The Olympian and DWTS champion opens up about struggling with fitness post-Beijing glory
Credit: Allen Berezovsky/WireImage

Looking at Shawn Johnson, you wouldn’t expect the Olympic gold medalist and Dancing with the Stars champion to be someone who struggles with her body – but she used to hide a lot of insecurity beneath her bubbly exterior.

“I’ve kind of gone through the gamut when it comes to health,” Johnson told Yahoo! Health. “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, 23, says it wasn’t gymnastics, but starring on DWTS that caused her to lose her confidence.

“When I first went on [DWTS], I was 16, and I turned 17 on the show,” she said. “Going from this strict, regimented schedule 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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The Olympian says she tried a bunch of quick-fix methods of weight loss, like detoxes and juice cleanses. And once her season of DWTS finished in 2009, she had given up on staying in shape because she was at a loss for what to do in the gym.

“I could go do a handstand against a wall, or go do gymnastics, but I didn’t know how to work out.”

But thanks to a conversation with her former gymnastics coach, she finally got back to exercise.

“I told him it was probably a year [since she had worked out]. And he was like, ‘I can tell. And we’re probably going to need to start over for a while,’ ” Johnson says. “It was a rude awakening.”

Now Johnson is back to getting her fitness fix, along with her NFL player fiancé, Andrew East. She’s run eight half-marathons and hopes to do a full marathon one day, and she’s eating lots of lean proteins like eggs, chicken and fish. Her favorite protein shake is a mix of frozen banana, almond milk, some peanut butter, and chocolate protein powder, according to the website.

And she’s trying to help other girls avoid the negative body image pitfalls she faced. Johnson is the co-founder of The Body Department, a collaborative website for young girls about fitness and nutrition, and she’s a certified trainer and gymnastics coach.

“I’d rather share my story than know someone else is going through what I did,” she says. “It’s not hard [to talk about it] anymore, just because I’ve gone through all of it.”

“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.’ “