Most kids at the age of 12 were probably playing video games and doing some chores. Me? I was training at least 36 hours a week, plastered on posters and magazines, representing the US National Team. I had no voice or option but to live up to the expectations of everyone else, so I experienced these cruel, unwanted body remarks from just about everyone— coaches, fans/gymnastics followers, National team staff, my mother, and even myself. It started when I was 13, barely weighing 70 pounds. I’ve been told I looked like I swallowed an elephant or a pig, whichever was more fitting that day. I was compared to a bird that was too fat to lift itself off the ground. If I “looked” bigger on a given day, I had to run and condition with heavy sweats until it seemed like I was “ready” to start practice. I’ve even been asked to sign a contract that would basically prohibit me from training if I did not lose weight. I still receive comments on Instagram and Youtube, and, unfortunately, all these remarks do is bring up the dark memories from when I wasn’t confident in my body; the times my self-esteem was deteriorated every time I heard and even believed these harsh critiques.
Ever since I made the team last year, I have felt pressure to live up to a certain standard and fit the stereotypical body type of a gymnast. My coach believes that me messing up or falling is a result of me being too heavy, so I have got in the habit of measuring my thighs with my hands everyday to see if I have gained any weight. Normally I can get halfway up them but today when I tried, I couldn’t. I immediately freaked out and told myself I couldn’t afford to finish my half of a sandwich for lunch this afternoon, and my dinner consisted of vegetables and hummus. I am currently experiencing some hunger pains, but if I go to sleep right now I can sleep it away. I’m used to waking up to the taste of blood or iron in my mouth, as if I might almost throw up from being so hungry.
My mom is an extremely healthy person and only shops at whole foods. Shoot, even my dog only eats organic food. My brother on the other hand, can eat whatever he wants without putting on weight so she only buys him food. She knows what it takes to be a good, healthy athlete, so she hides the food that she buys for him from me. I understand that this might be for my own benefit but at times it feels as if everywhere I look someone is telling me or doing something to let me know that I am already too big. I don’t even feel comfortable in my own home. Fortunately, she works until pretty late at night, so when I get hungry and I’m home alone I find the hidden food and eat some of it. Tonight I ate too much though. I feel disgusting, as if I can already feel the fat growing on my legs. I don’t want to get in trouble tomorrow so I must force myself to do conditioning until my conscience is clean enough to fall asleep.
Exercising at night has become exhausting. I feel uncontrollable around food when I get the chance to eat it, so I am trying a new solution. I know bulimia is not healthy, but it could potentially be the only thing to save me. I’m tired of only eating vegetables and I’m tired of running and conditioning every time I “look” like I’m a little heavier. This is the fifth Monday in a row that I have gotten kicked out because I was too heavy. I think I have become obsessed with weighing myself because I can’t start practice without stepping on the scale and I can’t leave practice without knowing I’ve lost some weight. I cry myself to sleep most of the time now and since there’s no one around to talk to, I have learned that writing is my only escape.
These are some of the first journal entries that I will share as I take you through my perspective on how body shaming has affected me throughout my life. Next post I will continue with more of my personal stories to illustrate why words can have a bigger impact than we believe.
47 Replies to “Dear Standards”
Katelyn-You are a beautiful and talented person who lights the room up with your smile. I think it is great that you are sharing this battle with girls who feel the same stress that you experienced. Best of luck in all you do! Sincerely, Helen
Thank you for writing and sharing this
Wow Katelyn! Thank you for being so brave and sharing your posts. I relate to so much of this. The loneliness and feeling like their is no other answer but to throw up. To feel like all eyes are on you and still to this day it is a very hard struggle. So impressed and proud. What an amazing woman and someone that can really help and change the world of gymnastics today!
This is devastating to read but thank you for being brave enough to share.
O sweetheart… God has granted you the gift of athletic ability. You must look into the mirror and marvel at the beautifuly talented girl that stares back:.
Your. Body is your temple, we only get one. Starving yourself or measuring to not eat is only making thinks worse.
You have accomplished what so many young ladies try to accomplish.
Reveal in that ! Your strong, a warrior who fights ignorance, shame, and people whom just don’t realize that making you feel shameful only kills the warrior inside you.
DONT. BELIEVE FOR A SECOND THAT YOU CANT CHANGE THIS CONCEPT.
The cards are always in your hands. Be strong and play them wisely. For that little girl that has been thru enough!
Your beautiful honey inside and out!
With a talent that is given to few!
I read things like this, and I actually feel guilty for being such a gymnastics fan. I’m sure that there are many of us who are ignorant of what it really takes to look and perform as many of you do! Keep on sharing and educating us!
I am so sorry you experienced this. There is no excuse for a child to be treated this way. You are very brave – and a fantastic gymnast.
Bless you for having the courage to talk about this. I know it is painful, I really do, but know that you are helping others with your story. I hope you find peace and happiness, you deserve it.
No-one should have to experience this cruelty from their coaches, and I am saying this as a coach myself.
So much respect for you, Katelyn.
I remember when you were on the national team and then I didn’t see you for a while and finally saw you again on the UCLA team and you were awesome. Grown up, mature, an amazing athlete and with such a sparkle. You story will help many other young women and girls who suffer from this shaming. You are an inspiration.
Want to cry reading this as a fan who watched you on YouTube hoping i would see you in Glasgow eventually and then overjoyed to see you looking so healthy and happy when you joined the Bruins. This is important to share and it makes me angry to hear gymnastics coaches still talking and acting like this.
I am a local gymnast (level 7) and I could never imagine our gym doing this. I don’t think anyone should get kicked out for being overweight. Plus, muscle weighs more that fat! Thank you for sharing your story. I hope no one has to go though this and I am very sorry you had too. I love you Katelyn! You are a GREAT gymnast and you are SOOOO LUCKY to be on the UCLA gymnastics team and I hope to see you at the super six in St. Louis!! You are a big role model to me.
Love these journal entries. So glad I found them, as a pre professional ballet dancer it felt like I was the only person with these feelings at such a young age. It’s like reading my own journal….you’re doing an amazing thing sharing your experiences and reaching out to young girls and women everywhere
Thank you for bravely sharing your story. As a gymnast it makes me feel better to know I’m not alone I’m body shaming and rude remarks. Thank you for being such a positive role model❤️
Ugh! How does this happen! My heart breaks for you! Having lost a son in 2001 I appreciate how important children are in our lives ! My heart breaks for you guys ! Hang in there never never never give up !
Most people do not even have a clue what it takes to be an Elite gymnast, and the pressure you girls are put under from coaches parents and yourselves. I hope that the happy memories out weigh the bad ones. This was very eye opening, even to me the mother of an Elite athlete. I have learned that I love my daughter more than I love the sport. Thank you for your raw honesty.
I just don’t understand how a coach can do this?
I mean, you’re practicing a sport that will naturally give you massive thigh musculature….and people are giving you shit about the size of your thighs? Insanity.
You are perfection! You look healthy, in shape, and beautiful! I can relate so much to this. I did competitive cheerleading for 12 years and heard a lot of the same remarks. My mother and coaches were the worst culprits and I honestly think some of them thought that saying these things would motivate us to “prove them wrong” or “inspire” us to do more. When in reality it does the opposite. It consumes you and makes you question your ability and lose focus of your talents and drive. I believe struggle creates strength and you have shown the world what a tremendous athlete/woman that you are! Keep it up I wish you all the happiness!!!! Xoxo
Thank you Katelyn.