From the second Irish health and fitness influencer, Maeve Madden answers the phone, it’s clear she knows her stuff when it comes to nutrition. Within 30 seconds of our call, she’s taught me all about matcha, explained the hype and health benefits and has convinced me that I need to switch the coffee for matcha ASAP. Needless to say I was straight to google to find the nearest coffee shop that serves matcha lattes in Belfast.
The tips and tricks didn’t stop there. Read on as Maeve delves into her dance career, love of nutrition and her journey with PCOS and IBS that led her to write the brilliant Beat Your Bloat, released 17th May.
What sparked your interest in health and fitness?
I grew up being a competitive dancer and swimmer so I’ve always been really athletic and sporty. The fitness aspect continued because while dancing in the shows, we had to have a really high level of fitness. When I moved to London, I became more interested and when I finished university I went into modelling. I became much more aware of my weight then and I became very, very thin. I was super active but I think everyone could see that I clearly wasn’t eating enough or following a very good lifestyle. When the whole idea of being stronger and being healthier came about, it was then that I realised I was actually really unhappy in myself. I felt like that was when it all changed.
How did you start blogging about your experiences?
I started by sharing fitness videos and that was going really well. Then I had a really bad episode where I was ill. I couldn’t work so then I decided that I would share this picture of me really bloated and it went viral. It wasn’t just that it went viral, it was the reaction I got from so many women and the amount of messages I received. I realised that this is something that I should talk about more openly and because of my education within health and fitness, I thought that I should share my experiences, what I was going through and how I was able to deal with the situation.
IBS can be an embarrassing topic for many, particularly women. How do you think we can break the stigma around IBS?
It’s similar to the way people are more open about talking about mental health and anxiety. These are things that have been around for many, many years but people just swept it under the rug and were embarrassed to talk about it. I think the more that we can get people talking about it and the more people that have a voice share their experiences, the more it will become normal for women to open up about.
What did your PCOS symptoms look like before you were diagnosed and made fully aware about what was going on with your body?
I’ve always had abnormal periods. I had endometriosis where it would be so bad that I’d be in bed or I would faint and be really, really sick. I just kept having agonising periods and I knew it wasn’t normal but then I collapsed one day and was rushed to hospital. I had a ruptured cyst removed from my ovaries. That happened twice. That was more of an eye-opener because it’s obviously something that affects your fertility. Sharing that on social media was harder for me emotionally. It can be quite difficult but I was just really adamant to learn more about that through nutrition because I didn’t want to just be on hormones. I knew that through my diet and lifestyle, if I was living a certain way, it would really help the condition. I wanted other women to know about this. It’s amazing the amount of stories and messages that are received daily from girls that have it and have heartbreaking stories. They thought it was normal to have periods that lasted a week or two weeks and they’d gone to the doctor and been diagnosed with PCOS and they didn’t know what would happen next. That was partly why, for me, the book was so important.
How have you dealt with IBS as part of your day-to-day life?
I educated myself and learned my trigger foods. The majority of the recipes in the book are low FODMAP which is a lifestyle recommended for people with IBS. At the beginning it can be quite daunting but I soon realised, I can definitely make something delicious out of foods I can eat. For me it was important that the book would be for everyone. I want the recipes to be things you would make for a family. There are a lot of desserts and actual meals in there so that it’s actually a lifestyle that’s sustainable.
How do you think we can achieve body confidence in the midst of social media pressure?
I always say that when it comes to social media that you should only follow the accounts that really inspire you or that make you feel good. It’s really important for you to set your own goals because every body is different and everyone wants to look a certain way so use yourself as your own inspiration and your own motivation. Set little goals. If you think that you would feel more confident if you were a different dress size then you should set those goals for yourself but only for you as a person. There’s no-one in the world that is perfect. Everyone has their own little flaws and while you might think of someone as being the perfect person, they will look at themselves and see their own flaws. Look to yourself and what makes you happy as a person. That can be so many different things. There is no right or wrong.
Was there any change in particular that you found really helped to ease your symptoms of IBS?
I found dairy was something that really affected my gut. I know that certain foods are going to make me bloat and I know that if I eat ice cream or if I have a glass of champagne that I’m going to get bloated but sometimes you’re just celebrating. That’s why in the book I have a chapter with rescue remedies, things that you can do if you are bloated and things that you can do to prevent bloating. We also have another amazing chapter in the book about changing habits. You can change a habit in 21 days and you can change your whole lifestyle within 90 days and you’ll be able to go to my website which is maevemadden.com to download all of these little calendars and things that make it all very interactive.
Do you have any advice for taking steps to become our best healthy and happy selves?
That’s one of the reasons I included the chapter about changing habits in 21 days. Within that section of the book, I list a lot of steps that you can do. A lot of people try and change everything at once but instead if we just try and change one or two habits slowly but surely, you’ll be able to create and develop a whole new lifestyle. If you try and do it all at once you’ll most likely give it up but if you change one or two things at a time it’s better in the long run. You’re more likely to stick to it.