How I Found Happiness On the Other Side of Anorexia

By Madeline Miles

I have been asked a countless amount of times what inspired me to live such a healthy lifestyle and to create Madeline’s Cookbook. My response is always the same – I say that I feel better eating healthy and treating my body with care. However, this isn’t actually the whole truth, and like with most people, my journey has been anything but linear. I haven’t felt ready before, but now I’d like to share some of my past struggles in the world of health and how I became who I am today. 

Back in 2012, my mother met with a spiritual guru of some sort. This guru had a message for my mom, who passed it on to me: “I sense that you have a daughter who is very sick,” she said, “and I can tell you that she will do incredible things, but she must get better first.” This probably sounds very woo-woo to you, but it was incredibly impactful for me.

At the time, I was in a very dark place. A year earlier, in 2011, I was just 13 years old and already had been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, OCD, and Anorexia Nervosa. Things were not going so well.

My eating disorder gave me a false perception that I had all the control in the world, when really, I had none. I was barely eating, excessively exercising, and was self-harming. I argued with my worried parents, assuring them that I was fine, even though I was anything but. I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with me – that I was sick. I wish I could say that my battle with anorexia was short, but it was impacted by my other stress disorders, completely taking over my life on and off for six long years. 

I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with me.

I was missing out on innumerable high school experiences, and as a result, I lost most of my friends. Even worse – I hurt the ones I loved most, like my family. I was lonely, scared, and in a cycle of unhealthy behaviors. The number of therapists, doctors, dieticians, and programs that my parents forced me through (forced, as in, I went kicking and screaming), are too many to count. I had somehow convinced myself that I was healthy – I didn’t believe my parents and doctors, who were telling me that I was sick and dying. I was living in a delusion. I missed countless days of school and had to spend the entire summer before my freshman year in an outpatient hospitalization program for girls with eating disorders.

I went through each day in the program on a miserable autopilot. I was depressed, determined, and trapped in my mindset. Hospitalization made me an even more secretive, sneaky person that I already was. I learned how to hide food in napkins and in my pockets when the doctors weren’t looking. I even strapped weights to my stomach, underneath my medical garment, just for weigh-ins. I eventually graduated from this program and moved to outpatient therapies. This was the start of years of different approaches to recovery, none of which were successful, until I made the decision to do it for myself. 

Maddie and pup

I remember going to see my doctor, who had been treating me since I was an infant. She informed me that she could no longer treat me – I was going to die and she couldn’t be responsible. I had so many scary moments like that. I was so depressed, so sad I was missing out on life, and was constantly being observed and monitored. 

We all knew that in order for this work in treatment to be successful, I needed to accept that I had a problem and I needed to want to get better. It took three years before I even acknowledged that I was sick, but the day finally came when I had that lightbulb moment. I realized my behavior wasn’t normal, that I wasn’t happy, that I wanted a better life for myself. I felt like a burden to everyone, couldn’t even hang out with friends because all the activities involved food. I was exhausted by my lifestyle. I wanted to be skinny – but I also thought about my other goals, the other things I wanted in life. I was never going to be able to have a real career, the way I was going. I wasn’t even going to be able to have a romantic relationship. And if I kept on this path, I wouldn’t be able to physically have children. My sickness was holding me back.

It’s so easy to say, just eat.

That encounter my mother had with the guru years before came back to memory and sparked my road to recovery. With all these thoughts circulating in my head, I made a decision – I was going to see a new dietician, a new doctor, and a new therapist. I was going to recover. It wasn’t easy and I relapsed often. But I never gave up. And that’s how I’m still alive today. Honestly, if someone had told me even a couple of years ago that I would be healthy now and so independent in my recovery, I would have laughed. It’s so easy to say, just eat. In my therapy program, we learned to think of the eating disorder (we call him Ed) as a persona – someone living in your head, trying to ruin your life.

Because you are ruining your life. It’s not living. There’s no beauty in an eating disorder – there’s beauty once you get out of it. Life afterwards, all the ups and downs – it all becomes something so lovely. Living that way is just running towards death, and it’s wonderful to leave it in the past.

Life afterwards, all the ups and downs – it all becomes something so lovely. Living that way is just running towards death.

Now, I’m proud of myself and how far I’ve come. I am working through my final year of college at The University of Missouri, on Honor Roll, and have received awards and scholarships for my academic performance. I even was able to study abroad in Spain – which I would have never been able to do before. Now, I’m living in Austin, Texas for the summer; I’m doing what I love for work and making friends and memories along the way. It would’ve been easy to let my eating disorder rule all aspects of my life, but I wanted to make something of myself – and I knew that I needed to be healthy first in order to do so. 

Maddie Miles Hiking

I don’t let my eating disorder define me. I strive to be an ambitious, hard-working, loving, and strong woman. Sure, I have that voice in the back of my head, trying to drag me back into old toxic habits, especially during times of high stress, but I’ve learned to move on. I have learned to accept and love myself. I have learned to value balance. It means a balance of family and friends time and alone time. A balance of working out and eating healthy and treating myself to staying up late to eat and drink with friends. All in all, balance means doing what is good for my body and soul. I love to run, and I take time to be thankful. Thankful I’m strong enough to exercise, thankful that I have legs that can carry me, and thankful that I’m alive.

My health journey has been a remarkable rollercoaster and my Instagram account is my way of sharing my new-and-improved healthy lifestyle. It has also been an outlet for me to connect with other, incredible women who have had similar struggles as me and have found peace. I actually had an account for my recovery on Instagram while in the depths of my journey with anorexia, so I have always loved the community aspect of Instagram. I hope that I can help others struggling with an eating disorder, depression, or anxiety.

Maddie Miles - noodles

I’d like to share a simple quote I lived by during my recovery: “It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.” Life is short, and it’s our job to make it sweet.

Maddie Miles

Maddie Miles lives in Austin, Texas, where she works as a social media coordinator for a start-up in the health space, NUTSÓLA. She is also in her final year at the University of Missouri, and  runs @Madelines_Cookbook, on Instagram, where she shares recipes and her wellness journey. 

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