Shawn Johnson feared body image issues would reemerge during pregnancy: ‘I fell victim to very extreme ways of nutrition and working out’

Kerry Justich
Shawn Johnson, 27, is now embracing her bump at 28-weeks pregnant. (Photo: Instagram)
Shawn Johnson, 27, is now embracing her bump at 28-weeks pregnant. (Photo: Instagram)

Shawn Johnson first opened up to Oprah about struggling with body image issues at 16 years old, after becoming an international celebrity on the 2008 Olympic stage in Beijing and later competing on Dancing with the Stars. But over a decade after she succumbed to the constant pressure of being “thinner” and “lighter” to earn a gold medal and win America over, the former gymnast had worries about making sure that her body was ready for pregnancy.

“I fell victim to very extreme ways of nutrition and working out,” Johnson tells Yahoo Lifestyle of her old habits — which she revealed in a 2012 interview with Oprah were a result of “Growing up in gymnastics where the mentality taught to young girls of all ages is the lighter you are, the thinner you are, the higher you fly, the better you flip, the better you do, the better score you get.”

However, while pushing her body to the extreme while going through puberty in front of the nation, Johnson didn’t realize what impact diet and exercise would have on her body in the future until she decided that it may soon be time to start a family.

“I worked with a nutritionist for almost a year continuously,” she explains of the lead-up to having a baby. “I tried to just nutritionally get my body optimized so it would be able to function properly for a baby.”

Still, starting a family proved to be difficult for Johnson and her husband Andrew East, as the couple revealed in October 2017 that she had suffered a miscarriage.

“I just kind of hit a low point where I didn’t know how to heal from it,” she says.

Now, just over two years after sharing the tragic news, the East family has once again taken to their social media and YouTube channel to discuss Johnson’s current pregnancy. And even though the 27-year-old says that “pregnancy is a beautiful thing,” she admits that her changing body can still be challenging to come to terms with.

“I’m still getting used to it. I’m not there yet, I’m just getting bigger,” she says at 28-weeks pregnant. “It’s humbling and it’s hard. I worked really hard for many, many years to get in a healthy space from what my mind and what I chose to do to my body with gymnastics. With pregnancy, I was really worried that those insecurities would come back and that body image issue would come back.”

With the help of one of her recent partnerships with Philips Avent and pediatrician Natasha Burgert, MD, Johnson says that she’s learned a lot about trusting her pregnancy journey and her intuition as a mom-to-be.

“Whatever my body needs to do to protect our baby, I’m fine with it,” Johnson says. “I’m sure I’ll struggle afterwards, just like every mom does in the world. But right now it’s just this feeling of like take it as it is because this is for someone else.”

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