Shawn Johnson Says Body Image Struggle Helped Her Become a Strong Mom

“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."
ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
Jun 2020
Shawn Johnson opens up about her unhealthy relationship with her body image
Photo: Shawn Johnson via YouTube

Shawn Johnson East, in a new YouTube video, Body Image Issues: 110 Lbs. to Pregnant, opened up about her struggles with body images following the 2008 Olympics and her journey to motherhood.

In the video, Johnson, 28, explained that after winning the gold medal for her balance beam routine, she was left feeling lost, without purpose and, due to strict trainings and diet, stuck with unrealistic ideals of how her body should look

“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,” she said in the video. “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.”

“Every decision I made in my life up until that moment, for at least 13 of my 16 years, was based on gymnastics. 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,” she continued. “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.”

Johnson revealed that, to combat the weight gain and get back to the way she looked during the Olympics, she tried taking different kinds of weight loss pills, along with ephedrine and Adderall. “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,” she explained. “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. I remember I went through a three-week phase where I ate nothing but raw vegetables."

After realizing she couldn’t continue like this, she retired in June 2019 and hired a therapist and nutritionist to build healthier habits. When she married her husband Andrew East in 2016 and suffered a miscarriage the following year, Johnson explained she felt it was her fault due to past choices.

“That was the lowest point of my life,” Johnson said. “When I miscarried, I had this gut wrenching feeling because of my past—I thought it was because of all those bad choices that I had made that had caused me to miscarry and that would potentially cause me to not be able to have a kid.”

She then continues to share how devastating it was to have conversations with doctors on whether she would struggle to conceive in the future. After her miscarriage, she began working harder with her nutritionist and therapist to get herself to a healthy place.

After she became pregnant last year, Johnson states, while she was scared of old habits returning, she was determined to prioritize her health.

“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 in the video. “I could have cared less. It was about protecting my baby. And I was so excited by that.”

While Johnson has undoubtedly been through a lot, she concluded the video by saying she’s proud of herself and the way she’s handled the postpartum period.

“Andrew is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. He’s the greatest supporter and everyone needs a support system…to really encourage you to be yourself…When Andrew loved me for who I was and held my hand through the process, it made the recovery and healing a lot better and easier,” she said. “Now having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I’d felt confident in the whole thing, I feel like I climbed Mount Everest. Now having Drew, it just gives me such a sense of purpose…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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