After years of being told to lose weight for gymnastics — and then developing an eating disorder from the pressure — Shawn Johnson East wasn’t sure how she would handle gaining weight during pregnancy.
When the Olympic gold medalist learned that she was pregnant with her first child in Spring 2019, she asked her husband, football player Andrew East, to watch out for signs that her eating disorder was starting again.
“I gave Andrew a list of things to look for, and if he started seeing them, he needed to talk to me,” Johnson East, 28, told Today. “I was really scared.”
Her worries weren’t necessary, though. Johnson East said that “the reverse” happened, and her past eating disorder — which led her to consume just 700 calories a day at the height of her gymnastics career — didn’t return.
“As soon as I got pregnant, I couldn’t care less what I looked like, what I gained, or what the scale said,” she said. “For me, it was no longer my body. It was for my baby. And I felt like it had such a purpose that no material body image issue occupied my brain.”
“I don’t feel pressure to work out, or eat certain things or look a certain way because my body made a human being and that’s pretty amazing,” she said.
This mindset took Johnson East years to develop, and she told PEOPLE in 2015 that her then-fiancé East deserves part of the credit.
“It might sound cheesy, but my fiancé had a lot to do with it,” she said. “Before him, I didn’t voice any of this to anybody. I knew I had unhealthy habits, but I don’t think most people knew. There was an open honesty with him. I felt like I could just be me and I knew he was still going to love me.”
If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or go to NationalEatingDisorders.org.