It was 2013 and Madelyn Moon was getting ready for her second fitness competition.
She was closer than ever to reaching her dream body and she had isolated herself from her friends and family, lost her period, and cut out all her favorite foods to get there. She was, she says, "flirting on the edge of depression".
She had better win.
She was the "fit girl" everyone went to for tips on weight loss and she thrived on the daily praises of her peers and social media followers.
But she was tortured inside. And after all that, she realized as she stepped off the stage knowing she had not made the top five, she still was not good enough.
"If only I could lose a little weight here, shape up a little there, I would feel complete," Maddy believed.
"If I could only get my diet down to a science, a numbers game, I would finally feel like my entire life was under control."
That turned out to be a lie.
Maddy had abs but she also needed a pill to get her to sleep every night, was drinking laxative tea to digest all the protein she was eating, had not gone out to eat at a restaurant in four months, and had lost most of her friendships.
"I had nothing to talk about with my family," she says.
"It wasn't until I stopped searching for something to fill my heart and turned to someone to fill my heart that I finally found the peace, joy, and completeness I was looking for."
Her Christian upbringing finally helped her realise no change to her body shape would ever bring her the happiness that God could.
She says she prayed for God to change her heart so she would no longer desire to be lean, fit, and blameless with her diet. She prayed she would be able to find joy in the things she used to, like enjoying a meal out with family and friends without any anxiety about the calorie content of her food.
"No amount of chicken, dumbbells, or body fat percentage drops could ever bring me the happiness that I now feel in my body since learning how to accept and even appreciate my imperfections," she says. "Without people, without relationships, without laughter and joy... life is meaningless."
Maddy lost her six-pack and 'flawless' physique but says she gained so much more.
"I do not consider myself religious," she adds. "Religion is organized and structured. A lot of it comes with ticking boxes you have to complete in order to do things right.
"Instead, I believe myself to be a Christ follower. A God addict. A Jesus freak. I love God, and I love human beings."
Today, Maddy is a life coach who specializes in spirituality and body positivity. Her mind is free, and her bright smile is genuine. •