If you looked at Madelyn Moon’s Instagram three years ago, you’d see dozens of gym selfies, perfectly portioned meals (mostly egg whites, chicken, and asparagus), and the occasional photo of her chihuahua, Lucy.
She competed in fitness competitions—and had the ripped body to show for it. But underneath the rigid strength training and meal plans, Moon was hiding an eating disorder.
She had struggled with problematic eating habits for years, but entering fitness competitions wasn’t a way for Moon to recover—it was a way to hide it. “When I found fitness competitions, I realized it was this nice, clean, hidden way to have an eating disorder dressed up with the word ‘fitness,’” she told People.
For the most part, we assume that super-fit athletes and competitors know what they’re talking about (and doing) when it comes to nutrition. Moon says no one questioned her unhealthy and unsustainable habits during competition season. In fact, they complimented her progress and her body. That praise was only a small consolation considering her strict meal and workout plans left her feeling mentally and physically exhausted. On top of that, the rigid routines isolated her from family and friends.
Now, when she reflects back on that period of her life, Moon realizes she was incredibly unhappy:
After competing in her second show, Moon reached her breaking point. She realized the detrimental impact all these decisions were having on her physical and mental health. So she quit fitness competitions for good.
Today she’s a life coach and motivational speaker living in Denver. She’s committed to spreading a message of self-love and exposing some of the negative side effects of fitness competitions (and society’s obsession with achieving physical perfection).
Moon is still fit, but she’s much healthier. “I go to the gym, I do yoga, I eat healthy foods,” she told People. “I still do a lot of healthy actions, but my mind is happy now.”
We are so inspired by her bravery and empowered by her decision to live a healthy lifestyle that works for her—not one that only looks good on Instagram.