“Now that the Olympics were over, I didn’t know how to function as a normal human being.”
Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson East opened up about her struggles with an eating disorder, pills and a miscarriage after her professional gymnastics career came to a halt.
In the YouTube video “Body Image Issues: 110 Lbs. to Pregnant” shared on Saturday, the 28-year-old detailed the difficult journey she faced after relying on the sport to define her for so long.
“Every decision I made in my life up until that moment, for at least 13 of my 16 years, was based on gymnastics,” she explained. “What it would take and what I needed to do to get to the Olympics. What I ate, who I hung out with, how I dressed.”
“Literally every decision I made was for the Olympics. Now that the Olympics were over, I didn’t know how to function as a normal human being.”
After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shawn went on to do “Dancing With The Stars” and even though she won the competition, it was not a positive time in her life.
“When I went on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and I had my period for the first time, and I had to deal with going through puberty on national television, I hit a very low spot,” Shawn said in the 25-minute video. “I’d gained about 15 lbs. after the Olympics and I thought that that was the worst thing in the entire world.”
She said during her Olympic training she would only eat 700 calories a day and often times passed out at practice.
“I started doing any and everything I possibly could to lose the weight and to look like I did at the Olympics,” she continued. “Because in my mind, everybody praised me for what I did at the Olympics, they praised who I was as a human being when I was there. And in my mind if I could look like that — not necessarily compete or do gymnastics — but if I could be that person again, then the world would say that I was ‘enough’ and I was accepted.”
Shawn said she turned to ephedrine, Adderall and various weight loss pills to help attain that Olympic image.
“I went through this dark kind of spiral of a few years on terrible medications and drugs that tried to spike my metabolism and did nothing,” she confessed. “I took diuretics, I did every fad diet. I remember I went through a three-week phase where I ate nothing but raw vegetables.”
After she retired from gymnastics in 2012 before the next Olympics, Shawn said she sought help for her issues with her eating habits, which she called a “turning point.”
She married Andrew East in 2016 and they got pregnant a year later, but she suffered a miscarriage.
Acknowledging it as her “low point,” Shawn worried her “bad decisions” during her Olympic training would make it impossible to have children.
However, a doctor told her otherwise and the couple welcomed daughter, Drew, in 2019.
“There was something that switched when I got pregnant, where it was no longer about me or my body or like the vanity or like the calories or what I looked like or what I weighed,” Shawn confessed. “I could have cared less. It was about protecting my baby. And I was so excited by that.”
Now Shawn has found a new purpose in life with her daughter, wanting to be a “good influence” for her.
“I wouldn’t change anything for the world, I love that I went through it, it was very hard and I don’t wish that on anyone,” she detailed. “But I’ve had these tough experiences that make me a stronger mom that will allow me to teach Drew how to be strong as well.”
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