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Shame on You

Me as a freshman in high school at a figure skating competition

Every athlete has a different story whether it be coaches telling you how much you should weigh and what you can eat. In some cases, it even comes down to forcing children to eat only salads or telling children to lose weight before they can join a team, regardless of their athletic ability.

Body shaming has become so involved in the world of sports that many athletes do not even notice they are being hurt until someone asks them specifically about it.

Athletes all over the world competing at very low levels all the way up to the Olympics seem to be conscious that body shaming happens but ignore that fact that it may be happening to them.

For many young female athletes especially, body shaming is more prevalent than other athletes, both from people they know in training and from strangers over the internet.

I can remember my figure skating coach sitting down an entire team of 8 years old girls telling them that she was worried some of the girls on the team were not eating “correctly” for a figure skater. If your parents want to buy you a happy meal at McDonald’s you should refuse it and instead ask for a salad or plain grilled chicken.

I remember rushing from practice to practice and my mom didn’t have time to buy me anything but McDonald’s and after leaving the rink I would crouch down in the car so nobody knew it was me eating this forbidden food, even though as an eight years old child I was only around 4 feet tall and somewhere around 55 pounds.  

Katelyn Ohashi, UCLA gymnast famous for scoring a perfect 10 last season on her floor routine has been facing body shaming since she was around 14 years old.

She faces this negativity, “in the gym, outside of the gym, on the internet, it’s something that you can never really escape,” Ohashi said.

She has faced criticism for being too big to be a gymnast. A 22 years old Ohashi is only 4’10 and around 90 pounds.

Some sports have become solely about image, whether that be physical or mental.  

This is why UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Condos Field, more well known as Ms. Val, says she does not talk to her athletes about gymnastics outside of the gym because just like when parenting a child athletes needs safe spaces.

“They have to know that I care about them first as a person,” Field said.

Many of these athletes have been told that they are unappealing because they look like men, disregarding and degrading their ability as an athlete.

“I’ve always had an athletic build, I embrace who I am and I’m not ashamed of being all woman but being strong and being a figure of strength” said U.S. Track and Field Olympic gold medalist Natasha Hastings.

I myself can remember coming home and crying to my mom because earlier that day my high school nurse told me that I, as a freshman in high school, a figure skater competing nationally, and naturally, because of that, a girl with a lot of muscle, was obese and I needed to watch my diet.

Although I myself have never struggled with an eating disorder many athletes do because they focus all their energy on image, neglecting their true athletic ability regardless of appearance.

In a 1992 American College Of Sports Medicine study, it found that 62 percent of females in sports such as figure skating and gymnastics struggle with eating disorders. Perhaps this is caused by the toxic body shamming these athletes face. However, their image means nothing if it takes away their passion and their ability to perform.

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