a beautiful little mantra. I love that. Okay, so I have two more questions for you and then I’ll let you get on with your day. We’ve talked a lot about you and your perspective and obviously you’re a woman, but what was your observation of men in this fitness world? Because I don’t want to forget about men and I don’t want to leave them out in this conversation because I know it’s equally as damaging and harmful and scary for men. So, what would you comment about that?
Maddy: I would say that it’s important for all of us to realize this is a collective issue. We all deal with body image. All of us, no matter what. The media affects every single one of us. The degree of which men struggle with body image varies greatly. Even being in that industry. I could be around guys who really wanted to look a particular way, but could take it or leave it. And to me that was always like, “what? How could you leave it? I have to look a certain way” and they [said] “Well, I don’t know. I love the way I eat and I’d like to look that way but it’s okay.” That's not the worst place to be, but then on the other hand there are guys that i was around that were obsessed! I remember I dated someone once and I made us a meal and he came over with his food scale and he weighed what I made him and asked for some more because it didn’t hit his macros and so I put more on his plate and then after the meal he was talking more about nutrition and good foods, bad foods, [he was] looking at his veins popping out of his arm and talking about how he loves them. I think the reason why he was doing all that is because he was so insecure and worried that if he didn’t look a particular way then he wouldn't’ be loved, he wouldn’t be worthy. It was the same thing I dealt with. I was right there at the same time. So i understand that and I get emails from men all the time telling me they had eating disorders. They binged and purged in secrecy. They hated their bodies for years, they wanted to be a fitness competitor, they went into the bodybuilding industry and didn't turn out as planned. Now they are suffering and trying to seek out resources. I’ve heard this story from guys so many times. So, looking back, maybe all those guys, when I was in it, were suffering too. Who knows? To some degree I think many of them were. The degrees, like I said, vary, but I think everyone was still suffering and had it on their mind in some way. They were still in that world they were still hitting the gym religiously and eating clean religiously for a reason other than, “I want to nourish my body”. No. It was, “I want to look a particular way. I need to look a particular way because if I don’t, then.. X, y and z.” Whatever the consequences in their head. Every person had a consequence. So, the same message goes for men. Everything I’ve said can still apply to men.
Paige: Totally. And part of the reason we don’t talk about it with men or men don’t talk about it as much, it seems is again a cultural and social issue of socializing our boys at young ages to not be able or willing to talk about their emotions and to see that as a sign of weakness, or whatever it may be. So it’s not that it’s not there, it could just be that they’re not showing it in a way that women maybe do or something along those lines. So, I think if there’s any man who is listening and has made it this far I just think, “don’t feel left out. This is definitely not unique to Madelyn or unique to women, all that we’ve talked about so far.” Last question for you Madelyn, I just wanted to ask in honor of this series I’m doing about focusing on body image; What’s your message about body image today and what would you say to tie that into your story as a fitness model. What do you really want people to know and understand about their bodies?
Maddy: I would like to say that your best body the best body you can have, it’s the body that you naturally have. Without having to focus on food too much and focus on movement and exercise too much and feel rigid and strict, it’s just your natural body. It just is and I think every person has a happy weight. That’s the weight your body is going to fight to be at forever. If you are constantly trying to look like someone else or be like someone else you’re not filling up that unique space in this world that’s only for you. And your body is going to constantly fight to be at that happy weight that it wants to be at whatever that may be for you. The sooner you come to peace with that and to peace with “this is my body, the one body I’ve been given, the gift I’ve been given so that I can move around in this world and see things and play and have fun and feel things and use my sight and my hearing and all those beautiful things we’ve been given is all thanks to your body and if we just spent all of our time on changing our body and obsessing over it and feeling like we’re not at a certain place physically that we need to be then we are going to be wasting a lot of precious time we’ve been given that we should be using for other amazing, glorious things like having fun. Never take anything too seriously on this earth, we all die anyways. It’s kind of a weird answer…
Paige: NO! It’s beautiful, I love that.
Maddy: I want people to come to terms with the body that they now and to make peace with it and eventually learned to love it. Just start with awareness. Start with peace. And then eventually you begin to love it more and more and more and you grow into it. You begin to see it as the amazing beautiful thing that it is, but you do also want to train your B.S. meter so when you're out in the world and everything is going on around you that you can’t control and you hear people say, “Get your best body… Look this certain way by summer! … Slim down 5lbs.. The top weight loss tips.. Or look like Cameron Diaz”, or whatever it may be; that is all B.S. and we can’t stop that. I mean, that’s the truth. We can control what goes on in your world, in our mind and how you see your body, you can certainly control that, but we cannot expect the rest of the world to say, “You are enough. You are just how you are suppose to be. You are smart, you’re funny, you’re beautiful inside and out”. The world is not always going to tell us these things because then what are we going to buy, right? It thrives off of making money. So, I just want everyone to also become stronger at their awareness of the world so that when those messages get you down, when you turn on “Good Morning America” and you hear about the new year slim down or whatever it may be, you can turn away. You can tune it out and know that you’re not crazy for falling into that. You’re not alone. We all live in this same world and have the same struggles, but do not feel like you’re a failure because you’re not taking part of that fitness program that all your friends are doing or the latest diet. You’re succeeding. You are on the right path to loving your body and nourishing your body and I just want you all to know to stand up to those things. Be able to stand firm in who you are and love your body and let the world do what it may, let the world continue and go on about whatever the latest trend is, but that doesn’t mean that you need to take part in it.
Paige: And it really might feel like you’re swimming upstream and that’s okay. That’s a conscious effort to swim upstream, but it is for good reasons and it’ll lead you in the direction you’ll want to be. And one other comment I have about what you just said in that loving yourself in your body today. That was the main message in the beginning part of what you said. I really loved [it]. I had a past guest on my podcast and she said something that really stuck with me, she said, “It’s not letting yourself go, it’s letting yourself be.” and I loved that idea because some people think, “If you love yourself, then you won’t change or you won’t improve” No! It’s just enjoying life and letting yourself be and letting yourself experience and appreciate the great things that you have. So that's a beautiful, amazing message for this series. Thank you so much for your contribution, Madelyn. I want to kind of close off the episode with telling people how they can follow you or get a hold of you or follow along your journey.
Maddy: Absolutely, and thank you so much for having me on and everyone can connect with me on my website at maddymoon.com and on there I have a free gift for everyone listening that’s called, “10 proven steps for ending any diet obsession” so if this message resonates with you and you want to learn more about it you can get that free guide. All my social link are on my website and if you want to check out my podcast it’s called Mindbodymusings and that’s also on my website but you can also download that directly on itunes or stitcher.
Paige: Awesome and I’ll link to all of those so that can be the show notes so if they didn’t have something to write down as their listing here today. So yeah, Maddy, thank you so much for this beautiful message of love and acceptance and turning things around when you’re heading down a path that doesn’t feel right and also sharing kind of the nitty gritty insights of what it’s really like to be what people perceive as this model of health. I think that’s a really unique and valuable perspective that we just don’t talk about enough, so thank you!
Maddy: Absolutely and thank you so much for having me on, this has been great. You asked wonderful questions and I really hope that this podcast serves this audience really well, so thank you for listening.
Paige: Thank you!
Well, I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this conversation. If You haven’t already, please go ahead and leave a review on itunes. Thanks again so much for listening and we’ll see you soon for another episode.