“In fifth grade, all the boys in my class told me that I looked like I was on steroids or that I was anorexic,” Raisman, 23, tells Today. “And then in seventh grade, I was wearing a tank top at school and one of the boys told me my arms were disgusting. So I didn’t wear a tank top to school ever again. Thinking about that makes me so sad because I let one kid affect how I see myself.”
More than a decade later, Raisman has a better outlook on her body.
“Now, I almost force myself to wear tank tops because you have to appreciate your body, and now people compliment my arms all the time,” she says. “You can’t let someone dictate the way you feel about yourself. It just makes me mad that I was so insecure about it for so long because my arms made me one of the best gymnasts in the world, so I would never do anything to change that.”
She also gives her mom, Lynn, some of the credit for her healthy body image.
“My body hero is my mom, because she taught me to be confident and be comfortable in the skin you’re in,” Raisman says. “Just having someone to talk to, I think, is really important.”
RELATED VIDEO: Olympian Aly Raisman Opens Up About How Her #SISwim Photoshoot Made Her Feel ‘Confident’ & ‘Comfortable’
And her new, low-key attitude about her body extends to how she grooms and dresses it.
“My beauty philosophy is less is more, because I realize that in the gym for gymnastics, I have to be a perfectionist,” Raisman says. “Outside of the gym, it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to have messy hair. It’s okay to not have a perfectly put-together outfit.”