Shawn Johnson has opened up about how she abused Adderall and diet pills as she struggled with body-image issues after the Olympics, revealing that she had feared her unhealthy choices had caused her to miscarry years later.
In the latest video on her family’s YouTube channel, the 28-year-old former gymnast detailed how she went from ‘110 pounds to pregnant’ after years of restricting her calories, over-exercising, and taking whatever she could to control her weight.
Shawn suffered a miscarriage in 2017, two years before she and her husband Andrew East welcomed their daughter Drew. Although her doctor assured her that it wasn’t her fault, she admitted that she had blamed herself.
Looking back: Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson detailed how she went from ‘110 pounds to pregnant’ in the latest video shared her East Family YouTube channel
Goal: Shawn only ate 700 calories per day while training for the 2008 Olympics at age 16
‘When I miscarried, I had this gut-wrenching feeling that it was because of my past —because of the ephedrine, because of the Adderall, because of the pills, the diuretics, because of starving myself and the weight fluctuations and the binging and purging,’ she said.
‘I thought it was because of all those bad choices I had made that had caused me to miscarry and that would potentially cause me not to be able to have a kid.’
Shawn explained that she was consumed with perfectionism as an elite gymnast and would only eat about 700 calories per day during her rigorous training for the Olympics.
‘I would pass out during practice or after practice. My body would cramp. I didn’t have energy. I was unable to have a period. I wasn’t maturing,’ she recalled.
She was just 16 years old when she competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, and took home one gold and three silver medals.
Winner: The former gymnast took home one gold and three silver medals at the Olympics
Hard to handle: Shawn started to gain weight after the Olympics and went through puberty while competing on Dancing With the Stars in 2009
Shawn went on to compete on the eighth season of Dancing With the Stars in 2009 as she struggled with a lack of purpose now that she was no longer training for the Olympics.
Although she ended up winning the competition, she said that behind the scenes she had gotten her period for the first time and was dealing with ‘going through puberty on national television.’
‘I hit a very low spot. I gained about 15 pounds after the Olympics and I thought that was the worst thing in the entire world — which it wasn’t. It was healthy and normal,’ she said. ‘I started taking weight loss pills. I started taking ephedrine. I started taking Adderall.
‘I started doing any and everything I possibly could to lose the weight and look the way I did at the Olympics, because in, my mind, everybody praised me for what I did at the Olympics.’
She thought if she could look like that again the world would accept her and say she is ‘enough.’
Struggle: Shawn recalled taking ephedrine and any diet pill she could find to try to lose weight and get her Olympics body back
Dangerous: When she returned to gymnastics, she was prescribed Adderall to lose weight and increase her energy
‘I took diuretics. I did every fad diet. I remember I went through a three-week phase where I ate nothing but raw vegetables,’ she said, explaining that her life had revolved around the Olympics and after they were over, she didn’t ‘know how to function as a normal human being.’
Shawn said she hit her low point about three years after the Olympics. She went on a ski trip with her friends and tore her ACL when she suffered a bad fall.
She was miserable at the time, and at that moment, she decided to return to the world of competitive gymnastics because that was the last time she could remember being happy.
She went back to over-training and under-eating as she reentered the international competition circuit, but she still felt lost.
‘I had my body back, which is what I thought it would take to make me happy again, but I wasn’t there,’ she recalled.
Getting healthy: After she retired from gymnastics for good in 2012, she started seeing a nutritionist and therapist who helped her break her unhealthy habits
Heartbroken: Although she was eating normally and no longer taking Adderall when she got pregnant in 2017, she initially blamed herself for her miscarriage
Shawn said she was on track to make the 2012 Olympic team when she started ‘burning out.’ The USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall, assuring her it would help her ‘lose more weight’ and ‘have more energy.’
Although she didn’t say his name, she seemed to be referring to former USAG team doctor and convicted sex offender Larry Nassar, who is serving up to 175 years in prison after more than 500 survivors came forward about being sexually abused by him.
Shawn said she started taking ‘heavy doses of Adderall,’ which helped her performance but led to her feeling depressed and constantly arguing with everyone in her life.
‘There was nothing in my life that was healthy. I wasn’t eating. I was overdosing on Adderall,’ she said. ‘I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA [United States Anti-Doping Agency].’
She went into practice one day and told her teammate that she couldn’t do it anymore, and her friend encouraged her to quit. When she walked out of the gym that day in the middle of practice, she left competitive gymnastics for good.
Protective mom: Shawn said something switched in her when she got pregnant with her daughter Drew and all she cared about was keeping her baby safe
Bundle of joy: Shawn and her husband Andrew East welcomed their daughter Drew in 2019, two years after she suffered her miscarriage
The athlete said she retired from the sport and gave up her contracts, endorsement deals, and ambassadorships. She also hired a nutritionist and therapist, which she considers her ‘turning point.’
When she started, she wasn’t comfortable eating more than 700 calories a day or eating more than two meals, but after years of work, that slowly changed. She eventually got up to eating 1,500 calories a day and four meals.
She slowly weaned herself off of the Adderall, explaining she couldn’t just stop taking it because she had been prescribed such a high dose.
Shawn was in a good place when she met her now-husband Andrew. After they got married, they started talking about having children. She was healthy and no longer taking Adderall when she got pregnant in 2017. Though it wasn’t planned, they were ecstatic.
She said miscarrying was ‘the lowest point in her life.’ She was consumed with guilt and was convinced she lost the baby because of something she had done, even though her doctor assured her that wasn’t the case.
Shawn was worried she would never be able to have children because of how she had abused her body over the years. She started upping her sessions with nutritionist and therapist because she was determined to get ‘100 per cent’ healthy.
Four months after she and Andrew started trying again, she learned she was pregnant. She immediately called her nutritionist and therapist to tell her the happy news.
True love: Shawn credits her husband Andrew for being her support system and helping her learn to love herself.
Life lessons: ‘I have had these tough experiences that make me a stronger mom that will allow me to teach Drew to be strong as well,’ she said
The nutritionist and therapist started to cry when Shawn shared that her ‘biggest fear’ was that she wouldn’t eat enough for her baby. It was the first time in nearly 10 years that she wasn’t afraid of eating too much.
‘There was something in me that switched when I got pregnant where it no longer was about me or my body or the vanity or the calories or what I looked like or what I weighed,’ she said. ‘I couldn’t have cared less. It was about protecting my baby and I was so excited about that.’
Shawn credits her husband Andrew for being her support system and helping her learn to love herself.
They welcomed their daughter Drew in November 2019, almost exactly two years after she had miscarried.
Shawn, who is now weaning her daughter off of breastfeeding, said she still feels confident about her body and no longer feels pressured to workout, but she knows she will always have issues.
‘I feel like I will still struggle. I mean, the world puts such crazy expectations and standards on women and men that there are always those times of weakness when you feel insecure and conscious,’ she admitted. ‘But now with Drew, all I want to do is be a good influence.’
The proud mom said she wouldn’t change anything in her life, not even the struggles.
‘I have had these tough experiences that make me a stronger mom that will allow me to teach Drew to be strong as well,’ she explained.