- Shawn Johnson East recently opened up about her struggles with disordered eating.
- The Olympian revealed that she took weight loss pills after the 2008 Olympics to maintain the figure she had while competing.
- Shawn said her relationship with husband Andrew East and pregnancy with daughter Drew Hazel has helped her overcome her body image issues.
Shawn, who competed as a gymnast and won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said that, although there were a lot of incredible things that came with her sport, there was immense pressure surrounding her figure—and as a teenager, no less.
“In gymnastics because you are judged subjectively on the way you look, and mix that with being a teenage kid who didn’t know nutrition and psychology, I took that perfectionism and the elite mindset way too far,” she said in the video.
The gymnast revealed that she struggled with eating disorders, depression, and anxiety after competing. “Because I didn’t have the Olympics to work for, I quickly realized I had a self-confidence and self-image issue,” she said, adding that a restricted diet resulted in her not menstruating.
“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. “I’d gained about 15 lbs. after the Olympics and I thought that that was the worst thing in the entire world—which it wasn’t, it was healthy and normal.”
The Olympian said she turned to weight loss pills including ephedrine and Adderall.
“I started doing any and everything I possibly could to lose the weight and to look like I did at the Olympics,” she explained. “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.”
“So 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, I took diuretics, I did every fad diet,” she continued. “I remember I went through a three-week phase where I ate nothing but raw vegetables.”
The former gymnast eventually hired a therapist and a nutritionist to help her learn healthier habits. Shawn’s relationship with her now husband Andrew East also helped her find confidence again. The couple married in 2016 and attempted to expand their family, but Shawn suffered a miscarriage. “It was the lowest point in my life,” she said, adding that she blamed herself for her past choices around her health. Shawn overhauled her lifestyle in the hopes that she could have a baby (although she feared she would have a relapse with her eating disorder postpartum).
Shawn found out she was pregnant in 2019, and luckily her mindset changed for the better. “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,” she said. “I could have cared less. It was about protecting my baby. And I was so excited by that.”
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She said she felt “proud” to let her body grow, and those feelings continued throughout breastfeeding Drew Hazel and postpartum. “I still feel confident,” she said.
“Having gotten clean from, you know, the medications and the prescriptions and just the obsessiveness—I wouldn’t change anything for the world,” she added. “It was very hard and I don’t wish that on anyone—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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