Meet Hayley Madigan, the body positive fitness influencer showing that even the fittest, strongest bodies have cellulite too
- Hayley Madigan is a British trainer and fitness influencer who posts side-by-side images showing how different our bodies can look in different lighting, outfits, and angles.
- Madigan, 30, told Insider that she was nervous to share her "flaws" like cellulite at first.
- In her 20s, Madigan started bodybuilding which then led to an unhealthy obsession with staying lean by over-training and under-eating, and this caused her to lose her periods.
- Madigan now hopes to inspire others to recover from disordered eating, get strong, and love their bodies from all angles.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
There are fitness influencers who would have you believe that their bodies are always perfectly taut and toned, with not so much as a dimple, let alone any flesh that wobbles.
Then there are fitness influencers showing the truth — that yes, even strong, healthy, athletic people who work out regularly and can in some photos appear to have "perfect" bodies also have cellulite and wobbly bits.One of the said influencers leading the charge is Hayley Madigan, who's built up an 85,000 strong following for lifting the veil on the side of fitness bodies that many others decline to show.
Madigan, who's based in Portsmouth, UK, spoke to Insider about her journey to loving her body, why she thinks it's so important to show the parts that many people consider "flaws," and the problem with a lot of fitness content on Instagram.
A bodybuilding show led to disordered eatingAn active and "naturally skinny" child, Madigan told Insider she was bullied as a teenager for being so thin, so she started working out with her dad at home to build some muscle.
"From that moment on I fell in love with weight training and trained a few times a week, it made me feel amazing!" she said.And this passion transitioned into a degree in sports and exercise science, becoming a qualified personal trainer and then a high school PE teacher.But after a bad break-up, Madigan wanted a new focus, so decided to enter a bodybuilding show on the recommendation of a trainer at her gym. Even though it was all-natural and drug-tested, this turned out to be the start of Madigan's problems.
Competition Vs Real Life It’s easy to get stuck in the ‘must stay lean all year round’ mindset especially when you’re from a competitive bodybuilding background. I realised yesterday, after a client of mine messaged me after listening to the Podcast I did with @madeleychloe on body image and changing perceptions around competing, that I don’t talk much about my competitive bodybuilding career on here as much as I used to. I guess you can say I’ve kind of blocked that period of time of my life out. Don’t get me wrong, I did well, I won 5 shows out of the 8 I did in the 3 years that I competed for. I was a determined 24 year old when I first started and I was out to prove a point. I wanted to succeed no matter what! No matter what toll it took on my body, no matter what it did to my mindset, my relationship with food and my attitude towards fitness. I was obsessed because I had to be! A lot has changed in my life since then but the journey it took to achieve the mindset I have now, was a long one. I didn’t have any external help, I just had to fight my way back and learn through many ups and downs that the true meaning of health and fitness was a happy, healthy, strong body and mind which meant I HAD to put Body Fat on and I HAD to learn to accept it. I physically can’t function on low body fat, my periods disappear, my brain fogs up and I am a moody biatch My strength disappears and I can barely walk down the street without feeling dizzy That is no way of living for a young woman! No external gratification like having abs all year round should be your motivation to be as lean as possible! You need to try and establish the benefits of leading a normal life and realise there’s WAY more to life than having a low body fat percentage. I can now go out and enjoy meals in any restaurant with friends and family without the feeling of guilt. My brain can now function properly without having a continuous fog covering it! I rest when I want to, I rest when I need to and have and understand the importance of balance in my life! Continued in comments
A post shared by Hayley Madigan (@hayleymadiganfitness) on Jan 16, 2020 at 8:05am PST
"Fast forward an intense 12-week prep, I stood on stage and loved every second," she said. "Much to my amazement I won, and then continued to win three more shows in a row and become a WNBF [World Natural Bodybuilding Federation] Pro after winning the amateur's world show in America in 2015."
It was only when she looked back afterward that Madigan realized she'd "picked up some very bad eating habits and become obsessed with tracking food and training twice a day."She continued: "Because eating a certain way and training often led me to winning Pro status, I felt like I had to stay in shape 24/7, all year round. I wouldn't let myself put weight on and couldn't bear people thinking 'I'd let myself go' after competing."
And so she maintained an incredibly lean physique through an unhealthy obsession for three years: "I had an extremely bad relationship with food and I was obsessed with staying lean," she said.
The desire to get her period back ultimately led to Madigan's recovery
Maintaining such a low body fat percentage led to Madigan developing amenorrhoea (lack of periods)."During this time I didn't have a period, because of the stress (physical and mental) that I had put my body through," she said.
Over-training and under-eating meant Madigan didn't have a menstrual cycle for three years. "In order to have a six-pack, my body was in a complete state of stress which meant my cycle stopped," she said.The amenorrhoea was ultimately what finally made Madigan realize that her health was suffering.
"I wanted to regain my cycle, and I knew from studying this that I had to put fat on, as body fat is vital for female health," she said.As anyone who has recovered from an eating disorder will be able to attest, the journey has its ups and downs.
"What helped was having supportive people around me, deleting [calorie tracking app] MyFitnessPal, and changing my training goal to be stronger, with more performance-based — instead of purely aesthetic — goals," Madigan said.
What’s more important to you? Your mental health or physical appearance? For years it was my physical appearance. I was obsessed with being as lean as I could be 24/7. I checked for abs as soon as I woke up and it was the last thing I did before I went to sleep. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t happy with my appearance always striving to improve and wanting more. I wasn’t happy with my lifestyle nor was I happy with who I had become - Totally obsessed with being lean. Fast forward 5 years I couldn’t be happier! I couldn’t be happier with the way I look and who I am. I couldn’t be happier with my lifestyle and my mentality. What is more important to you? The way you look or your mental health? Abs or how happy you are? If you’re ready to make the change, trust the process, be around supportive people and if needed have a coach that will support this transition each and every step of the way 1-1 Online Coaching email: email@example.com #onlinept #ptonline #trainforhealth #foodforhealth #gainingweightiscool #gainsville #gainingweight #femalestrength #HA #FHA #amenorrhea #amenorrhearecovery #recovery #girlswholift #onlinecoach #beforeandafter #healthfirst #mindsetmatters #mindsetfirst #mindsetiseverything #mentalhealthmatters #weighttrainingforwomen #femaletraining #happyhormones #hormones #period #periodtalk #menstrualcycle #menstrualhealth
A post shared by Hayley Madigan (@hayleymadiganfitness) on Feb 12, 2020 at 4:17am PST
She started eating foods that she'd previously restricted, ate out in restaurants where she couldn't track the calories, and reduced her cardio to simply a daily walk.
"I put weight on because I needed to, but I also still felt strong, fit, and sexy because I gained more curves that I enjoyed having," Madigan said."My butt got bigger which is always a bonus and I was feeling really confident in my own body because my strength from the gym translated into mental strength too."
And now Madigan is helping others by sharing what she's learned.
"Talking about this journey on social media and now helping coach other women through the same journey is the most fulfilling job I could ask for," she said."Getting ladies their cycles back so they can get pregnant is such a blessing and I'm so glad I am able to help women in this way."
Madigan uses comparison images to help encourage others to put their health firstWhat makes Madigan's Instagram account so popular is the all-encompassing range of topics she discusses, including period bloat, her weight gain, and "Instagram vs reality."
She first started posting comparison images two years ago as a way to talk about her recovery from amenorrhoea and teach other women "that putting on body fat is vital for my health."Initially, Madigan started posting about her recovery as a way to help her accept her larger, healthier body, but she said she was "astonished" by the size of the response she received from women who could relate.
So she decided to talk about it more."I wanted to help other women make the transition to put their health first over their aesthetics," Madigan said.And she soon began posting "Instagram vs reality" images too, encouraging people not to think that how a person's body looks in one photo is how it looks all the time.
Stop judging yourself based on other people’s appearances Looking at other women and saying “you’re my body goals” is unhealthy. It gives you an unhealthy relationship with your body as you’re disregarding your own body as something you love. Do you worship other body’s that aren’t yours? It’s okay to admire and draw your own goals from others to work towards BUT it’s not okay to have someone else as your body goals. We come in all shapes and sizes and we can all work on achieving the best body we strive for but by saying you’d prefer other women’s bodies to your own instantly creates a unhealthy relationship with yourself. Accepting your body at all times, from all angles and during all times makes the first step to building that confidence in your body. We all look different in different poses, in different lights and in different clothing. So remember you need to worship your own body first, accept that your body is different to anyone else’s and remember THAT is your superpower and THAT is your uniqueness ❤️ #selflove #comparing #bodygoals #instareality #instareal #healthyrelationship #relationshipwithself #healthymindset #mindset #mindsetmatters #mindsetshift #isolation #isolationcreation #selfcare #selfisolation #qurantine #stayhome #confidence #bodyconfidencemovement #gainingweightiscool #stopjudging #realitycheck #letsbereal
A post shared by Hayley Madigan (@hayleymadiganfitness) on Apr 17, 2020 at 3:57am PDT
"When I was an in-person personal trainer, my clients would never believe that I had cellulite because from the outside I looked toned and fit," she said. "But I never wore shorts even in the summer months because I was self-conscious of my legs.
"When I used to tell my clients I had cellulite in my lower body they would feel better about themselves, so I wanted to translate this across to my followers too."Madigan now proudly posts side-by-side images showing how simple things like lighting, posture, and camera angle can make a person's body look completely different.
Madigan was nervous to show her 'flaws' at first
While she was nervous at first to post images showing the parts of her body many of us are conditioned to think of as flaws, the response she received made it worth it.
"Sometimes when I might be a little unsure on a post I send it to my best friend whose usual response is 'YAS AMAZING,'" Madigan said."I think every single person needs a best friend to big them up, support them, and have their backs when they need it.
And her following has actually grown "quite a lot" over the lockdown period.Of course, this being the internet, Madigan receives some negativity too, but tries not to let it upset her."I think I used to struggle a lot more with this, but I try to rise above it especially when it's from people I don't know," Madigan said.
Madigan's refreshing, balanced approach to fitness resonates with her followers
Unlike some fitness and body positivity influencers, Madigan is neither anti fat loss or weight gain.
"People think fitness accounts just share fitness content and purely talk about how to lose fat and 'tone' up, but that's not what my page is about," she said."On the one hand, I help women feel amazing by dropping body fat to become healthy and help them become more confident by lifting weights and becoming strong.
"And then on the other hand, I support vital weight gain advice for health and hormonal reasons."For the last two years I have talked about the importance of weight gain for women suffering with disordered eating and/or over training which has led them to losing their periods, and I want to make sure women who struggle with healthy weight gain are inspired by my posts so they feel like they can achieve this optimal health."
Instagram can be triggering
Madigan knows as well as the next person how damaging Instagram can be if you don't curate your feed, so she said she's stopped spending too much time looking at what other people are posting.Instead she concentrates on what she enjoys sharing and the educational information she believes people need to hear.
"I think it's a dangerous game when you get sucked into the fitness industry on Instagram as it's full of extreme views, extreme diets, and a lot of triggering posts," Madigan said."I no longer follow many bikini competitors or bodybuilders because I find it triggering for myself and my recovery — seeing women extremely lean is quite hard for me so I try not to follow anyone in that part of the fitness industry."Madigan also takes umbrage with the extreme weight loss, diet, and detox products many influencers promote, explaining that they don't teach people anything about nutrition and are never sustainable due to their "quick fix" nature.
Madigan aims to empower people to accept their bodies from all angles
Through her Instagram, Madigan hopes to support "every single person struggling with body image, disordered eating, body confidence, self esteem, and gaining weight healthily."
She also wants to encourage people to accept their bodies in all different lights, angles, clothing, and pictures.
"I know how different our bodies can look within a few seconds," Madigan said.
"We can go from looking and feeling amazing to then suddenly catching a glimpse of ourselves in worse lighting and thinking, 'Oh my goodness, do I actually look like that?' and then losing all of the self-confidence we just had."I want people to accept themselves in all poses, positions, and angles, realize we are beautiful no matter what, and know that our bodies are incredible with what they do day in, day out."
- Top 10 richest people in Canada according to Forbes as of March 7, 2021
- Global market for desktops, notebooks and tablets to grow 8% in 2021, says new report
- Porsche unveils its first pair of electric bikes priced at $8,549
- Facebook removes 915 malicious accounts and 606 fake accounts from Instagram in February
- Apart from the big cat, the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh flaunts a variety of fabulous residents