Shawn Johnson Opens Up About Dealing With Body Shamers: 'I've Hit Lows' With Eating Disorders

by Antoinette Bueno 8:56 AM PST, November 19, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

Olympic champion Shawn Johnson is opening up about her struggle to stay healthy.

The 23-year-old gymnastics star has her own healthy living website, The Body Department, which provides tips for staying active and living a fit life. The uplifting site is undoubtedly inspired by her own experience in the spotlight, when she continuously faced criticism over her body.

"When I first went on [Dancing With the Stars], I was 16, and I turned 17 on the show," Johnson tells Yahoo! Health. "Going from this strict, regimented schedule [of gymnastics] to going through puberty on national TV and gaining weight, and just being kind of a huge target for criticism, was just really difficult for me."

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"I've kind of gone through the gamut when it comes to health," she reveals. "I've hit lows with -- I don't want to say diagnosed eating disorders -- but eating disorders. And then I've gone the other way, where I've rejected fitness."

Johnson admits she was constantly struggling to stay fit after retiring from gymnastics, and researched quick weight-loss fixes online -- like detoxes and juice cleanses -- though none of it worked for her. But after she quit working out, she got a "rude awakening" when she injured her knee while skiing.

"When I got hurt and had to stop everything, the first thought that I had was, 'What if I could never do gymnastics again?'" she says. "That was never a thought that I had before -- I was still healthy, I could still do things. When it was almost taken away from me, I was like, 'I have to give it one more shot.'"

After getting back into the gym with her gymnastics coach, Johnson says she has learned to enjoy exercising, and is now even a certified trainer. She also eats healthy, describing her typical diet as having eggs and gluten-free toast for breakfast, and then salads, chicken, and fish for lunch and dinner.

"[I've] kind of gone through the whole education system, all the nutritionists, and now I’m finally healthy," Johnson says. " ... I've gone through a huge roller coaster of all the ups and downs. And having gone through all that, I'm at a place where I can help kids and girls and relate to all of them, and say, 'I understand where you're at, and I got through it.'"

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Earlier this month, another Dancing With the Stars contestant, 27-year-old Alexa PenaVega, opened up to ET about her own struggle with bulimia.

"I never wanted people to associate me with a problem, and that's the biggest fear you have with trying to overcome that," the actress said. "You don't wanna tell anybody because you're like, 'I don't want anyone to associate me with bulimia or an eating disorder in any way.'"

"For me, I'm just like, let the world know. ...I wish I had someone who was going to be real with me [and] who was just so open about it," she added.

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