DEFEATING ANOREXIA ATHLETICA - One Woman’s Journey through Exercise Addiction and Beyond

Defeating Anorexia Athletica is an extraordinary true story charting the author’s life-threatening battle with anorexia athletica – obsessive-compulsive exercise addiction.

Her story takes the reader on a compelling and often painful journey that touches on the complexities of our fixation with physical perfection, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. It also sheds valuable light upon the unquestioned links between diet pills, mental illness and suicide. This journey of discovery and self-healing describes the author’s metamorphosis from an obsessed and depressed lost little girl to a healthy mother with a blossoming and balanced life.

This memoir has been a lifetime in the making. While the author began writing it to bring healing and closure to the many issues affecting her life, her main aim is to raise awareness of anorexia athletica, which remains a relatively unexplored topic, and deliver fresh hope and understanding to anyone touched by addiction, depression, anorexia or mental illness.

Well researched and with many humorous anecdotes, Defeating Anorexia Athletica is no sob story. It is a sobering, enlightening and consistently hopeful memoir and account of the ways in which our childhoods influence the people we ultimately become. Through her own recovery she explores how, by coming to understand her mother’s tragic story, she saved her life and defeated a secret addiction that our society has failed to acknowledge properly.

In Store Price: $24.95 
Online Price:   $23.95

ISBN: 978-1-921574-75-7  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages:198
Genre: Non Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins


Author: Marion Maclean
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2010
Language: English


About the Author


MARION MACLEAN was born in Scotland in 1964.

Marion immigrated to Australia when she was a one-year-old baby with her mother Avril, dad Alex and older brother Marc, aged two. The first six years were not ideal formative years as Marion was shuttled around various children’s institutions.

Following high school Marion worked for around 15 years in the fitness industry, before moving on to work for seven years in event management. Finally, guided by her passion, she set out to establish and run her own business, an on-line lifestyle health program

Marion’s passion and drive to help her clients live a healthy sustainable lifestyle is not motivated by money but by personal experience...her mother died from an addiction to weight loss slimming tablets when Marion was six and a half. Marion’s philosophy is to help others; if she is able to save one life or help one person get off the merry-go-round of diet pills, gimmicks, shakes and quick-fix promises, it provides her with total job satisfaction and success.

Marion’s approach to Australia’s obesity woes is to educate on permanently changing the lifestyle factors that cause people to gain weight. Her program is NOT A DIET, but a sustainable balanced lifestyle of healthy eating and sensible exercise.

With an attitude of as you sow, so you reap, Marion gets involved with local charities, voluntary community organisations and youth group workshops. The many glowing testimonies on her website give insight into the benefits and contributions she has already made to so many families.

Today she lives in Wollongong in southern New South Wales with her loving husband, Kerry, and nine-year-old daughter, Alana.



I can only write through the eyes of my own life experience, but I have been most fortunate to have been helped and influenced by many positive associates and family. To all my family, friends and everyone who has crossed my path and might not understand why I have written this book, I say the book is not intended to hurt anybody. I don’t hold any resentment or bad feelings, especially not towards my family, but this is my story.

Thank you Alan Jones A.O. for your encouragement and kind words of motivation, indeed the glass is always half full.

Others who need to be thanked (and there are many) know who you are, and I am indebted to you all for contributing in your unique way to the completion of this book.

My special gratitude goes to my husband, Kerry, for his love, patience, vision, collaboration and valuable insight in the preparation of this book. Thank you for helping me to appreciate what love is. I appreciate growing together, laughing together, working together, but most importantly I appreciate the mutual respect for each other, the sincere caring for each other’s feelings. Thank you for being who you are and for giving me the strength and courage to complete this book. I love you with all my heart; you are my eternal soul mate.

I now have the ability and understanding to give and receive unconditional love. I hope that others may discover much from this book, but I will be happy if I can impart in some way, to some people, the motivation they need to continue creating a world full of love, health and happiness.



“Do the thing and you will have the Power”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


We are shaped by the stories that touch our soul. I’d always suspected this, but it was only after launching my book BACK FROM THE BRINK: Australians Tell their Stories of Overcoming Depression that I knew this to be true.

I started to receive emails and letters from people who said a story in the book had given them hope and gave them the courage to keep trying to find a way out of their black hole. What surprised me was, that it wasn’t just one story that had this impact, but was evenly spread among the 12 stories. What I came to understand, is that we can read all the facts and figures we like, but it is often on hearing authentic accounts of redemption, that our hearts are moved. Often this comes down to intention. The reader seems to have inbuilt radar that allows them to ascertain the motive behind the disclosure that many of us would choose to keep secret.

Is it just a wish to exorcise demons or is it a genuine desire to help others who are treading a similarly dangerous path. It is probably a bit of both, but I know from experience how much you must persist to finally get a book published. This is not something that happens effortlessly and actually getting it to the printing press, shows someone who desires to make a difference.

Not long after my first book was published in October 2007, I received an email from Don Grover, the CEO of Dymocks Australia, asking if I could assist a friend of his, Marion Maclean, with some ideas to get her book published. I was intrigued because I couldn’t begin to imagine, how many people he must encounter, that would ask for this assistance. The story that unfolded was of a woman who had a very traumatic childhood. These difficult events in formative years often have a way of staying with us until we find a way to deal with them. They can be kept hidden from the world for a while, but often have a way of bubbling to the surface.

Marion’s early years were punctuated with abandonment and this had a devastating effect on her self-esteem. So often a sense of inadequacy lies at the core of mental distress, and this can manifest in many ways. We are often tempted to compare ourselves with others and this comparison is rarely helpful because we rarely know someone’s full story. Even if we did, we can only play the cards we have been dealt.

Her despair manifested itself in an obsession about her body shape, and she drove herself relentlessly to have the perfect figure. As is so often the case with addicts, she lost clarity about how much these compulsive behaviours were affecting her health, relationships and sense of wellbeing. This compounded her loneliness and sense of isolation and a vicious cycle was in play.

Then, the devastating discovery at 33 years of age that her mother had not died of cancer as she had been told, but had taken her own life.

I know from firsthand experience, that a person who attempts suicide, often doesn’t want to die, but sees the act as the only way to end the pain they are living with. In a twisted way, I told myself that I would be relieving my family of the burden of looking after me, as I ‘knew’ that I would never feel normal again. After the launch of my book, I encountered many people who had tragically lost a loved one to suicide. I learnt that although some people can come to terms with this loss, most people are adversely affected by this for the rest of their life. They constantly ask themselves “what if I’d…” It has a profound effect on their lives, and I often give thanks that my family were saved from this mental anguish.

She was totally rocked when she learnt the truth about her mother’s death. When she begins to research the real story of her mother, who she hardly knew, what unfolds is the bizarre realization of how closely her own life had mirrored her mother’s.

They say that the lowest ebb is the change of the tide, and this additional insight ultimately turned out to be the turning point. Like many people who have survived extreme adversity, finding someone they can trust, is essential. This came for Marion when she met her husband Kerry and discovered that a ‘problem shared is a problem halved’. His support allowed her to fully explore her painful past.

When I first spoke to Marion, I knew she wanted to publish a book about exercise addiction and poor body image, but had no idea about her painful and disrupted childhood. At the time I was overweight and used her knowledge and encouragement to help lose some kilos. I found her advice very practical and had no idea of the hell she had gone through to get there.

She has shown tremendous courage to share her very private struggle by publishing this book. Most of us have secrets that we think will make others think less of us. How wrong we are. If Marion’s story gives one person hope, and the feeling that they are not alone, it will be a great success. I know it will do much more than that. Helping others to learn healthy practices for body, mind and spirit, has given her life immense meaning.

Marion is now doing her thing and has the power.


Graeme Cowan




If you’ve got this far it’s probably because of the extraordinary photograph on the cover of this book.

When she asked me to write this foreword I asked Marion why she had chosen such a confronting image.

And indeed it is to grab attention to this book and the message herein, a story of triumph Defeating Anorexia Athletica and the terrible discovery late in her life that her mother had committed suicide when Marion was a young child.

Suicide is an extraordinary difficult issue to talk about – even in a modern, liberal society like Australia. It’s even harder to understand.

It is, and will always be hard to understand why a 17-year-old with everything to live for would take her own life. Or why a father with two children thinks that the only way forward is to kill himself. Or why a grandparent, who has enjoyed a rich and full life and still has so much yet to experience, commits suicide.

And some may regard suicide as an act of cowardice or selfishness. To you I say never overlay rational thought on the most irrational of all actions.

Most Australians have been touched by suicide in some way, four-and-a-half years ago I got to the point in my life where I thought that the best way out – not simply the only way out – was to take my own life.

I have spoken about my experience publicly many times before, but this is only the second time I have written about it. It’s not easy to talk about it and it’s even harder to write about it.

But I think it is important. It’s important because people at the darkest point of their life, when it seems there is no way back, no recovery, no end to the shame, need to know there is help and there is a way back.

When I sat in the suicide ward at the Northside Clinic in Sydney at the age of 36 thinking my career was in ruins, my reputation was destroyed, my dreams had been shredded and I was not worthy of the love I had been given, I never thought I would ever leave the darkness.

When my doctor said to me “John, it will get better” I thought he was cruelly teasing me. I asked him how it could ever get better? How could I ever recover?

But he was right. It takes time, care and support, but things do get better.

We all have a role to play in suicide prevention. It is a whole of community issue just as much an individual issue.  People need to be able to act immediately if you or someone you know is at risk.

Lifeline believes in connecting people with care. Be receptive and listen, often spending time with the person shows that you care and can help understand what they are going through. Be encouraging and helpful don’t assume that the problem will just go away.

And in case you think all of this doesn’t matter because so few people kill themselves and you can choose to ignore it, just think of these two facts.

The leading cause of death for Australian men under 44 is suicide.

The leading cause of death for Australian women under 34 is suicide.

And more people die by suicide each year than on the road.

Marion’s story is confronting. Suicide is confronting.

Marion’s bravery in telling her story will save lives. Her journey is yet again proof that there is a journey back out of the darkness. 

John Brogden is a Director of Lifeline Australia and the Patron of Lifeline NSW.

Chapter 1
The Family Secret


For nearly 27 years of my life, I believed my birth mother, Avril Maclean, had died of heart failure or cancer. That was what my father and my stepmother had always told me, although I didn’t often ask. I had been six and a half years old when my mother died and I have absolutely no memories of her. None at all. Not the sound of her voice, the swish of her frock, the embrace of her arms – absolutely nothing. Not surprisingly, as a teen and adult I rarely thought about her. But one day, at age 33, when I had sunk to my lowest ebb, my older brother Marc rang the doorbell of my Drummoyne flat.

“Here,” he said, handing me a bulky envelope.

“What’s this?” I took the envelope. Heavy, like a wad of paper.

“Read it,” he said softly but determinedly. “You need to know.” And then he left.

Marc, a strict evangelical Christian who lived a life about as far from mine as you could get, was not given to drama, but he’d watched as my marriage foundered and my mental and physical health deteriorated. He certainly knew I had a string of failed relationships behind me. I’m sure he knew I’d several times attempted suicide. Only days before I’d rung him in depressed exasperation after yet another promising attachment crumbled at my touch.

“Why can’t I be like other people?” I’d moaned. “Why can’t I have a proper, loving relationship that lasts?”

At the time, he’d said nothing.

I carried the envelope into my room and sat on the edge of the bed. I didn’t know what I was holding, but I was nervous. Coming from Marc, it had to be important. I felt light-headed and could hear my own heart pounding. Slowly I slid the bulky document out and read the first of what looked to be about 50 pages:

6.10.1970 Statement regarding Avril Maclean aged 29 of 9 Penguin Place, Tregear.

She was first admitted to Parramatta Psychiatric Centre on 18.3.70 when a diagnosis of schizophrenia was made. She was found to have an IQ of 86. She was a married woman with 3 children who migrated from Scotland in 1965.  

After the shock of realising that I was actually reading about my birth mother, I became lost in the drama of the unfolding story. The dry, legal language recounted Avril Maclean’s diagnosis with schizophrenia and her repeated admissions to psychiatric hospitals in Sydney. Although she suffered from “hallucinations and an inability to cope”, during one admission she showed signs of improvement and it was decided that she would benefit from having an ‘outside’ job. The bland language midway through the report continued:  

She started work on 30.9.70. She left for work at the same time on 1.10.70 and did not return to the hospital that evening. Police and husband were notified. In view of the apparently greatly improved condition prior to her going out to work, it came as a shock that she was found dead at The Gap on 2.10.70.

—G.J.M. Westering, Psychiatrist 

“It came as a shock.” The words echoed in my brain. 

I read the report over and over again, trying to make sense of something I could never even imagine. My mother, Avril Maclean, had jumped over The Gap. At age 29, despite three young children and a husband, my young mother had killed herself – and for 27 years, I had been kept in the dark.

This discovery left me inconsolable. I slipped from the bed to the floor, completely unaware of where I was or what I was doing. Paralysed by shock and grief I sat on the floor clutching the coroner’s report, weeping and unable to move.

As the afternoon turned to evening, and evening turned to night, I stayed there motionless on the floor. At first stunned and empty, gradually I felt some capacity for rational thought returning to me. What was all this about? I asked myself. Why had I been misled about my own mother’s death? And if I’d been told lies about her death, what was there to know about her life? As I struggled with my shock and grief, I determined to find out.

I embarked then on a journey to understand why my mother took her life. It turned out to be a journey that saved my own.

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