Gymnast Shawn Johnson Reveals She Feels 'Very Sad' Looking Back at Olympic Triumph as a Kid

Shawn Johnson may have been winning big in the Olympics, but she was not a happy teen. At only 16, she struggled with striking a balance between her career and personal life.

Shawn Johnson, 29, who won four medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 at only 16, may have been a decorated Olympian, but she was not happy. She opens up about her struggles with an eating disorder.

Despite having a good group of people who helped her deal with her struggles, Johnson always believed that she would impress the judges more with her performance if she looked thinner.

Shawn Johnson attends "Before I Fall" New York special screeing at Landmark Sunshine Cinema on February 28, 2017 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Shawn Johnson attends "Before I Fall" New York special screeing at Landmark Sunshine Cinema on February 28, 2017 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Looking back to her teen years, the former Olympian is saddened because she didn't know how to improve her performance a healthier way. Johnson used to think that the less she ate, the thinner she'd get, and the more the judges would like her.

She remembers that back then, she didn't have access to psychologists or nutritionists that could've helped her deal with her problems. This led to an eating disorder that she struggled with for several years.

She continues to say that dealing with it felt like she had no control over her mind, and she had to fight every day to get rid of that voice in her head and take back control of her mind. Adding to that, she says:

"And when you get tired, you can't battle it any longer, and it's like, 'I need a binge, I need a purge, I need to not eat, I need to eat so much,' and I would just spiral so much that you lose control as a human."

In her attempt to transition from what was termed perfection in her circles into a normal human being, she lost a sense of self and had to deal with perfectionism, mental illness, and an eating disorder. 

This saw her abuse Adderall in a bid to lose weight, which then led to her sponsors pulling out. She also suffered a fractured back and a torn labrum that saw her pull out of the competitions a week into the Olympic trials.

Her body was giving up, in addition to the low moments she was going through, which highly impacted her decision to exit the gymnastic scene. She said when she attended the London Olympics, she felt so free and happy not to be part of that world anymore.

After retiring, she enrolled with the Vanderbilt University in Nashville. And in an interesting turn of events, she met the man who would end up changing her life, her husband, Andrew East.

She says that motherhood is a constant battle of worrying.

The Olympic gold medalist also speaks out about motherhood, saying that it is not always easy. She says it has its ups and downs, and dreams get broken along the way. 

Johnson was referring to a miscarriage they went through back in 2017. Her advice for anyone going through a  similar experience is for them to stay strong and know that they are not alone.

Johnson would go on to get pregnant again, and this time, her baby developed complications and had issues with the umbilical cord as well as underdeveloped and dilated kidneys. The baby was, however, born healthy. 

She says that motherhood is a constant battle of worrying. Asked on her interview with "Refinery 29" about how she copes with the constant worrying, she says:

It’s a battle every day. You have to reassure yourself that you’re prepared and that you’ll figure it out. 

Johnson and her footballer husband say that the secret to a successful and happy marriage is keeping the romance alive. They say that relationships need nurturing, and the two are deliberate about appreciating each other.

They believe in spending time together to bond, and they do that with the help of their parents, who once in a while help babysit their daughter, Drew Hazel so that they can go out on date nights. 

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