Overcoming Orthorexia | Q&A with Maddy Moon

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The women of Vaulter Fit are very excited to share with you guys an interview we conducted with Maddy Moon. Maddy Moon spent years training for fitness competitions and engaged in strict dieting. But she realized that her obsession over her body and her food was unhealthy and taking her away from her dreams. Today, Maddy devotes her time to helping others find freedom from body and food obsessions and living a life free from an unhealthy relationship with food. Maddy’s journey is one that we here at VaulterFit are honored to share.

Maddy is the host of the Mind Body Musings Podcast. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Paleo Magazine and Breaking Muscle. She graduated from the University of Texas in Austin and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and currently resides in Colorado, coaching clients online. To learn more about Maddy, check out her website!


 

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How did your journey to an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise start? What are some warning signs that indicated that an addiction was beginning?

My journey began when I was in high school and was first introduced to vegetarianism. I adopted the lifestyle for ethical reasons, but as the weight fell off, I started to receive more attention from my peers. I began to realize that my body could dictate how people viewed me, and knowing that I was in control of others’ opinions brought me a huge sense of relief. I loved to know that I was in control of my diet, my body, my weight, and my schedule. 

For me, the biggest warning sign was that my day was either good or bad depending on how “on track” I was with my rigid diet. I would try to compensate with exercise if I thought I ate one bite too many. I would stay indoors on a Friday night if I felt bloated. In college I did my first two bodybuilding competitions, which resulted in my developing orthorexia- an extreme obsession with my healthy eating.

How did you stop obsessing over food and dieting? What was your wake up call that helped change your mindset?

After my second fitness competition, I had an “ah ha” moment that changed my life forever. I realized that half a year of my life was put on hold because I was waiting to really let loose and live until I deserved it. I believed I didn’t deserve to be like “normal eaters” because I didn’t have a perfect body yet. 

After my second competition, I didn’t place as high as I wanted to place and the pain I put on myself was unnecessarily brutal. I knew that I needed to change and begin seeking validation somewhere other than my body.

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On your blog, you discuss the role God has played in your recovery. Did you believe in God before and during your obsession? If so, what was that relationship like and how did your addiction affect your faith? If not, what led you to believe in God and seek help from a higher power?

I was born and raised in a Christian household, so I’ve been a believer since I was a small child, but when I became obsessed with fitness and “health” I found myself distant from my faith. Eventually, God gave me a huge wake up call where I realized that my body was my idol. I worshiped it in a sense. I gave it all of my attention, and I went to my body to fix my problems, instead of God. After I started my healing process, I turned to God to help me and boy, did that make a difference in the quality of my life! 

How long did it take you to recover? Do you consider yourself to still be in recovery or totally healed?

I would say that the deep-rooted work was done within the first one and a half years of recovery, and now I’m in the maintenance mode. I’m not 100% healed (and I’m not sure that’s absolutely possible with an ED) but I’m at a place where it no longer rules my thoughts or bothers me. Sometimes I have to catch myself to not get too attached to my body or food, but in those moments I cling to God’s strength instead of my own.

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You mention on your website that your obsession with your body took the place of real relationships. Now that you have changed your way of looking at your body, how have your relationships with those around you changed?

Absolutely! I can now carry on a conversation because I have mental clarity. I can now be invested in the conversation because I care. Before, I didn’t care. All I cared about was food. All I wanted to do was workout and obsess over calories and macronutrients. Date nights scared me because I thought they would lead to a five-pound weight gain. Now, I can go out to eat and enjoy the meal because I’m present in the conversation with the company. 

What does your typical week look like as far as your workout/fitness schedule? What type of exercise do you enjoy most?

I like to mix things up- a lot. Lately, I’ve been trying Buti Yoga, but I also do pole dancing in a studio. Last night I went to a CrossFit class. Some days I just take walks. Many weekends I go for long hikes (I live in Colorado). Generally I do some sort of “fitness” activity four times a week. 

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How has your diet changed? Do you have any restrictions or guidelines on what you eat? What are your favorite foods?

My diet has changed a lot because I no longer eat by a meal plan. I eat intuitively. With that said, I still do eat mostly whole foods, though I am by no means rigid about it. If I want some ice cream, I’ll have it! If I want a granola bar, I’ll eat it! I enjoy eating three square meals a day, and many times I eat the same stuff because I love it so much! My favooklm,rite foods are sweet potatoes, sunflower seed butter, curry, ground turkey, rice, carrots, avocado and roasted broccoli. 

What has been the most difficult part in your process of recovery? Do you still struggle? If so, how do you cope with the various obstacles to your continued freedom from your past obsession with food and exercise?

The most difficult part of recovery has been letting go. I’ve had to let go of old stories I’ve kept about myself and be open to creating new stories. I definitely still struggle, but I cope by sharing my struggles on my podcast and interviewing amazing women and men that inspire and motivate me. My podcast has played a huge role in my recovery, and it makes it that much better to know that it’s played a huge role in many other people’s recovery journeys too!

In the online world it’s easy to only show our followers the good, fun, and beautiful moments of our life and hide any of the hard stuff, giving them a false impression of our lives. How do you “keep it real” with your followers?

Well, like I said, my podcast is how I really share my vulnerabilities with people. It’s definitely harder on social media, such as Instagram, but it’s possible! I let people know when I’ve had a hard day. I share my “crazy” side, because I certainly have days where I don’t feel like myself! I want people to know that I’m an imperfectly flawed person too and that’s exactly how I am supposed to be!

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Now that your addiction no longer continually rules your life, what steps to you take to actively guard against triggers and unhealthy views of food and exercise?

I am selective about whom I follow on social media, what books I read, what workouts I do, what movies I watch, and most importantly, how I speak to myself. It’s very obvious when I feel triggered because everything changes from the way I carry myself, to the thoughts in my head, and to how I speak to others. When I feel triggered, I take a step back and do something that will get me back in my element, like writing, speaking or coaching.

What message do you want to communicate to men and women, boys and girls, who consume media daily that praises the discipline and dedication it takes to commit to a “healthy” lifestyle? 

Be selective! If you notice that you follow a media account that makes you jealous or unsatisfied, that account isn’t the best for you. 

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Does your definition of “healthy” differ from society’s, and if so, how?

Yes, my definition of healthy is different. I believe that health is absolutely individual. To some people (like myself) working out every day is toxic. Obsessing over eating clean is dangerous. While those sound like healthy qualities, they aren’t healthy for everybody. Mental health is just as important as physical health, so every person needs to take both of those aspects into account,

If someone wanted to stop letting food and fitness control their life, what one piece of advice would you give them?

Start by being aware of what triggers you. Quiet those voices and start to pay more attention to whatever it is that inspire you. You deserve it.

 

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